Game Curmudgeon

A blog of lessons learned while designing board games in vain

Archive for Raymond Gallardo

1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5  Next »  [7]

Recommend
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

My untested French Tarot variant: a mistake!

Raymond Gallardo
Canada
Montreal
Quebec
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
Microbadge: I’m here for the GeekQuestions Microbadge: I play nudeMicrobadge: Everybody Loves Raymond fan
Correction: The math in this blog post is incorrect!

In "standard" French Tarot, suppose I won my petit contract with 36 card points, including three honours. My score would be (25 + 0 + 0) * 1 + 0 + 0. Suppose that we're using the "reenvisioned" version where the goal is to win 56 card points in tricks, but there's a 5/15/20 point bonus for winning 1/2/3 honours. I would still win my petit contract with 36 card points, including three honours as I would have 36 + 20 card points. My score would still be the same: (25 + 0 + 0) * 1 + 0 + 0.

I'm keeping this blog post here as witness to my poor math skills!



In Untested variants of sacred cows to compensate for my card playing deficiencies I proposed a French Tarot variant that simplified how to determine if the declarer won their contract (and added partnership contracts).

In French Tarot, the declarer wins the hand if they win at least a number of card points in tricks; this number varies depending on the number of honours (21-trump, 1-trump, or excuse) that they won:

0 honours: 56 card points
1 honour: 51 card points
2 honours: 41 card points
3 honours: 36 card points


I reasoned that you can rethink the goal as follows: The declarer needs to win 56 card points, but gets an additional bonus if they win honours in tricks; the bonus for winning three honours is 20 card points (56 - 36 = 20). There are 91 card points in the deck. But with this bonus, there are actually 111 card points in the deck (91 + 20 ). 111 / 2 = 55.5 or 56 rounded up, and that's how that value of 56 was derived.

Here's the mistake, or rather, my oversight. In French Tarot, you get to use this fancy formula:

Victory points =
( 25 + <difference between card points won and goal> + <10 if you won the last trick with the 1-trump> ) × <value of your contract> + <bonus for being dealt lots of trumps> + <bonus for winning all the tricks>

I made a mistake in the "difference between card points won and goal" part.

Suppose I won 56 card points in tricks, which includes the three honours. With French Tarot scoring, I needed 36 points to win. So my difference between card points won and goal would be 56 - 36 = 20.

However, with the idea of a single goal of 56 card points, my difference between card points won and goal would be zero!

So in French Tarot, honours are actually scored twice: In card points and in victory points!

My initial "reform" was as follows: Each card is worth the following number of points:

Honours: 10 (six points more than their original value)
Rois: 4
Dames: 3
Cavaliers: 2
Valets: 1
Every two cards 1


The declarer simply has win more than half of the points in the deck, 55 points.

To make the honours score twice in this version, I'd have to make the honours worth 16 points, but keep the objective at 55 points!

This fudge in the scoring defeats the purpose of my French Tarot reform: to make it easier to remember (or at least derive) the multiple goals.

Note: I could be totally wrong about all of this as my math is horrible.
Twitter Facebook
1 Comment
Fri Nov 26, 2021 2:37 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
9 
 Thumb up
1.00
 tip
 Hide

Word games on a 5x5 board

Raymond Gallardo
Canada
Montreal
Quebec
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
Microbadge: I’m here for the GeekQuestions Microbadge: I play nudeMicrobadge: Everybody Loves Raymond fan
Originally posted on Is there a variant of Scrabble that could be played on a 5x5 square board? between March 31 - April 2 2020

Some other games from David Parlett's The Penguin Book of Word Games:

Sinko
Two players, 5x5 grid.

On your turn, you enter a valid five-letter word in any one of the five horizontal rows (left to right) or five vertical columns (top to bottom). Unlike Scrabble, when you enter word parallel to another word, letters adjacent to it don't have to form words. Whoever writes the last word in wins.

An example of play from the book:

M A N S E
A . . N X
N O N E T
I N T E R
C O B R A

1. COBRA EXTRA
2. MANIC INTER
3. SNEER NONET
4. MANSE


Ragaman
For 2 players, a 5x5 grid is suggested. Larger grids for more players.

This is just like Last Word with the following rule differences:
* You start with an empty grid. The first player writes a vowel in the centre square
* In subsequent turns, when you write a letter in an empty space in the grid, it must be adjacent to at least one other letter, orthogonally or diagonally.
* You score 1 point per letter for each word you create.
* The game ends when the grid is full.

You may score for only one word for each direction (horizontal, vertical, and for each of the two diagonals). There's an advanced variant where you score for as many words you can create in any of the four directions. Or, you score by word length: 2 letters = 2, 3 letters = 6, 4 letters = 10, 5 letters = 15.

Pi
2 players, 5x5 minimum grid size

On your turn you either:
1. Write a letter in any empty square
2. Challenge your opponent's last-played letter

You lose if you can't move without breaking a rule or you fail to defend yourself against a challenge.

The rules are:
1. In each row and column, three or more consecutive letters must form a word when read in the appropriate direction.
2. A letter may not be entered which makes it impossible to complete a word of two or more letters by subsequent additions in the same row or column.

(I think for rule two, it should be "three or more letters" but I haven't played this game.)

==============

You could always play Big Boggle on a 5x5 grid. Since you're playing with tiles instead of dice, you could separate the vowels and consonants in different bags, then when laying out the grid, you can alternate the vowels and consonants in a checkerboard pattern to create grids with greater word-making potential!

You could try to adapt Scrabble Express/Scrabble Scramble/Scarabeo Express on a 5x5 board, but some suggested changes:

Let words extend off the grid of the board (5x5 would be way too small). But if a word goes off the board, let it wrap to the other side of the board, like reading a book. For example, if you have a word on row #3 that would fall off the right side, let the word continue on row #4 on the left side:
. . . . .
. . . . .
A N A G R
A M . . .
. . . . .


You would definitely have to reposition the bonus squares if you allow word to wrap like this!

Use the black cube rule from Scarabeo Express:

1. When you remove the previous word, place black cubes adjacent to the shared letter. If all four black cubes have been placed, then move black cubes instead. Black cubes serve as blocks; no words may be played on them.

