How to Play Buzzword

It's actually very easy to get started and it gets easier the more you play over time. However, there are a few things that make the experience better and can make it more fun to play for everyone right away.

Below are some basic instructions to get started and below those are some of my recommendations (and some from my early users) that we discovered as we all used the system for real.

Table of Contents


Many concepts in the Buzzword system revolve around Teams. A Team in Buzzword is basically a group of players that play Buzzword games together. To play a game of Buzzword with friends or colleagues, one person will need to create the team and the rest of the players will need to join via the team's invite code. Once the team is created, you can immediately create games, although you might want to go a bit further to set up the team before you do that (see Word Lists and Protecting Teams below).
Joining a Team
Quick Ref
  • Get the invite code from the team owner / creator
  • Go to the Teams page
  • Click 'Join Team'
  • Drop in that code
If you're not creating a team, you should be joining one! Get the team invite code from your friend or colleague that created the team and use that to join. If you don't have an invite code, create your own team and keep things moving!
Note that you're not invited to a team via email, username, or anything else directly linked to your Buzzword account. This is so you don't need to share any information with anyone else to join teams. Instead, it's an "opt-in" system where you're given the unique code to join a team and you can use that whenever you'd like to. We do this so you don't have to worry about potentially random invites from unknown users that could be used to create security or safety issues. This also means that in order to get the invitation for a team, you'll need to have contact with the team owner outside of the Buzzword platform. Again, that promotes safety and an "opt-in" approach, and puts the burden of getting the team invitation code out to the right people on the team owner themselves.
Creating a Team
Quick Ref
  • Go to the Teams page
  • Click 'Create Team'
  • Name your team (don't worry - you can change it later)
Anyone can create a team. When someone creates a team, they are that team's owner and can see and do things with that team that other players cannot, such as create games, add word lists for games, open/close the team, and more (don't worry, we'll explain all that later).
You should create a team if you're going to invite players to the team, create and close games, and manage the personalized words used in the games for the team. If you're not doing these things or have someone else doing that for your group of players, you probably want to read about joining a game instead (see the previous section).
Most everything about a team can be changed after it's created, so don't worry about doing anything you can't fix later. Create a team and get started earlier rather than later - players come up with new word ideas all the time, so don't try to get it perfect before you start playing your first games.
Protecting Teams
Quick Ref
  • Go to the Teams page
  • Click on the team name or the 'Edit Team' link
  • Click on the 'Serious Zone' tab
  • Click 'Close Team' to close the team (invalidates invite code)
  • Click 'Open Team' if you want to open the team again later
Anyone with the invitation code to a team can join. Although these codes aren't likely to be easily guessed such that you'll have completely random people showing up, people you give the code to can share it with other people (Note: we're planning on addressing this issue soon).
As such, you probably want to close the team after you have all your players invited. This makes the current invitation code immediately unusable and no one else can join the team until you open it again. If you do open the team again, a new invitation code will be generated so the old one can't be used if it's still floating around out there. Basically, when you have everyone in the team you expect to, or if someone hasn't accepted the invitation for a while, just go to the Team edit page in the "Serious Zone" and close the team - you can always reopen it and let those stragglers in later.
You can see the open/close status of your owned teams on the Teams page or in the Team edit page.

