Rules of Play



Teams in all the Toronto leagues are comprised of five players each. An independent Quizmaster (QM) reads the questions, rules on the answers, keeps time, and keeps score. There's nothing magic about the number five, but it does seem to be about right. There's a good balance between having enough people on the team to help answer difficult questions and too many cooks spoiling the broth.

Each game consists of ten rounds. The titles of the rounds usually give some clue to the topics, but you often have to be able to follow the twisted mind of the round's author -- for instance, a round called "The Strippers," was actually on the artists of newspaper comic strips such as "Garfield" and "Bloom County."

We generally set up at a long rectangular table, with the Quizmaster sitting in the middle, and each team clustered around an end.


On Your Mark, Get Set...

Each team needs a captain, whose role is quite important. The captain's first task is to write the names of the team players along the top part of the score sheet (supplied), in the order they will take their turns answering questions.

To start the game, the Quizmaster tosses a coin, and the captain winning the toss can choose to have their team go first or second. Depending on how you play the final (Miscellaneous) round, this decision may be important at the end of the game. However, usually it's not a choice that's going to determine the result of the match, so don't sweat it!

The Quizmaster then reads Question 1 of the first round to the first player on the team going first (let's call them Team 1), and begins timing. That person and their team have sixty seconds to come up with the answer. If the person whose question it is answers correctly, without team assistance, they receive two points. If they answer incorrectly, the question passes to their team, who can try once more within the sixty seconds; if the team gives the correct answer, it is worth only one point.

If, in that sixty seconds, both individual and team answers are wrong the team scores zero, and the opposition has five seconds to come up with the correct answer for a steal. A steal is worth one point.

Now the next question is offered to the first person on Team 2; again, they and their team have sixty seconds to give the right answer, failing which Team 1 can try to steal a point.

And so the game continues, in like fashion. Each question is directed to a particular player, in the order of their names on the score sheet, alternating between the two teams. When a round is finished, the Quizmaster totals and announces the score, and moves on to the next round, starting again with the first player on Team 1. This continues for the first five rounds.


Half-time Break

After the fifth round, about an hour into the game, we usually take a break. Players want to stretch, phone the babysitter, visit the facilities, and so on. Our host pubs provide munchies at this point.


Second Half

After the break, the questioning order reverses (don't ask me why, but players seem to think it evens out the questions and makes it all fairer). In other words, the first question of Round Six will go to the fifth player on Team 2, the next to the fifth player on Team 1, and so on. Thus the very last question of the match will go to the first player on Team 1.


The Final Round (Miscellaneous)

Our last round is headed Miscellaneous, and it works a little differently from other rounds. In our league, there are five categories in this round, with two questions in each. The Quizmaster announces the categories before the round starts. Players get to pick their category as their turn comes up, as long as there are questions remaining in it; the last player to go, of course, has no choice but to take the last question remaining.

In our league, the Miscellaneous round is played and scored like all the rest of the game: we allow the full sixty seconds, the team may help after an incorrect individual answer, and then the opposing team has five seconds to steal a point.



The Quizmaster keeps a running score, round by round, and announces the winner at the end of the game. The Quizmaster also fills out the very bottom row of the scoresheet, which is kept for the number of "deuces," or two-point answers, that each player gets. This is a statistic we keep throughout the league, and which players find very interesting.


Team Communication

Team members, other than the one actually being asked the question, can communicate with each other to determine a team answer. Writing is best, both to prevent your answering team-mate from overhearing and being confused by your suggestion, and to avoid being overheard by the other team and giving them an easy steal. It's useful to have a supply of scrap paper for this.


Captains Give Team Answers

Team answers are given only by the captain, either on the team's own questions or on a steal. There are several reasons for this. First, it's to protect the poor Quizmaster, who may mistake a vociferous player's urging his idea on his team for the actual team answer. Even worse, someone may shout out an answer to the Quizmaster, while the rest of the team may not agree. Second, it often happens that the team comes up with several ideas, and someone has to pick one to go with. This is perhaps the captain's most important function: you can have a healthy discussion of the alternatives, but in the end, someone has to take responsibility for making a choice.


Captain May Delegate

Occasionally, a captain may delegate: the question may call for an answer that is long and complex, and the captain is perfectly entitled to say "We'll let Mary answer this one," allowing Mary to give a first-hand response, instead of feeding it a few words at a time to the captain, who parrots it to the Quizmaster.


Time Management

Time management is very important strategically. Remember to leave your team time to give an answer if you can't come up with one, or if yours is wrong. It can also be very helpful to a player who is struggling to recall an answer if someone sings out "Team knows" when they are sure they have the correct answer. This lets the player know they can take almost the full sixty seconds in an attempt to to dredge up something that will get their two points. Since there is no penalty for guessing wrong, it's almost always worth a guess; it's surprising (if not downright amusing) what your subconscious can come up with sometimes. On the other hand, if you know you haven't the foggiest notion, take a very fast guess, and get right into the team discussion: five heads are better than four (usually). Remember, too, that while you are thinking, so are your opponents. If your whole team doesn't have a clue, it can be better to pass it across quickly, giving the opposition only five seconds more to get their act together, rather than giving them your minute as well to confer.


Playing Without a Full Team

Sometimes a team will be short a player; there are several ways to handle this. The most obvious, of course, is to find a replacement player. We've done this by borrowing an extra hanger-on from the other team, borrowing an opposition spouse, making frantic phone calls, canvassing the other people in the bar, and even by co-opting the waiter on a slow night! Failing all these, the team has to play one short (the invisible team member is usually designated on the scoresheet as "Harvey," a reference to the six-foot tall, invisible white rabbit in the Jimmy Stewart movie).