Big Potato Games have crafted themselves a party niche in the board game industry. From Obama Llama to Truth Bombs via a Chameleon, they know their stuff. 20 Second Showdown is a game for two teams and a umpire, that features a large egg timer, two batons/sticks and a ton of challenge cards. Will it be another feel good party or a bit of a downer?
20 Second Showdown Challenge
The centre piece egg timer has a couple of important features. Firstly, it is coloured blue on one end and yellow on the other. When the blue side is on the top it signals the blue team's turn and vice versa. The second thing is that this is noisy. Not an unpleasant sound though more of a rainstick sound, which is ultimately practical as it lets teams know they still have time left.
Players split into teams with one challenge master/umpire. One player on each team takes one of the coloured batons and the umpire takes the challenge cards. The egg timer is meant to be set to exactly half way - with the same amount of 'sand' on each side. The rules tell you that this can be done by simply spinning the timer on it's side really really fast. In reality this doesn't work so you will have to trust your umpire to set it evenly.
The umpire then flips the timer on it's end and issues a challenge from the challenge deck to the team whose colour is now atop the timer. As soon as this challenge is complete the umpire flips the timer and issues the other team a challenge and so on until one team runs out of time.
This means you want your team to be as quick as possible putting all the pressure on the other team. Challenges are usually for the team member currently holding the baton, but often involve other team mates. While I would describe the game as 'family friendly' and 'safe for work' there are some challenges that are open to interpretation and that could go wrong in certain groups. 'Swap an item of clothing with a team mate' and 'read the last text on your phone' spring to mind. With a wise umpire this can be played to the level of the group, which is great.
20 Minute Challenge
Speaking of challenges, the variety is great! You'll quickly move between mathematical or general knowledge questions, to physical and just plan silly ones. 20 Second Showdown is fast paced but can last surprisingly long if you have a run of easier challenges. Of course, surprisingly long in a game of 20 second challenges still clocks in at shorter than most games!
Playing the game is an absolute blast. Due to the quick fire challenges it can be played with fairly large teams. The variety of challenges is truly excellent and the components, other than the cards, are great. The cards themselves are some of the better quality cards in a Big Potato game, but still fail to meet the quality most board gamers would expect.
The only other complaint is the use of an umpire. Now, for me and the groups I've played with this hasn't been a problem as they have operated as a sort of DM, taking out challenges which might not match the group, but I can see this being an issue for some people. However there is no reason why the team that just finished a challenge couldn't flip the timer and read the next challenge. Whether this would work so well when disagreements about the challenge completion arise is another matter...
The Bottom Line - 20 Second Challenge is a fantastic party game that shines in large groups. It does what it says on the tin and it does it with great aplomb!