Trumps, sheep, and old dice

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

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Counterpart love

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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 discussion following my last post, Keith Smith asked about cards on the theme of love.

heart There isn't explicitly a love card in the original Decktet. Part of this is just that I avoided having any cards which echoed iconic cards from standard tarot. There is no Hanged Man, no Death, and no Lovers.

Also, every illustrated card in the original Decktet is a person, place, or event. But Love is an abstract, and lovers are a pair of people.

Furthermore, the Decktet is arguably about ambiguity, whereas a card like the Lovers is pretty on the nose. As Keith mentions, it's possible to read love into the Chance Meeting. It also appears in the illustration for the Betrayal. But those cards can also be read in other ways.

heart In the discussion, Keith and MyO argue over whether there should be a love card in the new deck. All the reasons from before are still in play, so there won't be the word "love" present on any cards.

Yet love does not require the word "love", and there are these cards:


From gallery of pmagnus


heart The Grove is a location, a clearing in the original Decktet's Forest. All sorts of things happen in groves. Wooing is one of those things.

heart The Appointment has been through lots of drafts and still isn't final. It was originally the Rendezvous and later the Tryst. In earlier versions, it was even at a different place in the deck.

In this form, it is a dual to the original Decktet's Chance Meeting: a planned meeting in the open rather than a random encounter in the shadows. Both allow for a romantic interpretation. Neither require it.

The counterpart cards are works in progress. Things revealed in this post might not survive into the final thing, whatever form that ends up taking. So comments are welcome.
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Sun Jun 4, 2017 5:21 pm
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Counterpart Aces

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In the previous post, I discussed my ongoing project of creating a counterpart to the Decktet. It will have the same ranks and suits, but different art and card names. Thanks for the comments and enthusiasm.

Here's another dispatch from the project underway.

The Aces in the original Decktet just have the suit symbol in the middle of the card, but larger. So it would make sense for the Aces in the new series to look just like original Aces. Yet then it would be hard to separate out the cards, if you wanted to play a single-deck game.

So the challenge was to make cards that were different but still looked like Aces. Here's what I've got.

From gallery of pmagnus


I suppose it's worth mentioning that any of the images of counterpart cards are works in progress. They might not survive into the final thing, whatever form that ends up taking.
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Fri Apr 21, 2017 8:14 pm
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The Counterpart Decktet

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Almost two years ago, Jeff Warrender suggested the idea of making a whole other Decktet. I resisted the idea of having new cards and different combinations of symbols, but the idea of making a counterpart to the original Decktet stuck in my mind. I devised enough alternate possibilities that it went from being a crazy idea that could never happen to being a crazy idea that I could just barely imagine.

The idea is that the suit combinations and symbols will be exactly the same as in the original Decktet. So any Decktet game could be played with the original deck or this new thing. For double-deck games, you could shuffle together the two so that no cards would be exact duplicates.

Progress has been slow. I am using different software and techniques than I used to make the original Decktet cards, but I want the art to look like it fits. Many card ideas required tinkering and rethinking. And I may hold myself to different standards than I did when I was just making cards to wile away time.

I posted these new cards over on the original thread.

From gallery of pmagnus


There aren't 45 new cards yet, but there are lots that I haven't shared. So I decided to start blogging about it.

I will close this post with two questions and answers.

E What is it called?

In my own notes, I have been calling this the obverse deck. Sometimes the counterpart deck. I'm not super happy with those names, though, and I'm open to suggestions.

E When will it be available?

I don't know. I have versions of more than two-thirds of the cards, but the ones that I had quick-and-easy ideas for are already done. I would rather take my time and do work I am happy with than set a deadline and slap some rubbish together to meet it.

E How will it be released?

I don't know. The original Decktet was made available as a free print-and-play file. There are already some alternate illustrations which are only available in the commercially printed decks, though, and this whole project is really just new illustrations.

