On the face of it, synchronised swimming might not sound like the most promising theme for a tabletop game but it's certainly appropriate for this real-time app-accompanied cooperative card game from Bézier Games. In Sync or Swim, 3-6 players are together racing against the clock to play cards that meet the requirements for the round and synchronise with those of the other players.
Designed by Lucas Hedgren and Divya Hedgren, and with art by Alanna Kelsey, Sync or Swim is a hand management game where, each round, one player takes on the role of team captain - triggering the app and its timer. There's much frantic calling out of whether players have the cards needed to meet the round's requirements and quick calculations needed over whether or not they'll dovetail with the cards that other players are referring to, but no-one is allowed to actually show their cards. You can trade (face down) or draw cards, but you have to discard two cards to draw one face-down card from the deck. And all this is against the always urgent pressure of a timer pushing players for snappy responses. When you're ready to play a card, you place it face down and signal your readiness to the team captain in true party game tradition by assuming the hands-above-your-head diving position.
Sync or Swim is played over six rounds, and the app keeps score for each round based on the time taken (the quicker you successfully complete a 'routine' the higher your score). When you fail to synchronise (ie: the cards played are 'not in sync') the app adds 10 seconds to the timer.
In our first plays at Board's Eye View, it took us a couple of practice runs before we got into the swim of things and were able to form ourselves into a fully functioning synchronised swimming team - or at least a successful cooperative card-playing team who were all on the same wavelength. Once we'd all got the hang of it, however, we found that even players who usually fight shy of real-time speed games enjoyed the game. So much so that they were pressing for replays so that we could beat our previous best score.
The age-range on the box recommends Sync or Swim for ages 14+ but the game can be played as a family game with younger children. You might just need to gently edge younger players or non-gamers into the water with a few extra practice runs.