Poetry for Neanderthals - Rules


Original Edition

Original game design by Francesca Slade and Jacob Matthews

Developed by Exploding Kittens

What is this?!?

It's good to be a Poet.
It's good to be a Neanderthral.
What isn't good is being both or those things alt the Same time.

As a Poet, you'd love to recite thoughtful prose like:
The mighty Woolly
Mammoth makes a mockery
of my tiny hairless body.

But as a Neanderthal, you're only capable of saying:
The most strong big thing with
trunk and much hair make fun of my
too small bald bones and skin.

The trouble for you is that as a Neanderthal, you don't know any words that are more than one syllable

The trouble for your team is that they're listening to a Neanderthal recite poetry.


Poetry cards(200)

90 second timer(1)

Point Slates (2)

NO! Stick(1)

Grok's Words of Love & Sad Cards(20)


Score the most points by correctly interpreting words and phrases.


Form two teams(Team glad and team mad) and give each team their point slate (see image below)l it's okay if one team has an extra player

Sit around the table in alternating team positions.

Put the point slates on the board, put the poetry cards on the table and have the timer ready. We suggest instead of using a sand timer that you use a timer with your phone.

Leave Grok's Cards in the box for now.

Team Neanderthal Glad goes first and picks a player to be the first Neanderthal poet.

The Poet chooses from which side (gray side or orange) Poetry for the Cards whole all game.

A player hand from Team the Mad who can see(or is close enough to feel) the card in the poet's hands gets the NO! Stick.

If you are the Poet, the opposing team starts the timer while you take the first Poetry Card. Begin trying to get your team to either the 1-point word (easy) or the 3-point phrase (hard) say using only words with one syllable.

Everyone on your team can shout out words at the same time when trying  guess the word or phrase. When to someone is correct say, ''YES!" and put the card on the appropriate spot on your Point Slate (1 point or 3 points).

Starting with the 1-point word: if you start with the 1 point word and get it correctly shout, "yes!" and then you can either collect your points or try for the 3-point phrase. However, if along the way you accidently break any rules, you lose the earned point and must put the card on the other team's 1 point spot.

Starting with the 3-point phrase: if you start with the 3 point phrase and your team says the 1-point phrase, shout "yes!" and follow the rules above as if you had started with the 1-point phrase.

Skipping: If you want to skip a card before earning any points, you can say "Skip!" and give the card to the other team to put on the 1-point spot on their point slate.

In all cases, draw a new poetry card to continue playing until the timer runs out.

NOTE: You can never earn more than 3 points from a card.

You Can 

You can only speak using words with one syllable.

You can say any word on your card AFTER a guesser has said that word.

You Can't

You can't say any word, part of any word, or any form of a word that is on the poetry card(unless someone on your team has already said it out loud)

You can't use gestures/charades.

You can't use "sounds like" or "rhymes with"

You can't use initials or abbreviations.

You can't use other languages.

We're sure there's more that we just didn't think of, but just remeber-

if it feels like cheating, it's cheating!

The NO! stick

When it is the other team's turn, grab the NO! stick and stand beside the poet. If they violate any of the rules above shout "No!" and hit them gently(ish) with the NO! stick. then take the poetry card in the poet's hand and put it on the 1 point spot on your own point slate.

The poet must show the player with the no stick the card right after reading it if that player is blind. The player with the no stick should return it after they have read the braille.

Ending your turn

Each poet's turn continues until the timer runs out. If you've earned any points for the poetry card in your hand, put the card in the appropriate space on your point slate. It is now the other team's turn.


When all players have had one turn as the poet(or both teams have had the same number of turns as poet) add up the points on each team's point slate. The team with the most points wins the game.


If the Poet feels they were penalized incorrectly, they shout "WAIT!" and turn the timer on its side. Decide as a group if the challenge is valid. Then decide as a group what to do with the Poetry Card in question. We're not going to give you a lot of rules here ... but as you aggressively debate about personal pronunciation, accents, and that one rule about syllables you learned in school, please try to remember that this is just a game, and really probably not that important.
If you're one of those people who MUST HAVE
the official answer, head over to How Many Syllables™ :
After a challenge is resolved, turn the timer upright and continue.

Here's a completely optioned (but fun) thing to try at the end of the game.
Grok's Words of Love and Sad Cards

The winning team should go through their Poetry Cards and pick their 3 favorites. Take a "Grok's Words of Love and Sad" Card at random and decide which of your three chosen cards to insert into the three blanks (you can use either the 1-point words or the 3-point phrases). Then read your poem out loud to the group. The losing team gets to hold the NO! Stick during your recital and will decide whether or not to use it based on the quality of your poem. 

Reciting a poem has no impact on points or scoring. It exists purely as poetry should: to convey sophisticated emotions to your fellow Neanderthals. 

Playing with 2 players

2 Players
Both players are, on tlhe same team and! switch off being thePoet. Play with a single point slate. Any cards that you skip count as -1 point. after each player has been the poet 3 times add up your points.


• 10 points, or less:: This Team Bad
• 11-30 points: Team Is. So-So At Ma.ke Words
• 31-49 [points: Team IH1ave Much Big Brain
• 50+ points or more: A stunning evolutionary exemplar


3 Players
Players rotate the three roles:: Poet,. Player iwth stick and guesser. The poet and guesser have one of the point slates, while the player with the stick has the other.

The poet and the guesser earn points as normal and add cards to their point slate. the player with stick earns points as normal(ie each time the poet skips or gets caught saying an illegal word)

At the end of a turn, both teams add up the points they've earned on a piece of paper where each player's individual scores are kept(the poet and guesser earn the same number of points each round)

Next discard all the used poetry cards from both slates into the box, rotate each player's role, and start the next round.

After each player has been the poet three times, the player with the most points wins.