RHINO TIMES | Thursday, September 7, 2017 | www.rhinotimes.com
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favorite games on the table, waiting to
be played, but they kept insisting that
we play yet another quick game of
Five Second Rule.
There’s a subtitle, too. It’s really
Five Second Rule: Just Spit It Out.
And that pretty much describes the
First, there’s a box tightly filled
with two-sided question cards.
They all follow the same format:
“Name three” and then some kind
of person or object. Some of them
are hard because they require actual
knowledge: “Name three Chevrolets.”
“Name three vice presidents.” “Name
three Civil War battles.”
But others ask questions that
you can answer just by being alive.
“Name three candy bars.” “Name
three kinds of cake.” “Name three
Easy, right? Oh, no, I must inform
you. Every question is hard – yet
every question card will advance the
That’s because you really do have
only five seconds to spit out three
examples in each category.
The timer is my favorite timer in
the history of games. Not some sad
little hour-glass full of fine white sand,
which you have to watch closely in
order to see when time runs out.
No, what you have is a plastic tube
filled with tiny metal balls, with a horn
at one end. We play it so the person
answering the question holds the timer.
The idea is that as soon as you
understand the question – you have
to pay attention to every word so that
your answers actually fit the category
– you turn over the timer, the horn
toots and the metal balls roll noisily
down a spiral ramp.
In five seconds, the balls have
all reached the bottom, and your
turn is over. It sounds like a rain
stick, only it’s faster. All it takes is
a moment’s hesitation and you’ll find
that you’ve said only two – or even
one – answer when the time runs out.
My friends and I teased one player
all night because early on, she had
the question, “Name three kitchen
implements,” and she sat there
tongue-tied and couldn’t get past the
It was the tension that got to her. “I
imagined opening the utensil drawer
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and looked at what was in there. But
I couldn’t remember the name of any
But the same thing happened to all
of us. We only teased her because
she was so extravagantly frustrated
at not being able to name anything in
You can sometimes be too clever
for your own good. I got “Name
three horses,” for instance. By the
pattern of the game, the answer
would be things like, “Palomino,
thoroughbred, Clydesdale,” or
“pinto, trotter, mustang,” or “Arabian,
carriage horse, plowhorse.”
But I had to be clever, so I set
out to name three individual horses.
“Trigger,” said I, thinking of Roy
Rogers’ horse, and then “Flicka,” from
the TV show My Friend Flicka. But
once I started with fictional horses, I
just couldn’t think of a third one fast
enough, though the list is pretty long.
Black Beauty, National Velvet, Silver
(the Lone Ranger’s horse), Rocinante
(Don Quixote’s), not to mention the
Narnian horse Hwin ... I know way
more than three fictional horses.
As long as I was naming individual
horses, why not famous racehorses?
Seabiscuit, Citation, Secretariat, Man
o’ War, Seattle Slew, Affirmed. And the
most famous horse from antiquity,
Bucephalus. Yeah, any of those and I
could have aced the question.
But I was thinking of screen horses
and all I could think of before the five
seconds were up was two. I certainly
didn’t have time to change mental
categories. So ... I outsmarted myself.
However, I had fun naming
individual horses because everybody
else laughed in delight at my decision
to game the category. Technically, I
was answering the question. It didn’t
say “Name three kinds of horse” or
“breeds of horse,” it just said “Name
That’s why even questions this brief
can be well- or badly written. This
was a really good one because it
left room for creativity and surprise.
Of course there were categories
in which the 9- and 11-year-olds
couldn’t think of a single entry. But
guess what? There were categories
that they could ace, but in which my
wife and I couldn’t think of a single
example, not in time, anyway.
The 9-year-old was supposed to
ask a question of her older sister, and
she started weeding the cards: “She
won’t know this one,” “she won’t know
this one.” I stopped her, because,
“If she doesn’t know it, then the card
goes to the next person, and the next
person. And if nobody can do it, your
sister will get the card after all.”
When one person misses, the next
person gets a chance – but they
can’t use any of the answers that
were already given when the timer
was running. If somebody says more
answers after the timer stops, then the
next person can use them.
About a fifth of the cards were
awarded to the original recipient by
default. But even the questions on
which everyone fails are fun to try to
This game sounds easy, and it
would be, if the name were Ten
Second Rule. But getting three
answers in five seconds is hard.
If you had to name three novels,
you’d be wise not to choose long
titles, because most people can’t
come up with and actually say
“Fellowship of the Ring, The Two
Towers and The Return of the King” in
five seconds. And heaven help you if
all three of your choices begin “Harry
Potter and the....” That timer will run
out before you finish the second title.
Fortunately, there are no really
mean questions, like “Name three
George Eliot novels,” or “Name
three people lying dead on the stage
at the end of Hamlet.”
Even though the box is chock full of
cards, when you play a dozen games
in a row (no more than 45 minutes),
you start running out of cards. No
problem. When you play the same
card a second time, it isn’t any easier
because no matter how long a mental
list of category entries you have in
your brain, getting them into and
out of your mouth in five seconds is
still hard and the game stays fun.
There’s also a Five Second Rule Jr.
game, so maybe it can be played by
kids even younger than the ones we
tried it with. But since we’ve played
it with all-adult groups, and groups of
different generations, I can say with
confidence that anybody can have
fun playing Five Second Rule.
It happens that for my birthday, my
youngest daughter got me a game
that is much more challenging to play,
but still really fun. Where Five Second
Rule is fast-moving, the game of
Concept requires some serious
The game functions rather like
Charades. From a card, you pick one
from a list of nine things, divided into
three easy, three medium and three
They’re all hard.
Because instead of acting out the
word or phrase, or drawing something
to get the other players to say it as in
Pictionary, you have to choose from
a playing board filled with various
icons – little pictures, each of which
can suggest many different concepts.
At first you might think that it’s like
trying to tell a story with emojis, but
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