Hangman is an easy game to play, but it’s still important to know the rules! (Note that if you are playing with younger children and don’t want to expose them to the violence of a hanging, you can replace the scaffold and stick figure with a snowman, as detailed towards the end of these instructions).

Step 1

The first thing to do is to lay out the game on a piece of paper. This consists of the scaffold, as shown in the first image, and a series of blanks for the word or phrase. Player 1 is the one who picks the word, and Player 2 guesses. In our example, the word is “hangman.” If there were multiple words in a phrase or sentence, Player 1 would have to add spaces between each of the blanks.

If you’d like to download the above reference image as a PDF, click here.

Step 2

Next, Player 2 starts guessing letters that might be part of the word or phrase. In the diagram labeled ‘2’, Player 2 has guessed the letter ‘A’. Because ‘hangman’ does have two ‘A’s in it, Player 1 would write the letter in its corresponding spot in the word.

Step 3

Player 2 continues guessing. In diagram 3, Player 2 has guessed the letter ‘E’. ‘Hangman’ doesn’t have any ‘E’s, so Player one starts drawing the hangman (usually a simple stick figure) on the scaffold to the left. If you’re Player 2, keep this acronym in mind: ETAOIN SHRDLU. It’s hard to remember but it is the order of the most common letters in the English language.

Step 4

The game continues in this way – if Player 2 guesses the word before the hangman is complete, they win. If Player 1 is able to draw an entire hangman (with variations as desired) before Player 2 can guess, they win!

If you’d like to download the steps 2-3 diagram as a PDF, click here.

Do you need printable templates to play hangman? Check out this post, or this one – we have plenty of options!