One possibility is to have a Kickstarter campaign for professionally printed decks. Another is to partner with a publisher.

Comments are welcome, and keep an eye on this space for some previews in the near future.
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Fri Apr 14, 2017 6:42 pm
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Much played games of 2016

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Tallying up last year, like you do. These are games I played five or more times last year, along with some commentary.

96 plays of Sentinels of the Multiverse, mostly while doing laundry. This year, we started playing with support decks. They provide a nice twist on the game play, upping the challenge of the two-player game a bit while reducing the bookkeeping.

cool 63 plays of Codenames, 48 plays of Codenames: Pictures, and 6 plays of Codenames: Deep Undercover.

Original Codenames is best with a large-ish crowd. With at least six, both teams will have enough people that they can discuss clues (when it's their turn) and trash talk the other team's clues (when it's not). It ended up being the standard evening closer at Zombie Planet for a while, dethroning Bandu.

Codenames: Pictures doesn't work as well with a big group. The pictures have lots of small details which are hard to appreciate across a long table. And, like Dixit cards, the pictures have a delightful subtlety which means that you process them differently if you pay attention to the details. That same subtlety makes Pictures great as a two-player game. The two-player game replaces racing against another team with a one-per-turn countdown.

tantaj: 39 plays of Kingdom Builder. I'm glad this has been making it out more, because it's still one of my favourites.

goldencamel 23 plays of Coloretto. It got more play partly because I now have the pretty, pretty European edition.

21 plays of Unpublished Prototype. This is a catchall for playtesting sessions. It's been a while since I invented anything new, though.

robot 16 plays of the The Game. It is surprisingly good.

corn 13 plays of Bausack. Mostly Canadian rules.

H 12 plays of Suburbia. I really wish this got played more, because it's still one of my favourites.

X 11 plays of No Thanks! We play three games and add scores at each sitting, so maybe rules-as-written would have this at 33.

trade 9 plays each of BANG! The Dice Game, China, and Loot N Run. If I were working the 10x challenge, I'd have forced in another play of these.

trade 8 plays each of Clubs and Rick and Morty: Total Rickall Card Game. The latter was a fun surprise. I stumbled into a game at Zombie Planet without having seen the show at all. Watching the episode after playing, it is quite simply the best game adaptation of a fictional narrative ever. (It narrowly beats out the excellent Star Wars: Queen's Gambit.)

trade 7 plays each of Isle of Skye and The Networks. Both great new games. I just got Isle of Skye in the last couple of weeks, so I hope it will get more play in the coming year.

trade 6 plays each of Between Two Cities, The Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game, and Seven Seals. Maybe the new release of Seven Seals (as Sluff Off!) will make it get more play this year. I hope so.

trade 5 plays each of Decktet and Five Tribes. The Decktet plays weren't specific Decktet games which have entries in the database, so that's probably more playtesting.
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Mon Jan 2, 2017 5:04 pm
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The Liberty Squad

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Although I don't blog much, this is the third post in a row about Sentinels support decks.

I made an illustrated PDF version of Phantaskippy's Liberty Squad WWII support deck. With his permission, I've posted it -- and at his request, you'll have to click over to the discussion thread for the link to the PDF.

robot I've added a Support Deck button to my Sentinels Randomizer web app. It won't suggest one on its own, but hitting S! will make it replace the first hero with a randomly selected support deck.
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Wed Aug 10, 2016 11:29 pm
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More support decks for Sentinels

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Last month I posted about the LEASH support deck for Sentinels of the Multiverse. The idea was to have a deck which mostly ran itself and which could take the seat of one of the heroes. That one suggested ideas for others, and now we have three.

This allows two players to play one hero each, and all the decks have been playtested a decent amount in that format. They could also be used as an extra H with three or four players, although that hasn't really been tested.

So the design challenge was to come up with something which does interesting things but without requiring a lot of choices. If it's going to take attention and decision-making, then you might as well just run an additional hero deck.

