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Subject: [WIP] Battle of the Bards -- two player I-split-you-choose. rss

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Adam Blinkinsop
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(Originally posted on G+.)

Overview
Each player has a pair of tales they're currently telling, made up of a single stack of cards each. Players use an I-split-you-choose mechanism to divide up the deck in pieces, and an Uno-ish mechanism to play to either of their piles. If a card doesn't fit, the player must score a pile to make room.



Objective
Tell the longest, most valuable tales.

Play
Shuffle the deck. The more experienced player (or most recent winner) goes first. A turn is as follows:
1. Draw five cards and split them into two piles, one face-up, the other face-down. (If less than five cards remain, the game ends. Both players may score their tales, highest total score wins.)
2. Have your opponent choose who gets each pile (without seeing the face-down cards).
3. Simultaneously play all the cards in your pile as best as you can. (See below.)
4. Pass the turn to your opponent.

Telling Tales
To play a card to a tale, they must have a suit in common.
For example, you could play the Betrayal (8 of Wyrms and Knots) on the Ace of Knots, but not on the Diplomat (8 of Moons and Suns). If you can't play a card, score one of your tales and play the card to the empty spot.

Scoring Tales
The number of cards in the tale multiplied by the highest numeric rank in it is its score. Keep score on a separate piece of paper, adding each tale to it as you score.
For example, a tale with the Betrayal (8) and the Ace of Knots would score 16 points. Add the Watchman and it scores 24. Add the Pact (9) and it scores 36.

The Extended Deck
The game should work just fine with the extended deck. The pawns and the courts make it easier to continue a tale, but won't score by themselves. The excuse forces a score, which is nicely dangerous.
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P.D. Magnus
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If you only play through the deck once, you could just set aside finished tales in piles and count score at the end. Tallying score along the way on paper seems unnecessary.
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Adam Blinkinsop
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pmagnus wrote:
If you only play through the deck once, you could just set aside finished tales in piles and count score at the end. Tallying score along the way on paper seems unnecessary.

Ah, that's true. Much more common to have one scoring per "hand" in card games, too.

One worry I have is that with the extended deck, you'll end up with an odd number of turns. This could favor the starting player. If you play two games and combine scores it should even out.
 
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Anders Bentsen
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This sounds fun Makes me think of both Emu Ranchers and Oh Quay, me and my girlfriend's favourite 2p decktet games.

Do the all cards in a tale have to share a single suit? Of does a card simply have to share a suit with the previous card in a tale?
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Adam Blinkinsop
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MonkeyHorse wrote:
Do the all cards in a tale have to share a single suit? Of does a card simply have to share a suit with the previous card in a tale?
The latter; you can chain suits together to make your tale. :-)

If you play, let me know how it goes!
 
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Anders Bentsen
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I Finally got around to giving this a test drive. I like it, seems like a nice game when you want something simple and quick. The only thing I thought I would mention design-wise is that it often seems a little too easy to just add all your cards to the tales, without having to score. But given how little I've played I'm not sure if that needs fixing.
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Adam Blinkinsop
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MonkeyHorse wrote:
I Finally got around to giving this a test drive. I like it, seems like a nice game when you want something simple and quick. The only thing I thought I would mention design-wise is that it often seems a little too easy to just add all your cards to the tales, without having to score. But given how little I've played I'm not sure if that needs fixing.

Oh, that's great feedback. Hm.

There probably should be some kind of Rummy-style push-your-luck mechanism to make scoring a fun decision -- you can build up an epic tale, but if you can't manage to score it, it goes to your opponent.

Then the question becomes: what might you need to score a tale?

Maybe you need to spend a card ranked at least the tale's length, so it gets harder and harder as you make it bigger. However, it makes resolution more complicated.

Maybe you don't just need to match suits, but also play a higher rank than any other card in the tale (c.f. Lost Cities). I don't think that adds any fun decisions, though.

Maybe the end of the game can sneak up on you? If there comes a point where you can no longer score a tale, you might want to push that edge too far.

