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True American: The Best Game No One Knows How to Play

“1, 2, 3, 4, JFK!” “FDR!” 

Anyone that has seen New Girl knows this phrase, the start to the infamous game, True American. Invented by Nick, Winston, Schmidt, and Coach, it appears to be the greatest game ever, but while watching the show there is clearly no sense to the rules. It is described as Candy Land meets The Floor Is Lava meets drinking. Every character describes it differently, and every time it is played there are new rules. With all the chaos it is a game that people love to think about but have no idea how to play.

So what really are the rules?

In the TV Show the game is seen five times: Season 1 “Normal,” Season 2: “Cooler,” Season 3: “Mars Landing,” Season 5: “Wedding Eve,” and Season 7: “Engram Pattersky.” Watching every one of these episodes and compiling what you see won’t help you learn how to play, it’s more like watching madness. 

But in doing some research, people have taken on the challenge and created more comprehensive rules. Below is a breakdown of what people have been able to come up with:


True American is centered around the Castle. In the center of the Castle there is a hard liquor of your choosing, this is the King. In four lines extending from the King are the beers, or drinks of your choosing, called the Pawns. You decide how many Pawns you have based on how many players, with 6 characters in New Girl a popular number could be anywhere from 24-30 (the more the merrier right? This is a drinking game, that’s the point!).

The Pawns have set the outline for the four zones. Just like a candy land board, five pieces preventing you from touching the lava are placed to create the trail. The center piece of each zone is closest to the Pawn, and other pieces extend from there.


The game begins with everyone shotgunning their beer. The first player to finish yells “1, 2, 3, 4, JFK!” and the other players respond “FDR.” Everyone then grabs a Pawn and runs to a space of their choosing.

An alternate to this start is to play rock-paper-scissors, but where’s the real fun in that?


Once in their spaces, players move clockwise around the Castle. The player who’s turn it is always moves one space, then gives the other players a chance to earn their movement by completing one of the following:

  • Count: The player taking their turn counts to four. On four all players hold one to five fingers on their head. Any player that has a number no one else chose drinks and moves one space.
  • Quote: The player taking their turn begins a quote that references anything the other players may know. Players that are able to finish the quote drink and move two spaces.
  • Something in Common: The player taking their turn names two things, any player that can name what these things have in common drinks and move three spaces.

Winning and Losing

All players must have a Pawn in their hands at all times. New Pawns can only be taken when in the position of each zone closest to the Castle. If a player is found without a Pawn, or with an empty Pawn, they must shotgun a beer before returning to the game. The same is done if anyone steps in lava.

When all of the Pawns are taken, the first person to reach the closest spot to the Castle in any zone finishes their beer and takes a swig from the King. This person is the winner of the game!

Odds and Ends

Every game of True American seemed to have some sort of twist, some of the best rules or made up as you go, but here are some favorites of mine:

  • At any time, a player can shout JFK, the rest of the players respond FDR and finish their Pawn.
  • An fifth alternate zone can be added, outside of the four original zones. Players are sent to this zone if they have more than three Pawns, or have to exit the game to shotgun before the return. Players in this area have to use what they have to get back to the original zones without touching the lava.

In the end, every game of True American is going to be what the group decides to make it. Creators of the show have said the game is all just made up, it was commonly used to confuse new characters in the loft, so make it what you want! Have fun and make the rules as you go, adding anything that your group may enjoy.

For a more comprehensive breakdown of these Working Rules and New Girl Rules, as well as pictures of setup, you can go to http://www.trueamericanrules.com.

Have fun!

Mallory is a sociology major at the University of Utah. She enjoys spending her time catching up on the newest Netflix shows, reading books, or trying to be a little creative.
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