The game begins by all players rolling a dice, with the high roll chosen to be the first "dasher". The dasher draws a "definition card" from the supplied box, and rolls the die to decide which of the five words listed there shall be used (if a six is rolled, the dasher may choose for themselves which word to use). Then the dasher writes the definition (as supplied on the card) on a piece of paper. All other players then write down a definition, which may be an honest attempt to supply the correct definition, or, if they do not know or for tactical reasons decide not to, a fictitious definition for the word designed to sound convincing.
The players hand their definitions to the dasher, who checks if any of their definitions are the same as the real definition. If there are any, the player(s) submitting the correct definition is/are immediately awarded three points, and, if there is more than one, the round is abandoned (though the points are retained). The definitions, including the real definition, are then read out in random order. Players record which answer they believe is correct. Players are awarded two points if they guess the correct definition. Players are awarded one point for each other player who incorrectly chooses the fake definition they wrote. The dasher is awarded three points if no one guesses the correct definition. Players move their tokens around the game board one square for each point awarded. The role of dasher then passes to another player. The winner is the individual whose token reaches the end square first.
Participants of the game, and in particular the dasher, should be wary of revealing (accidentally or otherwise) the identity of a player responsible for a particular fabricated definition. This will obviously ruin that player's chances of scoring as a result of someone picking their false definition over the real one. A player affected in this way is said to have been "discombalderated". An oft used strategy in balderdash is to elect your own fake definition in an attempt to give it credibility in the minds of your fellow players. This is referred to as a "downstream balder". You do not score a point for guessing your own fake definition, only for other people who guess yours as being right.
In 1993 Beyond Balderdash was released. In addition to more unusual words, Beyond Balderdash offers obscure acronyms, dates, names, and movie titles, for which the players have to provide full names, major events, major accomplishments, and plot summaries, respectively. The die is used for choosing what category will be chosen from the card.
An informal variation of the game consists of the players exclusively submitting hilarious and outrageous definitions. No points are awarded, and the winner is determined by who garnered the most laughs throughout the course of the game.
Balderdash is based on Fictionary, which is essentially the Weird Words category of Balderdash. However, obscure words are found in an unabridged dictionary instead of the definitions and meanings provided on cards. They are then read out to the unsuspecting individual.
- Main article: Balderdash (game show)