Time’s Up!

Thanks to Kaja & Sebastian for helping design the judge version and to the Polish judge community for testing this at our conference.

What’s the original game like?

Time’s Up is a hilarious party game. The game combines charades and taboo, while adding a very interesting twist. The game is played with 40 randomly selected cards with different phrases (there are multiple versions of the game depending on your preference). The game is played over the course of three rounds – each one using the same forty cards.

In round 1, a player starts describing the phrase on the first card to their partner. If the partner guesses correctly, they get the card and move on to the next one. After thirty seconds their turn is over and play passes to the left. Continue until the deck runs out. Afterwards count the cards collected by each team – each card is worth one points.

The cards are then shuffled and round two begins. It plays much like round 1, but clues are one word only. An incorrect guess means you have to go on to the next card. Round 3 repeats this, but with charades instead of words.

The game is fascinating, because each play group creates their own version of references that could be completely meaningless to someone not in the game. I’ll give an example below.

You can find the full rules book online, but I recommend picking up the game, because it’s a treat at parties.

The Magic Variant

For an audience of Magic judges we prepared a deck containing the names of Magic sets. (I listed them at the end of the article – we created 42 cards, which allowed some variance between games.) We did introduce several house rules to make the game play more interesting:

  • You cannot describe the set’s expansion symbol with words (but charades are OK)
  • You cannot use any sets name in your description (or you could say things like “The set after Ice Age”)
  • Polish equivalents of the above are also banned

How did it play?

Time's Up at Polish Judge Conference
Time’s Up at Polish Judge Conference

Incredibly well! We had a nice mix of people from grognards like myself to judges who have barely seen their first Standard rotation. The latter were flabbergasted by such sets as Astral, Antiquities or Lorwyn.

My favorite moment happened, when the given clue was “Planeswalkers first appeared in this set”, and the reply was “Shadowmoor”. And they got the point! Apparently both team members got it confused with Lorwyn.

More variants

The obvious way forward is to create a card for each Magic set. I plan to do so in the near future, though I’ll prune some of the Core Sets. I’ll also need to think about including all the possible versions of Duel Decks, From the Vault, etc.

Another approach is to just grab a handful of cards and use their names. This might really test your knowledge of cards (depending on the starting pool), but its easy to prepare – just grab a draft pool or part of a cube. A more pruned version would for example just take a number of legendary creatures.

Finally we considered having a pool of phrases consisting of known judges or judge terms (e.g. deck check), but we found this pool to be too shallow and too hard (a majority of newer judges won’t know the senior judges or phrases from international events).

Create your own

The easiest way to do this, is to get adhesive printer paper, print out the set names you want to include, cut up the stickers (or use a pre-cut) and paste it to the stacks of commons you assuredly have around your house. For a fancy version, add the expansion symbol.

Our original set

Some of our cards


Magic Origins

Arabian Nights



Urza’s Saga




Betrayers of Kamigawa

Saviors of Kamigawa

Ravnica : City of Guilds

Time Spiral

Planar Chaos

Future Sight

Shards of Alara

Rise of Eldrazi


New Phyrexia

Mirrodin Pure

Avacyn Restored

Dragon’s Maze

Modern Masters

Duel Deck

From the Vault


Portal Three Kingdoms



Tenth Edition





Fate Reforged


Ice Age


Battle for Zendikar





If you try out this or any other of the games from my blog, drop me a line with your experiences, thoughts or variants. If you’d like to have a game featured here, also let me know.

See you next month about some card designs.

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