L.E.A.S.H.
In the Criminal Justice System, the people are represented by two separate, yet equally important groups: The police who investigate crime and the Superheroes who fight villains across space and time. These are their stories.
No... Wait...
The L.E.A.S.H. organization brings together paramedics, police, and crowd-control drones to help superheroes in times of crisis. This is their story.


The theme here is pretty straightforward, like SHIELD when they're being good guys. The cards are meant to do a lot of different support work, like taking out ongoings and mitigating the environment.

discussion: L*E*A*S*H, a support deck (with art)
download: PDF of LEASH

The Stone Moot
Standing stones emerge mysteriously from the mystic mists, watched over by two inscrutable emissaries from the fairy court.
Maybe the villain poses a threat to their interests, maybe the heroes are calling in a favor, or maybe by accepting the help they are incurring a debt.
Questions can be answered later. Now, the Stone Moot comes to order!


The original idea was to have relics that were targets. I made them monoliths once I started doing art, because I was having fun drawing them.

discussion: The Stone Moot, a support deck (with art)
download: PDF of The Stone Moot

The Collectors
The Collectors are an order of scholars and antiquarians who monitor superhumans, acquire items of superhuman importance, store them, and keep them safe.
The order works in secret, as it has for centuries.
When a threat is dire enough or when the Collectors themselves are in danger, however, they have have been known to share some of the collection.


This is a riff on the inevitable stuffy order of people who watch supernatural events but don't get involved; see the Watchers (in Buffy) or the Watchers (in Highlander). The mechanical wrinkle is that the deck doesn't have any targets in it, so it doesn't draw any damage away from the hero characters. Instead, it amplifies all the things that the heroes can do.

Although it's been tested, it doesn't have art yet.

discussion: The Collectors, a support deck
download: PDF of The Collectors


Comments on the rules

The basic idea for a support deck was to play the top card of its deck every turn. In early playtesting with LEASH, this was underwhelming. The support deck is supposed to more-or-less carry the weight of a hero, but one card a turn meant that it developed too slowly.

Ultimately, we gave each support deck a different rule to step up its tempo just a bit.

d10-1 At the end of the LEASH turn, one player may discard a card to play the top card of the LEASH deck.

This is more interesting than just playing two LEASH cards a turn, because there's some sacrifice involved. The LEASH cards are all pretty good, so you always want the second card play. But with just two heroes you sometimes really need those cards. It's an interesting choice.

d10-2 When a Menhir is destroyed, one player may draw a card.

The Stone Moot can be powerful if it gets lots of monoliths out on the table, and its Cairning card can potentially jumpstart that. But there were some games where the villain would be damaging everyone and the stones wouldn't last long enough to have any real effect. This rule compensates players in that latter case.

d10-3 The first time each turn that a Collectors card would enter play, you may discard the card instead and play the top card of the Collectors deck.

The Collectors one-shot cards depend on the size of their discard pile. If those come out early, you can discard them. This puts one more card in the trash and gives you another card.

It also gives you a bit of choice. The Collectors cards can be situational. If the first one isn't going help any, you can take a blind chance on the second one.
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Wed Apr 13, 2016 4:23 pm
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L.E.A.S.H., a support deck for Sentinels of the Multiverse

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This is a support deck for Sentinels of the Multiverse. It takes the place of one hero and pretty much runs itself. So you can play with two players and just run one hero each, or you can add it as some extra power when playing with three of four heroes.

L.E.A.S.H.
Law Enforcement Assisting Super Heroes
E LEASH is a kind of automated hero deck that takes the place of one hero.
E On each LEASH turn, play the top card of the LEASH deck. If any decisions are required, players together decide what to do.
E At the end of the LEASH turn, one player may discard a card to play the top card of the LEASH deck.
E If LEASH would draw a card, put a card in its hand, or discard a card, there is no effect.

From gallery of pmagnus
From gallery of pmagnus


Paramedics
5 HP
civilian
E At the end of the LEASH turn, all hero targets recover 1 HP.

