Qwitch

Qwitch, the "Quick Switch" game, is a card game where speed is just about everything. The task seems simple enough. All you have to do is be the first person to get rid of your cards. And to do that, all you need is the card that is, depending on the roll of a die, either the same, or one greater, or one lesser in rank than the card just played.

The challenge lies in the design of the cards. Each card has both a letter (A-G) and a number (1-8). You can use either letter or number to determine which card to play. The effect of having this choice is similar to that of a mental Indian Burn (forgive the politically incorrect metaphor - an Indian Burn is what we used to give each other on our way out of boyhood by holding an arm with two hands and twisting in the opposite directions). Since there are no turns, and everybody races to be the next to slap down an appropriate card, you frequently find yourself with less than a split second to make your split decision about which of your cards has the right which, letter or number.

The special die that is used to determine whether to go up or down in sequence, or just to match the letter or number of the previous card, is an ingenious bit of game designery. Since the set is finite, beginning with the A-1 and ending with the H-8 cards, the die can be the only thing that can keep the game going. Rolling it gives you just long enough to catch your mental breath and reorient yourself to the new rule. And it's quite a delight to discover that matching can be just as consuming a challenge as continuing the sequence.

Qwitch is not a game for the contemplative or easily frustrated. Since there's no time for compassion, it's all too easy for the deliberative player to be, as they say, left holding the cards. The designers do suggest a version for the younger or fainter of mind in which, rather than playing simultaneously, players politely take turns. Needless to say, that variation was ruled out by us adult-types after about five seconds of play. If you find one or several of your playpals to be of the more deliberative type, you might consider a "level the playingfield" strategy, allowing each player to determine how many cards he or she will start with - the faster players taking more to "win with honor."

Though simple, the rules are a bit difficult to follow. Perhaps because of the layout of the rule sheet (which, as in all Out-of-the-Box games, is printed on much-appreciated card stock). Perhaps because a lot of very simple games prove remarkably difficult to describe. It's a minor obstacle, and the game is well-worth whatever slight efforts are needed to get started.

Qwitch is a fascinating, fast-paced game, similar to the Major FUN Award-winning, Out-of-the-Box game Blink. For 3-5 players, ages 7-adult, Qwitch is an energizing, and deliciously challenging card game that can be played in less than five very intense minutes.

Spit (a.k.a. Speed) is probably the closest of the traditional card games to match the speed and excrutiating joy of Qwitch. It's basically a double solitaire in which two players compete to play cards onto the same "tableaux" piles. The Qwitch-like aspect of the game is that no turns are taken, both players playing simultaneously. This causes endless opportunities for agony as one player beats the other to the piles. Since only two players are involved, it's a little less chaotic. But then again, Spit is for kids.

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