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Subject: Not a humdrum game rss

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P.D. Magnus
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I had the chance to play a short game of Corundum Conundrum this week with the regulars.

Here's the capsule version:

Fun times. Habits developed from other trick-taking games, even complex ones, won't really get you by here. It's like those habits are tourists in a bad neighborhood of a foreign port: It doesn't matter that they take a lot of pictures, because their camera gets stolen. This game steals your cognitive camera, but in a good way.

The rules don't strictly require suit tokens, but tokens really help to keep track of things.

The rules call for the extended deck, but it's worth a try with just the basic deck.

Here's the exploded version:

As I explained in another thread, I was worried that there was just too much complexity to the game. The worry wasn't that the choices require a lot of thinking, although they do. At least once when we had tried to play, it used up most of the players' attention just to see how the rules applied.

This time we used suit tokens to track the progress of the trick. For example: Jay leads with the Crown of Waves, and we put a Waves token in the middle. Chris follows with 4 Waves Leaves, we put another Waves token and a Leaves token in the middle.

This is just a matter of accounting, but it allowed us to see immediately which suit was in control, how strongly it was in control, and which suits were missing from the trick. This solved the problem, freeing up enough attention to concentrate on card play.

We played with just the basic deck, and it worked fine. As with a lot of Decktet games, it's different but not necessarily better with the extended deck cards.

One nice thing about playing with just the basic deck is that you can rely on the next play only adding one or two suits (since the three-suited Pawns and Courts aren't in play). It helps to pay attention to which suit combinations appear in the deck. An example: In our game, one trick began Crown Wave - 4 Wave Leaf - Ace Wave. This left four suits unplayed: Moon Sun Wyrm Knot. If the next play is a Sun Knot card, then it will still require at least two cards to close the trick; there are no Moon Wyrm cards. However, there are a bunch of Moon Sun and Wyrm Knot cards; playing one of those will make it much easier to close the trick. (There are no combinations absent from the extended deck.)

Another nice thing about using the basic deck is that the 9s are powerful a bit later in the hand, once the two Crowns of the same suit have been played. (This isn't so with the extended deck, because Pawns and Courts still be 9s. And the Courts don't work in quite the same way, since they can be beaten by any of three Crowns.)

One of the design objectives was to have the lead be very powerful. It is, provided that the player with the lead either has a high card or knows the suit of a high card that their partner has.

One thing discussed in the original design thread is that there would be strategy in manipulating the length of the trick, so as to manipulate the total number of tricks in the hand. There didn't actually seem to be that much control, though. Rather than that kind of big-picture strategy, the considerations were often a matter of more specific tactics. For example, I might end a trick because continuing with it would make me use up a card that I think will be more powerful to have in a subsequent trick.

We had one hand come down to two players playing their last cards. I was ultimately forced to make my opponnent with the final trick; even though the ranks of his cards were middling, I had to play low cards with suits that matched his cards.
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P.D. Magnus
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Addendum to the exploded version:

Two thoughts about the rules.

The rule for the end of the hand distinguishes between whether a player drops their last card at the start of a trick or later in the trick. I'm not sure why it's worth distinguishing these cases. If the final trick zugzwang is part of the design, then there should always be a trick after the one in which a player runs out of cards. If it's not, then the hand should end after the trick in which a player runs out of cards.

Having the lead is powerful, but with only 5 or 6 tricks per hand it can be hard to get the lead in the first place. Since the winner of a trick leads the next trick, there can be a kind of snowball effect. And getting the lead is just a byproduct of something you want to do anyway. There isn't enough control to pass the lead to your partner, as one might in Bridge. Somebody in our group (maybe it was even me) asked what would happen if the player who finishes the trick gets the next lead. This would add a bit more to the tactics of when to close the trick.
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Lacombe
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pmagnus wrote:
Addendum to the exploded version:

Two thoughts about the rules.

The rule for the end of the hand distinguishes between whether a player drops their last card at the start of a trick or later in the trick. I'm not sure why it's worth distinguishing these cases. If the final trick zugzwang is part of the design, then there should always be a trick after the one in which a player runs out of cards. If it's not, then the hand should end after the trick in which a player runs out of cards.


