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Subject: 30 Seconds - A Review rss

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Mark Farr
New South Wales
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This is my very first review. I have wanted to contribute to the site for some time, but with the time it takes games to get out here, there were always plenty of reviews for any new game I picked up. I didn't want to add yet another review for a game that already had plenty, just to get GeekGold (not that I am averse to GeekGold, not at all). Then I discovered that there were no reviews for this game, 30 Seconds (actually, as I write this, there is not a single post for this game).

30 Seconds is designed by a South African (Calie Esterhyse) and (my copy at least) produced right here in South Africa. The gallery has images of a Dutch version, so the game made it to at least one other country. I recall walking past the lounge while my wife was watching an episode of the American TV series"Gray's Anatomy" and it seemed that people were playing a very similar game. I doubt it was the South African game, as significant local knowledge is required. I notice that the sample card on the back of the Dutch box features the name of a Dutch footballer (Ruud Van Nistelrooy), so I'm guessing the same holds for the Dutch version. This is a bad example, granted, as almost anyone who follows football will know the famous Dutch striker, but I still think it is the case. I would be interested to know if there is another version of this game, or a game much like it, but in order for you to determine that I will need to explain how the game is played.

How the Game is Played
30 Seconds is, most certainly, a party game. I do not like party games much. I am a computer programmer and fit the stereotype pretty well. Thus, I rarely attend parties, let alone play games during them. Most (alright, all) of my gaming tends to be with the same crowd (alright, yes, it's mostly my family). Nonetheless, I think it is a very good party game. There is something satisfying about the way it plays and there is something in it for the geeks. Being able to cleverly describe all 5 names on your card within 30 seconds can make you feel very clever, and you can feel even smarter if your descriptions make sense to anyone else. Oh, wait a second, I haven't explained anything yet, so that probably doesn't tell you very much. These reviews are tougher to write than I thought.

The game is played in teams, with 2 to 4 teams being supported. Strictly speaking, this is because there are only 4 team markers included. More teams could be added without any problems, as the game seems to support an unlimited number of players. It is recommended that you favour fewer teams with more people in each team over more teams with fewer people in each team. So, with 8 people, 2 teams with 4 players in each team would be better than 4 teams with two players in each team.

The team that is first to get their marker around a track on the board wins. To advance their marker, they roll a 6 sided die that has the values 0, 0, 1, 1, 2, 2 on it's 6 faces. They then draw a card from a large supply, Trivial Pursuit style, and one member of the team (called the describer) must describe as many of the 5 names printed on the card as possible to his team (called identifiers) within 30 seconds. A 30 second timer, in the form of an hourglass (technically a 30secondglass I suppose), is provided to keep teams honest. The number rolled on the die is subtracted from the number of names correctly identified (shouted out) by the team and that team's marker is advanced by that many squares along the track. The rules do not say anything about negative results in the event that fewer words are identified than the number rolled. We take it that negative results are ignored and the team marker stays where it is. Then, play passes to the team on the left (in other words, play follows in clockwise order).

The squares on the track have alternate backgrounds of blue and yellow and each card has a blue and yellow side. The describer must describe the names on the side of the card with the background colour matching the colour of the square that their marker is currently on. Each member in a team must take a turn being the describer and this pattern must be maintained throughout the game. The names on the card are all important. The die roll has an impact on the number of squares you advance, but identifying the names is naturally essential if you want to win. The names on the card are of famous people, places, novels, songs, bands, films and the like, with the odd one being more abstract (a concept such as "Iron Curtain" or "Cold War").

What makes this game accessible for just about anyone is that that you can effectively describe something you do not understand. A child could get his team to yell out "Cold War" by saying something like "the first word is the opposite of warm and the second word is when countries fight with each other" without knowing anything about the meaning of the term itself. As you can see, it is possible with quick thinking (and talking) to describe all 5 names within the 30 seconds. Be too clever though, and your team may not follow you. This is the sort of game in which teammates can really get "on the same wavelength" and describe names to each other very efficiently. By now you may be wondering what you are allowed to say when describing the names.

What You are Allowed to Say when Describing the Names
The rules are not that hard to follow (which is good, considering it is a party game).

The describer may NOT:
- Say the actual names on the card (but may say words within the name like "and", "the", "on", etc).
- Use "sounds like" or "rhymes with" tactics.
- Use letters of the alphabet (may not say "starts with an A" or, of course, spell it out).
- Point to anything.

Other than the above, the describer may sing the words of a song (but not a part that includes the title) to describe the name (title) of a song, wave their arms around, act out, etc. To describe "Louis Armstrong", it would be fair to say something like "this person has the same first name as the French King , ... the 14th, and the same surname as the first man on the moon, Neil ...". This allows for a lot of freedom, which at first seems will lead to "grey areas" in the rules, but it is actually very easy to "feel" when the rules are being violated, without the need for rigid policing by the other teams. The rules state that a team violating the rules should have their team marker moved back one square and immediately end their turn, but some people prefer to just disallow the name(s) on which the violation(s) occurred. As you might expect, this game does not require a lot of components.

Components are less important in most party games, but it's always nice to have good bits. The board is not very fancy and is not sealed on the edges, but it is sturdy enough. You spend very little time looking at the board, and certainly don't study it. It merely serves to indicate the standing of the teams, which it does perfectly well. The timer is sturdy enough and made of durable plastic, allowing it to survive the inevitable fall off the table. The 4 team markers are satisfying plastic discs in different colours, nicer than they might have been, I think. They even took the trouble to emboss 30 Seconds on both faces of each disc. This does not help gameplay any, but it makes one feel a little more effort was put in, which I like. Dice are dice for most people, but I have quite a large collection and the die in this game is a nice size and is above average (very clear, neatly coloured, recessed numbers). The cards themselves are thin, and do not have rounded edges, but there are plenty of them (240) and they are comparable with the cards found in Trivial Pursuit. They will not get held in bunches in the hand, and will not be shuffled, so I think they are adequate and have worn well. An expansion has been released that contains another box of cards and they were nice enough to include a second timer with the expansion. It is little things like this that I appreciate, and that are often a good indication of overall quality. All together, I think the components are above average when compared to my current collection of 130 games. Depending on the games in your collection, and your preferences, you might come to a different conclusion.

30 Seconds is a lot of fun and accommodates a wide range of players. This is (or certainly should be) common for party games, but I always feel that 30 Seconds is better than a party game. It reminds me of Pictionary in the sense that it rewards the same kind of cleverness and lateral thinking (at least, as I understand the term). It can be hilarious too, providing entertainment for the other teams during the (supposed) evil that is downtime. I far prefer this game to the one it keeps getting compared to, Trivial Pursuit. I won't play Trivial Pursuit now that I am aware of a wider world of games, but I will play this game readily. Frantically assessing the words on the card and then scrambling to describe them in the order you deem best can produce a thrilling mixture of excitement and tension. 30 seconds is not that long. There is very little time to decide whether to pursue the description of a name your team is struggling with or moving on to another, possibly more perplexing name.

The game is heavily localised though, with many of the names being South African places, celebrities, products, or even the name of a local insurance company. This would make it unsuitable for foreigners and might explain the absence of posts for this game here on BGG. As mentioned in the introduction, I believe the Dutch version is similarly localised. A version could easily be made that confined the selection to internationally friendly names, and I would not be surprised to found out that it has been, but under a different name. If not, it is a shame that this game has not been exposed to a wider audience. It has received the South African Toy Association's "Game of the Year" award and is well known here. Any family that has more than a couple of boardgames most likely has this one. Thank you for reading this review.
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