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How to Play: Snake Oil (2-minute guide)

How to Play: Snake Oil (2-minute guide)

A zany game of salesmanship where anything goes and anything is possible. Try to sell your friends on your best (and worst) ideas. And if you all come out laughing, you’re all winners.

If you don’t own Snake Oil yet, check it out here on Amazon.

Setup: Separate the customer cards from the word cards. If necessary, divide the word cards into multiple decks for easy drawing. Each person draws 6 word cards. Select one person to be the first Customer.

The Customer draws a customer card, picks a side, reads it out loud and places the card in front of him or herself.

Each other player chooses two cards in their hand to create a product (real or imaginary, functional or hilarious) that they think their customer would want.

As soon as one player has their product, they can begin to try to sell their product to the customer. Only one player may make a pitch at a time. The customer has the right to cut off any pitch that goes longer than 30 seconds (but doesn’t have to if it’s a good pitch). As soon as one pitch is done, another player may begin their pitch.

Once all the players have pitched their products, the Customer chooses the product (or pitch) that they enjoyed most or that they would find most useful.

The Customer then gives their customer card to that person and then the player to the left of the customer becomes the new customer. Play continues until everyone has been the customer once.

At the end of the game, the player with the most customer cards wins. If there is a tie, play one last round with only the tied players and the rest of the players vote as the “customer.”


Strategies: This game is about creativity and fun. Don’t get caught up in trying to make your cards fit into a real product. Let your imagination go wild and think about what your customer might want. It doesn’t have to be possible.

If you can’t think of any good combinations among your 6 cards, try shuffling them around and looking at them in a different order. Try to think about what your customer might want or need, then try to identify one or more cards that could be used to address this. Then give it a splash of pizazz.


Tournament- For 12-24 players. Split players to into even-ish groups and give each group an even-ish amount of cards. Each group should play the game as above until they have a winner. The winners from each group then get together and play with the winner of the winners being the Champion.

Apples to Snake Oil- This can be done with cards from Apples to Apples or you can make it up as you go. In this variation, you draw one customer card as well as one adjective card. So instead of a caveman, you might have an angry caveman, or a hairy caveman. If you don’t have (or don’t want to use) adjective cards, you can simply choose an adjective to attach to your customer card. If you do this, be specific and consistent. It isn’t fun if you say you have a bubbly cheerleader and after you hear one pitch change it to angsty.

Common House Rules: This might be more of a variation, but don’t let the rule of “each player should be the customer once” keep you from playing as long as you want. If you want each player to be the customer twice or even thrice, go for it.

Time to Play: 15 min. to eternity

Our Suggested Age: 8+

If you like this, try: Apples to Apples, The Game of Things, Balderdash