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Poetry for Neanderthals Board Game: Rules and Instructions for How to Play

Poetry for Neanderthals Board Game: Rules and Instructions for How to Play

Objective of Poetry for Neanderthals

The objective of Poetry for Neanderthals is to score more points than your opponents by successfully getting your teammates to guess words while only giving them one syllable clues.

Setup for Poetry for Neanderthals

  • Divide the players into two teams (Team Glad and Team Mad). You should divide the players as equally as possible. If there is an odd number of players, the extra player becomes the judge for the game.
  • Players should sit around the table so the teams alternate positions.
  • Team Glad starts the game. They will choose who on their team with be the first Neanderthal Poet. This player places the Poet Point Slate in front of themselves.
  • The Poet also chooses which side of the cards (gray or orange) that the players will use during the game. All of the players will use this side of the card for the entire game.
  • A player from Team Mad that is sitting next to the Poet grabs the NO! Stick.

Playing Poetry for Neanderthals

A player from the team opposite of the current Poet’s team turns over the timer to start the round.

During the round the Poet is trying to get their teammates to guess as many words/phrases from the Poetry cards as possible.

Describing the Word/Phrase

The Poet begins their turn by taking the top Poetry card from the deck. This player should quickly study the card to see what word/phrase they are trying to get their teammates to guess. The player can either go for the one or three point word/phrase.

The Poet will describe their chosen word/phrase to their teammate. They can describe it in any way they want, but they need to follow a few rules.

  • The Poet may only say words that are one syllable.
  • You may not say a word or part of a word that appears on the current Poetry card. The one exception to this is if one of your teammates say it first. Once one of your teammates says the word (even if it is more than one syllable), the Poet is then allowed to say the word themselves.
  • At no point can you use gestures or charades to act out the word/phrase.
  • You can use qualifiers like “sounds like” or “rhymes with”.
  • Abbreviations and initials are not allowed at any time.
  • You can’t use words from other languages.
Describing A Card
The player that draws this card could give the clue “like to hang out and do stuff.” If their teammates guess friend they can then say “top friend” to try and get them to guess best friends.
Describing Word Example in Poetry for Neanderthals
For this card the current Poet has to describe tooth for one point and Tooth Fairy for three points. To describe the tooth they could say something like “small white thing in mouth chew with”. Once your teammates guess tooth, you could provide a clue such as “small thing takes tooth for cash” to try and get your teammates to guess Tooth Fairy.

The NO! Stick

While the Poet is describing the word/phrase with one syllable words, one of their opponents sitting next to them is in charge of making sure that they aren’t breaking any of the rules listed above.

If the Poet breaks any of the rules above, the player holding the NO! Stick gently hits the Poet with it as quickly as possible and shouts out “NO!”.

No Stick in Poetry for Neanderthals
The Poet gave an illegal clue. One of the players from the other team will hit them with the No Stick.

If the Poet thinks that they were penalized incorrectly, they will shout out “Wait!”. The timer is set down on its side to temporarily stop it. All of the players will then decide as a group whether the punishment is valid for what happened in the game. The players will deal with the Poetry Card in a way agreed to by the players.

If it is determined that the Poet broke the rules, they will place the card that they are currently holding on the “Oops”/-1 point section of the Poet Point Slate. The Poet will then draw a new Poetry Card.

Illegal Clue in Poetry for Neanderthals
While describing this word the Poet uses the word utensil. As utensil is three syllables, the Poet gave an illegal clue. The Poet moves the card to the Oops! section of the board. The card will end up scoring the team negative one point.

Guessing the Word/Phrase

Once the Poet starts describing the word/phrase, their teammates can start yelling out answers. There is no penalty for incorrect guesses, so you should try to yell out as many answers as possible. The words/phrases can be multiple syllables, so there is no punishment if a teammate says a multi-syllable word.

When one of your teammates say the correct word/phrase, say “yes”. You can repeat the correct word (even if it has multiple syllables), and can tell your teammates how many points that the word/phrase is worth.

One Point Words

If you started with the one point word and your teammates guess it, you have a decision to make. You can decide to keep the one point you earned and place the card on the corresponding spot on the Poet Point Slate.

Scoring One Point Card
The Poet got their teammates to guess Up. If they choose not to go for the three point word, they will place the card on the one point section.

Otherwise you can choose to try for the three point answer. If at any point you commit a penalty, you will lose the point you earned from the correctly guessed word.

Three Point Words

Should you successfully get your teammates to guess the three point word, you will place the card on the corresponding section of the Poet Point Slate.

Three Point Card in Poetry for Neanderthals
The Poet got their teammates to guess the three point word. They will place the card in the three point section of the Poet Point Slate.

