Ticking Time Bomb

It’s been that kind of weekend, and hopefully today is when my perpetual one-post-behind ends, at least for now. Again, I hope to post later today. It may just be a catpost.

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is a pretty fine contemporary party game, which Problem Machine and I played (with one other friend, so three of us). The game is played on one PC on which a time bomb is ticking down, and one person is the defuser, while the others are experts. Experts have access to the manual (it’s a lengthy PDF file available online. We used a tablet, a phone and an extra laptop.) The manual instructs how to defuse the bomb, which the Experts must then explain to the the Defuser. (Only the Defuser gets to look at the bomb or the screen.) There are a given number of independent modules that have to be correctly deactivated in order for the bomb to be successfully defused.

KTANE turned out to be good practice in not just puzzle-solving but exercising communication skills. There was comedy in our describing alien characters of text (recognizable from various non-Roman alphabets. Some of the easier ones included the inverted question mark — ¿ — the Pilcrow — ¶ — and the AE Character — Æ) and there was the occasional bout of overconfidence or exceptionally tricky module sometimes resulting in an exploded bomb.

KTANE also serves as an example of art that has clear artistic value, yet may agitate unfamiliar onlookers, since the topic of bombs is associated with terrorist scares. We played KTANE in a cafe without alarm (or even notice by the other patrons), though in the kind of community that tried to implicate Ahmed Mohamed, such a game might stir up the locals, especially if one of the players was not white.

Though when not worried about being confused for terrorists, KTANE is a pretty cool game so far with both suspense and humor value, and it utilizes well the state of the art, i.e. everyone having some way to connect to the internet and download the manual. (Though in the old days, it would work pretty well, maybe even better, just by having multiple copies of the manual to pass around.) It works fine with two players, though more can either multitask, specialize or elevate the confusion.

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