Note: This is a bit of a meta-exploration of the concept of suits. As such it bends the terminology a bit.
Today it just sorta dawned on me: a standard French-suited 52 card deck technically has two suits:
The suit of Shapes has your familiar Clubs, Hearts, Spades, and Diamonds; while the suit of numbers has the ranks 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K, A.
The interesting thing about this view of "suitness" is that it's only a "true suit" if it's a cross-suit, i.e. a suit that crosses over another one.
This view also means Mü's use of numbers as trumps makes sense, as numbers are just another suit.
In our example with the French-suited deck, the 5 card (as an example) exists in four different variants: one for each suit.
Similarly one can say that "the Heart card" exists in 13 different variants: one for each number.
This view of suits also re-classifies a number specialised decks:
- Le Truc/TRUT is single-suited (numbers only)
- Pairs is also single-suited (numbers only)
- The Decktet is triple-suited (rather than double-suited)
- SCOUT is double-suited (each half has a different number).
Let's talk about the Decktet for a moment.
The Decktet while only having two different kinds of suits is still triple-suited, since one of the criteria was for the suits to cross over each-other in some capacity.
Going by this logic, one could easily construct a deck, similar to the Decktet, but devoid of numbers, consisting of all 36 combinations of the six available shapes: Moons, Suns, Waves, Leaves, Wyrms, and Knots.
In fact. I imagine this would lead to a pretty decently serviceable deck in and of itself, usable for a number of games.
As alluded to, the SCOUT deck does something similar. It has no "suits" in the traditional sense, but instead has one number on one half of the card, and another number on the other half. In that sense, it is similar to Dominoes. It is not unreasonable to then use the top "suit" as the rank, and the bottom "suit" as the suit, and thus create games which make use of this as a central mechanic.
Conveyor Rummy is meant to be an exploration of this idea.
This also got me thinking: how could you have a third "suit" type on a standard French deck?
Most of these have -- in addition to numbers and shapes -- the colours red and black.
I would however argue that these aren't quite suits, since they don't cross over as much. Sure, two of the shapes are red, and two of them are black; but what's to stop a card maker to have a deck with black diamonds and hearts, and red clubs and spades?
Adding these cards in would not only double the number of available cards, but also add a third grouping: colour.
- 13 numbers
- 4 shapes
- 2 colours
- 52 red cards
- 52 black cards
- 26 clubs (repeat for each shape)
- 8 kings (repeat for each rank)
The only decks I've seen do something similar is Nestor's Mystique Deck, and the SET deck; though it does this with six ranks, four shapes, and three colours.
This brings an important question: How many suits do Scrabble tiles have? Going by our earlier classification the two "suits" it possesses (numbers and letters) do "cross over" in that different 1 tiles can have different letters, but they don't do so evenly (though to be fair, neither does the Decktet), but more importantly it's asymmetric.
All Ws have the same numeric value, all Es have the same numeric value, etc.
Ultimately these are just score values. The Mü deck does this as well, where each card has between 0 and 2 triangles printed.
Wibbell++ too has numbers printed on each card, which (from my understanding) is also meant to be point values, rather than suits or ranks, though I haven't played around with those cards enough to have any proper opinion on the matter (or how the borders and letters relate to the discussion at hand).
There wasn't really any point to this ramble, other than to perhaps explore the world of what is or isn't considered suits.
It would be interesting to hear from the community at large, what your thoughts are on this matter.
Thinking Out Loud about Game Design
A blog where I just vent my thoughts about certain game design challenges and talk about unfinished game design ideas
Archive for Niko Lepka
Exploring Suits in Card Games
19 Mar 2023
Sun Mar 19, 2023 10:51 am
- [+] Dice rolls
Something about using dice for what they aren't entirely intended for has been an enticing idea for me for a while.
So it got me thinking about doing a trick-taking style game, but with some sort of unique dicey twist.
Games like Würfel Poker, The Science and Seance Society, and Cult of the Lamb's Knucklebones involve rolling dice in secret, then assigning them to specific "posts" or positions.
So what if we took that as a core concept and mixed some trick taking-esque elements in? Maybe some board control?
The most naiive approach to this, is of course to just have it be a literal trick taking game.
Every player takes a handful dice, say 5, and rolls them.
Then each player in turn simply plays a die and tricks are resolved as usual sans any sorts of trumps.
But that feels boring somehow.
Note: All the game concepts from this point forward assume the same few mechanics:
- Dice are pulled from a bag and rolled in secret behind a screen.
