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25 Words Or Less
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25 Words Or Less

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Product Awards:  
Games Magazine Awards
Game of the Year, 1996

Ages Play Time Players
10+ 25-35 minutes 4 or more

Designer(s): Bruce Sterten

Manufacturer(s): Hasbro, Parker Brothers

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  • Please note that due to manufacturer restrictions, we are unable to ship HASBRO products outside the United States.

Product Description

Get your teammates to shout all five words on the card in less than a minute using 25 words or less as clues and you win the card. The key is "less". Win control of the card by bidding the lowest amount of clue words. How low will you go? 19? 18? 16? 11? Be bold, but remember, every word counts!

Product Awards

Games Magazine Awards
Game of the Year, 1996

Product Information


  • over 275 cards
  • 1 countdown gameboard
  • 1 timer
  • instructions

Product Reviews


Average Rating: 4.2 in 11 reviews

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Winners At Last!
December 25, 2005
Two years ago, I submitted a review of "25 Words Or Less," and mentioned that our family and another always play the game on Christmas Day. It's a "girls against the guys" competition, and every year we have ever played, the girls have won.

I am writing again this year because at long last, after 10 years, the guys finally won! Yep, this year was our year, and it's hard to believe that today we finally ended our losing streak.

I hope that this doesn't sound like gloating, and my main reason for writing again is to repeat my statement from 2 years ago that "25 Words Or Less" is a great game - win or lose! Well, maybe even greater when you win!

by Glen D
Fun Despite Always Losing
December 24, 2003

We play this game every Christmas with another family, girls against guys. The losing streak of the latter is legend around these parts, but today - Christmas Day 2003 - we're determined to change that!

One funny story of our history with the game is that years ago, one of the boys, about 8 years old at the time - gave as a clue for 'Brooke Shields' the word 'actress' (a pretty broad hint, wouldn't you say?). It was at a crucial time in the game, and none of us have ever forgotten it. My wife is even planning on framing the card and putting it on our wall.

Needless to say, I recommend this game highly, and we have enjoyed it immensely over the years. And I hope that the men out there have more success against your ladies than we have!

Great Game, one small issue....
November 29, 2002

We really enjoy this game. However, one issue that came up that was not addressed in the rules was homonyms. For example, a word was 'tow' and the clue giver used 'stubbed' as the clue and the guesser said 'toe'. Although it sounded the same, the meaning was clearly different. Should that count?

January 31, 2001

It doesn't matter whether I play this game with my hard-core gaming friends or with my more social party-game friends: this is always 'the' favorite. It is a real white-knuckle play requiring concentration, verbal-acuity, creativity and sometimes, um, vocal restraint.

The game has two parts: the bid (in which one bidder from each team bids the total number of words she will use--a la 'Name That Tune'--to get her teammates to guess all five words on a gamecard) and the play (in which the winning bidder offers clues to his teammates hoping to get them to say all five words within a minute for final point-possession of the card).

We often play with three to a team instead of two. It's more fun. The bids rarely end above 13 and often get down to 7, though when the bids are that brazenly low they are almost always defeated!

I was 14 when my English teacher first taught me what a 'kenning' was. It is the combination of two formerly unconnected nouns to convey the idea of another noun. For example, in the Odyssey, Homer refers to deer as 'heather-steppers'. This approach makes those two-word clues quite accessible: who could mistake the intention of 'Kennedy-killer' or 'Robin's Boss'? However, how many clue-words would it take you to get someone to say 'loafer', 'tinsel', 'window pane' or 'Dallas Cowboys'? Can't resist trying, can you? Once all of the players get the hang of it, the game is very competitive and a lot of fun for all.

With a small fix, it's an amazing game
October 25, 2000

As a gamer from Tulsa indicated, this game works very, very well with the slight problem that a few players want to extend the bidding forever, bogging the game down into a nightmare. Example: wait 45 seconds and Team 1's player says '23 words'... wait a full minute and Team 2's player says 'OK, 22 words'... wait... wait... etc.

These antics drop a 5-star game to 2-stars in a hurry. So, the simple solution is to designate which team is the first bidder and turn over the timer. When the sand runs out, they make their lowest bid (if they refuse, still deep in thought, make their bid for them at '25'). Then, the other team's reader must say, immediately, whether he'll go one lower or allow them to make their attempt. This speeds up the bidding and makes the readers actually think about their optimal bid, not just one they can 'get away with.'

