Whilst the year and place of origin for this popular paper-pencil game is not known, it seems to have been played in Europe by the end of 19th Century. The German version Stadt Land Fluss, according to Wikipedia, was played at the time by
privately taught pupils. Then it reached to ever larger circles and became popular among group lessons of church and political organizations. After a while, it even made its way into the school
curriculum. The game is known in Argentina and some other Spanish-speaking parts of the world as Tutti Frutti (probably thanks to Italian migrants coming to the country around the same period) or as Basta! The French name Jeu du Baccalauréat also offers an academic tone
to the game.
Categories is a game for two or more players, played with a paper and pencil per each player.
The object of the game is to find words that begin with a particular letter of the alphabet and that fit predetermined categories.
Players agree on a number of categories (name, place, animal, thing, plant, writer, etc.) and write them down as titles of same number of columns on their papers. One extra column is added to
write the points.
At the beginning of each round, one letter is chosen. Then the players try, for each category, to write words that start with the chosen letter.
In order to speed up the game a time-limit (e.g. 10 minutes) may be set for one round.
When the time is up, or according to a variation after a player fills in every category and counts 20 seconds, players read their words per each category and score points for their answers.
If at least two players have written the same answer in the same category, then each gets get 5 points for that answer. Players who have a different answer from the other player(s) in the
same category get 10 points.
If just one player writes an answer for a category, then he/she gets 20 points.
Categories can be played until all letters of the alphabet are used.
For more fun, categories can be played with numerous creative variations. First of all, it is possible to play with more obscure and added number of categories. By way of example; writer,
proverb, scientist, director, musical instrument, element, mountain, colour, newspaper, song, etc.
Another challenging modification is changing the ‘first letter rule’ and try to find words fitting in each category, whose second, third, or last letter is the chosen letter.
If you are playing with a group of geeks on a particular subject matter (e.g. movies, literature, football, history), it may be interesting to select categories specific to the subject matter
and make a geek-show out of the game.
Finally, elements of a certain plot can be used as categories, which would give you at the end of each round, a short story when the answers are combined. For example, playing with categories
such as suspect, victim, motivation, weapon, crime scene, and action, you may come up with a little crime story. Or maybe it is just time to change the game and start playing Consequences.
To exemplify variations with different categories, here are some templates (in German) we found on the Internet.