- Players have a rather large number of dice, but only roll a subset of them.
- Dice are placed on the table adjacent to each other, as opposed to on specific squares on a pre-defined play-area.
- The rolled dice are used as-is
Six sided dice, when viewed from above are squares, and thus have four "naked" faces.
Borrowing the concept of "liberties" from Go, there are several different approaches to solving this problem.
The most obvious one for me, is to simply replicate the die's face-up value along each of the four liberties. Those four liberties would then be points in favour of the given player.
The game would then to be trying to block liberties while simultaneously exposing your own in order to try and win the upper hand.
Granted, this doesn't play very trick-takingly, since nothing's being removed from the table.
If we then allow for Go-style captures, we do regain the capturing, but now we need to either allow for Go-style placement, whereby the dice don't necessarily have to be placed against the liberties, although you probably still want to to avoid the opponent from gathering too many points.
Doing this also necessitates making rules for whether or not the liberties pointing towards the inside of a territory count towards the score.
Inspired by a certain Domino game (All Fives I think it's called) comes the idea of trying to force certain liberty sums.
In this game, if all of the ends on the domino chain add to a multiple of 5, the player who caused this to happen scores that amount of points.
To make this work with dice, the game would either need to
- use a neutral seeding die (to prevent the first player from scoring 20 points by placing a single 5 in the beginning)
- simply state the first player's die doesn't count towards scoring (lame)
- have the first player be the one who rolled a 1, and then use said 1
- change it to multiples of 7 instead, just to put it out of range of a single die
- have it so it's not the liberties that score, but the die itself (in which case the seeding restrictions are irrelevant)
The major benefit of this design is that all players can just use the same colour dice since scoring happens immediately.
Additionally, a limitation of only allowing dice to score if they have at least 3 free sides should probably also be added, jsut so the entire chain of dice doesn't score round to round.
Another idea that came to mind, was to use the relative value of the dice to cause captures.
An example of this would be that dice totalling the same value (e.g. a black six and two white threes), they would each cancel out, and whoever caused the total would get the dice as a trick.
This would likely create a lot of strategic counter-play, as each player keeps trying to capture and avoid capture.
Additionally, groups of same-coloured dice could group their values for a higher total, which becomes harder to beat; though that might result in playing far too defensively and just creating massive clusters.
To make for a longer game, one could only score the opponent's dice, returning their own dice to the bag. The game would then end when one player is out of dice.
Taking inspiration from Icehouse, we can bring in the concept of "icing".
In Icehouse you have defensive pieces, which score points, and offensive pieces which attempt to overwhelm the defensive ones and prevent them from scoring.
Since dice have no way of presenting as either offensive or defensive pieces, they instead have to do double duty.
All dice score unless they have a die or dice of an opponent's colour totalling a higher value adjacent to them.
Clustering would be a beneficial mechanic here to increase the value and overcome the suppression somehow.
Somewhere in the depths of this whole rant I have a vision of cascading elimination, where a board state is created similar to what I've described already, but then players eliminate pieces from the board in reverse player order, removing pairs of dice according to certain criteria.
The idea here is that the last player to lay the last die is the person who begins the cascade.
Similar to Six, any dice detached from the group simply get captured.
What those criteria are, I cannot fully articulate.
Apologies for this unfocused and incoherent rant.
I saw one photo from Cubeo and my gears started turning.
So far the idea in the Relative Value and Point Goals sections have the most legs, and I might develop them into something more concrete later.
Please let me know what you think
Thu Feb 2, 2023 9:29 am
- [+] Dice rolls
I stumbled upon this saying once again today, sounding something like "we're all playing checkers, but my man over here is playing chess".
That got me thinking.
Chess and Checkers are both played on the same board, so it stands to reason one could make a setup where one player plays chess and the other plays checkers.
All the rules for both games would need to be followed (choose your flavour of Checkers)
- Chess can castle and double step with the pawns
- Checkers has forced captures but can chain captures
- Chess wins by exhausting Checkers' pieces
- Checkers wins via checkmate or by capturing the king.
The only real problem I can see arising from this setup, would be the fact that Checkers is only played on one colour of squares, so Chess could hide from Checkers on the spaces in between. This does however mean that exactly one bishop would remain completely useless.
An alternate Chess setup would be required to place both bishops on the same colour.
Alternatively, a game of Turkish Checkers or Eximo which places the checkers on both colour squares on the board.