SWAT Team
6 HP
police
E At the end of the LEASH turn, the SWAT Team does X melee damage to the Villain target with the highest HP where X = the number of Police cards in play.

B*R*U*T*E
10 HP
robot
E Damage dealt to hero targets by Environment cards may be redirected to this card.
E Damage dealt to this card is reduced by 1.

D*E*C*O*Y x2
1 HP
robot
E When this card is destroyed, you may destroy one ongoing or environment card.

Sniper
4 HP
police, agent
E The first time each turn that a Villain target enters play, the Sniper deals it 2 projectile damage.

Ambulance
one-shot
E If the card Paramedics is in play, restore it to full HP and each other hero may draw a card.
E If not, search the deck and discard pile for Paramedics and put it into play; if you searched the deck, reshuffle the deck.

Longterm Storage x2
one-shot
E You may take one non-character card in play and shuffle it into the corresponding deck.

Local Police x3
ongoing, police
E At the end of the LEASH turn, this card deals 1 projectile damage to the Villain target with the highest HP.
E If another hero would discard or destroy a card for any reason, they may destroy this card instead.

Super Computer x 2
equipment
E When this card enters play, each other hero may either use a power or play a card.
E At the start of the LEASH turn, destroy this card.

Detailed Surveillance
equipment
E At the end of the LEASH turn, reveal the top two cards of the Villain deck. Put one on the top and one on the bottom.
E At the start of the LEASH turn, if there are 4 or more Police cards in play, then destroy this card.
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Sun Mar 6, 2016 11:06 pm
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Much played games of 2015

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These are games which I played five or more times in 2015, along with some commentary.

117 plays of Sentinels of the Multiverse, mostly while waiting for laundry.

cool 54 plays of Roll for the Galaxy. My wife and I played hundreds of games of Race for the Galaxy, and the pattern here is similar. If we play one, then we end up cycling through the starting cards and playing several.

ninja 31 plays of Unpublished Prototype, which is a catch-all for playtesting a lot of different games.

sauron 24 plays of Bausack and of Kingdom Builder. There are a number of the regulars at Zombie Planet who are enthusiastic for Kingdom Builder, and we've started playing regularly.

20 plays of Scrutineyes, all over the holidays with my wife. We've used up almost all of the pictures, so we can't really play again until we wait long enough that we forget them.

17 plays of High Society. It's become a go-to for early in the evening, when waiting for other people to arrive. It's short and easy to teach, and the player count is flexible.

16 plays of Camel Up. I'm surprised it wasn't higher.

16 plays of China. It's my favourite discovery of the year, and I hope to play more.

15 plays of Bananagrams, because every session is many, many games.

15 plays of Suburbia, which is about half as many as last year. I would like to play more.

14 plays of 7 Seals. I always enjoy this, and it's a trick-taking game that I can convince people to play.

12 plays of Cardline: Globetrotter, which means three sessions. If we get the box out, we play one game with each of the categories.

12 plays of Star Trek: Five-Year Mission. I enjoy this, but it's a bit of a disappointment. The fact that the box includes duplicates of most of the cards with alternate art is a missed opportunity. If there were duplicates of all the cards, you could swap out decks easily depending on which crew you were using. If there were some differences, then the alternate cards could provide variety.

8 plays of Macao. A classic Stefan Feld which is always fun to play. Spend AC to get GC, spend GC to get PP.

7 plays each of Bharg, Clubs, Dominion, Magnate, and Mogul. All except Mogul are old favourites.

6 games of Liar's Dice and of 7 Wonders. Two of the 7 Wonders games were played with the 7 Blunders variant; you must buy a card if you can, you must trade as efficiently as possible, and the winner is the player with the lowest score.

whistle 5 plays each of 7 Wonders: Duel, Deep Sea Adventure, Hanabi, and Rights. Duel is brilliant, and I'll happily play again. Deep Sea Adventure has caught on as an evening-closer at Zombie Planet, and I'm OK with that.
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Sun Jan 3, 2016 3:36 am
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The year in gaming

P.D. Magnus
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I wrote the following answers in response to some questions on Facebook. I'm crossposting here.

