How to Make a Trivia Game
I recently introduced my nine-year-old daughter to the joys of Trivial Pursuit. She immediately loved the idea and the method of gameplay, but most of the questions were either too difficult for her or out of date. So we had a bright idea — we would make our own trivia game! And now, if you follow our process, you can, too.
I have described methods here for both Trivial Pursuit-style games and single-path trivia board games. You can try one or both, and adapt my suggestions to your needs. If you think of a better process for any part, please tell me in the comments!
Choose a Theme
Organizing your game around a single theme makes deciding on questions much easier. Being huge Harry Potter fans, the theme of our trivia game was obvious without any discussion. However, there are a lot of other themes that you could choose from that are not well represented in current mainstream trivia games.
- Star Wars
- The Percy Jackson series
- Music (Recently Trivial Pursuit has come out with a Classic Rock edition, but if you're more into country or hip-hop or punk, choose the music you love!)
- Your favorite long-running TV show or movie series
Make sure to choose a theme that your friends will be interested in and know at least some answers for; it's no fun to play a party game by yourself!
Write the Questions
This is the hardest part. You'll need a lot of questions to make the game any fun (you don't want to go through all the questions in every game!). If you're going to use Trivial Pursuit as a model, figure on at least 600 questions, broken down equally among six categories. (The real Trivial Pursuit game uses about 3000, but that's clearly beyond reach!) A single-path game could use about half that number, with just one question per card rather than six.
Make the Trivia Cards
There are two methods for making the question cards: one is to simply write them by hand on index cards as you think of them; the other method is to type them into a spreadsheet or table on the computer. If you do them on the computer, you can set up a mail merge to print them onto sheets of perforated business cards or index cards when you're done. (Your fields would be "question" and "answer" rather than "name" and "address".)
For our game prototype, we decided to make a table of approximately index card size spaces. We put the question on top and the answer on bottom, both in 20 point font for easy reading. (This involved a fair amount of copying and pasting from another Word file, but we were impatient to get started playing, and it was the most straightforward way.) We printed them onto cardstock, cut them up, and voilá!
How to Use Model MagicClick thumbnail to view full-size
Make the Game Pieces
If you're modeling your game after Trivial Pursuit, it will be easiest to just "borrow" the round game pieces and the little pie slices that fit inside from a game you already own.
To make your own pieces for a single-path game, first do some brainstorming. How many people can play at once? Do you want each piece to simply be a different color? Or do you want each piece to represent something that has to do with the theme of your game?
Since our game has a Harry Potter theme and is designed for up to six people to play together, we chose six meaningful items and made miniatures of them. Our game pieces represent:
- a lightning bolt
- a cauldron
- a snake
- a spellbook
- a broom
We decided to make our game pieces from Model Magic, but you could also use Play-doh or Sculpey, depending on what craft supplies you have in your house. (Sculpey needs to be baked, but is perfect for very detailed game pieces, because it can be carved or painted after baking.) Be sure to fashion a flat bottom for each piece so it can stand up on the game board!
Make a Game Board
Once again, if you're modeling your game after Trivial Pursuit, you can simply use their game board. Another option is to trace their board onto a piece of cardboard, and either draw new images in each square or cut them out (from magazines or printed from the Internet) and glue them on. (You can do this for a single-path game by appropriating a board from a game you no longer use, like Monopoly, and personalizing it. Simply glue paper over the existing spaces and add your own instructions.)
Making your own single-path board offers you more creative options.
- Cut a piece of heavy cardboard about 11" by 17". Set it aside for now.
- Take a piece of plain white 11"x17" paper (Or two 8 1/2"x11" pieces, if you don't have any larger.) Sketch an S-shaped, zigzag, or looping trail across the paper. Make the trail about two inches wide.
- Divide the trail into boxes approximately two inches square. (Don't worry about the irregularly shaped boxes that the rounded edges will make; they'll be fine.)
- Make the first spot "Start" and the last spot "The End," "You Win," or some theme-related location. (On our game, the beginning space is Platform 9 3/4, and the winning space is Hogwarts.)
- Approximately every third space, add an instruction. Some should be positive, such as "You pass your OWLs. Move ahead two spaces." Others should be negative: "Get caught out of the castle after dark. Go back one space."
- If you want to be more elaborate, design your board to include bridges or portals that move you far ahead or deposit you back in an unpleasant spot.
- Once the sketch is done, copy it onto a clean sheet of paper and glue it to the sheet of cardboard for durability. Don't forget to make the board colorful and eye-catching!
Play Your Trivia Game
Don't forget to test your game and write down the rules before you have bring it out at a party. Our rules are as follows:
- The youngest player goes first, and play moves clockwise from there.
- The player rolls the die. Another player asks her a trivia question. If she answers correctly, she may move forward the number of spaces on the die.
- When she lands on a spot with instructions, she follows the instructions immediately, and then ends her turn.
- The first person to make it to Hogwarts wins. You do not need to roll an exact number to get to the final space.
Those are fairly standard rules, but you can think of a different way to choose the first player, or make a person move backwards if he gets the answer to a trivia question wrong. It's your game, so have fun making up the rules! Just be careful to keep a record of them, so the scoring can be fair to everyone.
When all is done, invite your friends over and have fun!