Word Lists

So you've created a team and created your first game to see how it works. You might have noticed the words that show up in the game are really lame. Super duper lame. Like, 1990's lame. That's because they are. So what you really need to do is create personalized entries for your team. You want custom word lists, for sure.
As a team owner (and player), you should create your own list but also gather list codes from your other team players to add to the team.
As a team player, you should create your own custom list and give that to the team owner to include in the games to help make the team your own.
Custom Word Lists
Create a Custom List
  • Click 'Word Lists' menu
  • Click 'New List' link
  • Name list (you can change this later if needed)
  • Give list code to team owner to use or add to your own team
  • Click 'Edit List' to update your list
  • Click 'Manage Entries' to add new entries
  • Add entries singly or in multiples. Use the 'Magic' option if you want some inspiration
  • New entries will appear immediately for new games
Use a Custom List With a Team
  • Go to the 'Word Lists' menu
  • Copy a custom list code
  • As a team member, send the custom list code to the team owner
  • As a team owner, collect custom list codes from your team. And your own custom list codes, of course.
Custom Word Lists are your and your team members' opportunity to create entries for a game that are unique to your team and specific in the context that you're playing. For example, if you're going to a long meeting of a specific type where the same silly stuff happens every time the meeting takes place, those are great custom word entries. Another classroom lecture by that professor that has more personality quirks than a 12-year-old chihuahua raised on a rubber chicken farm - PUT 'EM IN A CUSTOM WORD LIST!
Even better, everyone on a team can create their own word lists and you can include everyone's list as part of the team's games so everyone has a chance to contribute to the mayhem! Just edit your team (as the owner) and click "Add List" to add your teammates' lists. You'll need to get the list code from the creator of that list in order to add it. Once added, any words the owner of the list adds or removes from that list is taken into account for future games. So make sure everyone adds to their word lists as things change over time - that's where the game gets really fun for everyone.
Premade Word Lists
Quick Ref
  • Go to the 'Teams' menu
  • Select the 'Premade Word Lists' tab
  • Add entire lists or single entries from any list, as many as you want.
  • Custom words lists appear before premade words in games
  • Turn off premade words whenever you're ready
One thing that's challenging to get a great game going is having enough good custom words across the word lists before the games really get fun. That's where you can use Premade Word Lists to help add some better entries until you can really get your own personalized lists built up adequately (which can take some time, admittedly). We have several pre-built word lists that you can add and remove at any time. See the "Premade Word Lists" section of the Team edit page for those lists. You can add entire lists or individual entries from each list. When they don't make sense anymore, just remove them.
Have your team members create a word list as a starting point, even if it's empty at first, and give you the code so you can add it to the team. That way as they add words they'll show up in new games and replace the premade and default words over time. Buzzword prioritizes custom list entries over the premade ones, making the game more 'you' with every added entry.
The Buzzword game engine also builds game cards from, in order: custom word lists, premade word lists, default (lame) words. So as you add more custom words, those will take priority over premade word list entries that you've added to the team. Custom Word Lists are the bee's knees, for sure.
See below for some tips and suggestions on how to create good custom word list entries based on our experience of playing Buzzword for a while at this point. I didn't just make the game, I played it every week for quite a while... That's kinda sad. BUT MOVING ON...
Recommendations and Suggestions From the Author's Team
  • We ended up adding non-word custom list entries early on for situations we saw happen repeatedly - no reason to limit the entries to just "words" or "things people say".
  • When we had a custom entry that was something meant to be an actual quote from someone, we enclosed it in quotes to make it clear.
  • Our team players weren't all in the same meetings most of the time, so we found the activity list a great way for people not in those meetings to get some insight into things happening around the company in other places. We'd often ask each other what was going on or to talk about things that happened that we were interested in. This kept us informed of what was happening in other areas of the company we weren't directly involved with, and more knowledgeable overall. Really cool by-product of the game.
  • If we weren't sure if a situation met the criteria for us to mark a particular square, we'd ask the rest of the team for a judgement call. Usually the answer was "yes, mark it!", but not always. If in doubt, consult your team!


