Zum-Schwartz-Profigliano-Biederman is one of the most challenging mental games I've ever played. It requires a lot of concentration in very short bursts and is a very good exercise for short-term memory. The game requires no equipment outside of a sheet of paper and a pencil.
ZSPB, as it's known for short, is a group game, usually best played with a small group of people; I've found six to be a nice number. The game starts off with a quick round of rock paper scissors to determine who will be the first Watcher, as well as determine who will actually go first in the game. If you have another method of selecting two people out of a group, feel free.
The game has several rules. If you're just playing it for the first few times or so, then you might want to have a copy of the rules in front of each player while you're playing, especially if you're the active player. Of course, the game flows much better (and becomes much more challenging) when you play with a group that has the rules down cold.
Here are the rules for ZSPB:
- The active player has to say one of four words, which each indicate who the next active player will be. The four words are:
- "Zum," which indicates the person that the active player is looking at
- "Schwartz," which indicates the person who was previously the active player
- "Profigliano," which indicates the person to the player's left
- "Biederman," which indicates the person to the player's right
- The active player loses if:
- He or she repeats a word for the third time (the last two players have used the same word)
- He or she completes the name of the game by using the word "Biederman" after the last three players have said "Zum," "Schwartz," and "Profigliano" in order
- He or she speaks out of turn
- He or she takes too long to speak (usually if there is a ten second pause, someone has lost; this is pretty loose, though)
That's it. The Watcher is a person who tries to keep track of who is the active player and what the word sequence is; the Watcher usually isn't necessary in a group of very proficient players of the game, but at first, the Watcher can be vital. Usually, if someone loses, that person switches out of the game to become Watcher and the old Watcher takes the empty seat.
This game isn't as hard to learn as you might think. It's best to learn it with people who are willing to pick it up; it's also good to have a warm up game or two as practice when you start a new session. On the other hand, actually playing the game is an extremely vigorous workout for your short-term memory as you quickly shift the last few words in and out as you keep a watch on who the active player is.
The game has unknown origins; I picked it up from a group of friends who were playing it, and then later introduced it to some of my own acquaintances. I've discovered that a game very simlar to ZSPB is in print as the card game Twitch, published by Wizards of the Coast; it is virtually the same game, only in card form. If one is just learning, this is a good way to try out the game and get used to the rules, but the verbal game goes quicker and is much more enjoyable for me personally.
A game with intermediate level players takes about a minute and a half; a game with experienced players can run on as long as five minutes. I've played it in line at a fast food restaurant, during intermission at a theatre, and in between innings at a baseball game. If you've got players willing and interested, it is an enjoyable game and a fantastic mental exercise at any time.