21 (drinking game)

21 sometimes called Bagram is a drinking game typically played by players sitting in a circle. Numbers are called in sequence from one to 21. However, each player can decide how many numbers of the sequence he/she wishes to call. This determines who the next player to call will be. The player to call "21" must finish his/her beverage, before a new round starts. The loser may add one new rule to the game, and starts the new round.


The game begins with one player calling the direction of play by saying, "I propose a game of twenty, twenty two to my left" or "To my right". That player will then also say a number, the initial round of the game is played without rules; players may only say one number, in all other rounds players may say one number or string of numbers. The choice of numbers will dictate the direction of the game from then on.

Saying one number (e.g. "one") will cause the game to pass to the next player in line (and in the direction initially declared). Two numbers (e.g. "one, two") will reverse the direction of the game from that initially declared. Three numbers will continue the game in the original direction but will skip one player.

The onus of calling out the next number in the sequence will pass according to the string of numbers declared by the preceding player.

For example, an initial call of " my left, one", will mean that the player to the immediate left of the starter must say the next number, which in this case is "two". Alternatively, a call of " my left, one, two", will mean that the player to the immediate right of the starter must say the next number, which in this case is "three". Finally, a call of " my left, one, two, three", will mean that the player to the immediate left but one must say the next number, which in this case is "four".

The player with the onus of calling the next number has the same option; he may call one, two or three numbers. The direction of play will chop and change accordingly. The one exception to this is the restriction on calling two numbers following a two-number call. This is referred to as 'doubling a double', and in some versions of the game is prohibited so as to make sure that play does not get stuck between two players. Some versions also prohibit calling two numbers after a string of three numbers, i.e. so the next person to call is the person that was missed out; this is known as "reversing into a hole" or, in some circles, "rogering the chaplain's daughter".

Assuming there are no mistakes, the game will continue in sequence up to number 21. The player who finds himself burdened with calling number 21 is liable to consume his entire remaining beverage.

The object of the game is to ensure the sequence continues to number 21 - the group objective. At the same time players will not wish to be the one to say 21 and be liable to consume their entire beverage, so skillful use of the numbers will be required to direct the play away from themselves. Clearly this is a game of concentration.

When the sequence reaches 21, the losing player having just consumed their entire beverage is given the consolation of making a new rule to the game, before it begins again. New rules commonly take the form of replacing a number or group of numbers (multiple of 5 are...) with a word phrase, ("TEN is now 'I love Chocolate cake!'") or action (the umpires signals for 4 and 6 for example) or swapping the place of numbers e.g. "swap 3 and 8" so the series would be 1, 2, 8, 4, 5, 6... Twenty-One itself is not normally changed.

21 is a nomic game.


  1. Failing to call out the next number in the sequence when it is your turn to do so, or only after undue hesitancy.
  2. Calling out the wrong number.
  3. Calling a number out of turn.
  4. Calling out numbers that total 21 (e.g. 6,7,8 or 10,11)
  5. Breach of new rules

A mistake will cause the sequence to stop. A penalty will then be issued to the player at fault before the game restarts.

The penalty for a mistake is usually an order to consume two finger's width of one's beverage.

Saying the number "twenty-one" is itself a punishable error; usually with two fingers but occasionally with a whole pint as if the speaker had said it in the course of the game. Instead, the phrase "twenty-plus-one" may be used to refer to the game or to the number which must not be said.

One of the classic mistakes in 21 is for a player to say the number 18 on its own. The next player is then free to call 19 and 20, so that the first player is forced to call 21.

During the game, players will periodically need to visit the bar to replenish their drinks (it is best to buy in large rounds so that the number of trips is minimised). Sometimes, the person at the bar will miss the end of a sequence and its consequent new rule. In some traditions such people must not be told the new rule, but must work it out through observation and trial and error. The same applies to anyone joining the game halfway through.