2. When it is impossible to play a word because the black cubes are blocking all possibilities of word formation (not because of a poor dice roll), then remove all black cubes. Continue your turn.

Addiction is a crossword game that uses a 5x5 grid. It's multiplayer solitaire, though, but with a full set of Scrabble tiles, you could have 4 games going on at the same time.

Stack Spell uses a 3x3 board!

There's a 5x5 travel version of Scrabblers. Scrabblers is an extended tileset for Scrabble; all the tiles have digrams or trigrams on them. The travel version starts with a 5x5 grid full of tiles. On your turn, you place a tile on top of one of the tiles and score for words you can make, across and down, from that tile:

External image


Perhaps WRDZ would work on a small grid?
Twitter Facebook
3 Comments
Thu Nov 25, 2021 6:40 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
11 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

Untested variants of sacred cows to compensate for my card playing deficiencies

Raymond Gallardo
Canada
Montreal
Quebec
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
Microbadge: I’m here for the GeekQuestions Microbadge: I play nudeMicrobadge: Everybody Loves Raymond fan
Here are some untested variants for French Tarot and Skat that I devised because of my poor memory and arithmetic skills.

Board Game: Tarot
French Tarot: More valuable honours

In French Tarot, the declarer wins the hand if they win at least a number of card points in tricks; this number varies depending on the number of honours (21-trump, 1-trump, or excuse) that they won:

0 honours: 56 points
1 honour: 51 points
2 honours: 41 points
3 honours: 36 points


I don't play French Tarot enough to remember these seemingly arbitrary point values. Where do they come from? It makes more sense to view this table as bonus points:

1 honour: 5 bonus card points
2 honours: 15 bonus card points
3 honours: 20 bonus card points


Remember that the deck contains a total of 91 card points:

Honours: 4 × 3 = 12
Rois: 4 × 4 = 16
Dames: 3 × 4 = 12
Cavaliers: 2 × 4 = 8
Valets: 1 × 4 = 4
Every two cards: 78 / 2 = 39
Total: = 91


This means that the deck actually contains 91 + 20 = 111 points. One-half of 111 is 56, rounded up, so that's how they got that value of 56 points. (Thanks John McLeod from pagat.com for this insight!)

What if we simplify the bonuses as 6 points for every honour.

1 honour: 6 bonus card points
2 honours: 12 bonus card points
3 honours: 18 bonus card points


or 7 points for every honour:

1 honour: 7 bonus card points
2 honours: 14 bonus card points
3 honours: 21 bonus card points


The bonuses for 1 and 2 honours are now significantly off from the original, but I don't care.

Let's stick with 6 points per honour. That means we can add those 6 points directly to them. So the honours are worth instead 10 points each. This means the number of points in the deck is 109 points. One half of that is 55 points rounded up.

To summarize: Each card is worth the following number of points:

Honours: 10
Rois: 4
Dames: 3
Cavaliers: 2
Valets: 1
Every two cards 1


The declarer simply has win more than half of the points in the deck, 55 points.

Note: If honours are worth 11 points, then the deck contains 112 points. One-half of that is exactly 56 points. I don't know if the total points in the deck should add up to an odd number, but even suggesting this variant would probably piss of the Fédération Française de Tarot.

Update: More interestingly (as I want to get the 111 total points in the deck):

Honours: 9 × 3 = 27
Rois: 4 × 4 = 16
Dames: 3 × 4 = 12
Cavaliers: 2 × 4 = 8
Valets: 1 × 4 = 4
Last trick: 5 = 5
Every two cards: 78 / 2 = 39
Total points: = 111
Goal: 55 points


Or, to value the 1-trump more:

21-trump: 9
1-trump: 14
Excuse: 9
Honours: = 32
Rois: 4 × 4 = 16
Dames: 3 × 4 = 12
Cavaliers: 2 × 4 = 8
Valets: 1 × 4 = 4
Every two cards: 78 / 2 = 39
Total points: = 111
Goal: 55 points


French Tarot: Partnership options

One feature that I miss with four-player Tarot is a partnership option where the declarer can have a secret partner, like in five-player Tarot.

I propose two new contracts: l'amour sans le chien and l'amour contre le chien.

For either of these two contracts, the declarer flips the chien face up. The declarer then calls the highest non-trump card that neither they nor the chien hold. The player who holds this called card becomes the declarer's partner, but may not announce their identity until they have played the called card.

For l'amour sans le chien, the points in the chien count towards the declarer's team. For l'amour contre le chien, the points in the chien count towards the opposing team.

L'amour avec le chien (I'll let your imagine how that feels like) is probably way too easy with a chien of 6 cards. Alternatively, if everyone passes, then the dealer must play this contract.

As for multipliers, I propose this:

L'amour avec le chien ×0.5
L'amour sans le chien ×1
L'amour contre le chien ×2
Garde ×3
Garde sans le chien ×4
Garde contre le chein ×6


As there are more bids, I propose a more "traditional" auction: Players, in turn order, either bid or pass. Once you have passed, you may not bid again. A player who's ahead in turn order may "hold" a previous bid, which means that you're bidding the same bid as a previous player. For instance forehand (the first player) may hold any other player's bid, second player may hold any other player's bid except for forehand, and dealer may not hold any player's bid. A bid may only be held once.

Aventure or liaison might be better than amour. What about coup d'un soir? BTW, the proper term should be appel, and garde should be renamed solissimo.

Board Game: Skat
Skat: Bidding with multipliers and trump suit instead of contract value

I have very poor arithmetic skills, which I don't plan on ever improving. My mental multiplication and division are nonexistent, and having to perform those tasks other than during a scoring phase is too torturous for me.

In Skat, you bid the value of a proposed contract, which is the product of (a) the value of the trump suit and (b) the number of multipliers, which is the sum of (i) the number of high trump cards you hold (or don't) and (ii) the point values of tasks you propose to accomplish like winning 90+ card points in tricks or playing without exchanging cards.

I propose to hold off on all this multiplying until the hand is scored. A bid is just the proposed trump suit and the number of multipliers. The greater number of multipliers, the higher the bid. Among bids with equal multipliers, the one with the higher ranked suit is the higher bid.


Or, you could use this table:
From gallery of rayzg


(This table could go even further right all the way to 11 grand, but those high bids are very, very rare.)

Bids on the right are higher ranked than those on the left. Among those in the same column, bids further down the column are higher ranked than those above.

I just realized to make the scores for the null contracts fit better in the table, the should be between the spades and the clubs. I could also assign the null contracts a base value of 11.5 and give them nominal multiplier values of 2, 3, 4, and 5. But a base value of 11.5 defeats the purpose of this variant!

Or, I could assign a base value of 13 to the null contracts and simplify the table even further:

From gallery of rayzg


Grand is where the four jacks form their own four-card trump suit. Bidding a grand contract is like bidding for a number of wild sides in Perudo:

Given a suit bid n, the next highest grand bid is n/2 rounded up.

Given a grand bid m, the next highest suit bid is m * 2 + 1.

One problem with this table: The bid table doesn't order the contracts by their actual score. Other bid tables do this, including one I made about seven years ago:

Skat scoring summary

However, I don't have a problem with that as the point of this variant is for me to avoid multiplying in my head -- and dividing for me to try to derive what trump suit or multipliers my opponents are aiming for!

How likely am I going to try these variants

Provided that I'm not playing with any French players, I think I'd definitely play with the "more valuable honours" variant as it's so much easier to explain.

I think I could convince my French friends to play with my "l'amour sans/contre le chien" as it replaces the essentially useless petit bid, which is the same as garde except it's worth less.

As for my Skat variant, I don't think I'll ever try this one. It's because I don't enjoy playing Skat for other reasons, namely, it punishes players too severely for sloppy play! But if my opponents are willing to play with won tricks face up, maybe I'd reconsider!
Twitter Facebook
7 Comments
Thu Nov 25, 2021 5:56 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

Protokollsvira: The most convoluted scoring system ever

Raymond Gallardo
Canada
Montreal
Quebec
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
Microbadge: I’m here for the GeekQuestions Microbadge: I play nudeMicrobadge: Everybody Loves Raymond fan
I found this:

http://runeberg.org/vira/

It’s a Vira tutorial published in Stockholm, 1903.

It contains a scoring variant, protokollsvira, which is the most convoluted way to score that I’ve ever encountered!

Remember in Vira that players gain and lose points from two sources: their opponents and the pot or pulla. When you win a contract, you get one bet from the pot. When you lose a contract, you pay one bet to the pot, and when you lose a contract by two or more tricks, you pay two betar to the pot. You also pay one bet to the pot when you buy cards again. At the end of the game, players divide the contents of the pot equally among themselves.

In protokollsvira, every time you add one or more betar to the pot, the value of those betar increases by two points! So each individual bet in the pot can have a different value. When you take a bet from the pot, you have to take the second most valuable bet from the pot!
This all means that you can’t use scoring chips; you have to keep track of all this information with a scoresheet, or a protokoll.

Here’s the example I found in the tutorial, which took me forever to figure out:

+----------------------------+----------------------------+----------------------------+
| Player C | Player A | Player B |
+--------+-----+-------------+---------+-----+------------+--------+-----+-------------+
| Hand | Bet | Winner | Hand | Bet | Winner | Hand | Bet | Winner |
+--------+-----+-------------+---------+-----+------------+--------+-----+-------------+
| Hand 0 | 50 | | Hand 0 | 50 | A (Hand 4) | Hand 0 | 50 | |
| Hand 8 | 60 | A (Hand 10) | Hand 1 | 52 | C (Hand 3) | Hand 2 | 54 | |
| Hand 8 | 60 | B (Hand 11) | Hand 5 | 56 | B (Hand 7) | Hand 6 | 58 | |
| Hand 8 | 60 | | Hand 5 | 56 | | Hand 9 | 62 | C (Hand 13) |
| | | | Hand 12 | 64 | | | | |
+--------+-----+-------------+---------+-----+------------+--------+-----+-------------+


+------+--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------+----------------------------+
| Hand | Who won or lost the contract | Contents of pot |
+------+--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------+----------------------------+
| 0 | Each player adds 1 bet. Each bet added is worth 50 points. | 50 50 50 |
| 1 | Player A loses their contract and adds 1 bet worth 52 points. | 50 50 50 52 |
| 2 | Player B loses their contract and adds 1 bet worth 54 points. | 50 50 50 52 54 |
| 3 | Player C wins their contract and takes 1 bet worth 52 points (the second highest valued bet in the pot). | 50 50 50 52 54 |
| 4 | Player A wins their contract and takes 1 bet worth 50 points. | 50 50 50 54 |
| 5 | Player A loses their contract by 2 tricks and adds 2 betar worth 56 points each. | 50 50 54 56 56 |
| 6 | Player B loses their contract and adds 1 bet worth 58 points. | 50 50 54 56 56 58 |
| 7 | Player B wins their contract and takes 1 bet worth 56 points. | 50 50 54 56 56 58 |
| 8 | Player C rebuys, then proceeds to lose their contract by 2 tricks. C adds a total of 3 betar to the pot, each worth 60 points. | 50 50 54 56 58 60 60 60 |
| 9 | Player B loses their contract and adds 1 bet worth 62 points. | 50 50 54 56 58 60 60 60 62 |
| 10 | Player A wins their contract and takes 1 bet worth 60 points. | 50 50 54 56 58 60 60 60 62 |
| 11 | Player B wins their contract and takes 1 bet worth 60 points. | 50 50 54 56 58 60 60 62 |
| 12 | Player A loses their contract and adds 1 bet worth 64 points. | 50 50 54 56 58 60 62 64 |
| 13 | Player C wins their contract and takes 1 bet worth 62 points. | 50 50 54 56 58 60 62 64 |
+------+--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------+----------------------------+


At the end of the game, there’s 7 betar left in the pot with a total value of 392 points.

Player C has 50+60=110 points left in the pot.
Player A has 54+64=120 points left in the pot.
Player B has 50+54+58=162 points left in the pot.

The players divide the contents of the pot by 3, which is 130 points with a remainder of 2 points. Player B gets these extra two points as that player lost the most.

Player C is up 130-110=20 points.
Player A is up 130-120=10 points
Player B is down 132-162=-30 points.

The calculation of the final scores didn’t make much sense to me. Still, this scoring system might be easier to use in practice. In the scoresheet, when someone’s entitled to take a bet from the pot, you just cross off the corresponding value in the scoresheet; you don’t need that bet’s actual value when calculating the final scores.

Anyway, there’s no way I’d ever consider using this system. I like using the scoring chips when playing Vira in person and prefer not to write anything down!
Twitter Facebook
1 Comment
Wed Nov 24, 2021 7:15 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
11 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

Iceberg Vira: The latest refinement of Vira in Levels

Raymond Gallardo
Canada
Montreal
Quebec
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
Microbadge: I’m here for the GeekQuestions Microbadge: I play nudeMicrobadge: Everybody Loves Raymond fan
Iceberg Vira (or Isbergsvira) is the version of Vira in Levels (or Nivåvira) played by Viraklubben 4V (Four Winds) in Sundsvall, Sweden. This version was developed in the mid-1980s by Staffan Sävén who has been continually refining and enhancing it over the decades. The last update was in 2020.

Isbergsvira gets its name from the shape of its bid table, which looks like the cross-section of an iceberg floating in the ocean.

From gallery of rayzg


Differences between Iceberg Vira and Nivåvira as played by Åstols Viraklubb

The biggest difference is the bidding is more streamlined and flexible. You essentially bid one of the column names, and that means you've bid the lowest available bid on that column. There's no need to jump bid if you have a really strong hand because at the end of the auction, you can upgrade any bid to any other higher bid in the same column. (For instance, you can't do that for Turné and Vingel bids in other versions of Vira.)

In addition, you can bid the same contract as any other player as long at it's on the same level as the highest bid and you restrict which trumps suits you can pick from (before, you can only rebid the last bid contract).

Because it's so much easier to outbid someone in Iceberg Vira, it's much easier to get into bidding wars!

However, the other big difference, which would probably get in the way of new players, is that there are a lot of edge-case rules that players will have to use once in about every 100-2000 hands! For example:

* The lowest bid, Minusgask, has a very different procedure than all the other Gask bids, but it's rarely played as it's so easy to overbid it.
* There's a new contract, Gökunge, that's on it's own level. Like Minusgask, it's rarely played.
* There's a blue horizontal line dividing the table. Contracts above this line are "above sea level" and score differently. However, bidding above sea level is quite rare.

Which version to play?

I think I prefer Iceberg Vira the most because it has the most liberal bidding rules. However, this is the worst one to introduce to beginners because of the edge-case rules. However, I do believe that many of these edge-case rules are inside jokes -- Iceberg Vira appears to be more playful and mischievous in tone than other versions of Vira! For example, Minusgask is an homage to to the Swedish Riksbank's introduction of negative interest rates in 2009, the first central bank to do so. And Gökunge's level, 4/3, is reminiscent of the half floor in Being John Malkovich. I think that Iceberg Vira is prodding its players to come up with their own baroque additions and variants to the game!

Some variants my friends are thinking about already:

* The Cuckoo contracts force the next player to bid unless they hold "low guards" -- a series of cards of the same suit that, if led in succession, will eventually lose a trick against a player holding the rest of the suit. If you pass and don't hold the prerequisite number of low guards, then you're subject to fine! In many situations, a player is forced to bid, knowing that they will surely fail.

We're thinking of imposing an additional penalty to the declarer who fails a Cuckoo contract!

* One player really wanted to bid a Solo contract (which means you have to win a certain number of tricks without buying cards -- although your opponents can). He wished that there were a contract where the opponents couldn't buy cards either. So we're thinking of adding this contract in!

So I think that's the best part of Iceberg Vira: it invites innovation!
Twitter Facebook
0 Comments
Mon May 3, 2021 7:21 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
18 
 Thumb up
6.00
 tip
 Hide

Nivåvira or Vira in Levels: Will it supplant Vira, my favourite trick-taking game?

Raymond Gallardo
Canada
Montreal
Quebec
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
Microbadge: I’m here for the GeekQuestions Microbadge: I play nudeMicrobadge: Everybody Loves Raymond fan
While browsing the site of Stockholms Wirasällskap, I discovered Åstols vira och bandyklubb, a Vira club located in the Gothenburg area. Vira clubs across Sweden play the game a bit differently, but the Åstols Vira club play it quite differently! They’ve been playing their version of Vira, Nivåvira or Vira in Levels, for the last 25+ years and have been tweaking and improving its rules regularly.

What’s Vira?

Vira is a trick-taking game for three players. From a standard deck of cards, each player receives a hand 13 cards leaving a stock of 13 cards. Players hold an auction; the player who bids the highest-valued contract becomes the declarer and plays against the other two, who play as a temporary partnership. The goal of the declarer is to win a certain number of tricks with a trump suit, or to lose all tricks with no trump suit.

The game has 40 contracts. The reason why there are so many is that other the number of tricks to win or lose, they vary by how many cards you may exchange, or buy, from the stock.

From gallery of rayzg


Why is Vira so AWESOME?

The bidding is aggressive and intuitive. Unlike Bridge, there’s no need for any bidding conventions! It’s because the types of contracts in the game require totally different cards. There are (a) positive contracts, where you want to win tricks (b) negative contracts, where you want to lose tricks and (c) gask contracts, where you want to exchange most of your hand with the stock. Unlike many other card games that have negative or misère contracts, Vira has a lot of them. So if you start bidding a low negative contract and someone else bids a positive contract, that encourages you to outbid that player with a higher ranked negative contract, which encourages that other player to bid a higher positive contract and so on! Similarly, if you have a mediocre hand but want to bid a negative contract and someone bids a high positive contract, you can try your luck with a gask contract, hoping that the stock is full of low cards!

Card counting isn’t as important. I have an awful memory and find remembering things a chore. In Vira, 13 cards are always out of play! And because players buy cards instead of exchange cards -- meaning players first discard cards they don’t want and then draw the same amount from the stock ... and not the other way around -- the card distribution is usually wonky and unpredictable.

How is Vira in Levels different?

