If you haven’t yet read the article on how this game changed my life, you can find it here.

These are the instructions and materials for the board game adaptation of “Forcemeat” by Henry Goldkamp, which appeared in issue 42.1 of Mid-American Review.

If you enjoy this game, please consider making a small donation to MAR here, or at least checking out Henry’s Instagram.


  • Muskpaddles™ (recommended)
  • Cards with random concepts written on them (Here is a PDF of MAR’s cards. Honestly, though, a random word generator will do. That includes your brain.)
  • A Google spreadsheet, shared with and made editable by all players. (This is easiest for us, because we already use a lot of spreadsheets, but you can use an actual board if you’re fancy and don’t have a ton of people.)

Set up:

For the most dramatic effect, I prefer to cut out the muskpaddle circles and attach them to a popsicle stick, but they don’t even have to be glued/taped together if you’re in a rush. Just make sure every player has a way to vote. You can even forgo the muskpaddles entirely, using instead a closed fist to vote “muskmelon” and an open hand to vote “muskrat.”

I recommend using a shared Google Sheet as the “board.” All players can pick a row and put an emoji in its first cell to represent themselves. Choose which space you want to be the finish line (20 worked well for us.) Highlight that column in a fun color. Every 5-10 columns (your discretion), highlight one in red. These will be “debate squares.”


The player with the most unread emails in their inbox is the first flipper.

The flipper flips over the card at the top of the deck, reads the text out loud, and displays the card for all to see.

After reading the card, the flipper counts to 5. On the count of 5, voters must raise their Muskpaddles™ to show either the rat or the melon, based on which they think the card’s object is closer to.

If there are an even number of players, the flipper does not vote on the card they draw. If there are an odd number, the flipper votes along with everyone else.

The votes are tallied. The “correct” answer is the one the most players voted for. Everyone who voted for the “correct” answer advances a space on the board. The flipper responsibility rotates clockwise.

When someone lands on a debate square, when the next card is flipped, only they will declare their melon/rat verdict on the count of 5. Then, any player can challenge this verdict if they disagree. The defendant gets 30 seconds to argue their case, then the challenger. On the count of 5, the remaining players will vote. The debater that’s in the majority will move forward 3 spaces, and the loser will move backwards 1. The other players move or stay still as normal.

(If you have 8+ players, we recommend only going through with the debate for the first players to land on the square. If multiple people land on it at once, the person in the row that is numerically first goes first. Everyone who landed there initially will debate, though, even if they end up advancing while other debates happen.)

If one person lands on the final space before anyone else, they win.

If multiple people land on the final space at once, these are the finalists. Another round of voting takes place (and non-finalists can still advance up to the second-to-last square.) If one of the finalists is in the minority, they are disqualified (but continue voting.) Voting like this continues until only one finalist remains. 

If all remaining finalists are disqualified at once, everyone who had been a finalist moves back 5 spaces and the game resumes as normal.

––Jamie Manias (they/them), Mid-American Review