Trumps, sheep, and old dice

P.D. Magnus' ruminations on gaming, along with shrill promotion of his own designs.

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Decktet dice

P.D. Magnus
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The Game Crafter has started making custom dice. Out of curiosity, I ordered a set of Decktet dice. They came yesterday.

From gallery of pmagnus


These don't have full colour suit symbols, like Wolfgang's custom dice, but they feel similar. They are a good size and roll nicely.

The real killer is the price. Even with the volume discount for ordering six, they are about $3 per die. If I sell them at cost, a set costs $18 plus shipping.

And while I was paying for shipping, I also decided to get some Decktet dice with printed stickers. $3 buys a sheet of over 200 die stickers, and indented blank dice are 41 cents each.

From gallery of pmagnus
From gallery of pmagnus
From gallery of pmagnus


They are chunky but usable, and easier to read than the custom wooden dice.

I've made the dice all the same, with a different suit on each face. For game design reasons, Brigand Kings uses five suit dice. But I can think of reasons to use six, so I guess that a set of six is a natural size.

sauron This is as good a time as any to address the status of suit dice. Wolfgang said, years ago, that he hoped I would add dice to the game system. And someone asked me recently whether the dice were going to be 'an official part of the decktet "canon"'.

The answer is that the Decktet is a deck of cards with a defined structure. There are 45 cards in six suits, twelve ranks, and so on. Every Decktet has that structure, regardless of what illustrations or card titles it has.

A corollary of that is that six-sided dice with the six suits on them are not the Decktet. There are a couple of games that use them, but there's at least one Decktet game that uses a chessboard. The suit dice are no more the Decktet than the chessboard is.

The notion of a game system can be a bit misleading here, because it suggests a closed and complete structure. The Decktet itself is such a structure, but lots of Decktet games require the deck plus this or that other thing. There is no limit in principle to what other components might be used in a game that uses the Decktet.

Both Wolfgang and my recent correspondent made an analogy with suit chips, which are used in a bunch of different Decktet games. The best of those games, the one that prompted suit chips in the first place, is Magnate. But the rules for Magnate include ways to play it with any kind of token, either using play mats or by piling up your wealth next to the matching Crown card.

More games have been made that use suit chips, because that's what happens once people get a component. Maybe the same thing will happen with suit dice. But if Decktet games that require chess boards catch on, then people will want chessboard bandanas to carry with their Decktets.
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Mon Aug 7, 2017 2:50 am
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A card, a game, and what's the value of Geekgold?

P.D. Magnus
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Here's another peek at a card from the Capital Decktet, a counterpart to the original Decktet with the same ranks and suits, but different art and card names.

From gallery of pmagnus

The Hermit is alone in the world and must be vigilant against danger. Some dangers lurk out in the world, some the Hermit brings along.

bacon Hermit is also, coincidentally, the name of a Decktet game. It's not the only Decktet card to share its name with a specific game, although you might not have noticed the other one if you only speak English.

I've been posting lately about playtesting new Decktet games. I'd appreciate feedback on two in particular.

Battle of the Bards is a two-player set collection game. Rules are on the Decktet wiki. I'm offering Geekgold for feedback:

A sanity check on the rules. Are they clear? What's confusing? Reward is 5
A playtest of the game. Try it and report back how it went. 50 if you play the short (single deck) game, 100 if you try the longer (better, double deck) game.

I'm not actually sure what Geekgold is worth, if anything, so I'm not sure whether this is any incentive at all. I will happily pay out three times in each category.

Brigand Kings is a war game for 2-4 players that uses dice with the Decktet suits on them. Rules are on the wiki, but you probably you don't have the requisite dice. So the offer is a bit different.

A sanity check on the rules. Reward is 5
A playtest of the game. I will send you the required dice. You'll need your own Decktet and lots of cubes or tokens to play. You try it out, let me know how it went, and keep the dice. If you're interested, throw me a geekmail.
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Fri Aug 4, 2017 7:30 pm
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Capital is the new counterpart

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This is another dispatch from the ongoing project of creating a counterpart to the Decktet. The counterpart deck will have the same ranks and suits, but different art and card names.

A discussion a while ago suggested that the new deck could be called the Capital Decktet. The original deck would be called by some synonym for original. Right now I'm thinking the Classic Decktet.