A good party game, with auctions.
May 06, 2004

Do you realize that whatever you are asked to do when it comes to words, it seems easier to do the opposite? When I had to write a 1,000 word paper on the subject of being good in school as a child, I was trying to stretch the amount of words with 900 to go! Even in college, I struggled to fluff papers, filling them up with words to reach required word counts or page counts. And yet, when I am confronted with 25 Words or Less (Winning Moves Games, 1996 - Bruce Sterten), I find it just as hard to be succinct in my wordage. Here, I want to say all the words I can, but I am limited! Will no one let me do what I want?

But hey, despite the annoyances it gives me - 25 Words or Less is an excellent party game. As long as players keep it moving, it can provide quite a bit of entertainment, and people will realize that they dont have to say near as many words in conversational English as they thought. A good auctioning system combined with a fun word-guessing game, make 25 Words or Less a top party game. One great aspect of the game is that it can support a good amount of players, and can be taught in about 2 minutes (high requirements for good party games) - and therefore 25 Words or Less often comes with me when I travel to parties, etc.

The concept of the game is extremely simple. All players are divided into two teams, which do not have to be even, but must have at least two players each. A game board is set in the middle of the table, which basically has a ring of circles - each numbered 0 through 25. Nineteen cards are taken from the box of cards and placed face down in the middle of the board, as well as a one-minute sand timer. Players are ready for each round - with one person per team taking the role of clue-giver each round. Before starting, players should decide what set of words on the cards they will use - black or blue.

To start each round, the clue-givers will study the five words on the top card of the pile in the color everyone has chosen. An example of five words is: oil, landmark, pet, New York, and rummy. Starting with one of the players, they bid how many words they think that they can get their team to guess the answers in. The bidding starts at twenty-five clue words and gets progressively lower. Whichever player drops out first becomes the judge, and puts the timer on the circle that matches the last number bid. The judge then flips the timer, and the clue-giver begins giving clues to his teammates, trying to get them to guess the five words on the card. When giving clues...

- The clue-giver can try to get their teammates to guess the words in any order.

- The judge moves the timer on one space for every word the clue-giver says.

- The clue-giver may use only words, not actions or other things.

- The words used may not say sounds like, etc., or use parts of the word in their clue.

- If the timer runs out before all five words are guessed, the round ends with the judges team getting the card as an award.

- If the clue-giver uses more words than he bid (the timer passes zero), then the round ends with the judges team getting the card as an award.

- If the clue-givers team guesses the five words before time runs out, then the clue-givers team gets the card as an award.

After one of the teams wins the card, the next round begins, and rounds continue thus; until one of the teams wins ten cards. At this point, the game ends - with that team being the winner!

Some comments on the game...

1.) Components: The cards are nice, although I would have used different colors than were used - the blue and black are too similar. One also wonders why they didnt print the words on both sides, to better utilize space. The board, while not entirely necessary is certainly nice, and it really does help with the counting of the words. The cards are stored in a little box, which along with the board and the timer, fit into a cardboard insert in a nicely decorated (and self-proclaiming) box. The box is seriously much bigger than is necessary, but it is sturdy, and American games like big boxes, I guess.

2.) Rules: The rules are written on a sheet of laminated card stock, and are written simply, with even a few examples. Of course, as this is a party game, simplicity is the key - and makes sense. I found that the game is quite easy to teach, and very few rule arguments came up.

3.) Arguments: We had some disagreement over what words could and could not be said. Could you say the same word over and over? How do you let your listeners know when you go to a different word? Can you tell someone if they are close to a word (i.e. play instead of playwright). None of these are answered in the rules, so we made up house rules for them - but it would have been nice to have some official clarification. Its not always bad to elaborate in the rulebook.

4.) Fun Factor: The game is extremely fun, with a majority of the fun happening in the bidding phase. As long as it is kept flowing smoothly, the whole game can happen quickly, and everybody has a blast. Its especially hilarious to watch someone bid their way all the way down to 12 words, and then realize that it took six words to get people to guess the first clue. At the same time, its amazing to see someone bid down to ten words, and still get their team to guess all the words! This fun really makes the game worth it.

5.) Auctions: The auctions could go really slow, if players dont keep a handle on things. Its possible, and not necessarily mandated against by the rules, for a player to sit there, thinking slowly over exactly how many words they need to give out as clues. This could take a long while, and makes auctions slow and BORING. We just instituted a house rule, that gives players about 10 seconds to make their bid, or else they automatically drop out. This encourages people to bid faster.

