Introduction: Bad Ideas: the Ultimate Office Puzzle Game

About: Husband. Father. Artist. Musician. Teacher.

Whilst recently raiding the office supply closet, pads of Post-its stacked in a precarious tower up to my chin, I came up with an office puzzle game that uses readily accessible materials and it turned out to be a blast! The best part, is that it has already spawned seemingly endless variations, so I thought I’d share so that the game continues to grow!

Step 1: List of Materials

- 12 different coloured pieces of paper that correspond to the simplified colour wheel provided (primary,
secondary, and tertiary colours

- A dozen or more large paperclips

- A desk organizer cup that resembles a waste paper basket

- Scissors or a paper guillotine

- A ruler

- A simplified 12 colour wheel (provided )

- A copy of the instructional game cards (provided )

- A copy of the rules of gameplay (provided )

Step 2: Paper ​Prep Work

The game takes about 20 minutes to prepare the first time that it is played but will then be ready for all subsequent games!

Cut from each coloured paper:

  • a 1’’ x 2’’ rectangle
  • a 2’’ x 2’’ square
  • a 3’’ x 3’’ square

If using an 8 ½" x 11 piece of paper, cut 3" from one end, then cut that 3" strip at 3" to form a square. Use the off-cut of that piece to cut the 2" x 2" square piece, which will subsequently form your 1" x 2" piece!

Crumpling up the paper balls:

Crumple up the paper squares and rectangles that were just cut to size into loose balls. Avoid flattening the pieces during this process by twisting the paper into itself towards its center. Fold in any loose single ply corners towards the paper ball’s interior.

Step 3: Paperclip Prep Work

Paperclip Modifications:

1. Straighten two of the paperclips up to its last interior curve (these curved ends will act as handles ). Bend the paperclips just after the curved ends at roughly a 45° angle.

2. Straighten one of the paperclips completely and bend a small loop into one of its ends. With the small loop held between your thumb and index, bend it up at a 90° angle so that it’s horizontal and perpendicular to the rest of the paperclip which should be vertical.

3. Straighten the rest of your paperclips (10+ ) like the first two, but don’t bend in the last 45° angle.

That concludes the prep work, onto the game play!

Step 4: Gameplay

The main objective of the game Bad Ideas is to strategically build paper towers, using specifically dimensioned scrunched up paper balls, in different configurations, based upon the criteria of dealt instruction cards.

There are 3 main ways of utilising the waste paper basket during the various iterations of the game.

1. The first, is the classic style of gameplay, which involves the waste paper basket being turned upside down and the base of the basket becoming a build ring for various styles of paper towers.

2. The second, as intended style of gameplay, utilises the waste paper basket in its intended upright position. The games then utilise the interior of the basket, as well as, the previously prepared paperclips.

3. The third, caged style of gameplay, flips the waste paper basket on its head yet again; however, the game takes place under and within the confines of the basket. This style also utilises the previously prepared paperclips.


Simple Tower: A tower made up of a single column of pieces stacked one on top of another.

Complex Tower: A tower built upon a base of multiple pieces that has many pieces per stacked level.

Build Ring: The bottom of the waste paper basket that when flipped over, serves as a lipped platform onto which towers are built.

Instruction Cards: Cards that provide the building criteria for the various types of paper towers, rules of gameplay per round, and point attributions.

Piece sizes: Small. (1’’ x 2’’) Medium. (2’’ x 2’’ ) Large. (3’’ x 3’’ )

Point Calculation: A player receives a point for every round won. Players decide how many rounds will be played in a game to predetermine its end. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins!

*Quick tip: Place all the extra pieces not in play underneath the waste paper basket to avoid confusion when calculating scores.

Step 5: Classic Style Rounds

Classic Gameplay: First, turn the waste paper basket upside down.Stack towers of crumpled paper on the base of the paper waste basket according to the criteria of the dealt instruction card.

*All iterations of gameplay can be played alone and in small or large groups!

To download a PDF of all of the iterations of gameplay refer back to Step 3!

Step 6: As Intended Rounds

As Intended Gameplay: First, place the waste paper basket right side up. Then, gather your prepared paperclips and follow the dealt instruction card.

*All iterations of gameplay can be played alone and in small or large groups! To download a PDF of all of the iterations of gameplay in one document, refer back to Step 3!

Step 7: Caged Round

Caged Gameplay: First, place the waste paper basket upside down. Then, gather your prepared paperclips and follow the dealt instruction card.

*All iterations of gameplay can be played alone and in small or large groups! To download a PDF of all of the iterations of gameplay in one document, refer back to Step 3!

Step 8: Final Notes on the Game

If you decide to make your own versions of Bad Ideas: The Ultimate Office Puzzle Game please post your photos down below! I'd love to hear what kind of alternate rounds you were able to come up with within the different styles of gameplay as well! As a side note, we discovered that a putting or golf style iteration of gameplay became boring too quickly, so I removed it from the Instructable, but you can give it a shot if that’s your thing!

Another idea I had to improve gameplay was to impregnate the coloured paper with a resin epoxy before crumpling them into balls, giving them a bit more weight and enabling them to maintain their shape. I personally like the light nature of the unaltered paper pieces (it adds a degree of difficulty) but try it out for yourself to see which you prefer! If you don’t have access to resin, melted wax would be a great alternative.

The game is also fully scalable and can be played using a real waste paper basket and full sheets of paper!

*A note on recycling: Being Canadian, the thought of not recycling paper irks me to the very paper-like fibres of my being. But aesthetically, the waste paper basket is iconic and a recycling bin (even a clear acrylic one with holes drilled into it) would eliminate the caged style of gameplay that quickly became a favourite among players, including myself.

Be bold. Spice up the office with this one: BAD IDEA.

Puzzle Challenge

Runner Up in the
Puzzle Challenge