Maybe instead of scoring tales in the middle, you just leave them out and score them at the end. This would work well with the Lost Cities restriction (must play increasing ranks), but doesn't add much on top of that restriction.

----
I think increasing rank (where unranked cards all count as zero) is the most fun restriction here.
 
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Anders Bentsen
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Yes, I like the idea of having to do something extra in order to score a tale. And also that not all tales may end up scoring, that would surely add some tension
 
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P.D. Magnus
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blinks wrote:
This would work well with the Lost Cities restriction ...


There's the danger of making it too much like Emu Ranchers.

More importantly, there's the danger of making tales too hard to extend. The restriction that cards must increase will probably make it more common for there to be an obvious way to divide cards that hoses your opponent.

Quote:
Maybe you need to spend a card ranked at least the tale's length, so it gets harder and harder as you make it bigger.


Maybe the rank of the last card in the tale just needs to be at least as high as the length of the tale. Crowns can support a tale of any length. Thematically, the storyteller needs to bring it to a satisfactory conclusion. Gameplay-wise, it means that you could always risk extending a story if there were still Crowns in the deck.
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Adam Blinkinsop
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pmagnus wrote:
Quote:
Maybe you need to spend a card ranked at least the tale's length, so it gets harder and harder as you make it bigger.


Maybe the rank of the last card in the tale just needs to be at least as high as the length of the tale. Crowns can support a tale of any length. Thematically, the storyteller needs to bring it to a satisfactory conclusion. Gameplay-wise, it means that you could always risk extending a story if there were still Crowns in the deck.

I like this solution. Holds out hope.
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Anders Bentsen
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blinks wrote:
pmagnus wrote:
Quote:
Maybe you need to spend a card ranked at least the tale's length, so it gets harder and harder as you make it bigger.


Maybe the rank of the last card in the tale just needs to be at least as high as the length of the tale. Crowns can support a tale of any length. Thematically, the storyteller needs to bring it to a satisfactory conclusion. Gameplay-wise, it means that you could always risk extending a story if there were still Crowns in the deck.

I like this solution. Holds out hope.


Yes I like the sound of this too, adds some push-your-luck. And I imagine this could cause some quite exciting end-games.
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P.D. Magnus
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pmagnus wrote:

Maybe the rank of the last card in the tale just needs to be at least as high as the length of the tale.


One problem is that this makes card ranks serve two purposes. High-ranking cards are already really good because of the way the scoring system works.

This alternate scoring rule occurred to me last night: A story is worth the total number of card in the row times the size of the largest duplicate set in the row. For example, a 5 card story with a pair in it (and no larger set) would be worth 10, a 7 card story with three-of-a-kind would be worth 21, and so on.

Thematically, this rewards the length of a story and the intensity of it. Pawns and Courts would be best for increasing the intensity of story, but you couldn't end on them. Crowns and Aces would be OK for increasing intensity, but they'd make it hard to continue the story any further.
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Adam Blinkinsop
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pmagnus wrote:
pmagnus wrote:

Maybe the rank of the last card in the tale just needs to be at least as high as the length of the tale.


One problem is that this makes card ranks serve two purposes. High-ranking cards are already really good because of the way the scoring system works.

This alternate scoring rule occurred to me last night: A story is worth the total number of card in the row times the size of the largest duplicate set in the row. For example, a 5 card story with a pair in it (and no larger set) would be worth 10, a 7 card story with three-of-a-kind would be worth 21, and so on.

Thematically, this rewards the length of a story and the intensity of it. Pawns and Courts would be best for increasing the intensity of story, but you couldn't end on them. Crowns and Aces would be OK for increasing intensity, but they'd make it hard to continue the story any further.

But it also means that an additional card is always good -- it'd always at least increase the multiplier.

Seems like the issue is that there's rarely a choice whether to add to a story or score it. I feel like the best way to solve that is to ensure diminishing returns for each additional card, so at some point you have to decide whether that return is worth it.

Scoring is definitely the thing to tune. Brainstorming time.

