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2018 54-Card Game Design Contest

There was an old game that is now out of print. (Unnamed here.) It had a very simple mechanic, and is one I have searched for for quite some time. Fortunately, the good people of BGG released a copy of the rules for a standard deck of cards, so I was able to try the game's simple mechanics, and I figured, why not revise some things and bring it back? But I figured I would like to retheme it somehow as well, to give it some space from the original.

Here's what I'm thinking.
Objective: Players add their played cards to achieve a value, but they want to avoid achieving the value themselves if possible.
The objective of the game is to either (1) avoid taking the center card, or (2) take a set of the center cards and score points.

There's 2 decks; one of these has 33 cards.

The other has cards are valued 1-6 in 5 carribean suits (anchor, palm tree, parrot, sea turtle, and tropical fish), and 3 cards that have a sun-set. These sunset cards are valued at 0.

The other deck has 10 cards with 1/2 of a treasure map. 1/2 of a treasure map is worth -5 points. But 2/2 of the same treasure map, that's worth 10 points! If a player has 1/2 of a treasure map, he scores those points at the end of each round, until the second 1/2 is found. If the same player has both halves, he scores those 10 points each remaining round. But if 2 players find 1/2 of the the same treasure map, they each score 10 points at the end of a single round. The problem is, until the 1/2 of the treasure map is collected, nobody gets to see it.

This 10 card deck is shuffled, 2 cards are removed at random, then 4 of the remaining 8 cards are shuffled with a "Game End" card. The other 4 cards are placed on top of these.

Each of the players also has a rotating star-fish, that can score them points. (Sounds kind of crazy. Here's what I mean.)


Each of the numbered cards has an effect based on the value.
1) Draw a card from the deck.
2) Swap hands with another player.
3) The next player must play a card of value 3 or less, or you rotate his star-fish in the direction of your choice.
4) The next player must play a card of value 4 or more, or you rotate his star-fish in the direction of your choice.
5) Rotate your star-fish left or right equal to the number of cards you are still holding.
6) Skip your next turn. (This is usually ideal, since you usually don't want to take the 1/2 of the map if you can help it.)


At the end of a round when the target value is achieved, the card that tied or exceeded it is added to a pool, and the target value of the next game is increased by the combined cards in the pool.

The target value is 10 initially. In the next game, the target value increases by 1-6 (because you can't achieve the target value with a sun card).

The remaining cards from the 33 card deck are shuffled back together. the card that is added increases the target value.

This repeats with each subsequent game. Let's suppose that the cards added are 2 + 4 + 6 + 6 + 3 + 3 + 2. (I got here with a geek roll.) In the 2nd round, the target value is 12, then 16, then 22, then 28, then 31, then 34, then 36. (Meanwhile the cards that are added to the pool are removed from the deck.) You wind up in a situation where, if you aren't careful, you will no longer be able to achieve that target roll.

If you play yourself out of cards, but the target roll is achieved, you gain an additional 5 points. However, if the target roll fails to be achieved after a certain number of rounds (whereby every player has played out all of his cards), the victory goes to the player who has the lowest score.

Otherwise, the player who has the highest score when the "Stop" card is revealed, wins the game.

The game is ready to play here:
{LINK]

 
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  • Mon Jan 8, 2018 12:44 am
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If anyone is from the Carribean, and I got the suits wrong, please let me know. My objective is not to stereotype. (I've never been to the Carribean but I imagine it would be beautiful.)

Quick glance at suits.




Also, I intend for the players to be modern treasure hunters, not pirates. And I may yet be in need of a 6th suit, if you have suggestions.
 
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Garry Hoddinott
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Another interesting idea. Sorry I was just going back thru threads I had missed and located this one. Has this been further developed? Anyone played it? A sixth suit for modern day treasure hunter theme - maybe a metal detector???
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Hi Gary, this is actually a new one as of this afternoon. (Not playable yet. But I'll let you know when it gets there.) The 6th suit I discovered as I was searching for concepts and I kicked myself! It was a sea shell!
 
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My first map cards.




I wish they were better than this, but I'm not an artist.
If anyone would be interested in a collaboration to that end, let me know. I'd love to make the artwork awesome. (I'm not sure the game will be awesome. It must be tested. But if something's awesome, it would help a bunch toward that end.)

