Word Chains

Test memory skills and on the spot thinking with Word Chains, a highly adaptable icebreaker for smaller groups. Players will sit in a circle and list words in a category. They must remember the words said previously and think of unique words to add. This icebreaker challenges memory skills and is great for players of any age. Word Chains naturally gets more difficult the longer it’s played. This means that players will be able to take the game to their skill level organically.

One variation of Word Chains is to start the game with the phrase, “I’m going on a picnic and I’m going to bring…” Each player would add an item to the list after listing everything that came before. Any category of object can be used for Word Chains, such as types of fruit, state names, football teams, colors, items of clothing, and country music singers. The game can be made more difficult for older audiences by requiring that the words are in alphabetical order, although vaguer categories should be used to allow players flexibility to find all the words.


  • Pencil and Paper. You may find the game more interesting if you take notes and track the phrase, or to act as mediator in case disputes arise.
  • List of categories or rule variations to try
  • 30-second timer

How To Play Word Chains

  1. Arrange the participants in a circle and explain the rules of the game, any variations, and the theme of the word chain.
  2. Start the word chain yourself or designate someone as the start of the chain. Example: Theme – types of fruit. First word in the chain: Apple.
  3. The second person will have to repeat the chain, and add a unique word that fits the category. Example: Apple, Watermelon.
  4. Each person will have 30 seconds after correcting reciting the chain to add another new word.
  5. The icebreaker can be repeated with different categories or with different rule variations to make the game more challenging.
  6. The chain is broken when a player cannot correctly recite the chain or can’t think of a word to add to it within 30 seconds.

Tips and Notes

For a more competitive spin, don’t end the game when someone makes a mistake. Instead, that person can sit out and the game can continue until you find the champion of Word Chains.

Feel free to adapt Word Chains to your group’s level.

  • Asking the group to think of words in alphabetical order makes it easier to remember the word chain and more difficult to think of a new word.
  • Asking players to start each word with the letter that ends the word before it makes it more difficult to both remember the chain and think of a new word.
  • Instead of category, players could list groups of words with 3 letters, or groups of words with 2 syllables, etc.

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