Four on a Couch

January 2, 2015 - Game Sketchbook / Uncategorized

I was recently a grumpy participant in what I was sure would be an underwhelming game of Four on a Couch. The first game lasted 10 minutes, the second lasted 15 minutes, and the third lasted two and half hours. It was a blast.

Four on a Couch is a simple game (the reason the first two games were so fast) that gets more and more fun as the whole group learns the finer points of strategy together (why the last game was so long and so much more fun than the first two). Because only one player can act at a time, the game is full of restrained tension – you might know the right name to call to the couch, but if you don’t have the empty chair on your left all you can do is hold your tongue and try to will your teammate to call the right person to the couch.


Players: 10-50
Duration: 10-60+ minutes

1. Players should divide into two teams and sit in a circle.
2. All the players should write their names on a piece of paper. Those papers are collected and dealt out again to the players randomly.
3. Add one extra, empty chair to the circle.
4. Four spots in the circle are “the couch” (doesn’t need to be a real couch). Two players from each team start out on the couch.
5. To begin the game, the player with the empty chair on their left says the name of another player. The player who is holding the piece of paper with the name of the player who was just called leaves their place in the circle and sits in the empty chair next to the person who called their name.
6. The player who called the name (the caller) and the player who moved (the mover) swap papers with one another so that the caller has the name they called and the mover has the name that the caller started with.
7. The player with the mover’s newly-vacated seat on their left calls another name and steps 5 and 6 repeat.
8. Players continue calling names and moving around in the circle with the goal to call the other team off the couch and call their own team to the couch.
9. When either team has their players in all four spots on the couch, they win.


Four on a couch is a game of remembering the right thing at the right time. Because the caller ends up with the name that he or she called, every time a name is called the whole group learns which name that player has – the trick is remembering it. Two pieces of advice can help do a little triage on how much you have to remember:
1. The names tend to move clockwise. Try to remember the names that the players one and two spots to the left of the couch have. Those are the names “upstream” of the couch and there are good odds that people on the couch will have them later in the game.
2. You only really need to make sure you know two things at any given time: First, you need to know who the name of one of your teammates who is not on the couch, and you need to know the name of one of the other team who is currently sitting on the couch. If you make sure you always know those two names your team will be impressed with your prodigious memory as you always make the right play. Remembering anything else is gravy

› tags: Circle Games / Large Games / Medium-sized Games / Memory Games /