Mostly, I didn't want to end up with too many strange situations where one player ran out when the other three still had like 3 or 4 cards each... which is quite conceivable.

But, I also didn't want to have too many tricks when 2 [or even 3] players ran out of cards but the remaining players were forced to play out their cards in a "weird" trick.

I think the current rule works out well in practice.

I'm not sure I could say exactly why theoretically.

Quote:
Having the lead is powerful, but with only 5 or 6 tricks per hand it can be hard to get the lead in the first place. Since the winner of a trick leads the next trick, there can be a kind of snowball effect. And getting the lead is just a byproduct of something you want to do anyway. There isn't enough control to pass the lead to your partner, as one might in Bridge. Somebody in our group (maybe it was even me) asked what would happen if the player who finishes the trick gets the next lead. This would add a bit more to the tactics of when to close the trick.


This is a fantastic rule. I love this rule. Thanks.

If this works even halfway, it's the new official rule.

My only concern is that the automatic double card-play for the trick-closer [the closing card and their subsequent lead] might do odd things to the length of hands.

But, it's probably not likely that one person will continue to be able to close trick after trick [thus running out of cards much quicker on account of the double plays].
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Lacombe
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pmagnus wrote:
I had the chance to play a short game of Corundum Conundrum this week with the regulars.


I still haven't played a game out to 1,000 points.

What did your group end up playing to, out of curiousity?

Quote:
This time we used suit tokens to track the progress of the trick. For example: Jay leads with the Crown of Waves, and we put a Waves token in the middle. Chris follows with 4 Waves Leaves, we put another Waves token and a Leaves token in the middle.

This is just a matter of accounting, but it allowed us to see immediately which suit was in control, how strongly it was in control, and which suits were missing from the trick. This solved the problem, freeing up enough attention to concentrate on card play.


Yes... I really think this trick is all but necessary.

Quote:
We played with just the basic deck, and it worked fine. As with a lot of Decktet games, it's different but not necessarily better with the extended deck cards.


As an aside, this is one of Decktet's neatest features.
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P.D. Magnus
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NateStraight wrote:

I think the current rule works out well in practice.


I mentioned it because we found it hard to think through. It seemed like we should be planning around it at the end of the hand, but it really didn't seem possible to do so.

With the rule as written, we did end up with a two-player weird trick.

I recommend ending the game after any trick in which any player runs out of cards. This would not only be simpler and avoid weird endgame tricks, but it would also be something that you could plan for. If you have 3 or 4 cards more than one of your opponents - and they are cards that you think could win tricks - then you shouldn't let a late trick run too long. If you and your partner can close the trick, then it will be the penultimate instead of the ultimate trick. If you can't end the trick, then the leftover cards would probably just make for strange forced plays anyway; in that case, you probably don't want to play them.


NateStraight wrote:

I still haven't played a game out to 1,000 points.

What did your group end up playing to, out of curiousity?


When I said that the recommended threshold was 1000 points, the other players boggled. Somebody may have suggested 200 points instead, but in any case that is what we played to. We stopped after four hands.

The scores, in case you're interested [cumulative scores in brackets]:

1st hand
US: 2x11 [22]
THEM: 3x25 [75]

2nd hand
US: 3x20 [82]
THEM: 3x15 [120]

3rd hand
US: 2x10 [102]
THEM: 72 [192]

4th hand
US: 4x28 [214]
THEM: 8x1 [200]

Since my partner and I had managed to make a comeback, this was obviously the time to stop.
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Kenny VenOsdel
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If there is a concern about ending a hand with cards left in hand would it be better to consider adding rules to score them? My inertial thought would be to add the opponents remaining cards together and then subtract your partners cards from that. If the remainder is positive then that total gets added on to your card count for scoring.

Just a humble suggestion.
 
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pmagnus wrote:
NateStraight wrote:
I think the current rule works out well in practice.


I mentioned it because we found it hard to think through. It seemed like we should be planning around it at the end of the hand, but it really didn't seem possible to do so.


I intended it mostly to be a fixer-upper rule rather than a strategic point of interest. I'm not really sure you stand to gain a lot by planning around it.