Sidenote: this makes me wonder if it's possible to make a Hnefatafl/Chess crossover game.
With Chess and Checkers (or any of the variants) being such different games in terms of raw gameplay, I really can't help but wonder how much of an advantage one side would have compared to the other.
Chess has 5 pieces with unlimited range movement out of the box, while Checkers has none (that is unless you count capture chains).
Maybe a 7×7 Dragonfly type deal could be benefitial. Robbing the Chess side of their queen, and forcing both bishops onto the same colour could be just the right amount of tweaking necessary to make the game fair and balanced™.
Maybe this has already been done before and deemed completely broken in favour of one of the two sides, I'm honestly not actually sure.
I'd love to hear some insights from the rest of the community on this matter.
Sat Jan 28, 2023 10:33 am
- [+] Dice rolls
Sequence/Touché with Pyramids
03 Jan 2023
As some may have noted from 3 other blog posts on my blog Shower Thought Games (Martian Ludo, Icehouse Camelot, and Hidden Agenda), I recently acquired a set of Icehouse pieces, which naturally has gotten my creative juices flowing.
Adding to this, my parents really like playing Sequence. I personally find it quite boring, but I can see the appeal as an excuse to get together and chill with friends and snacks.
Touché, in my mind is rather similar to Sequence in a lot of ways; the standard gameplay remains the same: Play a card, place a token. Once a particular shape condition is met, that player is crowned winner for the round.
It got me wondering though: What would a game of Sequence (or Touché) look like playing with a set of Looney Pyramids?
One of the core features of the Looney Pyramids, is that they're nestable.
Having three different sizes means the pyramids easily and neatly nest overtop of each other. This has some potential for disruptive gameplay!
People familiar with Touché would probably popint out the fact that it too uses pyramids. That said, these pyramids serve a rather different function in the game: Once a player creates a scoring feature, that feature is capped off with black pyramids to indicate that it's finished. After that, all uncapped pyramids are returned to the respective owners and the game begins anew.
In a sense, this is disruptive: Having a feature permanently blocking spaces on the board means these are no longer available for future use, forcing the other players to reroute and reconsider.
I'm thinking of a different kind of disruption: Covering existing pieces with new ones.
Existing Icehouse/Looney pyramid aficionados would be quick to point out the obvious nature of this statement, but think about it:
The only time a space would be blocked off in such a scenario, is if it were occupied by a large pyramid (assuming we only allow stacking larger on top of smaller). But the limited supply of pyramids would also mean that the large pyramids would eventually run out, and you'd be forced to place smaller ones, which could be covered up by the other players.
Pairing this fact up with a possibly smaller board (most sequence and touché boards I've seen have had at least two copies of each card on the board) would force the players to get in each other's faces more, encouraging a more chaotic game.
This being said, it's not certain whether it would be a good idea to just use a regular deck of cards for this, or if we'd need something bigger/smaller.
Piecepack tiles and a bag to draw the tokens from comes to mind as a possible alternative, but this is to be developed and further playtested.
All in all, I think this might have potential, and I will definitely be developing something along these lines next, if it doesn't already exist (which it probably does, given the number of pyramid games in existence).
I tried the concept in Tabletop Simulator using differently sized pawns in place of pyramids (the workshop doesn't seem to have nestable ones).
It uses 3 trios per player, and each player draws 3 coins.
Every piece played is thrown back into the draw-bag, and once everyone has played one, the bag is shaken and 3 new are drawn again.
This is to maximise clashing as much as possible.
The tiles used for the game board are shuffled before being placed in a 5x5 grid with a hole in the middle.
Tue Jan 3, 2023 8:48 pm
- [+] Dice rolls
A better dice-based poker game
08 Aug 2022
My GF and I have been playing a lot of dice games lately.
Spanning from Yahtzee, to Perudo, to Poker Dice to simply Texas Hold'Em with dice.
The last one here works surprisingly well, but I'm wondering if there isn't a better way to do this with specialised dice.
Looking at Poker with standard d6 dice you have the following combination (weakest to strongest):
- High Die
- One Pair
- Two Pairs
- Three of a Kind
- Full House
- Four of a Kind
- Five of a Kind (Yahtzee)
Notably, what's missing here are the Flush and the Straight Flush, but to get this to work, you'd need to include suit information on the dice.
My initial thinking for an easy solution: Use special d12s, which are labelled 1-6 twice, once in red, and once in black.