Story is often about transition, and these stories transition from suit to suit. Perhaps you need the first card to have different suits from the last card.

Crowns and Aces are difficult to play, and don't allow a transition, so perhaps starting / ending on a single suit (cohesive narrative) gives a bonus.

Story has a beginning, middle, and end -- perhaps you want at most three suits, and if you have any more the score suffers. You don't really want a long story, but a focused one.

----
Ok, proposal (off the cuff, so the rules should be clarified later):

In a story, the first suit on the first card is "the beginning". The last suit on the last card is "the ending". Secretly choose and score a card in the story with the first suit and another with the second suit -- set them aside face-down. Discard the rest of your story; those cards won't be used again in this game. (If both suits are the same, you only get one card. If there's only one card in the story, you must score it alone.)

At the end of the game, reveal your scored cards.
- Whoever has the most of each suit wins it (high card wins ties, with Crowns high and Aces low, as usual). The player who won the most suits wins the game.
- If tied, the player who scored the most Aces wins the game.
- If still tied, the player who scored the most cards wins the game.
- If still tied, play again.
 
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P.D. Magnus
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blinks wrote:

Ok, proposal (off the cuff...)


Except there's then no incentive to have a longer story at all. Provided you have two cards or three cards, then you should score.
 
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Adam Blinkinsop
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pmagnus wrote:
blinks wrote:

Ok, proposal (off the cuff...)


Except there's then no incentive to have a longer story at all. Provided you have two cards or three cards, then you should score.

Maybe you score all the cards with those two suits, but during placement you can't repeat a suit once you've transitioned off it?

Wants:
- tension should increase as a story grows longer.
- long stories should be worth more.
- long stories should be harder to keep going.
- the split should be hard to evaluate.
- a good split should feel like an accomplishment.
- making the right pick should feel like an accomplishment.
- in each split, either pile should be a valid (if poor) choice.
- you should be able to tempt your opponent into the wrong choice.

Seems like you should be able to plan out your split several turns in advance, like a trick-taking game. Maybe players have hands of cards that seed the split itself.
 
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Adam Blinkinsop
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Drastic changes.

Deal a hand of six cards to each player. Play in tricks. For each trick, the lead plays a card face-up.

Their opponent chooses: play a card face-up (matching at least one suit in the last-played card) and continue the trick, or play a card face-down and force their opponent to pick.

When a card has been played face-down, that player's opponent must choose to take the trick or give it to their opponent. After they've chosen, reveal the face-down card.

. If it was a legal play, the trick is worth positive points equal to the number of cards in it.
. If it was an illegal play, the trick is worth negative points equal to the highest-ranked card in it.

Draw back to six cards and continue. Highest score when players can't refresh wins.
 
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Jeff Warrender
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Random (obvious) thought: each card has a personality, location, or event. Stories also generally have these. If you're looking to build out a "thematic" scoring system, this might be another place to look for inspiration. (I don't have any specific suggestions but will post if I come up with any).
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Adam Blinkinsop
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jwarrend wrote:
Random (obvious) thought: each card has a personality, location, or event. Stories also generally have these. If you're looking to build out a "thematic" scoring system, this might be another place to look for inspiration. (I don't have any specific suggestions but will post if I come up with any).

It gets a bit more difficult to understand the score at a glance, but perhaps that's less of a big deal?
 
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Jeff Warrender
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Well, I guess it just depends on what the score "means". If, for example, the scoring was just something like "each set of three person/place/event = X pts", that wouldn't be too hard to size up at a glance (it's probably fairly boring, too).

Maybe the rank represents the strength or quality of the story element, e.g. a rank 9 personality is a highly articulated character whereas a 2 is a cardboard cut-out character; a 9 event is riveting and consequential, a 2 is mundane or transitional. And maybe there's some sort of way in which cards interact, some sort of "clustering" system or "reachback" system, whereby you evaluate contiguous chunks through some simple system or whereby later cards form connections back to earlier cards with which they share a symbol.
 