Quote:
I recommend ending the game after any trick in which any player runs out of cards. This would not only be simpler and avoid weird endgame tricks, but it would also be something that you could plan for. If you have 3 or 4 cards more than one of your opponents - and they are cards that you think could win tricks - then you shouldn't let a late trick run too long. If you and your partner can close the trick, then it will be the penultimate instead of the ultimate trick. If you can't end the trick, then the leftover cards would probably just make for strange forced plays anyway; in that case, you probably don't want to play them.


I guess I'd have to give it a try. Mostly, I want more tricks in the hands rather than fewer, and that means that most of the cards should be played out.

Quote:
NateStraight wrote:

I still haven't played a game out to 1,000 points.

What did your group end up playing to, out of curiousity?


When I said that the recommended threshold was 1000 points, the other players boggled. Somebody may have suggested 200 points instead, but in any case that is what we played to. We stopped after four hands.


Lol. That seems crazy-short to me, in comparison. I'm all for long-form card games. I learned Ninety-Nine recently, which ends in the standard game at 100 points... which can be as few as two hands and likely won't be more than four. I now prefer to play with the designer's optional long-form variant of dealing a full nine hands [each player dealing three times].

I don't feel the luck ever evens out in a short-form game. To get a really strategic card game with a result that feels decisive to me requires it to be long enough for skill to triumph over luck. This is why, for instance, Cribbage is played to 120 points and stuff like Canasta / Mah Jong are such long games. Hermit's a Decktet game that's felt too short to me.

Quote:
The scores, in case you're interested [cumulative scores in brackets]:

1st hand
US: 2x11 [22]
THEM: 3x25 [75]

2nd hand
US: 3x20 [82]
THEM: 3x15 [120]

3rd hand
US: 2x10 [102]
THEM: 3x24 [192]

4th hand
US: 4x28 [214]
THEM: 1x8 [200]


That all seems pretty reasonable, and yes I'm interested, so thanks. [I fixed some things / numbers in the quote you seem to have left out / got backwards].

Playing with the extended Decktet lengthens the hands probably by about 2 tricks, both because there are more cards and because tricks are easier to close.

I like seeing that almost all the cards are played out almost every time.

I'd hate to introduce a rule that would leave 6-7 cards in hands every time.
 
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kvenosdel wrote:
If there is a concern about ending a hand with cards left in hand would it be better to consider adding rules to score them? My inertial thought would be to add the opponents remaining cards together and then subtract your partners cards from that. If the remainder is positive then that total gets added on to your card count for scoring.

Just a humble suggestion.


That's an interesting idea, but I'm not sure it would fit the game itself.

There's not really a lot of ways to control how quickly you run out of cards [i.e. it's not a shedding game].

You can kind of fool around with closing tricks quicker, but it seems mostly that type of chaos that's built up of butterfly effects.

I doubt you could do an awful lot [even with P.D.'s suggested "who leads" rule] to control the leftover cards.

I wouldn't be averse to scoring all remaining hand cards immediately as a "trick".

This would avoid the awkwardness of actually playing out the "one last trick" that P.D. has struggled with.

You'd just lay down everyone's cards and see who took that last trick; rather than trying to control how many you kept, it'd just be suits / ranks.
 
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NateStraight wrote:
I wouldn't be averse to scoring all remaining hand cards immediately as a "trick".


Formal suggestion for this idea:

"When any player runs out of cards, it signals the end of the hand. The current trick is played to completion as normal, simply skipping over any player(s) void of cards.

After scoring and awarding this trick, all remaining hand cards are turned face-up and scored as if they were yet another trick, even if not all six suits are present."

Thoughts on something like this?
 
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NateStraight wrote:
NateStraight wrote:
I wouldn't be averse to scoring all remaining hand cards immediately as a "trick".


Formal suggestion for this idea:

"When any player runs out of cards, it signals the end of the hand. The current trick is played to completion as normal, simply skipping over any player(s) void of cards.

After scoring and awarding this trick, all remaining hand cards are turned face-up and scored as if they were yet another trick, even if not all six suits are present."

Thoughts on something like this?


