Pencil Grand Prix - a simple and free game to play at home.

In an age of complicated electronic entertainment for kids, wouldn’t it be nice to have a simple, fun and addictive game that you can play with anyone in the family?
What about if that game used just a piece of paper and a pencil? Sounds good, eh?

Enter Pencil Grand Prix!

This is a game I played as a young boy, and my brothers and I would battle for hours against each other as we attempted to be the first to cross the finish line for the checkered flag.

Fig. 1
Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 2

Game set up

All you need is a piece of plain paper and a pencil. You will need to be somewhat creative and draw a “racetrack” on the paper (see the example in Fig.1). The racetrack can be as complicated as you choose. The more you play, the harder you can make the track. I would suggest that the track be approximately 1” wide, but can narrow at points for added difficulty.

Alternatively (if you want to get fancy!) you can design a racetrack on computer and print off several copies to use. See Fig. 2 for an example of a computer-generated track.

The benefit to drawing a new track each time is that you get to “race” a new circuit every time!

How to play

You can play with as many drivers as you wish. Each person can have their own pencil or you can all share one. You can even use different coloured pencils for each racer. However, I have found that a basic lead pencil is the best type of pencil to use to play.

Choose your order of racers however you will. The first racer puts the point of the newly sharpened pencil on the starting line and puts the pad of their index (or first) finger on top of the eraser at the end of the pencil. Then, with a smooth motion they push down on the point of the pencil whilst leaning the pencil back towards themselves until they can release the pencil in the direction they wish to go. If they do this motion correctly the point of the pencil will leave a line along the track which will start off thicker and then fade out to nothing.

Check out the video for the correct technique...

Fig. 3
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 4

The Concept

The idea is for that “drawn” pencil line to stay within the confines of the track boundary.

After a player has their turn, they will draw a small “x” at the point where the drawn line ends (Fig 3), if that “x” is inside the racetrack. If the drawn line takes them outside the boundary of the track, they draw the “x” at the point where they crossed the boundary line (Fig 4). Their turn is then over. The next person in order then takes their turn at racing their car.

WARNING – be aware that the pencils will quite often fly off the table when the player flicks them.

The race continues, with players taking their turns in sequence. Each player's “car trail” will be a continuous line of short pencil marks that follow the course of the track, albeit oftentimes going outside the track boundary (see Fig 5).

Fig. 5
Fig. 5

The Winner

The first person to have their line cross the start/finish line inside the track boundary is the winner of the race.

You can play in a one-race contest or you can set up a tournament of races at various circuits, keeping scores for the racers according to their finishing position. To do that you will have to allow each racer to complete the track and score points in the order they finish.

The game can be made as simple or as complicated as you choose. Feel free to get super creative with your tracks. I have always played it simply with one sheet of paper and drawn a new track each time. There is nothing stopping you using larger paper and designing a rally race with stages. Go ahead - be creative, if that’s your thing.

Otherwise, on a night when the kids are whining because they are bored, give Pencil Grand Prix a shot and have some good, clean, healthy, family fun.

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