Guess Who?

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Guess Who?
DesignersTheo Coster
Ora Coster
Theora Design
IllustratorsTheora Design
PublishersMilton Bradley
Publication1979; 44 years ago (1979)
Years active1979–?
GenresBoard game
Playing time20'
Age range6+

Guess Who? (Hebrew: נחש מי?) is a two-player board game where players each guess the identity of the other's chosen character. The game was developed by Israeli game inventors Ora and Theo Coster, also known as Theora Design, and first manufactured by Milton Bradley in 1979. It is now owned by Hasbro. The game was first brought to the UK by Jack Barr Sr. in 1982. The classic edition is currently being produced by Winning Moves Games USA.


A group of children playing the game

Each player starts the game with a board that includes cartoon images of 24 people and their first names with all the images standing up. Each player selects a card of their choice from a separate pile of cards containing the same 24 images. The objective of the game is to be the first to determine which card one's opponent has selected. Players alternate asking various yes or no questions to eliminate candidates, such as:

  • "Does your person wear a hat?"
  • "Does your person wear glasses?"
  • "Is your person a man?"

The player will then eliminate candidates (based on the opponent's response) by flipping those images down until only one is left. Well-crafted questions allow players to eliminate one or more possible cards.


Special editions which have different faces have been released, including Star Wars, Marvel Comics and Disney. There are smaller, "travel" editions that have only 20 different faces. In 2008 and 2010, extra and mix and match games were released.[citation needed] A computer game based on the series was released in 1999 by Hasbro Interactive.


In the United States, advertisements for the board game often showed the characters on the cards coming to life and making witty comments to each other. This caused later editions of such ads to carry the spoken disclaimer line "game cards do not actually talk" to meet Federal Trade Commission advertising guidelines requiring full disclosure of toy features unable to be replicated with the actual product.[1]


Popular belief is that a binary search is the most efficient approach to the game, where each question halves the number of possible identities.[2] This can be applied by asking complex questions - such as "Does your character have red hair, or glasses, or a big nose?" - where a yes or a no eliminates exactly half of the remaining characters.[3] Such a strategy takes only four questions to reduce the field to three people, giving the fifth question a 50/50 chance of identifying the opponent's character.

The game was strongly solved by Mihai Nica in 2016.[2] Nica's research found that while a player was ahead their optimal strategy was a binary search, and when behind they should instead make "bold plays" that had a chance of narrowing things down significantly, in order to pull ahead of the other player. Using this method, the first player has a 63% chance of winning under optimal play by both sides.

Criticism of lack of diversity[edit]

Modern commentators have noted a bias toward white and male characters in Guess Who. In 2012, a six-year-old girl wrote to Hasbro asking why there were only five female characters to choose from, against nineteen male. Hasbro's response noted that each characteristic in the game – such as wearing glasses, or having red hair[4] – was based on a numerical equation, and deliberately appeared exactly five times. The company wrote that the game was intended to "draw attention away from using gender or ethnicity as the focal point, and to concentrate on those things that we all have in common, rather than focus on our differences".[5]

In response to Hasbro's statement, the child's mother said that she thought identifying physical differences was "the whole point" of the game,[5] and asked "Why is female gender regarded as a 'characteristic', while male gender is not?"[6] The New Statesman criticized the "tone-deafness" of Hasbro's remarks.[4][7] Blogger Avital Norman Nathman suggested that the decision to include five women in the game may not have been a conscious choice, and that this was a problem in itself.[7]

Some editions of the game since the early 2000s have included more women.[8]

The original version of Guess Who featured only one non-white character – Anne, who was redrawn in a subsequent edition as a white woman. More recently, Hasbro has redesigned the board to feature a more racially diverse set of people.[9]

Television adaptation[edit]

A planned unscripted television adaptation of the board game was in early development at NBC and will be produced by Endemol Shine North America and Entertainment One (Hasbro's subsidiary).[10]

People's names[edit]

A giant-sized game of Guess Who? at the Spiel festival, 2008
Name Also known as Introduced Retired Notes
Al Alfred, Stephen 1980
Amy 2018
Anita 1980 2018
Anne 1980 2018 Absent from 1998–2002
Ben 2018
Bernard 1980 2018
Betty 1999 2001
Bill Phillipe 1980 2018
Carmen 2002
Charles Hans 1980 2018
Claire Sarah 1980 2018
Daniel 2018
David Luke, Lucas 1980
Emma 2018
Eric 1980
Farah 2018
Frans Frank 1980 1998
Gabe 2018
George Joe 1980 2001
Herman 1980 2018
Holly Kaitlin 1999 2018
Joe 1980 Absent from 1998–2002
Jordan 2018
Katie 2018
Laura 2018
Leo 2018
Lily 2018
Liz 2018
Maria 1980 2018
Max Theo 1980 2018
Mia 2018
Mike 2018
Nick 2018
Olivia 2018
Paul 1980 2018
Peter 1980 2018 Absent from 1998–2002
Philip Max, Mario 1980 2018
Rachel 2018
Richard Roger 1980 2018
Robert 1980 1999
Sally Sophie 1999 2018
Sam Charles 1980
Sofia 2018
Susan 1980 1998
Tom Albert, Daniel 1980 2018
Victor 1999 2018


  1. ^ "Guess Who? Retrospective". Retrieved 2018-05-26.
  2. ^ a b Optimal Strategy in "Guess Who?": Beyond Binary Search by Mihai Nica.
  3. ^ Allan, Patrick (20 November 2015). "Almost Always Win the Game Guess Who With This Math-Based Strategy". Lifehacker. Retrieved 19 November 2020.
  4. ^ a b Hern, Alex (16 November 2012). "Hasbro: Being a boy is normal, being a girl is a "characteristic"". Retrieved 10 October 2020.
  5. ^ a b Pahle, Rebecca (19 November 2012). "Six-Year-Old Girl (Board) Gamer Calls out Guess Who? on Its Gender Inequality; Hasbro's Response is Both Hilarious and Awful". The Mary Sue.
  6. ^ "Guess Who's sexist? Classic board game's gender bias leaves". The Independent. 17 November 2012. Retrieved 10 October 2020.
  7. ^ a b "Jennifer O'Connell, Mom, And 6-Year-Old Daughter Ask Hasbro About Gender Inequality In 'Guess Who?'". The Huffington Post. 21 November 2012.
  8. ^ Sherwin, Adam (17 November 2012). "Guess Who's sexist? Classic board game's gender bias leaves". The Independent.
  9. ^ Vitto, Laura (3 July 2013). "5 Depressing Facts About Your Favorite Childhood Games". Mashable.
  10. ^ White, Peter (April 19, 2021). "'Guess Who?': Unscripted Adaptation Of Board Game In The Works At NBC From Endemol Shine & eOne". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved April 19, 2021.

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