Even if you saved a high card until the end, it could easily be muscled out by the distribution of suits. So the winner of the last trick will mostly be down to luck. Since even a single trick can make a tremendous difference to the scoring, I suggest just letting the cards go unplayed.

Also: Who counts as having played first, if there's a tie in this last pseudo-trick? If (contra my suggestion) you really do want to have all the cards played, then I suggest playing it out according to the usual rules. It will involve lots of painful forced plays, but then there doesn't need to be a separate bit of rules for it.

So really I guess I'd like to see it go fully one way or the other: End after the trick in which any player runs out of cards or play until the bitter end.
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pmagnus wrote:
Even if you saved a high card until the end, it could easily be muscled out by the distribution of suits.


You should probably be saving like suits rather than high cards, then.

Quote:
Also: Who counts as having played first, if there's a tie in this last pseudo-trick?


I'd let it be whoever closed the previous trick, the usual tie-breaker.

Quote:
If (contra my suggestion) you really do want to have all the cards played, then I suggest playing it out according to the usual rules. It will involve lots of painful forced plays, but then there doesn't need to be a separate bit of rules for it.

So really I guess I'd like to see it go fully one way or the other: End after the trick in which any player runs out of cards or play until the bitter end.


The only problem with declaring a hand over only when all cards are played ["the bitter end"] is that there's a much stronger chance of getting an awkward 2-player battle, and even a chance of getting two 2-player battles in a row depending on what suits they had.

The rule as is all but prevents there from being two awkward tricks to end the hand. If a player is out of cards on their first play, the other 3 players don't have to play two stupid tricks [that trick, which will have a void, and a final] in a row to finish out the hand.

If a player has gone out in the middle of a trick [after their first card], there's already been some back-and-forth between the partnerships, so it's ok to play another trick [which might be weird] because this penultimate trick had reasonable / interesting play.

The reason for any "play another trick" rule at all is just to prevent an awkward distribution of leads that leave one player at a far lower card-count than the others ending the hand before the three other players have even come close to playing out as many cards.
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NateStraight wrote:

The only problem with declaring a hand over only when all cards are played ["the bitter end"] is that there's a much stronger chance of getting an awkward 2-player battle, and even a chance of getting two 2-player battles in a row depending on what suits they had.


Fair enough. The 'lay everything down and score it like a trick' is worth trying.
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All this back and forth really makes me want to try this out. Alas that I have no people to gather round yet.
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Daniël Muilwijk
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I haven't played the game yet, so take my suggestion with a grain of salt:

When someone finishes a trick, you could let the next player lead to the next trick. This way everyone is out of cards at the same time. I know this will change some of the strategy involved, but I can't foresee how much it would change it.
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Seabie wrote:
I haven't played the game yet, so take my suggestion with a grain of salt:

When someone finishes a trick, you could let the next player lead to the next trick. This way everyone is out of cards at the same time. I know this will change some of the strategy involved, but I can't foresee how much it would change it.


Thanks for the suggestion, Daniël.

It's an interesting idea. The weirdest feature is that it would give the lead immediately to the other team.

Here are the relevant incentives that need to be considered in determining who leads next:

- The lead is strong to have

- If you're winning a trick, you generally want to close it as quickly as possible [tricks are, mathematically, always worth more; unless you're just holding no further strength and want to prolong the trick to end the hand as soon as you can, you want to get that trick and get started on taking a new one]

- If you're losing a trick, you might want to continue playing in an attempt to wrest control away, or you might want to cut and run. This is the position [i.e. losing a trick] where your decision of whether to attempt to close or prolong a trick is probably most interesting and where it will vary the most

Here are the relevant added incentives that each "who leads next" rule would add to consideration:

Winner leads: The incentive is even stronger for the current winner to end the trick, but now stronger for the losing team to prolong the trick. The winning team will probably be throwing cards not in their current winning suit [attempting to close it]; the losing team will try to throw their suit.

Closer leads: The incentive is as much stronger for the current winner to end the trick, but now stronger for the losing team to close the trick. The losing team will have a more difficult decision whether to prolong the trick, as the opportunity cost is both cards and a potential lead.

