An Introduction to Game Play and Tournaments

Game Play

In each round, two teams of up to four players are pitted against one another.  The team with the highest score at the end of each round wins.  It's as simple as that.  There are two types of questions: tossups and bonuses.


Tossups consist of a series of clues which are supposed to progress from hardest to easiest.  They are played individually; there is no conferring during tossups.  Any team member can buzz in and answer at any time.  Interrupting the question with an incorrect answer loses five points and gives the other team a chance to hear the rest of the question.  Correct answers are worth 10 points and earn a bonus question.  There is no penalty for an incorrect answer at the end of a question.


The reward for answering a tossup correctly is a bonus.  Bonuses are multiple-part questions worth 30 points.


Tournaments usually consist of a full or divisional round robin followed by a smaller round robin playoff and/or finals game.  We participate in regional qualifiers in three organizations which hold national championships: ACF, NAQT, and TRASH.  The following table highlights the important points about each format:

Stands for... Academic Competition Federation National Academic Quiz Tournaments Testing Recall About Strange Happenings
Content Academic Academic, with some current events, pop culture and sports Pop culture and sports
Games consist of... 20 tossups, untimed 9-minute halves or 22 tossups, untimed 20 tossups, untimed
Questions written by... Teams, with a few packets from editors Part-time writers Part-time writers
Question Distribution Greatest emphasis on literature, history and science (60-75% of questions, usually).  Some emphasis on fine arts, social science, religion, mythology and philosophy (20-40%), with an occasional geography or non-academic question. Distribution is not disclosed, but geography, current events, pop culture and sports appear much more frequently. Questions are usually split about evenly in five ways: sports, movies, music, television, miscellany.
Question Length Average tossup length is about seven lines or so of Times New Roman 10 font.  Tossups sometimes exceed 10 lines, and bonuses are also a bit on the long side.
Tossups are usually at most five lines long, and bonus parts at most two lines long because they are written for timed play. Variable-length.
Question Difficulty Some Fall tournament questions are ridiculously easy.  ACF Regionals and Nationals have become quite hard lately.
Sectionals (SCTs) are of low to medium difficulty.  The national (ICT) represents a reasonable step up in difficulty from the SCTs.
Questions tend to be easy.  Some complain that the nationals questions are too easy to distinguish between a large segment of the teams in attendance.

We also play at invitational tournaments in the area.  Invitationals may be undergrad-only, junior bird (aka novice, which are open to undergraduates in their first or second years of play), or open and tend to use a either "modified ACF" format (which has become a catch-all term for academic packet-submission tournaments of late) or use questions provided by NAQT.   There are also occasional trash invitationals.  Though they tend to cover the same subject material, they should not be confused with TRASH, which is a common mistake.