Equally ranked contracts: Contracts on the same row on the bidding table are ranked equally. That means you can outbid by selecting any other unbid contract on the same row. That makes it easier and less risky to bid higher.

From gallery of rayzg


More negative contracts: There’s a very unusual exchange misère contract: You flip face up a certain number of cards from the stock. Then you buy as many cards from the face-down stock (and not from the face up cards). Then you exchange two cards from your hand with one of the face-up cards. This makes it a bit easier to void a suit or get rid of a pesky high card.

Passing conventions: This is the aspect that I think makes Vira in Levels feel very different. A passing convention is a pass during the auction that signifies that you hold certain cards that could defeat the proposed contract of highest bidder. For example, the passing convention for the contract beg (pick a trump suit, buy as many cards as you want, then win six tricks with a trump suit of your choice) is 4 stops in different suits, which means you have a guaranteed trick for each of the four suits (provided that the declarer has cards of that suit). Most of these passing conventions are optional; you can pass and not hold the cards specified by the contract’s passing convention.

This is what makes the game feel very different from “regular” or “Stockholm” Vira: In Stockholm Vira, there’s a big push-your-luck feeling in the auction. As mentioned before, if one player bids one type of contract, that gives you an incentive to bid higher in a totally different kind of contract as the types of contracts in Vira require different cards. In Vira in Levels, passing conventions reveal information about the players’ hands -- information that makes it much easier for the opposing team to defeat the declarer’s contract. In Vira, if you lose your contract by more than two tricks, then you’ll lose more points than the amount you would’ve won if you had won your contract. Couple this with the added ammunition of information from passing conventions, and you’ve changed the auction from a push-your-luck bidding war to something that’s really, really passive-aggressive, akin to letting your friend walk in front of an incoming truck. (Thanks Sean for the analogy!)

Vira in Levels is probably the meanest trick-taking game I’ve ever played, provided that players are using the passing conventions. (Note that many Vira clubs in Sweden use passing conventions, too. But I’ve never played any of their versions.) In Stockholm Vira, a pass feels like a sign of resignation. A pass in Vira in Levels feels like a fuck-you to the declarer!

But will Vira in Levels supplant “Stockholm” Vira

Vira is probably the card game with the highest complexity-of-rules to ease-of-play. This game is surprisingly accessible despite the convoluted bidding table. I find it much easier to play and teach Vira than Skat with its notoriously complex bidding system.

However, Vira in Levels crosses the line when it comes to accessibility. Unlike Stockholm Vira, I’m not able to create a bidding table that’s as clear as the one I made for Stockholm Vira. And any trick-taking game with conventions, by nature, is hard to teach. So I’ll probably suggest Stockholm Vira over Vira in Levels, especially with new players.

But I really love the fuck-you passing in Vira in Levels!

Which version of Vira I should play?

If you’re relatively new to trick-taking games, then play Short Vira. There are only four contracts, and those four are some of the more bizarre contracts. Then move on to Stockholm Vira.

If you want a hint of what Bridge feels like, then definitely try Vira in Levels. All the passing conventions are on the bidding table, and they can all be explained at once.

Also, play Vira in Levels if you are passive-aggressive at heart!
Twitter Facebook
2 Comments
Fri Feb 5, 2021 6:15 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
15 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

Musings on some light abstracts

Raymond Gallardo
Canada
Montreal
Quebec
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
Microbadge: I’m here for the GeekQuestions Microbadge: I play nudeMicrobadge: Everybody Loves Raymond fan
Manoover Plus
From gallery of rayzg

Your object is to get your piece in your goal or to push your opponents pieces into your goal. On your turn you roll four dice. You can either rotate or move one space every piece that corresponds to what you rolled. Then all your pieces move one space in the direction they're facing.

The game has a lot of luck and chaos, but that's the point! (I really like light abstracts.) But it's no Backgammon killer. There's very little forward planning. But games are about 15-20 minutes long.

I'd like to try the original version (4x4x4 board, six pieces each, 3 six-sided dice). It might be less chaotic, which would lose much of its charm, but it could be a perfect 10 minute filler!

Switchboard
From gallery of rayzg

I love mazes Especially if you can manipulate them! Unfortunately, there aren't many good ones out there, and this is no exception. It's a roll-and-move, except after moving your pawn, you get to move the tile that corresponds to your die roll. The game is really less about moving your pawn and more about building a path (because your opponent sent you to the opposite side of the board).

But like so many games from the 1960s, there's way too much take-that and not much strategy or meaningful choices. When you move a tile, you have to make sure it links up with at least one other tile. But there's not much tile diversity in the game, so often it's impossible to do on your turn. And once you have finally created a path to the finish dot, your opponent can so easily screw you over by luckily rolling the tile that corresponds to the one that you're on, and then sending you off to a faraway region of the board.

Sigh. I so wanted to like this game!

Moguli
Board Game: Moguli

This game has by far the most unusable graphic design among all games! In this game, you have to get four of your pieces to the opposite side of the board. Your pieces must use paths that are marked underneath the tile! A little triangle indicates the orientation of the paths underneath the tile. If there's a triangle, then the paths underneath line up with the paths on top. If not, the the paths connect the other two sides of the tile instead.

Why couldn't they just print both types of paths on the top of the tile? Like this:
From gallery of rayzg

OMG this version is so much clearer to play!

It is a maze game where players can change it during play, but it's still just an OK game. The little puzzles to figure out how to create long paths get a bit repetitive -- there are only two kinds of tiles in the game. And it's still tough to visualize the impact of rotating a tile. As my friend and I are very casual players, we didn't think it was worth the effort to think too much ahead in this game.
Twitter Facebook
5 Comments
Thu Feb 4, 2021 3:09 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
27 
 Thumb up
2.00
 tip
 Hide

Musings on various games

Raymond Gallardo
Canada
Montreal
Quebec
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
Microbadge: I’m here for the GeekQuestions Microbadge: I play nudeMicrobadge: Everybody Loves Raymond fan
1830: Railways & Robber Barons
Board Game: 1830: Railways & Robber Barons
Yes, the old Avalon Hill version!
The last time I played this was about 10 years ago! I introduced this to a friend of mine who likes relatively heavy Euros and is very good with numbers. Some observations about this game after such a long pause:

* Arguably, it's easier to teach than a heavy Euro! 18xx games tend to be procedural. The actions you have to do have to be done in sequence -- you either do them or pass. So it looks like it's easier for players to absorb the flow of the game. Contrast this to a typical heavy Euro where you have a menu of about 10 very different actions you can do. However, the impact of your decisions in an 18xx game is much harder to predict than a typical Euro!

