With lockdown in full swing, many of us have been watching more daytime TV than is usual (and possibly healthy). But, at least some programmes provide an intellectual challenge!  Not least, the British institution that is… Countdown. 

A simple idea. Three games that haven’t changed since the show started in 1982. 

  1. The Letters
  2. The Numbers
  3. The Conundrum

So simple, in fact, that it’s easy to play this game at home. If you’d also like to recreate the atmosphere, why not construct your own version of the set too. A couple of tables, a giant dictionary, a whiteboard and a screen that can play the all important 30 second countdown (here’s a video of the actual Countdown Clock). 

Here’s how to run the games…

The Letters Game

Option 1: Offline

  • Split a bag of Scrabble tiles into vowels and consonants
  • Nominate a Carol (or Rachel)
  • The contestant calls out ‘vowel’ or ‘consonant’. Carol draws out a letter from the appropriate bag and writes it on the whiteboard (or paper). 
  • Repeat until you have 9 letters.
  • Set a 30 second timer.
  • The contestants now find the longest word they can from the 9 letters.
  • When the 30 seconds is up, contestants compare words to see who has the longest. 
  • The longest word scores the same number of points as there are letters in the word. Ties are friendly.


Option 2: Online

  • Everything you need is here.

 

The Numbers Game

Option 1: Offline

  • Carol secretly writes a 3 digit target number down on a piece of paper.
  • Write the following numbers on separate bits of paper: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 25, 50, 75, 100. You can do two copies of each of digits from 1-9 if you like.
  • Shuffle the cards up and place them in rows on the table. You can keep the four big numbers on one row, if you want contestants to be able to choose how many big numbers they get. 
  • One contestant chooses 6 numbers at random. 
  • Reveal the target number. Start the 30 second countdown.
  • Each contestant attempts to get as close to the target number as possible combining the smaller numbers in standard operations (+, -, x, /). 
  • Unless you have an actual Carol in the house, spend the next 20 minutes pondering over the answers and wondering if the target could actually be reached…
  • The contestant closest to the target number scores points. 10 for reaching it exactly, 7 for being 1–5 away, 5 for being 6–10 away.

Option 2: Online

  • Everything you need is here.

 

The Countdown Conundrum

Option 1: Offline

  • Someone who is not a contestant (Carol maybe?) grabs a dictionary, finds a 9 letter word (that isn’t too obscure), scrambles the letters into a different order and writes the scrambled letters onto the board. 
  • Contestants have to unscramble the word to find the original 9 letter word within 30 seconds. 

Aside: It’s too hard for me. So if you’re family is anything like me you’ll either need a lot more than 30 seconds or much shorter words! Adjust accordingly. 

Option 2: Online

  • Everything you need is here. Just click the ‘Conundrum’ button.

Now remember, if you do go full Richard Whitely in your living room. We need photographic evidence.

If you’ve enjoyed recreating this classic game, why not make up your own games using some of the other groovy random tools online. Here are some we like: