Thursday, March 30, 2006

Election (a card game)

Work's been kicking my ass recently. That and I just moved to Long Beach. Not much time for game development unfortunately. Next week I will be going to India for two weeks and so I fear that trend may continue.

I'm now living with my fiance and we have more time to play games. We really like playing Lost Cities and Razzia when it's just us two (and The Great Dalmuti or Transeuropa when we have some company). As great as these games are I have gotten a bit tired of them and so, the other day on our way to dinner, I came up with some rough rules for a new card game for us to play.

It seems like the sort of thing that has probably been done somewhere and so I wouldn't be surprised if there is already a similar game out there. It borrows heavily from Reiner Knizia's style of game design. It's pretty simple and straight-forward however and has one property that I think is good for couples games: there is a certain amount of strategy to it but there is also a lot of luck involved. This mix is very important for games for couples as it allows the players to get better and to think about how they play but if the skill level is somewhat unequal there is still a significant luck factor to where the less-skilled player can still win sometimes.

So, here's the rules. Let me know if you try it and what you think.


The idea is that you and the other players represent two parties duking it out in an election. You have a certain amount of money to spend obtaining votes. At the end of the game, the player with the most votes wins.

To start playing you will need 2 players and 3 decks of cards. It will be easier if the 3 decks of cards have different backs so that you can easily seperate them out later. All three decks should be thoroughly shuffled at the start of the game. Each of the two players will take one of the decks. These are their "money" decks. The third deck is the "votes" deck and the two players will vie to capture these votes during the play of the game. The "votes" decks should not contain jokers but the "money" decks should. The game can take from 1 to 5 rounds and the players should choose the number of rounds to be played at the start of the game. I recommend 3 rounds to start with. Picking 5 rounds will make for a more strategy game whereas fewer rounds will introduce more variance into the game.

At the start of each round one of the players should place the top 10 "vote" cards in a line in the center of the table. The line spreads out between the two players. Each player will be placing cards on their side of each of the "vote" cards.

The players take turns placing "money" cards. The first player of the round will be the person with the most votes at the end of the prior round (it is actually advantageous to go second). For the first round, the strongest player should go first (or you can choose this randomly). In the event of a tied score at the end of the last round, the player who went first in the round before that still plays first.

Each player, on their turn, picks up the top card of their deck, looks at it, and then choose to play it next to one of the "vote" cards in the middle of the table. They cannot play it next to a card that they have already played by.

Play continues until each player has laid 10 cards on the table. Each player is trying to spend more money than the other player on key votes so that they will win the election.

Jokes are your chance to exercise corruption and gerrymandering. If a player draws a Joker as the very first card to be played for that round then play passes to the other player (giving the player who drew the Joker the advantage of playing second). If a Joker is drawn at any other time, the player who has drawn the Joker is allowed to switch the locations of any two "vote" cards currently on the board. After switching two cards, the player then draws another card and takes a normal turn.


At the end of the round players figure out who captureed each of the "vote" cards. The player who has played the largest valued "money" card next to a given "vote" card takes that card. In the event of a tie, the "vote" card is removed from the board and neither player gets it. For the purposes of capturing, Poker ranks are used (i.e. the Ace is the highest card in the deck).

Players then count the values of all of their captured "vote" cards. Numbered cards are worth the same amount of votes as their numerical value. Face cards are worth 10 votes. Aces are worth only 1 vote. The winner is of the game will be the player with the most votes at the end of the final round.

The theme of the game is admittedly "pasted on". It was an afterthought but I think it works pretty well. I could see making a new version of the game with some slightly more interesting decks (there were several ideas that I went through for the Jokers, for example, which could be extended to other special cards) and putting interesting pictures on all of the "vote" cards representing different voting blocks.

The game isn't as deep as Razzia or Lost Cities but we do have fun playing it. If you try it out, let me know what you think, it certainly hasn't had a lot of playtesting.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Minus the Bear

Completely off topic:

We saw Minus the Bear last Saturday at the Casbah down in San Diego and it was fantastic. I've never gone to a lot of live music, concerts never really grabbed me, but in a smaller venue with a band I really dig, it was a great experience -- one I hope to repeat.

Check out their songs on on their website or on iTunes, the studio versions are also quite excellent. My favorite songs: The Fix, Memphis & 53rd and Michio's Death Drive.