* For a teaching game, it is very helpful to warn players that you'll fuck them over. So I warned players I was about to rust all of their 2 trains (or was it the 3 trains, I forget). I also suggested to a player to sell off the stocks of my company so that she can start a new one, which really, really screwed me over.

* I managed to screw everyone over (but not by too much) by selling off most of the stock of one of my profitable corporations to start a new one to accelerate the train rush. It forced everyone to withhold dividends to get new trains. So everyone eventually had permanent trains in all of their corporations. Then I carelessly bought stock in another player's company. That player realized he'd be first in the stock round and asked if he could intentionally leave that corporation train-less, then dump that company on me. I said yes, that was possible! (And I had to do lots of dividend withholding to prepare for that!)

Even though the players figured out the basics of the game, I don't think they'd play it again. Nor me. It's simply too long, and there's way too much bookkeeping. My friend is a huge fan of railroad simulation video games, and he'd rather play that than 1830. As for me, I don't have the patience anymore for doing any arithmetic in board games. Nor play a game that takes 3+ hours to complete.

The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine
Board Game: The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine
I got this game as a present for a friend who's looking for co-ops to play with his partner, and both of them are quite good with trick taking games.

I didn't care for the game much as I'm really, really not a fan of co-op games. What I'll say is this: For this game, players should have about the same experience with trick-taking games. Trick taking as a mechanic has a lot of subtle and opaque tactics that many beginners won't figure out quickly, potentially annoying players with more experience. (I heard another story from a friend who tried playing this with his friends and it bombed because they had really no idea how to accomplish some of the basic missions.)

Rather than talking about the game, I'll rant about why I don't care for co-ops. There's the quarterbacking and there's the the inadvertent (or intentional) cheating because of the limited communication rules to prevent the quarterbacking. But I find the incentive not to do these unwelcome behaviours isn't as strong as in competitive games. My theory here is that it's easier to cheat against a co-operative game's system rather than against another player. As for me, I'm not one to scold a player who "cheats" in a co-op. So I go the opposite direction. I ensure that anything I say is relevant to the game and strictly follow any of its limited communication rules. This is one reason why I don't like co-ops: They hijack the small talk and banter I love to participate in while playing games. For me, the primary joy I get from playing games is the opportunity to socialize, and I really don't like it if a game distracts from that.

Strangely enough, I love doing puzzles cooperatively! Here's a list of puzzle sites we've really enjoyed:

Puzzled Pint
Every month, they publish a series of 4-5 puzzles. They're a mix of logic and word puzzles, intended to be printed out and solved with pencil and paper. We would solve them via Zoom by one of us sharing a desktop, then using the Annotation tool to write our responses. Their puzzle archive goes back to 2010, so there are a lot of puzzles to solve. This is perfect for a group of 3-5 people.

Erich Friedman's puzzles
Sudoku-like logic puzzles, but on a smaller grid, but much more original and clever. There are also a lot of word puzzles, too. And mazes! Perfect for a group of 2-3 people. Here's an example of one of his puzzles (sovled):

Color Mazes: Find a path from the bottom left to the top right that passes through an equal number of squares of each (non-white) color.

External image


Twixt puzzles
You have to find the one move for white that will guarantee a win. Here's an example:
External image


Chess puzzles
There are hundreds of thousands out there as these have been popular for centuries. I still have to find a site that shows you why a particular move is wrong as some of these chess puzzles are hard.

Could you suggest a free site that has chess puzzles with this feature?

Raymond Smullyan's logic puzzles
We also did some logic puzzles from Smullyan's books Alice in Puzzle-Land and The Lady or the Tiger?.

Why do I like doing puzzles cooperatively but dislike co-ops?

The simple facetious answer would be puzzles aren't games!

* The ideas of winning and losing are gone. The competitive spirit found in games is gone, or at least neutered. The idea of winning suggests the domination over an adversary. The idea of solving a puzzle feels more like discovery or acquiring insight, which I think creates a better (and less absurd) atmosphere than players trying to dominate over a co-op's system or autonoma.

* There's none of that structure or etiquette of gaming, such as turn-taking or game component management, Puzzles are often more free-form. In particular, some of the Puzzled Pint puzzles are intentionally vague on what you have to do to solve them. Thus, it feels that solving a puzzle feels way, way more interactive than playing a co-op. In co-ops, players typically take turns and pick among a list of possible actions. In puzzles, that concept of "on your turn, do an action" is basically gone. People suggest possible solutions, show impossible possibilities, verify other possibilities -- all at the same time!

* Quarterbacking is welcome! Often we'll do a series of puzzles. Some of us are strong in a particular skill set and weak in others. I'm good with words but awful in arithmetic. So when a math puzzle comes up, I'm more than happy to sit back and act as secretary!

Falcon's Maze
From gallery of rayzg


I really, really wanted to like this game. It's an abstract with luck, it's been compared to Backgammon, and there's a route-planning element! But the game is tactically and strategically shallow.

The object is to move your two falcons from one side of the board to the other. They move like chess queens, but they can move only on counters you've placed. To place a counter, you place them a queen's move away from an existing counter; the distance you place it depends on a die roll.

What we found is that it's way too easy to move your falcons on the board. And the tactics about placing counters wasn't interesting enough. Strategy involved either placing counters for your falcons, or placing them to block your opponent's falcons.
Twitter Facebook
6 Comments
Sun Jan 10, 2021 2:37 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
12 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

I'm Geek Of The Week #773 ... please post questions!

