One week I arrived as usual with my friends, to find on the table, not the usual picture round but a sheet with about 30 anagrams on it. The previous week a team of expert quizzers had won, and clearly wanted to throw down the gauntlet. We were allowed to paw over these anagrams for about half an hour before the rest of the quiz took place, about another 30 regular questions on general knowledge theme.
I looked at the sheet - "A Canner Grosz Werzeld", "Aced A Dykes Skirmish", "Once Cool Dance Musician", "Xixbut Kissmyarz" and what seemed like many, many, many more - they all looked like the names of extraterrestrials from 1950s sci fi films, or an explosion in a dyslexic Scrabble factory.
After two minutes of struggling I lost interest and found consolation in my bottle of Kopparberg pear cider instead, feeling a complete dummy. Half the points from the quiz were there on that sheet of paper if I could only decrypt the code. The fact that I could not get a single one out of the 30 meant that I might as well have not bothered turning up."Missy Books Hell" - who or what the hell was that? If I was lucky they would be offering a wooden spoon consolation prize for the thickest team. I felt sure we would win it...
Lessons From the Front Line
What can be learnt from this experience? Well, the obvious lesson is that your quiz should be varied. Reliant on too many questions of a prticular type, or that rely on a specific type of thinking are good for people who think in that way, but might be a struggle for those who are not suited to that type of question - which might include most of your regulars.
I've seen a number of IQ type tests in the past, and the types of questions test your ability to spot patterns, and sequences, and ask you to predict the next in the series or pattern. I believe that having seen enough examples, and know how these work, that presented with such questions I would do well. But then I'm quite logical, mathematically minded, and good at recognising this kind of thing. But give me an anagram and I'm screwed - I just struggle with them as though I were a clueless 8 year old rather than the well read, well educated, technically skilled, professional and law graduate that I am.
A well balanced quiz will challenge different kinds of knowledge, and intellectual skills, verbal reasoning, spacial awareness, logical deduction and numeric prowess. Relying too heavilly on one format is sure to upset, frustrate or downright annoy those who are not good at the type of format you have set. A similar example would be setting questions as though your players were all Mastermind contestants - "What was the middle name of the maiden aunt of Chopin who died of consumption in 1643", "In what day of the week did Zachary Quinto's youngest cousin on his father's side have his first tooth filling? And what was the name of his dentist's dog?" If people cannot answer most of the questions in your quiz they will feel a failure, and this loss of confidence and morale relates directly into lack of enjoyment. Ideally aim for you quiz to be challenging, but that working together a good team should get between half to three quarters of the answers. The remaining questions are what determines who wins.
The Golden Rule of Pub Quizzes
Remember that whatever else they tell you, the golden rule of the pub quiz is "it should be enjoyable". If its a pleasure to participate then they will keep coming back for more.
So in summary, go easy on the anagrams, because I'm rubbish at them...