Filibuster, the game

I originally thought of this as a training exercise, but actually I think it’s probably quite a fun party game.

This is a game about interrupting other people without talking over them. It works for any number of players in theory, but will probably become unmanageable somewhere in the 5-10 range.

Setup

You will need:

  • One weird specialized piece of equipment, which is a decay timer (terminology mine). This is a randomized timer where you get to set a half-life for the timer and then it goes off at an exponentially distributed time with that half-life. (It would be easy enough to create an app for this but I’m not aware of there being one). Set the half-life to somewhere between 30 and 90 seconds (the shorter it is, the shorter the game).
  • A way of keeping score
  • A way of assigning a random player (cards, beads to put in a bag, etc).

Once you have those you are ready start.

Play

The game consists of ten rounds. Each round is played as follows:

  1. A random person is selected to start, by drawing straws or whatever mechanism you’ve picked. As soon as they start speaking, the decay timer is started.
  2. Anyone else may interrupt at any time.
  3. When the timer goes off, the round is over and scores are calculated.

Scoring happens based on who is speaking at the exact instant the time goes off.

  1. If nobody is speaking, nobody gets any points.
  2. If only one person is speaking, they get one point.
  3. If multiple people are speaking then whomever of them started speaking first gets one point, and everyone else loses two points. If there is a joint tie for who started speaking first they each lose two points.

In the case of ambiguity in 3, err on the side of everyone losing.

Once the round is over and scoring has been calculated, start with the next round. Once ten rounds have been completed, the game is over. Whomever has the highest total score wins (ties are joint wins).

Notes on concept and purpose

The idea is that it’s a game about waiting for the person currently speaking to pause and then interrupt mercilessly. You can try to do this by interrupting them mid sentence, but it’s a high risk strategy unless you’re sure you can browbeat them into silence by talking over them very rapidly because every second you’re speaking while they are costs you two speaking solo.

I originally thought of this in terms of exercises for practising conversational flow, but it somehow evolved into a game. As a result of my primary motivations, I would be terrible at this game.

The purpose of the exponentially distributed timer is that it means that your expected score is the amount of time you spend speaking solo minus twice the amount of time you spend speaking over someone else, which I think is a nice metric. I was originally thinking in terms of having a voting system for penalizing jerks, but I like this system much more.

ETA: eirĂ­kr rightly points out that this game may need some sort of neutral adjudicator to decide whether something is an interruption or not. I think it might be obvious most of the time, and with the bias in favour of scorched earth in cases of ambiguity it’s probably OK. This would come out in play testing I think.

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