(I suppose ink light would probably help me get this game to play-test phase sooner.)
 
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All players start the round with 5 cards. (This leaves 14 cards of the now 39.) If a player starts with 5 cards of the same suit, or 1 card each of 5 suits, he starts the round with his starfish in any orientation of his choosing. (All others start with their starfish at 0.) There is a slight strategy where the starfish card is oriented initially, since it will be rotated throughout the round. Naturally, it is every player's objective to end the round with their starfish at 14 points.
 
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Rachel Bruner
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Kuna
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This sounds intriguing! I look forward to seeing where you go with this.

Your maps images look good to me, but I'm too new to graphic design to really know what you prefer.

One idea: What about moving the part with the map to the other side of the card? This way the torn parts can be lined up without the brown/dead area getting in the way. It may feel counter intuitive as the brown part represents the missing part of the map, but you really can't line them up because one of the brown parts will always overlap the other.

Just a suggestion, though, so no worries if you chose not to do it, of course!

I like the idea of the rotating points on the star fish and trying to get it to the highest points by game end.

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Thanks Rachel. I actually resolved it in my mind. I'm going to use the same image (a modified Public Domain image - not my design) with letters A-C. I'm reducing the total number of map cards down to 8 since some of them were going to be removed anyhow.
 
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Version 1.0 Components Ready

Please remember, at this phase, if you are downloading, the game may not be perfect, and any advisement to make it better is always appreciated.
 
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Sometimes I make mistakes and I am forced to eat crow. I was thinking just now that with current components, the game only plays with a maximum of 4 players.
In the event that someone is willing to playtest with 5, I request you to draw the 5th player a Starfish. (Again, lots of ink concerns for some.) Modifying to play with 5, I could do the following. I could reduce the sunset cards to 2. I could reduce maps to 7, and make one complete that only scores 3 points per round.(May be interesting.) I could reduce the map count to 6 and create a Mega Starfish for the center, with unique rules so that it rotates similarly with variable points for up to 5 players. (Some interesting strategy.) I'm open to other suggestions.
 
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A couple of adjustments.
First, it bothered me that if a player starts out with a 3 or 4, the next player benefits from going against the rules. So I am considering starting each player off with Starfish marked at 2.

Next, I'm still weighing out the middle Starfish as a component, and liking the idea of setting it's points at ±2-6. (Both plus and minus). To reorient the starfish in any direction, the player simply plays a card matching the value facing him. You score with it if you have an odd number of cards remaining in your hand. But you lose points with it if you have an odd number of cards. You want the 2 side facing you if you anticipate ending the round with an even number of cards, the 6 side facing you if you anticipate ending with an odd number. And since 1's draw cards and 6's avoid playing cards, the situation will vary based on the player. It's also further impetus to end a round early but not too early, since the first card you play means scoring negative points, and if you play all of your cards you're locked onto a negative score. (This also means I would have to increase points received from emptying your hand, since I like that aspect of the game.)

(I think I will make it an optional component.)

Finally, I'm thinking of imposing a rule that you can't play a card that brings the current value below 0.
 
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UPDATE 1.1 is up now. Follow the previous link.

(If you have already printed, and want a copy of just the update cards, please let me know, and I will create one.)
 
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First (simulated) play-test successful!

This game was CRAZY!!!

One of the 3 imaginary players (I played them all) began to lose footing right away with 2 map cards.

But suddenly, he fell into a secondary objective, and then it became both of the other players fighting against him to bring the game to its objective, in spite of the fact they would have taken maps and lost footing with one another. In fact, the player with the high score began losing 1 point per turn, whereas the other wasn't scoring any points. They wound up just making it to the final round by a nose. (The sunken treasure found its way to the 2nd from the bottom. Had it pressed on for one more round, it would have been the lowest scoring player's win for sure, and nobody would have been able to stop him.)

As it sat, the 2 players with the highest scores wound up tied with 15 points each, and the low scorer was steadily losing points. He was at -17 points. If they had to press on with one more round, it would have been a nail-biter. As it was, this game was crazy close. None of the players was actually all that far from winning, had the game gone differently. Every time the high scorers obligated him to play a 5 or higher, he wound up following suit.