Next leads: The incentive is less strong for the winning team to want to close the trick [as they'd be giving up the lead], and also less strong for the losing team [since they want to prolong the trick and/or get the lead]. The "cut and run" decision will be even more costly for the losing team.

Here's how I would imagine these three options would affect the average size / number of tricks in a hand:

Winner leads: This is the default, I guess.

Closer leads: This would, I imagine, lead to shorter tricks overall, since it gives either team a strong incentive to see the trick closed.

Next leads: This would, I imagine, lead to longer tricks overall, as there is a built in disincentive to be the one who pulls the trigger.

I'd consider "more tricks" the preferred effect.

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NateStraight wrote:
Closer leads: This would, I imagine, lead to shorter tricks overall, since it gives either team a strong incentive to see the trick closed.

I think I like this idea the best also, but it has the negative side effect of uneven hand counts. I'm just thinking out loud here, just to give you some ideas to let everyone keep the same amount of cards in hand:

1) You could put, say, 8 cards aside, face up or down. Every time someone closes a trick, the closer leads to the next and draws a new card from the draw pile and adds it to his hand. The best thing would be to let only the top card of the draw pile be face up I guess.

or

2) One of the cards of the trick just closed is selected by the player on the left of the trick closer, and the trick closer has to take that card and put it in his hand. Then, the trick closer leads to the next trick.

These are just some wild ideas, so ignore them if you want. Of the two I prefer the second option. That option has two good consequences; it makes the players have the same amount of cards in hand and it increases the number of cards played in the game.
 
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Seabie wrote:
2) One of the cards of the trick just closed is selected by the player on the left of the trick closer, and the trick closer has to take that card and put it in his hand. Then, the trick closer leads to the next trick.


Now that's an interesting and bizarre suggestion.

It seems it would have an undesirable side-effect [if I'm reasoning this out correctly in my head] of making either the last player in the deal always the last player to play to a hand [the "last say" as it were] if you played the hand out to the end, or of making the dealer always the first player out of cards if you ended the hand when a player ran out of cards.

It doesn't seem to combo well with "trick closer leads".

 
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NateStraight wrote:
It seems it would have an undesirable side-effect [...] of making either the last player in the deal always the last player to play to a hand [...] if you played the hand out to the end, or of making the dealer always the first player out of cards if you ended the hand when a player ran out of cards.

True. I would make the end condition "once someone has to play to a trick, but doesn't have any cards to play, the hand ends and the trick is left unfinished." in this case. I think that fits best.
 
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Seabie wrote:
NateStraight wrote:
It seems it would have an undesirable side-effect [...] of making either the last player in the deal always the last player to play to a hand [...] if you played the hand out to the end, or of making the dealer always the first player out of cards if you ended the hand when a player ran out of cards.

True. I would make the end condition "once someone has to play to a trick, but doesn't have any cards to play, the hand ends and the trick is left unfinished." in this case. I think that fits best.


All that amounts to is that the hand ends when there are three cards remaining in players' hands, and the dealer will have had one extra play vis-a-vis the other players.
 
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Only if the trick ends when the dealer plays his last card. If not, the other players have a chance to end the trick.

And even in the case the dealer ends the trick, the dealer has to start a new one. With only four cards left to, chances are slim the trick will finish. But, the player left to the dealer gets to decide which card the dealer has to lead, so that player has some extra influence how the last trick will look like.
 
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A consideration:

"Closer leads" kind of screws up the current rule about tricks having to be at least 4 cards even if they close early which P.D. questioned the necessity of here. If I adopt "closer leads", it would definitely be best to drop that other rule.
 
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Without playing the game (yet!) I would go for:

- closer leads
- player to left of closer gives a card back to closer
- no restriction on the minimum number of cards in a trick

Those are just my two cents.
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Seabie wrote:

- player to left of closer gives a card back to closer


This is a neat idea, but it won't entirely fix the problem.

Instead of having the player who closed the trick be one card down relative to everyone else, it will be the player on their left instead.
 
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Daniël Muilwijk
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I meant "player to left of closer gives one card of the just played trick back to closer".
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P.D. Magnus
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Seabie wrote:
I meant "player to left of closer gives one card of the just played trick back to closer".


Ooo... interesting.
 
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