Doing this gives us the following new poker hands (in no particular order):
- Flush Pair (flush including a pair)
- Flush Triple (flush including a 3-of-a-kind)
- Straight Flush
- Flush House (flush including a full house)
- Flush Quad (flush including a 4-of-a-kind)
- Flush Yahtzee (flush including a 5-of-a-kind)
But why stop at a d12?
With a d20 you can have
- 1-10 in red and black
- 1-5 in four different suits (less than ideal imo)
But with a d24 you can have either
- 1-Q (or 2-K) in red and black
- 1-8 (or 7-A) in 3 different suits (personal fave)
- 1-6 in four different suits
Only issue is that d20s and d24s are rather large dice (which makes them not very well suited for dice cups), and they have rather small faces (which makes them unsuited for people with poor eyesight).
I haven't yet crunched the numbers on the various probabilities, but I could definitely see a d24 with red, green, and black numbers labelled either 1-8 or 7-A make for a fun poker style game.
Currently three games exist here on BGG, which try to emulate a real deck of cards and the probabilities that follow:
- 8-Sided Poker Dice Game, which tries to cram 40 playing cards (5-A in all four suits) onto 5d8.
- Royal Poker Dice Game, which gives you a full 52 card deck + 8 wilds/jokers on a set of 5d12.
- Square Shooters, which has a full 52 card deck and two jokers on 9d6.
While all of these (likely) succeed in one thing: namely to mimic the distribution of actual playing cards, they don't retain the one aspect that (imo) makes playing poker with dice interesting: the non-uniqueness of the dice rolls.
Being able to roll not just pairs, but identical pairs has potential to create more unique and varied games, where say a pair of 2s would be worth less than a pair of identical 2s.
With these existing sets, you also cannot add the flushed series of rolls as possible hands, something which I think is a desirable trait.
Mon Aug 8, 2022 10:52 am
- [+] Dice rolls
During a game of Carcassonne I jokingly cupped my handful of meeples, shook them, and rolled them onto the like dice.
A few on the meeples landed on their feet, and a few on their sides; the rest of them landed on their backs.
This got me thinking: what if you were to make a game in the style of Pass the Pigs or Zombie Dice, but using Carcassonne style meeples, scoring points based entirely upon however the meeples land, awarding higher points based on higher results.
I'm not yet sure of the following details:
a) how many meeples should be used?
b) which meeples? The regular ones, or also some of the special ones like the abbot?
c) do you keep some between rolls (like zombie dice), or do you reroll all of them (like pass the pigs)?
d) how many points do you award each kind of roll?
* is it like pass the pigs, where specific combinations award specific kinds of points?
* is it like zombie dice, where the different kinds of outcomes individually mean different things?
* or is it more like yahtzee/yacht where the goal is to achieve each of a number of different combinations?
Lots of stuff still to figure out, but I wanted to put the idea out there just in case!
Thu Jul 21, 2022 8:38 pm
- [+] Dice rolls
Using dice as multi-purpose game pieces
21 Jul 2022
Following my blog post about Arms Race: The Abstract Strategy Game I started thinking about what other things you could realistically do with dice.
In the case of Arms Race in particular, an obvious thing to do, would be to simply print the chess pieces on each of the six die faces, but why stop there?
Realistically, you'd be able to make multi-purpose game pieces, each printed on the various faces of the die.
I imagine a combined chess/shogi/xiangqi/checkers set, with 6 faces you can have
chess on one side,
xiangqi on another,
shogi on two of the sides (regular and promoted)
and checkers on the last two (regular and promoted again).
Note that since not all the games have the same number of pieces (xiangqi has 5 pawns, while chess has 8, while both games still have 16 game pieces per side), but it's theoretically possible.
The only major issue is the use of three different sized game boards (8x8, 9x10, 9x9).
I can see other kinds of game collections doing something similar with either differently shaped dice (a d8 could be interesting). Perhaps a game that uses different kinds of units, but where the dice ultimately limit the total number of available units.
Lotsa food for thought I feel.
- [+] Dice rolls
The Major Arcana Is a Pain in the Ass
21 Jun 2022
A few months ago, I kickstarted a deck of "Standard Tarot Playing Cards".
The idea was to have a deck of tarot cards, major arcana and all, stylised like a deck of regular playing cards.
While the deck is absolutely gorgeous, I've struggled finding any good games to play with it.
