WBG Score: 8/10
Player Count: 2-7
Published by: Le Scorpion Masqué
Designed by: Julien Sentis
From the very moment I heard about Stay Cool, I was intrigued. I wanted to experience this game to see how it made me feel. This is not a common reaction for me. Many games excite me and make me want to play it. Many trigger that certain part of our brain that won’t be satisfied until we peel away the wrapper and learn the game. But Stay Cool was different. I wanted to know how I would feel playing this. Would I enjoy this experience? Would I be good at this game? Could I stay cool?
Stay Cool is a challenge of multitasking, answering basic trivia questions, some minor hand-eye dexterity, and ultimately, a test in how well you can stay cool!
There are two different sets of questions. The first are on a small red card with five questions on. Each answer is three of four letters long. There are some questions that require an action over an answer such as touching your left knee with your right index finger for example. But most are simply three or four letter words. They are all fairly simple trivia based questions. The trick here being you cannot answer them out loud. You must answer them by spelling out the correct answer using the lettered dice.
The two white dice have the vowels and the letter ‘Y.’ The other dice show the consonants. There will be the odd occasions where you won’t be able to find the letter you need as it only exits on a dice you may have already placed for another letter. In which case you will need to change the first dice around. But most of the time this is a fairly simple task of arranging the dice.
However, the moment the person to your left asks you this first question that you must spell out, your time starts, and the person to your right will ask you another entirely different question. The second blue question card will have ten questions on, again, fairly simple trivia-based things. But now your brain is trying to spell out the answer to the question from the red card whilst it is also thinking of the correct answer on the blue.
The clever thing with many of the questions, is that they are simple enough, but require some concentration. Such as counting the number of vowels in a long word or arranging a sentence into alphabetical order. They are all things you could easily do under normal circumstances. But add the time pressure and second simultaneous task and it becomes somewhat more of a challenge.
In round one. You will continue answering questions from the two cards for two minutes. You will then multiple the number next to the question you last answered on the red card by the number by the last question correctly answered on the blue card. Each other player around the table will take a turn and then all players move onto round two.
In round two, the same thing will happen, except now the person answering the questions will now be in charge of their own time. The two-minute time is counted by the turn of a 30 second sand timer three times. In round one this is done for you. In round two, you must say the word “timer” when you want to have the timer turned. If you loose focus and let the timer run out, then your turn that round is over.
Adding this simple visual task into what is already a very difficult multi-tasking game, can be too much for some! So, feel free to leave this out for certain players if you like, but I found this to be a highly entertaining rule to bring in. I don’t tell people to expect this change at the start of the game. I like to surprise people with it when the time comes.
Once every player has had a turn in round two saying “timer” at the appropriate time, in round three they must do the same, but this time, with the box lid blocking their view of the timer. This may sound very difficult. But having played a couple of rounds already, and watched other players do the same, you will have a good idea for what 30 second feels like at this stage. But of course, the challenge will feel difficult no matter how many times you have practiced when run at the same time as answering the two questions.
The moment the player answering gets a question correct, either by spelling out the right answer with the dice, or simply saying it out loud for the blue card, the question master will ask the next question. You could run through three or four questions from one card whilst still thinking off the answer on the other. This is fine. The people asking the questions must work hard not to speak at the same time as each other And if you ever answer a question incorrectly, they must re-read the entire question.
And that is the entire game. See who scores the most points over the three rounds, and they are the winner. So, is this fun? Did I enjoy it and did I stay cool? Well, I played this with several people across different ages, demographics, and backgrounds. I was very keen to see how different people reacted to this particular experience.
Overall, I would say that most people I played this with were not sure. They didn’t like the pressure it put them under. They enjoyed the game if it was played in a light-hearted and jovial way. Perhaps even not scoring and just seeing how they reacted, and how it felt. But if it was taken too seriously with some players, they did not enjoy the pressure it put them under.
However, as you can probably tell from my score at the very top of this review, I absolutely loved this. Now, don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean I was good at it. Far from it in fact. I often got very confused with simple things due to the time pressure and left right brain thinking required. One question that asked me to explain the two meanings of the word “Oversees” really through me. I simply could not think of a second meaning outside of someone who travels to other country over a sea. The amygdala, and the prefrontal cortex, which humans use to calm ourselves down during stressful situations was clearly not functioning here! (Yes, I googled that) and the fact that this word can also mean to take charge of a situation was lost to me. I got stuck on that question and it ruined that round for me, which did frustrate and in truth, embarrass me a little.
As such, I want to make it clear that my high score in this review has nothing to do with the fact that I was good at this. This game isn’t just for people who would be good at this type of challenge. For me it is more about the enjoyment than the success! It is more to do with the fact that I loved playing it that I scored this as I did. I loved the experience. Even though I was not always able to stay cool, I enjoyed the challenge of trying.
And I think this is the key part. Do not ask yourself if you want this game as you may be good at it, I would consider more this. Do you want this game as you would enjoy the experience of trying to be good at it? Regardless of your relative success, will you enjoy trying?
Now, another huge factor is who you will play with. You ideally need at least two others to play with but it can work in a two, but not quite as smoothly. Are there at least two others in your gaming world who would enjoy this experience with you? As from what I have found, there is a real divide between those who I play with who will want to play this time and time again, and those who would be quite happy if they never saw this at the table one more time!
The stress this game puts some people under is very real, and it is obviously not for everyone. But what I was able to do with some who didn’t enjoy game one or two, was encourage them to try again and view it as an experiment to see if they could improve. And most did. This improvement did then encourage them to try again as most humans enjoy seeing progression in their lives, be that work, home or board games! But I still saw stress etched in their face as they tried perhaps too hard to play the game.
But for me, despite the fact I was clearly not able to stay cool, I loved the experience and would enjoy playing this for many years to come. I would highly recommend this game to anyone who think they would enjoy the challenge and had the right group to play with.