1. Best new-to-me surprise of 2015: China. I was taught Web of Power in June. That prompted me to get a copy of China, which replaced WoP. I've now played 16 times. It is highly strategic, but simple and quick to play. I can almost never tell who's won until we tally it up. Before learning Web of Power, I don't think I'd even heard of it.

2. Biggest new-to-me disappointment of 2015: Suburbia 5★. It makes the set-up more complicated and has a few overly complicated rules. I'm honestly unsure how Alien Mountain would work, but luckily nobody's ever bought it. To be clear, it's not the worst thing I played this year. It's just the biggest disappointment. I fear this has killed Suburbia at Zombie Planet (the venue where I play), which is a shame because Suburbia's still among my favorite games.

3. Most-played game of 2015: Far and away, Sentinels of the Multiverse. My wife and I play several games every laundry day to fill time while waiting for machines.
Second-most was Roll for the Galaxy, again mostly 2-player with Cristyn.
Nearly tied for third-most are Bandu and Kingdom Builder, predominantly at Zombie Planet. I'm glad we have been getting Kingdom Builder to the table more.
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Thu Dec 31, 2015 6:37 pm
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Castles of Mad King Bandu

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One game night, the phrase Castles of Mad King Bandu popped into my head. The other gamers are an indulgent lot, so we tried to sort out how it would work. It didn't. To keep with the castle idiom, perhaps I should say that it burned down and sunk into the swamp.

But I kept rolling the idea around in my head, and I came up with a set of rules. We tried it again, and it worked well enough that we finished a game and had fun. Here's a photo that Asaf took of the game, in progress:

From gallery of pmagnus


Castles of Mad King Bandu (version 0.3)

from Bandu, you'll need the starting blocks and all the wooden stacking pieces; any edition of Bandu or Bausack should do

from Castles of Mad King Ludwig, you'll need player tokens, the score board, the market board, and the Master Builder token

Game play

Everyone starts with a Bandu starting block (each player is stacking their own castle) and $15,000. Put all the other blocks in the middle of the table. Give the Master Builder token to someone.

The Master Builder selects wooden pieces and puts them in each space of the market. The player on the Master Builder's left buys a piece at the marked price, paying the price to the Master Builder. The player adds the piece to their castle.

If the player has fewer than $15,000, then they may take $5,000 from the bank instead of buying a new piece. When you take money, select a piece from the middle of the table and remove it from the game.

If the player buys a piece, they add it to their castle using the using Bandu stacking rules.

If successful, the player scores +1 point plus an extra +1 if the new piece increases the total height of their castle.

If the player causes a crash, then the purchased piece and any pieces that fell off the player's castle are removed from the game. The player gets $1,000 from the bank for each piece removed in this way as consolation.

Then, clockwise around the table, each player buys one of the remaining pieces. Finally, the Master Builder buys a piece, paying the bank. Each may choose to take money instead if they have less than $15,000.

The player to the left of the Master Builder becomes the new Master Builder, setting up the market with any available pieces.

The end

The game ends when there are not enough pieces left in the middle of the table to fill every spot on the Castles market board.

Then evaluate the following two bonuses:

The player with the most wooden pieces in their castle scores 8 points, second most scores 4, and so on.

The player with the tallest castle scores 8 points, second tallest scores 4, and so on.

The player with the most points wins.

Notes

These are the rules I'll try next time, in light of our earlier play.

There was a bit of a problem with hoarding money instead of doing crazy stacking, so there's now a restriction on when you can take money instead of a block. If you have enough flexibility that you could buy anything in the market, then you have to buy something.
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Mon Jul 27, 2015 11:23 pm
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