Monday, 15 June 2015

Pub Quiz Poll Results: Team size limits

Earlier this year I ran a poll asking what you think the team size limit should be at pub quizzes (if, indeed, you thought there should be a limit at all). Five months later I've remembered to have a look at the results, and they were fairly conclusive. As you can see below, a team size of six seems to be the prevailing opinion, picking up precisely half of the votes to date. Around one in five voters preferred to see quartets of quizzers, while one in seven think five heads are the perfect number.

I can't say I found these results all that surprising; in my experience of quizzing the most common team size limit is six, and I doubt that's a coincidence. Still, it's mildly interesting to note that even numbers seem to be preferred, while it's good to see the often under-represented non-integer team size getting a mention as well.

Not pictured: pretending it isn't a problem
All of this does raise the question of what to do about levelling the playing field between smaller and larger teams. The simplest solution to me is to have a size limit, and a six player cap (at least for a normal pub setting) is a good balance between letting people have a good social experience without too many players feeling they have no chance. There are times when this isn't necessarily practical though, be it a long-running quiz with long-held traditions, or simply a cultural issue (as noted on the original post, it's quite rare to encounter team size limits here in Montreal). There's also the question of what a quizmaster faced with an unexpectedly large group should do - your landlord won't be happy to see a large group heading out the door regardless of the quizzing reasons.

The latter case is probably more easily dealt with: one ad hoc fix is to let big groups play but explain they can't win the top prize (or, as I've seen at some venues, have a separate 'big team prize'). Another quite common choice is to ask the big team to split in two, although this needs a quizmaster who's either alert to collusion or good at persuading them to be competitive.

Handling a situation where large teams are an established part of the quiz requires more creativity. A careful balance has to be struck between the smaller teams feeling hard done by without the larger teams (and their all-important larger spending power) feeling unfairly targeted. The one successful solution I've seen (and discussed in the comments here) are multi-answer questions where the number of required answers is the same as your team size. ("For five points, name as many landlocked African countries as your team size", for example.) Choosing the correct questions for this is difficult, but it ties the difficulty directly to your team size making it feel perfectly fair.

If you have any other suggestions to balancing team sizes do let me know, either in the comments or on Twitter, and keep an eye out for another Pub Quiz Poll coming soon!


  1. There are few greater (or more smug, at least) than being in a team of two or three and beating teams with greater populations than some European principalities!

    I've been in large teams (the highest being 18) and the fact of the matter was that the vast majority of the team was made up of freeloading passengers who barely paid attention to the questions (in some cases, chiming in helpfully with "Oh, didn't you get that? I knew that!" when the answers were revealed).

    So, I lean towards no limit and letting entropy and concerns over getting tables in a busy pub guide teams to a natural limit.

    1. Ah yes, on our occasional triumphs as a two it really is quite great (particularly at one quiz that regularly has teams of over 10). Similarly, on the very rare occasion I've accidentally ended up in a big team, I've also found it stops being a quiz 'team' per se, as you say.