My girlfriend and I have so far attempted at creating two different games for it:
Tarot Bloody Rummy
We're both big fans of rummy-style games. The collecting, discarding, and melding aspect is appealing and easy to understand, but it just doesn't work with tarot cards; and it always comes down to one thing in particular: the major arcana.
For those who don't know the anatomy of a tarot deck: it is a deck of 78 cards made up of a
- Minor Arcana, 56 cards consisting of 14 ranks across 4 suits
- Major Arcana, 22 suitless cards ranked from 0 to 21
The major arcana essentially acts as a fifth extra large suit that only contains number cards (no kings, queens, or jacks).
The most obvious type of game to play with a tarot deck, is a simple trick taking game: the major arcana acts as the one (and only) trump suit, and the game then plays like a regular trick taking game a-la Bridge, Skat, Oh Hell!, or even The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine; and that does indeed make for a playable game, I don't find it interesting.
Something I'd really like to avoid in making use of the major arcana is assigning special abilities to the cards, because that would mean having players remember 22 different card effects, which while ok for some, is far too much of a mental burden for others. For this to work, the effects would have to be written on the cards themselves.
Additionally, getting rid of the major arcana altogether is also out of the question, because doing so would just reduce the deck to a standard 52 card deck that has a rank between the Jack and the Queen.
Now, could I just go ahead and play some of the existing games for tarot cards out there? Yes. In fact, I just learned that BGG has a list of games, that I'm gonna check out! Prior to learning this however, I tried googling for tarot card games and always came short, which is why I decided to make my own.
I mentioned two games I attempted to design around the deck, which I'd like to throw into the ring for others to give feedback on:
Game for two players.
Start by placing X Wheel of Fortune and XI Justice on the table somewhere between the two players to form the seesaw.
Then shuffle and deal the remaining cards and deal seven to each player.
At the beginning of the game, each player can only draw one card from the draw pile and discard pile.
The more cards that are then added to the seesaw the more it tips in the direction of one player or another.
The more cards a player has on their side, the more they can draw from the draw pile, but also the more the opponent can draw from the discard pile.
The way this was calculated was |SideA - SideB| + 1. So if Player A had 3 cards and Player B had 4, then that would be 2 cards drawn from the discard for Player A, and 2 cards drawn by player B from the draw pile.
The way you'd then tip the scales, would be to add the cards incrementally in order. The player with X would have to play from 10 down to 0 (The Fool), and the player with XI would have to play from 11 up to 21 (The World).
As an extra twist, a player would also be able to play to their opponent's side of the seesaw in order to level the playing field.
The extra layer of strategy here would be to hold on to and deny your opponent the cards they needed to increase their card draw, while also not giving them too many cards from the discard.
The game has potential, but is a bit of a slog.
The seesaw mechanic is unfortunately a bit hard to explain.
Maybe the game could start with no cards in the seesaw?
The +1 part of the equation is necessary because players must always be able to draw at least one card.
Tarot Bloody Rummy (pdf available, just ask)
This was an attempt at doing Sichuan Bloody Mahjong but with tarot cards.
The game differed in the following ways:
- Only 3 sets and a pair instead of 4 sets and a pair, due to smaller card pool.
- The Major Arcana acted as a "chow only" suit, similar to how winds and dragons were "pung only" suits in Mahjong
- It is possible to chow from all sides, not just the left
- Due to there only being one copy of each suit, pungs had to be made across suits, rather than within a single suit.
- New special melds taking the major arcana into account
- 13 orphans is just 11 orphans
The game quickly ran into problems when we tried to playtest it, as the major arcana kept clogging up the players' hands and offered little or no reward. This grinded the game down to a relative standstill and was not very fun to play with more than two players.
Mahjong terminology for those unfamiliar:
- Chow (or Chii), a run of 3 cards in the same suits
- Pung (or Pon), a set of three cards in the same suit and rank
- Winds, a suit of cards consisting of 4 copies of each of the four cardinal directions
- Dragons, a suit consisting of 4 copies of red, green, and white dragons.
- 13 orphans, a special combination of cards consisting of a 1 and a 9 in each of the three suits, one of each dragon, and one of each wind.
Designing games definitely isn't easy; and this one deck of cards in my collection has been taunting me since the very beginning...
I just wanted to get my thought on paper and get some of my half-finished ideas out there. Maybe it can be expanded upon or improved in some way, maybe not. I'd love to hear from the community at the very least
Tue Jun 21, 2022 1:58 pm
- [+] Dice rolls