Anyhow, definitely, I implore you, please try this game with your friends and family who like traditional card games. And let me know what you think. As I often state, contest results don't matter. But fun games do. And if I can bring some entertainment and levity to your table, nothing would make me happier.
 
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And after a simulated 5 player game? The low man's score jumped up to tied with the other 2 lowest. As the game played out, 3 players were competing for lowest score, hoping to somehow hold off the 2 players competing for highest. But the game ended in the favor of the highest player. I'm thinking that revealing the sunken treasure card should be worth +/-10 points. It would have made the game differ by 10 points. But the way it played out, the high man scored 60 points and essentially ran away with the game. His card was marked at 14 points, so his strategy was correct. It's good to know that in both the 3 and 5 player game, the game rounds get progressively longer but they also become more and more strategic. As much as I love the Big Blue, trying to simulate play with this card is not something I'm prepared to handle, so I'm hoping someone will try this aspect and get back to me.

I'm also considering, at present, how I can achieve a 2 player game and possibly a solitaire game. I think there's enough to this to make for a rewarding solitaire play experience. But time will tell.
 
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A bit more simulated playtesting, and I attempted the Big Blue Starfish with a 3 player game. Lots to keep track of a single person, but definitely not overwhelmingly complicated, certainly not for a single player. The results were notable, but certainly not in a bad way.

Now I'm looking at a variable starting target number. If I set the target number at 10 for 3 players, and increase or decrease the target by 2 for each player difference, I'd have an initial target at 12, or 14 for a 4 or 5 player game respectively. Not a significant number change, but remember the same values add and subtract. What I'm looking for is the difference of a single card being played, so that all players in a 5 player game have a chance to play a turn. (In my previous 5 player game, the 5th player didn't play before the target number was attained.)

This also means that 2 players could start with a target value of 2.

Just for the sake of argument, I played a single 2-player round with a value of 24, and I achieved 23. I endeavored to test optimally, so that one player was trying to add to the target value, and one player wasn't.
The game resulted in 1 of the 2 players running out of cards early, and the other played out the remainder of his hand all at once, after a few moments of strategy. This felt sort of odd, but not totally unacceptable, in fact, it was strategic. And the cards could have been played in a different order to surpass the 24 target goal.

Therefore, I can make this game possible for 2 players IF I increase the target value each round by only 2 points. It would be enough to make a progressive feeling with increased strategy in later rounds, and that's the whole point.

In conclusion, I will soon have a 2 player variant. I'm going to reflect some more on a solitaire variant.

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Update: While I'm still considering the 2 player variant, I'm thinking less and less about solitaire. Not to be rude, but when a game doesn't start out with that intent, a player can generally feel it. Pasted on solitaire is equivalent to, perhaps worse than, pasted on theme. (I've seen to many games where the designers lie just to sell more games. I'm not a fan.)

Moving on, if I stay 3-5, there's something I'm considering, at least from a variant standpoint. At some phase in the game, someone is scoring high, someone is scoring low, but you have this cluster of middle men that may well lose interest. Now I'm thinking, as high man and low man are at odds and either may win, so the game continues to be interesting, if I add a mechanism whereby any player from the middle can easily wind up pushing out the high man or the low man, it becomes a more interesting game for them as well.

Here's my proposal. We already know that when a player follows suit, the value is reduced rather than increased. So why not play this another way. Here are my thoughts: if you are the middle man, you may decide whether to add or subtract the value of your starfish to your score. Furthermore, after the 3rd round, when playing a card of a different suit than the previous card, a player who has neither high score or low score rotates his starfish to the left; when playing a card that matches the suit of the previous card, he rotates his starfish to the right. Furthermore, at the end of the ground, the middle scorer can decide whether to add or subtract points equal to his starfish.

While that may thrust the middle man more easily into high or low score, remember that the then high or low scoring player will in fact become the middle man during the next round.

If you think about it, in this game, the middle player will have an effect on who wins anyhow. If they follow suit often enough, the high scoring player can't win. If they break suit often enough, the low scoring player can't win. So leaving this alone will inevitably lead to kingmaking.
 
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