Perhaps it is called the capital deck because it comes from some distant ruling city, like Pauntel or Feren. Perhaps it is named for a person who popularized it, someone with a ponderous name like Salgamon Cap'Tal. Or maybe it is just how the cards are made sometimes, with different titles and pictures, and it is called the capital deck because that is as good a name as any.

It seems like the right time to share these two possible cards. One has classic art that might perhaps look familiar, and the other shows a scene from the capital.

From gallery of pmagnus


I also offer a peek at something I got in the mail this week.

From gallery of pmagnus
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Mon Jul 31, 2017 4:34 am
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Decktet playtesting

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After my earlier post, I'm happy to be able to post about Series: Decktet Games that have been getting played. Yesterday was laundry day, which also meant that it was games day.

meeple Battle of the Bards is a two-player game by Adam Blinkinsop about telling epic stories.

When telling the story of how the Diplomat and the Huntress were swept away to a far off land where their spirits dwelled in clockwork bodies, you usually take your time elaborating their escape from the capital. The audience seems restless, though, so maybe you'll just jump to the bit when the monster attacks.

It feels pretty well refined to me, and I'd be glad for comments -- especially if you get a chance to try it.

meeple The Young Queen's Palimpsest is another Adam Blinkinsop jam. I posted a two-player session report that's still winding its way through GeekMod.

From gallery of pmagnus

meeple Flower Carpet is a game by Andvaranaut in which suit chips become dominos. Cool idea.

meeple Foolish Mortals is a story-telling game that Cristyn devised to use the oracle aspect of the cards in a game. The scoring is of the Apples-to-Apples variety, so it teeters on the boundary between game and pastime.

We tried one round, each playing two seats to simulate a four-player game.

meeple I haven't played Christopher Menart's Sunset Poker, but I noticed when he posted rules at the Decktet Wiki. Given the credits, it looks like it's been playtested.

I'm always pleased to see people posting new games at the Wiki, but I'm especially pleased when it's clear they've been playing games. I know in an indefinite way that there are people out in the world using the Decktet, but it's nice to see definite reminders.
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Mon Jul 24, 2017 9:58 pm
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Memories and THE Memory

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Back in 2003-4, I had a column at RPGnet where I posted files for paper miniatures along with some evocative text. I noticed that all the links at RPGnet were broken, so I reposted Planet of the Paper People [link] over at my site.

Most of them were standees, but the final installment had a paper model of a terrible horror. It hunts smaller minis, mesmerizes them with its hypnotic eyes, and feeds them to its brood.

From gallery of pmagnus


In the same period, I was also doing the original lineart illustrations for the Decktet. So I'll post this tangentially related teaser from the counterpart deck project. Unlike the miniatures, which are relics from the past, this card is a work in progress.

From gallery of pmagnus
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Fri Jul 14, 2017 5:19 pm
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I just posted rules for three games which you probably shouldn't play

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I just posted rules for three Decktet games. They've been rolling around a long time, and I'm not sure whether any of them are worth sharing. I often tell people that any game and every game should go on the Decktet Wiki, though, so why not?

Divers Weights was designed in August 2008, making it among the first Decktet games ever. I posted the rules but later took them down. Here they are again. It's not very good.

The Syndicate is a light, quick game for exactly three players. It was designed in 2010 and played a few times. It's OK. The design idea of two-against-one eventually led to Raven Nonesuch, which I much prefer.

Brigand Kings is a fun game that went through a lot of development over several years. It's a dice-chucking war game, with some of the feel of Risk.

Years ago, the late Wolfgang Zeller made Decktet suit dice in his workshop. I think he was the first to do so. In exchange for permission to sell a few sets, he sent me some. He said he hoped I'd add suit dice to the Decktet game system. I replied that it wouldn't make any sense because there weren't any games that used them.

Once I had some dice, I came up with the idea that became Brigand Kings. To be clear, though, suit dice still aren't part of the system.

From gallery of wolfzell


If you take a look at any of these or (against my advice) actually play them, I'd love to hear what you think.
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Sun Jul 9, 2017 12:14 am
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Counterpart backs

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This is another dispatch from the ongoing project of creating a counterpart to the Decktet. The counterpart deck will have the same ranks and suits, but different art and card names.

In the early days of print-on-demand playing cards, when I started having copies of the Decktet printed, registration was unreliable. That is, the printing could be noticeably off center. I drew full bleed card backs with a continuous illustration, so that it still looked good if slipped one way or the other.

