What is the optimum size for a pub quiz team?
The two great team based TV shows of our age, ‘Only Connect’ & ‘University Challenge’, would suggest that 3 or 4 is a good number, but really for a pub quiz that is often going to be too small. For TV it is a small enough number to get to know each contestant a little bit in 30 minutes but enough people to ensure that there is a bit of a spread of characters and knowledge.
So, let’s look at different team sizes:
1 person: well, not really a team, but I suspect some readers of this blog may have done a pub quiz as a singleton. I won’t go into this any more, as I think “solo pub quizzing” is a post of its own!
2 people: significant risk of simply not having an important subject area covered, or some minor news event having passed you both by.
3 people: getting there, but still a little bit short staffed. You begin to get into the realm of disputes and arguments with 3 different opinions on contentious questions. This can of course be very healthy, and can lead you down the right path to a a tricky answer.
4 people: just outside the perfect team size. Major plus is that it is still easy to confer as a foursome on a typical square pub table. As team size increases, assuming reasonable quiz aptitude, there is an obvious and natural improvement in knowing things. This tails off at around 7-8 people.
5 people: In my view 5 is the optimum quiz team size. The only downside is that seating configuration can risk leaving one player marginalised. A round table, or a small rectangle with two on each side and the scribe at the end is recommended. Just enough people to cover most major areas, plenty of different perspectives, and an odd number in case a 50:50 decision needs to be made.
6 people: almost as good as 5, and actually my preferred number for teams at a quiz (for non-quizzers) that I am hosting rather than taking part in. The extra person just makes that little bit of difference to cover the likelihood that one or more people in the team turn out to be a bit rubbish.
7 people: starting to get unwieldy. Very difficult to confer properly as a group, and you end up with people writing things down and showing them to each other rather than discussing properly – and of course well set quiz questions are best solved by discussion not by people just silently thrusting their answer suggestion across the table (often accompanied by a slightly irritating nod+eyebrow raise combination). When I’m running a quiz with teams this size (and upwards), then I’d start throwing in some much harder questions and dipping into more niche subject areas s the large number of people on the team makes it far more likely that the range of knowledge will gobble up the easy questions, and you risk too many teams all getting the same high scores. Has the odd-number advantage of the 5-person team (obviously).
8 people: I’m still pretty happy with 8-person teams (for quizzes I run, but certainly not for quizzes I attend), but it can be difficult for the participants to work together properly. Plenty of scope for arguments on things like guess the year questions. If I’m running a quiz after dinner, and tables are 8 person tables then fine. If the tables are rectangles rather than round though I’ll sometimes break them into 2 x 4.
9 people plus: too many. The extra people don’t help particularly, and as numbers get higher and higher it is harder for the team to work together, and individuals within the team who aren’t near the action won’t engage as well.
What is your preferred size of quiz team?
Does your pub quiz impose any limits and/or scoring adjustments for different team sizes?