As a teacher I get asked many questions during the day:
How do you spell “Axolotl”?
Is Ms. Wrenna your twin sister?
What is your favourite material: quartz block, stone, obsidian, or nether bricks?
Combien de minutes y a-t-il dans une année?
Can I see where you sleep at school?
The never-ending string of questions can be exhausting, but Le Scorpion Masqué has found a way to turn being ambushed with questions into a fun and exciting (albeit still a little stressful) game. Stay Cool is a party game for three to seven players in which you are answering questions. But it isn’t a trivia game: Stay Cool is less about the depth of your knowledge and more about whether you can multitask and remain levelheaded while responding to basic questions. This is because Stay Cool takes the more traditional “ask a question, respond” model and scrambles it: in this game a player answers a number of questions verbally and non-verbally all at once.
What number comes between 7 and 9?
Kitchen appliance: a _____ washer?
Which one doesn’t belong and why: arm, armband, armageddon?
Armageddon because it doesn’t have anything to do with an arm
What is a bottle opener used for?
The questions in Stay Cool, like the ones illustrated above, are in fact relatively simple. What makes Stay Cool a not-so-simple game is that some of your responses need to be answered non-verbally—or “written” out using lettered dice. Even that would be easy if it weren’t for the fact that another player is also bombarding you with questions you need to answer aloud. Oh and did I mention all of this will be happening under the watchful eye of the Timekeeper and that each round the game gets progressively more difficult.
I’m sweating just thinking about all this.
Some questions in Stay Cool are personal—who do you admire most at the table?— while other “questions” are actually skill and speed tests: pinch your nose five times, clap your hands and shout, or stack the dice.
An Exercise in Multitasking – Gameplay
A game of Stay Cool is played over three rounds and in each round players take a turn being the Timekeeper, the Active Player, the Verbal Interrogator, and the Written Interrogator. Once players have taken a turn in each of these roles, then a new round begins.
In games with only three players, the Written Interrogator also takes on the responsibility of the Timekeeper.
Let’s take a look at each of these roles in more detail:
- The Timekeeper tracks the time (surprise). When the sand timer empties, the Timekeeper flips it and places it on the next number (i.e.: 2, then 3, and finally 4). This means that a player has up to two minutes to answer the questions.
- The Active Player responds to the Interrogators’ questions.
- The Verbal Interrogator asks questions from the teal question card. The Active Player must respond to their questions orally.
- The Written Interrogator asks questions from the red question card. The Active Player must spell out the answer using the lettered dice. Each answer will always be a three-or four-letter word.
The white dice only feature vowels (including Y). The coloured dice just have consonants. Not knowing exactly which consonants appear on which coloured dice is part of the frenzy.
Fire Up Those Neurons – Round One
To begin, the Written Interrogator reads the first question on their card to the Active Player. When they are finished reading, the Active Player may start organizing their response on the dice, the Timekeeper starts the sand timer, and the Verbal Interrogator may ask their first question.
Both the red and teal questions must be asked in the order they are written on the cards. This is because the questions increase in difficulty and so does the level of concentration needed to answer them.
It isn’t all chaos in Stay Cool: the Interrogators must do their best to not speak at the same time. When the Active Player answers a question correctly, the Interrogator moves to the next question. If they respond incorrectly, the Interrogator repeats the question (an Interrogator may also repeat questions when needed during the turn). The Active Player doesn’t have to alternate between responding to the Verbal and the Written Interrogator, but you don’t want to completely ignore an Interrogator either.
At the end of the Active Player’s turn, they score points based on the number of questions they answered correctly. Each question has a value in a black circle; a player’s score is the value of the last question answered on the teal card multiplied by the value of the last question answered on the red card.
This scoring system incentivizes players to balance the kinds of questions they’re answering and thus increasing a player’s stress level (and the game’s fun)!
After the Active Player’s score is determined, they “pass” their role clockwise. All other roles also pass left to the next player.
The Pressure’s On – Round Two
This round works similarly to the first round, except now the Active Player must keep their eye on the timer; it’s their responsibility to tell the Timekeeper when to flip the timer before the sand runs out. If they forget, their turn ends immediately. The Active Player may not flip the timer once it reaches space 4.
— Ashley G. (@redmeeplesmash) March 2, 2020
Sweating Yet? – Round Three
The third and final round plays like the second, but the Timekeeper hides the timer behind the box. The Active Player now tries to mentally gauge the flow of time and calls out to flip the timer accordingly. Their turn ends in the same way as round two.
You can imagine how difficult it is to manage your time in round three, especially when you’re trying not to flip the timer too soon.
Now You Can Breathe – End of Game
After all three rounds have been played out, players total their score and the highest score wins.
Stay Cool is a doozy of a game—a brilliant, hilariously fun doozy, but a doozy nonetheless. Everyone who plays this game significantly underestimates just how difficult it is to quickly and correctly respond to a barrage of questions.
Since this is a party game though, the gamers I played with never took it too seriously: sometimes we didn’t bother keeping score, other times the Timekeeper was kind about reminding the player to flip the timer (especially at the start of round two), and sometimes we had to pause the game so the Active Player or an Interrogator could wipe the tears of laughter from their eyes and catch their breath. Stay Cool is a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously and neither should the players around the table.
As such, Stay Cool works well as a spectator sport because it is so entertaining to watch your friends crumble under pressure when they forget that a synonym for sack is bag, that 1.5 + 2.5 equals 4 not 5, or that two humans together have a total of 20 toes, not 40 or 10.
I know what you’re thinking and yes, these were all questions Ashley’s friends and family watched her answer incorrectly and in one case (the sack question) completely shut down.
What makes Stay Cool a unique party game is trying to remain calm while facing a deluge of questions and trying to focus on the different ways to respond, all while racking your brain for the answers. It’s a deceptively simple concept, but the way it plays out is so clever.
Obviously Stay Cool won’t be a game for everyone; some players might not be so keen to jump into the Active Player hot seat, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t enjoy the experience as an Interrogator or simply as an observer. If you and your game group are looking for a fun way to end the night or have a few laughs, Stay Cool is definitely worth checking out—just makes sure you have some tissues nearby to blot the sweat on your forehead and dab the tears in your eyes afterwards.
What are you doing looking for thematic music here!? Stay Cool is demanding enough as it is. Why make your experience even more distressing?
Disclosure: Meeple Mountain received a free copy of this product in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. This review is not intended to be an endorsement.
Disclosure: Meeple Mountain was provided a pre-production copy of the game. It is this copy of the game that this review is based upon. As such, this review is not necessarily representative of the final product. All photographs, components, and rules described herein are subject to change.