The Country Game: Official Rules

The Country Game is a highly contentious parlour game played by travellers all over the world. These are my rules, developed in association (and in great disagreement) with the Cholsey Country Club.

What is a “Country”?

NB: “Country” has no specific legal definition. Therefore we can call it what we want, to satisfy the needs of the game, which should reward travel, not politics. So:

A country is an entity which AT THE TIME OF VISITING satisfies any of these conditions:

  1. It is a member state of the UN.
  2. It is an observer member of the UN AND is EITHER a non-member state OR claims statehood.
  3. It is on the UN list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.
  4. It is recognised as a state by at least 10% of the full membership of the UN.
  5. It is an overseas possession of a country satisfying 1, 2, 3 or 4 above AND is outside the Exclusive Economic Zone (which extends 230 miles overseas) of that country.

At the time of writing, this means that there are:

  1. 192 members of the UN.
  2. 4 observer members of the UN: Palestine, The Holy See (Vatican City), The Cook Islands and Niue.
  3. 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories.
  4. 2 further states recognised by at least 10% of the UN membership: Kosovo (38%) and Taiwan (12%).
  5. Many other places, including Puerto Rico (US), The Canary Islands (Spain), Réunion Island (France) and Greenland (Denmark).


  • This definition is deliberately broad because the world is a very big place. I want to break it up as small as possible. We’re all different, aren’t we?
  • For ease of implementation, I’m taking the EEZ of every country to be the maximum 230 miles, rather than going by the official extent, which is frequently less.
  • I’m also applying this 230 miles overland. Basically: if it’s within 230 miles of the possessing state, it doesn’t count as a separate country. I think that’s fair. If it’s that far away you must be travelling specifically to visit that place. You deserve a point.
  • It is important to note that the definition is made AT THE TIME OF VISITING. This means that if you visited Yugoslavia in 1972, you visited Yugoslavia. You did not visit Croatia.
  • That might seem silly, but it would be even sillier for your list to be changing every time there’s a war. It also means that you can have visited countries that no one else will ever be able to again – caché!

How to Score

Okay, so that’s just the definition of what counts as a country. Now we can start counting them.

A player scores one point (and one point only) for each country (according to the definitions above) they have visited in their lifetime IF:

  • They spent at least 24 hours in that country (see note below). 
  • They did something ‘of cultural interest’ during their stay.

And that’s it – simple!


  • There is one exception to the 24-hour rule: The Holy See (Vatican City). This is the ONLY exception because it’s impossible to spend a night here. Score a point for any visit.
  • It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve visited a country, you will only EVER score one point for it.
  • ‘Cultural interest’ is defined with common sense. It is there to prevent sneaky travellers from counting a transit stay in an airport hotel. If you haven’t left the airport / train station / bus, it’s not interesting.
  • This is a stupid game. There are a lot of things wrong with it. I don’t care.

Published by


David Charles is co-writer of BBC radio sitcom Foiled. He also writes for The Bike Project, Thighs of Steel, and the Elevate Festival. He blogs at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.