|Cost: $7 From: Wizards of the Coast Players: 3-6 Playing Time: 5-15 minutes Type of game: Beer 'n' Pretzels Skill level: 8 Complexity: 2 Reviewed by: Matthew Baldwin, Issue 19, Summer/Fall/Winter 1998|
Do friends call you “jumpy”? Are you wired even before your first cup of coffee? Do you watch gunfighters draw in Westerns and scoff “I could have shot faster than that!” If so, Twitch might be the game for you.
Twitch could, in a nutshell, best be described as “few rules, lots of action”. Each participant first receives a “Player card” (which simply assigns him a color), and then receives one challenge card for each of the other players (color) in the game. These cards are arrayed in front of him, in easy reach. The remaining 72 “Twitch” cards are dealt out evenly amongst the players. Each person picks up his pack of cards, but is not allowed to look at them. In fact, the players are only allowed to hold their pack, face down, in one hand. A bowl is placed in the middle of the table, and the fun begins.
Starting with a random person, each player takes the top card from their pack and flips it face-up into the bowl. This card- which will read “One to the right”, or “Two to the left”, for example- will designate who is next to play. Other cards simply show the color of the player to play next, cause the previous player to play again, or duplicate the effect of the previous card. The next player- as indicated on the card- then flips his top card into the bowl, and so on until someone depletes their pack.
All this would be about as exciting as a driver’s license renewal were there not a time component involved- and what a time component it is! If the Player who should play next doesn’t do so immediately, another person can throw in the appropriate challenge card and force them to take all the cards in the bowl. A player will also have to take the contents of the bowl if they play out of turn, miss the bowl with their card, or incorrectly challenge another player. And the bowl serves as more than just a receptacle for the cards: it also serves as the arbiter of disputes. Do you think you played your card before another player tossed in your Challenge card? Check the bowl, and see which one is on top. The bowl never lies.
Once you have a good grasp of the basic game, you can throw in some of the advanced cards. The “Pick a Color” card allows the player to announce who should play next. The “Rotate Colors” card signifies that all players pass their player card to the person on the left, thereby assigning everyone a new color. And the “Left to Right” card makes all “To the Right” cards become “To the Left” cards (and vice versa).
All this lends itself to a game that can only be described as frantic. Once the first card is flipped, all players become rapt with attention, eyes riveted to the bowl and hand poised over their pack of cards to act on a moment’s notice. The game proceeds at a breakneck pace, with flurries of action punctuated by the occasional successful challenge or misplayed card accompanied by hoots of joy and groans of displeasure.
You will need to have a round or two of Twitch under your belt before you really start to get the hang of it. The first game will unfold at a slothlike pace, as players forget what color they are, what colors everyone else is, and which direction is “left’. Keep playing. By about the third game, the simple mechanics of the game will start to ‘click’, and the tempo of the contest will rise exponentially. By game five, you’ll be playing at an incredible rate, and conscious decision will give away to pure instinct.
Strategy? Tactics? Psychology? Who needs ‘em. The skills that you will need to survive a round of Twitch- hair-trigger reflexes and good aim- almost make this closer to a sport or a video game than to your typical hand of cards. The thrill of Twitch comes from the sheer adrenaline rush you’ll experience as you struggle to avoid making mistakes while swiftly punishing those who do. Sure, it’s not Euphrat & Tigris, but when was the last time a game of E&T caused you to laugh so hard that cola came out your nose? Twitch is fast and furious fun, and will leave you satisfied and itching for more. And, more than likely, exhausted.