21s (Twenty Ones)

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This drinking game is a counting game for players sat in a circle, the aim being to avoid saying the number 21.

How to Play

The first player in the circle starts by saying: “To my left (or to my right) 1” and then play continues in the direction to that player’s left (or right) around the circle with players counting upwards.

Players can choose to say one of the following combinations of numbers, in which case play is affected as shown below:

  • A single number on its own (e.g. “5”) – play continues in the current direction
  • Two numbers in succession (e.g. “5, 6”) – the direction of play is reversed
  • Three numbers in succession (e.g. “5, 6, 7”) – the next player is skipped out

A combination of numbers may not be repeated three times in a row. That is, 3 numbers in succession must not be said 3 times in a row by different players, nor may 2 numbers in succession be said 3 times in a row, and nor may a single number. If this occurs, the offending player drinks a penalty of 3 fingers, and the phrase “3 in a row” is sung repeatedly as an accompaniment to this.

Play continues until either someone makes a mistake (such as speaking out of turn or saying the wrong number), or the number 21 is reached. If a player makes a mistake, they must drink 2 fingers as punishment. They then start the game again from 1.

When a player is forced to say the number 21, play stops and that player downs their remaining drink. Again, they will then start the next game from 1. However, they are also allowed to invent a new ‘rule’ for the next and subsequent games. This can be anything the player chooses, such as:

  • Replace multiples of 3 with the equivalent number in French
  • Switch two of the numbers over
  • Replace any number with a particular phrase or action

Failure to follow the new rule results in a 2 finger drinking penalty. Further rules are added after each time 21 is again reached.

See also Roman Numeral 21s.

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