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jwarrend wrote:
Random (obvious) thought: each card has a personality, location, or event. Stories also generally have these. If you're looking to build out a "thematic" scoring system, this might be another place to look for inspiration.


Although they are marks on the cards, the difference between locations and events tends to complicate games more than it helps them.
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pmagnus wrote:
jwarrend wrote:
Random (obvious) thought: each card has a personality, location, or event. Stories also generally have these. If you're looking to build out a "thematic" scoring system, this might be another place to look for inspiration.


Although they are marks on the cards, the difference between locations and events tends to complicate games more than it helps them.


Be that as it may, in this case it could perhaps permit a set-based scoring system, which might be a viable alternative to a simple multiplicative scheme like the ones that have been proposed -- or perhaps not.
 
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Tried a game of this today, with these rules:

The Pawns are dealt to each player, as the start of their first stories. The rest of the deck (except for the Excuse) was shuffled. One player drew five cards and split the cards into a face-up and a face-down lot, the other player picked a lot, and both players played the cards from their lot; then swap roles and repeat until the deck was exhausted.

In order to add to a story, a card needs to share a suit with the most recent card in the story.

You can and a story at any time.

cool THEME: Your story needs a good enough hook that the audience doesn't leave before it's over. A longer story needs a better hook.
meepleIn order to be worth points, there must be a card in it that is ranked at least as high as the length of the story. For example, if the highest-ranked card is a 9, then the story can be no longer than 9 cards. (Aces count as 1, Crowns count as 10, and Courts don't count at all.)

cool A good story has elements that relate to and reinforce one another.
meeple If it isn't too long, then the score of the story is based on the ranks of the cards in it. For each rank of card in the story: If there is only one card of that rank, add 1 to the value of the story. If there are two of that rank, add 4. If there are three, add 9. Four, add 16. Five, add 25.

So a story that has N distinct ranks is worth N points (1 per rank).
A five card story that consists of a pair and three-of-a-kind is worth 13 (=4+9).
And so on.

robot Note that, other than Courts, matching ranks can't be placed in the story right next to each other. To pair up other cards, you'll need at least one card in between to make the suits fit.

Ten one-card stories has the same value as a ten-card story with no repeated ranks, so the value of a long story is that you might be able to make sets.

We had fun with it. I squeeked out a win by a few points.

There are interesting choices to be made in how to present cards to you opponent, so that you get what you want out of the split.

We both used Crowns to let both of our stories get really long, and then just scored two short stories at the end. It might be better to break a long story earlier, so that there's time to get another long-ish story before the game ends. I'm not sure.

Cristyn was worried that it's the kind of game that could bog down with one slow player. While the other player is deciding how to split cards, there's really nothing to do with your time.

She wondered whether it should be allowed to start more than two stories at a time. I wondered whether two stories was too much.
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Adam Blinkinsop
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pmagnus wrote:
robot Note that, other than Courts, matching ranks can't be placed in the story right next to each other. To pair up other cards, you'll need at least one card in between to make the suits fit.

That's right, purely due to suit distribution!

Quote:
Cristyn was worried that it's the kind of game that could bog down with one slow player. While the other player is deciding how to split cards, there's really nothing to do with your time.

Yeah, that decision is a monster. If you want to go crazy, you could have both players draw and split simultaneously. Simultaneous action actually fits this game well. You'd fly through the deck, too. No real reason to make it turn-based, right?

The procedure: deal hands, each player chooses their split and places the two piles -- both face-down -- on the table. Simultaneously reveal the face-up ones. Then when both players are ready to choose, simultaneously point, or just take, or something. Hm.
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blinks wrote:
The procedure: deal hands, each player chooses their split and places the two piles -- both face-down -- on the table. Simultaneously reveal the face-up ones. Then when both players are ready to choose, simultaneously point, or just take, or something. Hm.


Hmm... if my opponent will get some other cards (from their split) at the same time as they get part of my split, it's going to be hard to make the faceup cards in my split especially appealing or especially noxious to them.
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Revisiting the game recently, Battle of the Bards redux
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