TRUE AMERICAN. “50% drinking game, 50% life-size Candy Land.”

Our household TV shows are Criminal Minds, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and New Girl. Any New Girl fan will be familiar with the infamous TRUE AMERICAN and all its glory.

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So, for Claire’s 21st birthday last week, we created our own meticulously planned, very involved game of True American. We take this very seriously. This has become our apartment game and, though the rules are very near and dear to our hearts, and took days to perfect, we’ve decided to share them. This is without a doubt the best drinking game we’ve ever come upon. We know it’s complicated, but trust us, preparation pays off. So here goes:

Set up:

At the center of the game on a small table is a castle made of a bottle of liquor and many cans of beer. The liquor is the King and sits in the middle of the Castle. The cans of beer are the Pawns and the Soldiers of the Secret Order. The Pawns are lined up in four lines radiating outward from the King toward each zone (like the spokes of a bicycle wheel). These lines of Pawns also signify the barriers between each zone. The game ends when all of the Pawns have been removed and a player drinks from the King.

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There are approx. 3-4 zones, each with 5(ish) spaces where a player can stand. The center space in each zone is the only space where the Pawns can be taken and thus it is the closest space to the Castle. The spaces at the beginning and end of the zones are the farthest away from the Castle.

Around this table you will need 3-4 zones (space permitting). Each zone will need multiple standing spots (which will eventually need to accommodate many people at once). These can be pillows, chairs, stools, pizza boxes, etc – as long as they keep the players from touching the floor.) THE GROUND IS LAVA.

Recycle. Beer gets thrown in the bin! Add a recycling bin (or other large container) to a corner of the room where the airspace between the zones and the bin is relatively unobstructed. This is your “Junkyard.”

Beginning:

After setup is complete, players may have a shotgun contest to determine who has the first turn. The first one to finish gets to be the caller for the beginning of the game. If no player wishes to shotgun a beer, play rock-paper-scissors instead. The winner of this contest yells “One, two three, JFK” at which point all other players yell “FDR”, grab a Pawn from the Castle, and retreat to any space. Jump onto the 1st spot of the closest zone, grab one of your Pawns from that zone and start the game.

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To begin, each person chooses a teammate by putting up a random amount of fingers to their forehead. Person with one less number than you have is your partner!

Playing:

Players take turns trying to win moves in order to navigate the tables, chairs, and cushions which are your only escape from the molten lava floor.

Every time you enter a new zone you must pick up a new Pawn, so you cannot enter the next zone if you are already holding 3 (including empty Pawns). You cannot set your Pawns down on any surface during the game either.

Players move around the game area in a clockwise direction. The player whose turn it is always moves one space; however, the other players must “win” their moves. The player who’s up has multiple ways to provide the other players with a way to win their move by shouting one of the following:

  • The Count: The player whose turn it is yells “One, two, three” and then everyone holds a number of fingers, between one and five, against their foreheads. Anyone holding a number that no one else has chosen wins. Winners may move one spot, losers drink.
  • Complete a Quote: The player may slowly speak a quote from history or pop culture. Any other player that is able to jump in and complete the quote in tandem wins. Winners move two spots, losers drink.
  • Something in Common: The player may yell out two people, places, or things. Any other player that can reply with what these two things have in common wins. Winners may move one spot, losers drink.
  • Presidential Poem: The player chants a very short poem about a president and the first player to follow up with another short poem about a president moves forward two spots.
  • Number Match: The turn-taking player counts to “3ʺ″ and then everyone throws up a number in front of their forehead. Everyone who matches the turn-taker advances one spot. Everyone else drinks.
  • American Trivia: You can ask any American question you’d like, but the answers don’t really matter. Everyone must answer at the same time so if you respond out of sync (i.e., last) or freeze up and don’t answer at all, you must move backwards and shotgun the rest of a beer in your hand, while everyone else gains one spot. Everyone drinks.
  • American Storytelling: The turn-taking player simply begins a story with one word, the next player says that word and adds one more, and so on. The first person to mess up the story loses and moves back a space and shotguns the rest of a beer in their hand. Everyone else takes a drink and moves up a space.
  • American Categories: The turn-taker counts “1, 2, 3ʺ″ and says a theme-relevant category. Then, going around the circle, everyone must quickly answer. If you cannot answer right away you lose, shotgun, move back a space. If you answer incorrectly and nobody catches you before the next person plays, you’re still in – but if you get caught, you’re out. Everyone else gets to take a drink and move up a space (as does the original turn-taker).
  • American Word Association: Much like in Categories, the player whose turn it is counts to “3ʺ″ then shouts a theme. This time, however, you must answer quickly with whatever comes to mind. There are no right and wrong answers, but answering too slowly (i.e., not right away) means you lose, shotgun, move back one spot. Everyone else drinks, moves up a spot.

We put up some rule-reminder signs on the walls:

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Extra Rules:

Everything in True American is a lie. It is not important to answer correctly, so long as you answer timely and with confidence.

Players must always have a beer in their hand and may not have more than 3 at any one time. Players may only take a Pawn from the Castle when they are in one of the four center spaces.

At any point during the game someone can yell “All Trash…” at which point everyone must respond “Belongs in the Junkyard!” and toss their empty cans into the recycling bin. If you m iss the Junkyard, you must take one shot from the King to atone for your messiness.

If you are caught without a beer or with only an empty beer, you lose. If you step in molten lava, you lose. You have 3 attempts to get back in the game (these are part of your “empty can” mulligans). To use a mulligan, you must take a shot from the King and put on a hat from the center table, then step back onto the nearest spot. Use your mulligans carefully, as restocking your Pawn supply and all bathroom breaks also count towards your mulligan limit.

Everyone gets 3 mulligans before they are out of the game for good. Out of the game? You can now join the team of the person who you selected as your teammate (they had the number below yours) and help them out by piggy-backing them across the lava when they need it. If you drop them and they’re out of mulligans, they can still join the team of the person they selected, but you’re definitely out.

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You can get people drinking by, at any point, shouting “JFK!” and forcing everyone to respond “FDR” and drink. If you successfully make anyone empty their Pawn before moving to the next zone and picking up a new one, that person is out and must use a mulligan to drink from the King and get back in the game.

Shouting McCarthy incites a space race, where teams try to build the largest possible ship by taping together scrap metal (empty beers). Best ship moves to next zone.

Ending:

Keep moving in a circle, maintain a steady 1-3 Pawn balance and shout ridiculous things at your friends until all of the beers have been removed from the castle. After all Pawns have been removed, the King is vulnerable. The first player to land on one of the center spaces, finish their beer and take a swig from the King, wins the game!

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