Additional rules

All the while the game goes there are other rules that players may enforce. A common example is to outlaw pointing throughout the game; participants who wish to mock failing players must point with their elbows.

Another example is the 'face-master' concept whereby one player each round (from one reaching of 21 to the other) is appointed to make a 'face' which will be indicated by the chosen player before the round starts. The player may make the 'face' at any time and the last person to copy the 'face' is given a penalty. The game then continues until 21 is reached then a new 'face-master' is appointed.

Additional rules can be made whereby one person who reaches "21" can call himself the "question master'. Throughout the game the question master can ask any question to any member in the game. The recipient has to answer with "Fuck Off". Otherwise, if the recipient of that question answers with a real answer they have to consume 2 fingers of their beverage. An example of this is when the person who indicates his position as the 'question master' explains the rules of the 'question master' post to the other members in the game; if this person then further asks "Do you understand what I just said?". Then all the members of the game who answer with anything other than "Fuck Off" will then be liable to the forfeit of consuming 2 fingers of their beverage. Other examples include "Did you actually drink then?" ; "Whose Beverage is that?" ; or even "What time is it?" etc.

A 'Thumb Master' can also be invoked by the person who reaches '21' in a similar manner to the 'Question Master'. The Thumb Master's role is simple but effective to the game play. It ensures the member's of the game remain concentrated throughout. The Thumb Master's role is to place his thumb down on the chair where he is sitting (or on a table if not sitting) at any random moment throughout the game; the other members of the game must realize that the Thumb Master has placed his thumb down on his chair. The last member of the game to place his/her thumb down on his/her chair has to consume 2 fingers of their beverage; in a similar manner to the 'Question Master's' rule.

There is an additional rule that does not permit any member of the game to say any variation of the word 'drink' (this includes drank, drunk, drinking, etc.). Instead these words can be referred to using any other word that means the same thing as what you are trying to say. For example; instead of saying 'Drink your drink' you would say 'Consume your beverage'. If you get caught violating this rule you must further consume 2 fingers of your 'beverage'.


A variation of 21 is to use Roman numerals instead. This is a precursor for a further variation where the Roman Numerals I, V and X are replaced with words or phrases; for example one could replace I with "No", V with "Daddy" and X with "Don't touch me there!". This culminates in a variety of hilarious phrases, especially 18 (XVIII) which would read "Don't touch me there, Daddy! No! No! No!". This variation also requires that the phrases are shouted, especially with the higher numbers.

The binary number system may also be used, though this is sometimes challenging for those without a technical background.

* A slight variation on the game involves not numbers but three (or four or even five) phrases:

Phrase 1 - Move 1 in current direction of play

Phrase 2 - Reverse direction

Phrase 3 - Skip one person in current direction of play

Phrase 4 - Point at random player who must then continue in direction of play

Phrase 5 - Point at two random players, who must then stand and perform a certain action. The slower player is punished


German Pornstar (German Accent Mandatory):

1: Ooh Ja! (Accompanied with thrusted fist in direction of play)

2: Das Ist Gut! (Accompanied with a 'trucker's horn' movement with the hand opposite to current direction of play)

3: Oop die Pooper! (Accompanied with humping actions)

4: Mein Shaft! (Accompanied with exaggerated air-phallus stroking)


1: Yeehaa! (Accompanied with thrusted fist in direction of play)

2: Hoe down! (Accompanied with a 'trucker's horn' movement with the hand opposite to current direction of play)

3: Hay Barn! (Accompanied with formation of a 'roof' above player's head)

Richmond Rah

1: Rah (Accompanied by an affected gesture of choice in direction of play)

2: Daddy's got a Yacht (Accompanied with formation of a 'yacht sail' above player's head)

3: Mummy's got a Horse (Accompanied with mimicking of riding a horse)

4: What's the goss? (Point in as rah-like a manner possible)

5: Jack Wills sale (Selected players must take out their imaginary credit card and swat their opponent)

International drinking rules

This game is best played according to the International Drinking Rules.

See also

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