Raymond Gallardo
Canada
Montreal
Quebec
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
Microbadge: I’m here for the GeekQuestions Microbadge: I play nudeMicrobadge: Everybody Loves Raymond fan
I'm Geek Of The Week #773 - rayzg! Please post questions for me to answer! The more irreverent the question, the better!
Twitter Facebook
1 Comment
Mon Nov 23, 2020 12:08 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
21 
 Thumb up
0.25
 tip
 Hide

Alliance games

Raymond Gallardo
Canada
Montreal
Quebec
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
Microbadge: I’m here for the GeekQuestions Microbadge: I play nudeMicrobadge: Everybody Loves Raymond fan
Why aren't there more out there? That's totally rhetorical as I think I know why: No one wants to be faulted for losing a game, especially by a sore loser, and many don't want to share a victory.

Still, I adore alliance games as they offer the most interaction for any kind of game next to negotiation games and perhaps RPGs (especially GM-less ones): You essentially have the dynamic of both cooperative and competitive play all at once.

I won't get into party games, as there are a lot of team-based party games, and the emphasis is not on strategy and gameplay but on giving people something way more interesting to do than struggling through small talk. Also, most of them involve trying to get your teammates to guess something based on a series of clues. Or performing some mildly humiliating action for the pleasure of everyone else.

I won't get into social deduction games either as those focus on determining who's on which team. And I'll skip stock holding games.

The bulk of the games that are left are traditional trick-taking games, but I'll try to find games outside that genre.

Fixed teams

Fixed teams, or more specifically, fixed partnerships, is one of the most popular player configuration among traditional trick-taking games. And unfortunately one of the least popular among every genre outside trick takers!

Board Game: Belote
You probably heard of anecdotal stories of nasty fights among long-term Bridge partners, some leading to divorce or even murder. But the sensationalist tends to be the expectation rather than the rule. The reason why these disputes arise is that long term Bridge players develop ways to communicate strategies and tactics through play alone, and that's the reason I believe why that game is beloved by so many. And it's not only Bridge that has this feature. Players have developed ways to communicate through card play or bidding in every traditional trick-taking game, including Whist and Belote.

Unfortunately, for me, there is no game I would want to play regularly and seriously for a long period of time. It's really only though repeated play, and study, that players could develop these ways to communicate through game play. And if a game expects you to do this to play at a rudimentary level, then that's a turn-off for me.

One other more serious issue about fixed partnership games is that players could develop communication signals *outside* what's permitted in play, which is essentially cheating. It's something I don't really have to worry about as my gaming is strictly casual, but it's amusing to see the extents to which Bridge organizers go to prevent cheating. Check out this Bridge screen, which is apparently standard equipment in some tournaments:

External image



Board Game: Briscola
Despite me pissing all over fixed partnership games, when played causally, these games offers a certain amount of joy not found in other games, which I discovered during a game of Madrasso, a wonderfully simple fixed partnership, point-trick game. In only one game, we'd develop a rapport with our partners over the course of several rounds, developing a language of niceties and praise when we'd make particularly helpful plays. And trash talk becomes a bit blunted as it's spread over two players, which subtly gives you permission to make trash talk more sharper and harsher!

As for non-trick-taking fixed team or partnership games, I couldn't think of many:

Lumis: Der Pfad des Feuers -- it's basically Ticket to Ride but faster to play and easier to explain.

Board Game: Battle Cry
Battle Cry -- I played this once in two partnerships. I can't find the original BGG post with the rules we played with, although I found this:

Multi-player C&C

I believe that there are "overlord" variants that require two copies of the game. But I believed we just played with the standard rules. Each player got five cards and turn order alternated from side to side rather than clockwise.

Now the question is, couldn't *any* two player game with some kind of hidden information, like cards, be converted into a fixed partnership game? There's already a four player variant for Lost Cities:

Can I play with 4 players without the 2nd set of game?

Wouldn't Schotten Totten make a good four-player fixed partnership game?

Board Game: 1812: The Invasion of Canada
There's also 1812: The Invasion of Canada where players on the same faction could look at each other's hand of cards, which is essentially the same as the two player game. The game works better as a multiplayer game with its full complement of players, though, as it's a bit fiddly for one player to control multiple factions.

Random partnerships

Board Game: Tarock
Almost all Tarot games feature this. Rounds start with an auction to determine who has the strongest hand to win the majority of card points in tricks. Then that player becomes the declarer and calls for a card that they don't hold. The player who holds that card becomes the declarer's partner, but doesn't announce that fact. Players only know the identity of the declarer's partner once the called card has been played.

Initially, I was lukewarm toward this idea as I thought it's way too luck-ridden. I also never had much experience with this mechanic until recently as most of the Tarot games I've been playing until recently was four-player French Tarot, and the declarer always plays alone against the other three players, who form one team. But after playing trick-taking games where partners can choose each other, my opinion about this reversed and this is probably my favourite way to setup partnerships. (More about this in the next section.)

As for non-trick-taking games that feature this, all I could think of so far is Battlestar Galactica. But I don't think that counts as the point of the game is to determine everyone's secret identities. The point of random partnerships in trick-taking games is to enable the possibility of only one winner, yet let everyone enjoy playing in teams, which, in trick-taking games, is way more fun:

* There are more interesting tactics available when you're playing with a partner

* There's a wider choice of contracts or objectives that can be accomplished with a partner than playing alone

Among the few five-player trick-taking adaptations for trick-taking games, many of them have this call-card mechanic to determine a random partner: 500, Briscola Chiamata, French Tarot, and Sheepshead.

Board Game: Doppelkopf
I really, really like how Doppelkopf establishes random partnerships. The players who hold the third- and fourth-highest trumps become partners. There's a short but clever bidding round to deal with the player who ends up with both of these cards in their hand -- you still need a partner to have a chance at winning a round even if dealt these two high trump cards. David Parlett's Good Cop, Bad Cop has a similar mechanic; two jokers are added to the deck; they player who hold the jokers are partners. There will be two undealt cards; the jokers represent these cards. I can't think of any other game that uses this mechanic to set partnerships.

There's also David Parlett's Twyst (4 players) and Squint (5 players). In both cases, players simultaneously choose a card from their hand that represents their bid. Depending on the cards that all players play, a contract is determined. The game sounded awesome, but when we played Squint, the contract usually ended up a solo one, one player against all four. Rarely would we have a 2-against-3 contract. I'll get to my theory why in the next section, Chosen Partnerships.