I recommend this game - its not a GAMES Magazine Game of the Year for nothing. There are party games that I enjoy more, but this one is amongst my most popular. Its a pleasure to play this game, as it has one of the hallmarks of a good party game - that you have fun, even when its not your turn. It would have been nice if the rules were clearer - but hey, some simple house rules can solve that problem. If youre a party game fan, then this is an excellent addition to your collection. Ive also had great success using it while traveling - it even works fairly well on a bus. For this reason, I have to give this game a thumbs up.

Almost Perfect
February 01, 2001

I hate this game. Great way to start a 4-star review, right? Well, it's because it's now won the hearts of my whole gaming crew (including me) so now my other favorites are reduced to second-rate status and we just can't play that often.

We're a group that loves Password and this was right up our alley. In fact, it actually took a bit to break out of our Password cadence of giving a single clue, waiting for a single word replay and giving back another single word clue. Once we broke out, all hell broke loose--and that's a good thing.

The concept is a breeze; the play, at least for us, kept everyone interested even for the non-playing team.

I only have a couple of complaints, but they keep it from being perfect. First, the rules do NOTHING to describe who starts the bidding and in several cases NEITHER team wanted to bid suggesting the card should be tossed out. We opted against that and so far someone always came through with a 25 bid. Next time, it's turns--or the other nice option someone else here suggested is having the loser bid first. At one point I got to the last word and shouted out 'historical woman burned at stake, saint' and ran out of words. My wife had trouble but got it. If I had just one more word it would have been "Noah's".

Second, we found nearly every card having at least one and often two just total brain-numbing words that were certain to risk the entire set. The reality of this set in when the first 5 games we played were predominantly won by teams that simply didn't play very often and got their cards by the other team just missing too often.

We're considering a house rule of moving to just 5 cards to win the game but you only get one by getting them correct.

Fun with the right people
May 30, 2000

My game group always starts out with this one to get us loosened up. Word games are always a blast. This one is a blend of verbal charades and 'Name That Tune.' The only problem is that it can take some players a while to come up with their clues. That leaves a lot of down time for the other players. We had some new people try the game with us and they wanted to use notepads to help remember their clues. (They weren't invited back!)

by Brad N.
It takes a bit and then it's good
January 22, 2007

If you like to play party games where you try to get your partner to say something with subtle clues (eg. Password) then this is a good fit for you. It took us a game or two before we got a feel for how to bid on the number of words it would take us to get the answer. Over time, we (and the people we play with) get the picture and then the game is good. It's a fun party game for couples.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
Interesting word game
June 29, 2000

This is one of the few word games I like, because it calls for thinking up creative clues, not just free association. Players are challenged to use as few clues as possible to convey words to team members. A player from each team bids for the right to play a set of five goal words/phrases. The bid is for the total number of words to give as clues, with low bid winning. Since good players bid lower, the game naturally adjusts in difficulty to the players' abilities.

A fun word game for 2 teams
December 01, 1999

25 Words Or Less is another in the line of word-guessing games like Taboo and Catch Phrase. Common to these games is team play, wherein a word or words on a card is seen by one member of the team, who then gives clues to get his teammates to guess the word(s). Games like this differ in the format of the cluegiving.

In 25 Words Or Less, the format will remind you of the old game show 'Name That Tune'. Each of the two teams selects one of its members to simultaneously view a card with 5 unrelated words listed on it. The two players then commence bidding for the right to try for the card, in terms of how few total words they think they can use to get their teammates to guess all the words on the card (before the timer runs out, of course). If the winning bidder is successful, his team gets the card; if not, the other team gets it. The first team to collect 10 cards wins.

I was taken with the mechanics of this game when I first heard about it, and indeed, upon playing, the bidding wars were intense, as players tried to think of clues that might cut one more word off their mental list. My group found (the hard way) that it is best to keep a word or two in reserve when bidding, because your teammates will no doubt find one of your 'can't-miss' clues completely unfathomable. You may be forced to think creatively on your feet when the timer is down to about 8 seconds and you only have one word remaining to clue 'London'.

My only criticism of the game is a minor one: that the rules don't explain how to determine which team starts each bidding round. We solved this with a simple house rule: whichever team lost the last card begins the bid.

All in all, a fun entry in the word-guessing genre.

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