Once you've set up your team and built your word lists for your team (custom and/or premade), you've done almost all of the hard work for the team to generate a great game for everyone. Even better, every time you create a new game, that work continues to pay off - you don't need to do it again! You should, of course, keep an eye on the custom word lists and keep them focused (everyone should be doing that for their own word lists, honestly). Also tweak the use of premade word lists to make sense for your team as time goes on. But these are only small adjustments, most of the heavy lifting is past you.
Creating a Game
Quick Ref
  • You'll need to be a team owner to create a game for that team.
  • Click 'Teams' menu
  • Click 'Create Game' for a team
  • Name the game (can't be changed later)
As a team owner, you're responsible for creating games for the team. When you're ready to create a game, go to the Teams page and click "Create Game" for that team. Buzzword will ask you for a game name. Make sure the name is what you want before you save it - once you've created the game you cannot change the name.
After you create a game, everyone on the team will receive an invitation to join that game, including you. You can see that invitation on your team page or on the main Buzzword home page. Once you accept the invitation, you can enter the game and see your game card as well as all the other joined players' game cards. There are four main parts to the game screen, detailed below.
Joining and Leaving a Game
Quick Ref
  • Go to the 'Teams' or 'Home' pages
  • Click 'Accept' to join a new game.
  • If you want to leave a game you can do it from the 'Home' or 'Teams' pages.
Before you can start playing a game created for a team, you'll need to accept the invitation for that game. If you join later than everyone else, don't worry, you'll get credit for any squares already marked by everyone else that also appaer on your board. You can jump right in and start playing after joining.
Ignoring a Game Invite
Quick Ref
  • Click 'Ignore' a game invite to ignore that game and remove it from your list.
  • Use the 'Show Ignored Invitations' for previously ignored games.
You don't have to accept a game invitation. If you select "Ignore" for a given invitation, the invitation will be hidden from your primary view on your main page. However, you can always join games later on, even after ignoring them, as long as the game hasn't been closed by the team owner. If you want to see previously ignored invitations for games that are still open, just use the "Show Ignored Invitations" switch on the home page.
Your Game Card / Marking and Unmarking Squares
Quick Ref
  • Click a square to mark it as 'happened'.
  • Click the little red 'X' in the lower right of the square to unmark it.
At the top of the game screen is your game card, made up of 5 rows and 5 columns, each with an entry from the various word lists assigned to the team by the owner. When something happens that corresponds to a square on your card, simply click on that square to mark that event as having occurred.
Some squares can exist on multiple players' game cards during the same game, so there can be some overlap across player cards. For a square that's present on multiple game cards, the first player that marks a given square will mark that square for all players that have that square.
Of course, mistakes happen, so if you need to unmark a square, you can use the small "x" symbol in the lower right of a marked square to unmark it. In the case of a square on multiple players' cards, only the player that marked the square can unmark it.
Game Scores
Although Buzzword is modelled after the traditional bingo game that you're likely familiar with, we found during our playtesting that just paying attention to the first player that makes a "bingo" (the traditional straight or diagonal line across the card, or an entire filled card in some variations) was fun, but ended up many times cutting the game short during our week-long games. Also, we wanted to distinguish someone that marks a square on their own card from someone that has that same square on their card - you should benefit more from marking the square yourself! So what I decided to add was a scoreboard.
You get 1.5 points for marking a square yourself and 0.5 points for having a square marked by another player.
Now you can run games for as long as you'd like and the winner, based on score, is clearly identifiable and for all time (see the "Previous Games" section below)!
Game Activity
If you look just under the scores box on the game page, you'll see an area called "Activity". This lets players keep track of which other players are doing what and when. That includes which card entries they mark, unmark, and when player join and leave games. Everyone's success and failure on display for everyone to revel in!
Previous Games
You can view past games that have been closed in the "Previous Games" option under your avatar image in the upper-right of the Buzzword interface.
Recommendations and Suggestions From the Author's Team
  • Our team ran one game for a single workweek. We'd create the game on Monday morning and close it either on Friday or just before we created the next game (in case something happened over the weekend). We found that was the best way to get plenty of activity to fill out the games and usually have a pretty clear winner.
  • Although we'd announce "bingo" when someone got a traditional "bingo win" with squares in a line, we'd usually focus more on score, that gave us a better idea of the true winner.


In the pulldown menu that appears when you click your avatar image or initials in the upper-right corner of the interface, you'll find an option called "Settings". These are various account settings that you can modify.
This is the username that other players on a team will see as part of a team or game. The system randomly selects a username for you when you first sign up, but you can change that here. You can also change it as many times as you want over time. We found when we played that we'd change our usernames every now and then to add another element of fun to the game.
Keep in mind that your username is visible to everyone in a team and/or game, so set your username accordingly.