As for other non-traditional card games that feature random partnerships, I can't think of any! It's perhaps because no one is designing games that are meant to be played many, many times. Games that are being designed now tend to be balanced from the start. In traditional card games, players' hands are usually so unbalanced that you need to play many round to balanced out the luck factor.

Chosen partnerships

Board Game: Whist
I finally had the chance to play again Whist à la Couleur or Belgian Whist. A player may propose a trump suit and another player can accept that trump suit, thereby forming a partnership with that player. I thought this was a cool idea -- as often in Tarot you can get totally screwed by ending up with a partner with a really bad had. But the game was less interesting or exciting in practice. In most cases, the partnership that chose the trump suit made their contract. I thought it was too powerful to be able to choose a partner like this. Perhaps Solo Whist ameliorates this as you're only allowed to pick a partner this way if you're going to pick hearts as trump.

After playing Whist à la Couleur, I appreciated the random partnership mechanic even more! I realized that when you're bidding in Tarot for a random partner, you should have a hand that could win regardless of your eventual partner's strength as simply having one other player not against you is powerful enough! In Squint, because bidding is simultaneous, if you have a pretty good suit for trumps, then it's most likely that you're the only one who's going to bid that. And you have the opposite extreme for Whist à la Couler. If you propose a trump suit and someone else accepts, that someone else is actually too good for you and the round won't be as tactically interesting.

Board Game: Mü & More
One trick-taking game that does chosen partnerships really, really well is . After partnerships have been determined through the auction round, both teams choose which cards belong to the trump suit. That effectively balances the advantage of being able to pick whose partnership you're on.

In Robert Abbott's Abbott's New Card Games, there's Variety. Here's a quick summary of the rules:
Quote:

Deal: From a standard 52-card deck, deal 13-card hands to four players.

Establishing the game to played and the partnerships
Starting with forehand, each player, in turn, proposes one of the following eight games; you cannot pass:

1. No trump: The side taking the longest suit scores 12 points. If tied, no score.
2. Clubs trump: Every trick scores 2 points.
3. Hearts trump: Every spade taken scores 2 points.
4. Diamonds trump: Red cards score 1 point; black cards score minus 1 point.
5. Spades trump: Black 10's and jacks score 5 points; red 10's and jacks score minus 5 points.
6. Clubs trump: Lowest card wins the trick; red cards score 1 poiint.
7. Spades trump: Clubs score minus 2 points.
8. No trump: Every trick scores minus 2 points.

If a player proposes the same game of a previous player, then (a) the proposal round ends, (b) that proposed game is established to be the game played this round, and (c) the players who proposed the same game form the declarer's partnership and play against the other two players, who form the defender's partnership.

If it's your turn to propose and no one proposed any of the games you made previously, then you must propose a game you haven't proposed before.

A player may still propose a game you proposed during an earlier turn, which ends the proposal round and establishes the game to be played and the partnerships for that round.

Play
The player after the player who first proposed the game to be played leads the to the first trick. Trick play is the same as Whist or Bridge.

Scoring
Each team scores per the game's rules. If the defender's partnership scores more points than the declarer's parnership, then the defender's parnership scores an additional 10 points.

Game end
The game ends after eight rounds. Highest score wins.
Board Game: Hungarian Tarokk
Hungarian Tarokk does it well too by forcing players to take big risks if they want to choose their partners and making it difficult to do, so most of the time, partners are chosen randomly. I think it works great here because the point of Hungarian Tarokk is not to just succeed in your contract but to do crazy difficult tasks, like win all tricks or win the last trick with the lowest trump. And to do these tasks, and to do them relatively often during a game, you sometimes need to be able to choose a strong partner.

Board Game: High Hand
There's also Robert Abbott's High Hand where players pick partnerships during game play.

As for other non-tradition card games where players can pick their partners during a bidding round or even during the game? I can't think of any others!

"Half" partnerships

Board Game: M
Board Game: Gute Nachbarn
In these games, you score is the sum of the points you made plus those of the player before you in turn order. The only examples I could think of are:

* David Parlett's Gooseberry Fool and Seconds
* The tile-laying game M
* Alex Randolph's Veleno

I thought you could get the best of both worlds with fixed and random partnerships: You don't have the issue of players coming up with secret signals with fixed partnerships, and you don't have to play many rounds to balance out the luck for random partnerships. In reality, thought, it felt like neither. It feels like the point of the game is to screw over the player after you.

Other kinds of partnerships

A lot of games listed here I haven't played.

Board Game: Wir sind das Volk!: 2+2
* Wir Sind Das Volk (with the 2+2 expansion): A game (and expansion) I purchased just for the theme (the Cold War in East and West Germany is such a screwed up and fascinating story). The US and West Germany play against the USSR and East Germany. The US wins if West Germany has met its winning conditions and the US has more VP than the USSR. West Germany wins if it has met its winning conditions and the US does not have more VP than the USSR. It's similar for the USSR and East Germany. The US and USSR are playing a subgame; getting VP here usually weakens the German side with which they're allied.

* Pandemic Survival (Pandemic "Duplicate"): A friend played this version at several game conventions and swears that this is the best way to play Pandemic (although I don't know what he thinks of the legacy versions). Partnerships play the exact same game of Pandemic simultaneously; decks of cards are in the same order across all partnerships. The partnership who wins the game first wins the tournament. This sounds like an awesome idea, but I prefer when partnerships play against each other. Also, duplicate games like this often require a lot of setup, and probably require administrators or referees who aren't playing the game.

* Bughouse Chess: Each member of a partnership plays a game of chess simultaneously against another partnership. One member plays white while the other plays black. When a player captures a piece, they give it to their partner, who could place it on any empty square instead of taking a normal turn.

* Between Two Cities: I believe adjacent players are partners, so that means each player belongs to two partnerships.

* Space Cadets: Players in each team play a mini-game. Each game require resources, and it's the role of the captain to distribute these resources to other teammates. Very, very clever idea, but it really felt like multiplayer solitaire, if you're not the captain. I paid attention to no one, except for the captain, during the one time I played it.
Twitter Facebook
14 Comments
Sat Nov 14, 2020 3:51 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls

1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5  Next »  [7]

Subscribe

Categories

Contributors