Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

An NHBB sixty-second round is designed to gauge how much a team can quickly recall about a certain subject. The philosophy behind writing sixty-second rounds is very similar to that for writing tossups: we want to reward depth of knowledge while keeping the game competitive for new and novice players. Pyramidal clue ordering makes that happen for tossups; in sixty-second rounds, the job is done by differentiating the difficulty of the answer lines. A tossup will get easier toward the end; a sixty-second round will start easy to warm teams up before getting harder with the last few parts.

Each NHBB Bowl round has 3 sixty-second rounds; generally, it’s one American history, one European history, and one World history, though some packets may differ from this template. The categories aren’t completely quarantined from each other; a World history round could include some American content, and vice versa.

Each sixty-second round generally goes from easy parts to hard parts. There may be some situations in which, for example, part 5 is a little harder than part 6. If so, they’ll either be close enough in difficulty to not be that weird, or be written in that order just to make the round make more sense – say, by going chronologically through an event.

We try to make all three sixty-second rounds in a packet of even difficulty, so that one team isn’t given too much of an advantage from a “lucky” set of questions. With that said, not every sixty-second round will be the same difficulty level for every team. If a packet offers sixty-second rounds on the American Civil War and World War II, and a team has a Civil War buff and nobody who is interested in WW2, there’s a natural bias there that makes one easier than the other for that team. The “luck of the packet” will give you categories you may or may not like; we want that to be the only meaningful difference between the categories.

We also try to make sixty-second rounds “studyable;” after all, you’re putting in the effort to learn more, so you deserve to be rewarded for that effort! We want you to feel like you can pick a sixty-second round category comfortably. For example, a sixty-second round on “Otto von Bismarck” feels like something that a player can be prepared for; a sixty-second round on “The Year 1900” feels, instead, like an unpredictable “grab bag” of questions. The team that chooses Bismarck knows essentially what they’re in for; 1900 might be anything, and that sense of randomness doesn’t make for a great game.

So, generally speaking, our sixty-second round topics try to ask questions about a specific topic (a la “Bismarck”) as opposed to naming a broad topic and going from there (a la “1900”). We will very rarely do the latter; if we do, it’s because the broad topic leads itself to an interesting set of questions, and the topic’s name provides enough insight into the round to let players feel at least a little confident that they will know what’s coming up. To that end, “The Year 1900” is probably a no-go, but “Europe in 1900” could work – it gives a little better insight into what’s coming – and “The British Empire in 1900” feels better still.

Here’s an example sixty-second round, taken from NHBB C-Set in 2015-2016.

Middle Eastern Conflict and Protest
Which Middle Eastern country…
(1) Had a 2013 coup d’etat remove Mohamed Morsi from power in Cairo?
ANSWER: Egypt
(2) Has lost territory to ISIS but is still led from Baghdad?
ANSWER: Iraq
(3) Attacked the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip to its west in 2014?
ANSWER: Israel
(4) Signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, limiting its nuclear production capabilities in exchange for relaxed sanctions?
ANSWER: Iran
(5) Is torn by civil fighting in and around Aleppo?
ANSWER: Syria
(6) Is the base of the militant group Hezbollah?
ANSWER: Lebanon
(7) Was invaded by Saddam Hussein in 1990, triggering the first Persian Gulf War?
ANSWER: Kuwait
(8) Was the site of the 2000 USS Cole bombing in a port on the Arabian Peninsula?
ANSWER: Yemen

This sixty-second round goes easy-to-hard, as usual. The first two questions each provide the capital city as an additional clue, helping make them somewhat easier. Questions 3 through 8 provide clues that get progressively harder. Depending on your team’s strength, the geography clue in #3 may be less helpful than the current events clue in #4, but they’re relatively close. Each clue is short and to the point; teams will know quickly whether they know the answer or not, and can move through the round swiftly.

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