Build a Buzzword Bingo Card in PHP

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In the past, I’ve done a fair bit of work with government departments. Here are three things I learned from that experience:

  1. government workers love meetings
  2. government workers also love jargon
  3. when you combine meetings and jargon, you have excellent conditions for a quick game of Buzzword Bingo*

If you’ve yet to play Buzzword Bingo, you’re missing out on great fun! It’s a game in which you collect buzzwords, clichés, and weasel words, then arrange them in a grid and check them off as you hear them during a particularly wordy meeting. When you’ve checked off a row, column, or diagonal line — bingo!

With just a little bit of beginner PHP and a good collection of jargon words, you can make your own buzzword bingo card that’s randomly generated every time you load the page. Let’s take a look.

(*Buzzword Bingo has a less than worksafe name too, but because we want this newsletter to pass by unimpeded by any cursing filters, I can’t repeat it here.)

Step 1: Create a Function Shell

We’ll be creating a function called Bingo to generate a random buzzword bingo card, which we can then include within a document. Let’s start out by creating a document shell with the Bingo function inside (I’ve called mine bingo.php):

  function Bingo() {


Step 2: Compile Some Buzzwords

Grab a list of the jargon words or phrases you’d like to see in your bingo cards. You’ll need at least 25 to fill a bingo card, so be sure you have a good collection. I’ve just spent an amusing few minutes strolling around Weasel Words, a site devoted to collecting some horrible examples of managerial speak, and I’ve plucked a bagful of my favorites.

Let’s pop these in an array inside our PHP function:

$buzzwords = array(
  "knowledge initiatives",
  "cross-organizational collaboration",
  "strategic planning",
  "loop back",
  "let's take this offline",
  "360 degree thinking",
  "in the pipeline",
  "going forward",
  "game plan",
  "the end of the day",
  "thought leading",
  "on board",

Step 3: Do the Shuffle

We want to make sure our card has a random arrangement of buzzwords, so we’ll use PHP’s shuffle function to jumble up the items in the array:


Step 4: Prepare a Table

Bingo is all about filling up rows or columns in a grid, so we’ll use a table to arrange the items.

Let’s create a new variable called $bingocard and start preparing the table markup. You can see I’ve left a gap in the middle — this is where we’ll later put the code that creates the cells and rows.

$bingocard = "<table id='bingo'
summary='A random selection of 25 buzzwords
arranged in a bingo card'>";
$bingocard .= "<thead><tr>";
$bingocard .= "<th>B</th>
$bingocard .= "</tr></thead>";
$bingocard .= "<tbody>";
$bingocard .= "<tr>";

// here's the gap 

$bingocard .= "</tr>";
$bingocard .= "</tbody>";
$bingocard .= "</table>";

Step 5: Create Cells and Rows

We now need to create 25 cells from the items in our buzzwords array. We’ll use a for loop to iterate through the items in our shuffled array 25 times, and create a table cell for each. That for loop goes in the gap we left in the previous step.

Our table will be a 5×5 grid, so we’ll also need to create five rows, each with five cells. We already prepared the start of our first row and the end of our last row, so we’ll also need to double-check to make sure we don’t do this on the last cell.

To work that out, I’ve used a variable $rowend, which is the remainder of $cell + 1, divided by five. After we create each cell, there’s a small if statement to check whether a $rowend is zero, and that it isn’t the 25th cell. If that’s the case, we’ll close and open a table row element.

Here’s the for loop:

for($cell=0; $cell<25; $cell++)
    $rowend = ($cell + 1) % 5;
    $bingocard .= "<td>" 
     . $buzzwords[$cell] . "</td>";
    if($rowend == 0 && $cell < 24) {
      $bingocard .= "</tr>n<tr>";

Step 6: Echo the Table

We’ve built an array, shuffled it, and made it into a table. All that’s left to do now is print it:

echo $bingocard;

… and we’re nearly done! You should now have a PHP file that looks similar to Example 1.

Step 7: Drop It in A Document

Let’s now use this function in a web page. Include the bingo.php file at the start of the document:

<?php include ('/path/to/bingo.php'); ?>

Now call on the Bingo function wherever you need to put your card:

<?php Bingo(); ?>

Use some CSS to style the buzzword bingo table how you’d like. You can see a very plain example of a bingo card in Example 2, and the results in Example 3. You might even like to layer on some JavaScript to let players check off each cell by clicking on it, or cause an amusing effect when the player achieves bingo.

Step 8: Play!

When you’re happy with how your card looks, it’s time to pass on the URL of the bingo card to your co-workers. Next time there’s a meeting, print a copy for every player, and see who can call bingo first!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Building a Buzzword Bingo Card in PHP

How can I customize the bingo card layout in PHP?

Customizing the bingo card layout in PHP involves modifying the code to suit your specific needs. You can change the size of the bingo card by adjusting the number of rows and columns in the array. You can also customize the content of the bingo card by changing the words or numbers that are randomly generated. This can be done by modifying the array of possible values that are used to populate the bingo card.

Can I use this PHP script to create other types of games?

Yes, the PHP script used to create a buzzword bingo card can be adapted to create other types of games. The key is to understand the logic of the script and how it generates and populates the bingo card. Once you understand this, you can modify the script to generate different types of game boards or to implement different game rules.

How can I add a user interface to this PHP bingo game?

Adding a user interface to the PHP bingo game involves creating a front-end that interacts with the PHP script. This can be done using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. The front-end would take user inputs, such as clicking on a bingo card square, and send them to the PHP script. The PHP script would then process these inputs and update the game state accordingly.

How can I make the bingo card generation more random?

The randomness of the bingo card generation can be increased by using a better random number generator. PHP has several functions for generating random numbers, including rand() and mt_rand(). You can also shuffle the array of possible values before populating the bingo card to ensure a more random distribution.

Can I save the state of the game and resume it later?

Yes, the state of the game can be saved and resumed later by storing the game state in a database or in a session variable. This would involve saving the current state of the bingo card and any other relevant game information. When the game is resumed, this information would be retrieved and used to recreate the game state.

How can I add multiplayer functionality to this PHP bingo game?

Adding multiplayer functionality to the PHP bingo game would involve creating a system for managing multiple users and their game states. This could be done using a database to store user information and game states. The PHP script would need to be modified to handle multiple users and to update the game state for each user individually.

Can I add a scoring system to this PHP bingo game?

Yes, a scoring system can be added to the PHP bingo game by modifying the PHP script. The scoring system could be based on the number of words matched, the time taken to complete the game, or any other criteria you choose. The scores could be stored in a database or session variable and displayed to the user.

How can I make the PHP bingo game more interactive?

Making the PHP bingo game more interactive could involve adding more user inputs, such as allowing the user to choose their own bingo card or to choose the words that are used in the game. It could also involve adding more feedback to the user, such as displaying a message when a word is matched or when the game is won.

Can I use this PHP script to create a bingo game with a different theme?

Yes, the PHP script can be modified to create a bingo game with a different theme. This could involve changing the words that are used in the game, changing the layout of the bingo card, or adding graphics or sound effects that match the theme.

How can I optimize the performance of this PHP bingo game?

Optimizing the performance of the PHP bingo game could involve several strategies, such as reducing the complexity of the PHP script, optimizing the database queries, or using caching to reduce the load on the server. It could also involve using a profiler to identify and eliminate performance bottlenecks in the PHP script.

Raena Jackson ArmitageRaena Jackson Armitage
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Raena Jackson Armitage is an Australian web developer with a background in content management, public speaking, and training. When she is not thinking about the Web, she loves knitting, gaming, all-day breakfasts, and cycling.

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