You can immediately go for the three point phrase and ignore giving clues for the one point word. If your teammates end up providing the one point answer, you can tell them that they guessed the right word for one point. You can then use the one point word as part of the clue for the three point phrase.

Skipping A Card

If your teammates are struggling to guess the correct word/phrase, you can choose to skip the card. Should you choose to skip the card you will tell your teammates “skip”. You will place the card in the “Oops” (-1 point) section of the Poet Point Slate.

Skip A Card in Poetry for Neanderthals
The current Poet doesn’t think they can describe Tutor to their teammates. Instead of wasting time trying to describe it, they decide to skip the card and move onto the next one. They will place the skipped card in the Oops! section and will lose a point.

Drawing A New Card

After your teammates successfully guess a word/phrase, you break one of the rules and are punished, or you skip the card; you will draw a new card from the draw pile. You will continue playing and drawing new cards until the timer runs out.

End of Round

Once the timer runs out, the current round of Poetry for Neanderthals ends immediately. If you scored/lost points in the round, you will move the corresponding cards from the Poet Point Slate to the corresponding spots for your team on the Team Point Slate.

End of Round Scoring
During this round Team Glad scoring three points from the friend and up cards. They scored one point for the tooth card. Finally they lost one point each from the fork and tutor card.
End of Round Scoring
The players from Team Glad moved the cards from the Poet Point Slate to the corresponding sections on the Team Point Slate.

The role of Poet then passes to the next player in clockwise order.

Winning Poetry for Neanderthals

You will keep playing rounds until all of the players have had one turn as the Poet. You could also choose to keep playing until all of the teams have had the same number of turns as the Poet.

Each team will add up the points earned from the cards placed on the three sections of their team’s side of the Team Point Slate. The team that scores the most points wins Poetry for Neanderthals.

End of Game Scoring Poetry for Neanderthals
At the end of the game these are the cards that each team scored. Team Mad scored nine points from their three point cards, four points from their one point cards, and negative three points from the negative one point cards. They scored a total of ten points in the game. Team Glad scored twelve points from their three point cards, four points from their one point cards, and negative three points from their negative one point cards. They scored thirteen points. As Team Glad scored more points, they have won the game.

Grok’s Words of Love and Sad

The winning team can decide to utilize the words they successfully guessed during the game in order to provide some poetry to the other players.

The winning team chooses three of the their favorite words/phrases that they guessed during the game. They will then randomly draw one of the Grok’s Words of Love and Sad Cards. They will choose how to place the three words/phrases they chose into the blanks on the card. One of the players will then recite the poem to the other team.

Grok's Words of Love and Sad
Team Glad choose these three cards from those they scored during the game. They will end up creating the following poem. Best friends bring Grok joy. Grok want Stonehenge too. Grok must have it all. Only Silent will not do.

If the other team does not like the poem, they can hit the reciter with the No! Stick. 

Reciting the poem has no impact on the scoring or outcome of the game. Therefore it is completely optional.

Variant Games

If there are only two or three players you will have to slightly tweak some of the Poetry for Neanderthals rules to play the game.

Two Players

The two players are playing on the same team. The goal of the game is for the two players to score as many points as possible.

The two players will take turns as the Poet. Each player will play as the Poet three times.

Throughout the game you will total the points that you earn from each round. The total number of points you score in the game is compared to the chart below to determine how well you did.

  • 10 or less points: “This Team Bad”
  • 11-30 points: “Team is So-So At Make Words”
  • 31-49 points: “Team Have Much Big Brain”
  • 50+ points: “A Stunning Evolutionary Exemplar”

Three Players

With three players the players will rotate roles throughout the game. Each round one player plays as the Poet, one as the Guesser, and one as the judge/player with the NO! Stick.

During each round the Poet and Guesser try to score as many points as they can. At the end of the round you will add up the total number of points that the Poet and Guesser earned. These points will be added to the both players’ (Poet and Guesser) past scoring totals. 

After each player has been the Poet three times, the game ends.

Each player totals the points they earned during the game. The player that scores the most points wins the game.

Components for Poetry for Neanderthals

Year: 2020 | Publisher: Asmodee, Exploding Kittens | Designer: Elan Lee | Artist: Matthew Inman, Elan Lee

Genres: Party, Word

Ages: 7+ | Number of Players: 2-12 | Length of Game: 15-30 minutes

Difficulty: Light | Strategy: Light | Luck: Light

Components: 200 Poetry Cards, 90 second timer, Poet Point Slate, Team Point Slates, NO! Stick, 20 Grok’s Words of Love and Sad Cards, instructions

Where to Purchase: Amazon, eBay Any purchases made through these links (including other products) help keep Geeky Hobbies running. Thank you for your support.


For more board and card game how to plays/rules and reviews, check out our complete alphabetical list of board game posts.

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