However, actual playing cards don't usually have full-bleed backs with full-colour illustrations on them. Instead, they tend to have a symmetrical rectangle of monochrome art. Bicycle playing cards are an example of the style. (See here for lots of historical examples.)

Board Game: Traditional Card Games


Because of improvements in printing and the prospect of perhaps even an actual print run, the counterpart deck gets to have a card back in the classic style.

cool Maybe it will look like this:

From gallery of pmagnus


cool Here's what it looks like behind some face-up cards:

From gallery of pmagnus


The top card here is something I haven't previewed before--

The Reversal: Many different things are ultimately the same, when you get around behind them.

Obviously, the illustration for The Reversal depends on the card back. If there were different card backs, then there'd be different versions of The Reversal.

Anyway, comments are welcome.
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Mon Jul 3, 2017 3:32 am
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What Decktet games should I be thinking about?

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Continuing progress on the counterpart Decktet project has me mulling over how to make it available when it's done.

Should there be a new, larger Decktet Book to go with the new, larger deck?

The revised and expanded edition of the book was released in 2011, so there's lots that isn't in it.

Myrmex was actually invented before the current edition of the Decktet Book was released but after everything was put together, but it could be added now. Cristyn and I have been playing recently, mostly using M.C. DeMarco's Myrmex webapp on our tablets. I'm terrible at it, but I never played much Spider solitaire either. Cristyn has and regularly wins at Myrmex.

The aim of the book is to be a curated collection, rather than an info dump of everything ever. Some games, even ones I've spent time trying to develop, are still decidedly half-baked.

One example: The Young Queen's Palimpsest has an awesome mechanism at the core of it. Playtesters always enjoy it, but it requires some indulgence from them to get through it. It's almost but not quite a game that works.

So Myrmex would be in a new edition but, absent some breakthrough, YQ's Palimpsest would not.

What other games should I be thinking about?

Oh, and some games require exotic components well outside the Decktet game system. For example, Ziggurat Demolition Throwdown and Dectana require pyramids.

Should the book include games that require extra equipment like that?

Comments welcome.
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Fri Jun 30, 2017 2:52 am
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Games for two Decktets

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Here are the rules for a few games that use two copies of the Decktet. Links points to the Decktet Wiki.

Bharg Deluxe is to Bharg as Rum 500 is to Gin Rummy. It's an older design by Cristyn Magnus which is in the Decktet Book but somehow didn't make it onto the wiki until now. I confess that Cristyn is much better at it than I am, although I find it fun to play.

Emu Ranchers Deluxe is a modestly well-tested variant that makes Emu Ranchers work with up to 4 players.

I posted these because eventually the Counterpart Decktet project will put more double decks into the world, but they can be played with double decks that already exist.

If you try either of them, I'd love to hear about it!

goo Note that I haven't done any tests mixing rancher powers with the deluxe rules.
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Mon Jun 26, 2017 9:20 pm
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Counterpart names

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This is another dispatch from the ongoing project of creating a counterpart to the Decktet. The counterpart deck will have the same ranks and suits, but different art and card names.

From gallery of pmagnus


The Exhibition: In an earlier draft, this was The Hall of Écorchés. The name appealed to me for roundabout reasons: If the world of the Decktet is a place where a hall of écorchés has an archetypal meaning, then the world becomes a bit more mysterious-- because, seriously, what kind of universal is that? I made the change when I moved the card from the Court rank to the 6, because the 6 has to be both a location and an event.

The Censor: In an earlier draft, this was The Census-taker. I switched because "census taker" seemed like an awkward phrase and because there is a word which means official who conducted the census.

The Excuse: In response to an earlier post, firedwarfs suggested that the counterpart Decktet could be distinguished by having the card with no rank and no suit be called something besides The Excuse. Firedwarfs suggested The Accusation. I think perhaps The Apology.

I'd appreciate feedback on two things:

Censors were Roman officials. In contemporary English, would you read "censor" as possibly meaning the official who conducts the census? or would you just read it as meaning a person who bowdlerizes media?

A reason not to change the name of The Excuse is that it is picked out by name in some game rules, and the goal is for any existing games to be playable as written with the counterpart deck. What do you think?

The counterpart cards are works in progress, so nothing's final. Any comments are welcome.
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Sat Jun 17, 2017 9:40 pm
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