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Subject: [WIP][2013 2p PnP] Ruta (Decktet Game) - Complete rss

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Gene Moore
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Ruta

A Decktet game for two players, in which you are a merchant attempting to claim as many trade routes throughout the kingdom as you can.

This game is an entry in the 2013 Two-Player Print-and-Play Design Contest.
Category: Best Traditional/Decktet/Tarot Card Game

Rules Last Updated on 4/24/13

Components

1 Decktet extended deck
20 tokens in 2 colors (10 per player; suited tokens are optional)

Setup

Create a map of the kingdom by removing the following 15 cards from the deck, and arranging them in a 5x3 grid on the table. These cards represent the people and places with which you are trying to establish trade routes.

1st Row: the Sailor, the Forest, the Mountain, the Diplomat, the Penitent
2nd Row: the Mill, the Harvest, the Castle, the Watchman, the Desert
3rd Row: the Light Keeper, the Consul, the Market, the Borderland, the Island



With the remaining cards in the deck, deal 2 to each player, then turn 2 cards face up on the table to create a draft board. Form a draw pile with the rest.

Gameplay

During a player's turn, one of two actions may be taken:

1. Take a card
2. Claim a trade route

Taking Cards

A player may choose to take a card either from the draft board or the draw pile. Cards taken from the draft board are replaced by the top card of the draw pile. During the game, a discard pile will be started. When the draw pile is empty, shuffle the discard pile and turn it face down to become the new draw pile.

There is one alternative to taking from the draft board or the draw pile. If a player plays The Excuse, they may take any card they wish from the discard pile, and add it to their hand. The Excuse is then discarded.

Claiming Trade Routes

A trade route is any orthogonal connection between adjacent cards on the map. To claim a route, a player must play from their hand enough cards to equal or exceed the total rank of the two cards in the route, and in a common suit (or suits) between them. Aces count as 1, and Pawns, Courts, and Crowns all count as 10.

For example, to claim the route between the Consul and the Harvest, a player must play at least 20 Moons from their hand; the Pawn and Court add up to 20, and Moons is the only common suit. To claim the route between the Mountain and the Diplomat, however, they can play any combination of Moons and Suns which add up to at least 12, since both Moons and Suns are common suits.

When claiming a route, the cards that are played go into a discard pile, and the player places one of their tokens in the area adjoining the cards on the map. Only one player may claim each route.

Exact Change

If a player is able to claim a route by matching the indicated rank exactly (for example, playing exactly 14 Suns to claim the Diplomat/Penitent route), then the player gets an extra turn. There are no restrictions on additional turns, and if another route can be claimed with exact change, then the player gets another extra turn.

Ending the Game

The game ends when one player is out of tokens.

Scoring and Winning

Each route claimed by a player earns that player 1 point.

In addition, each player's longest continuous route earns bonus points for that player according to its length. A continuous route is a path of one or more tokens, which can be traversed without backtracking. A 5-token path, for example, would score 5 bonus points.

The player with the most points wins.

Variants

Aces

Aces can be bothersome on the draft board. While they have a small amount of use for making exact change, it is often not advantageous for a player to take one. To mitigate this problem, one of the following rules may be used during the game:

1. At any time during a player's turn, they may remove an ace from the draft board by giving it to their opponent, and then replacing it with the top card from the draw pile.

2. If a player chooses to take an ace from the draft board, they may take an extra card in the same turn (after replacing the ace).

3. Remove the aces during setup, and deal three of them to each player. When claiming a route, an ace may be used to subvert the route's suit requirement. As long as the ace is of the correct suit, the remaining cards used to claim a route need only to fulfill the rank requirement. The ace is not counted in the total rank. (For example, the Consul/Harvest route can be claimed with the Ace of Moons and any other cards adding up to at least 20.) Each ace may be used once per game, and is removed from play after use.
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Gene Moore
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Re: [WIP][2013 2p PnP] Ruta (Alternate Title: Decktet To Ride) - Playtesting
The biggest issue that I've encountered so far is that the suits are not evenly distributed throughout the location cards. I really wanted to make a point of only using location cards on the map, but as it is, only one route uses Moons, and only two routes use Knots. Once those are claimed, any Moons and Knots cards that are drawn are worthless. In playtesting last night, we reached a point where the Ace of Moons and the Ace of Knots were on the draft board, making the draft board worthless as well.

I'm also not sure about the endgame. Playing until one person is out of tokens made sense originally, but the game dragged on as we kept drawing worthless cards waiting for somebody to get Leaves (the last remaining routes in our game required them).
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todd sanders
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Re: [WIP][2013 2p PnP] Ruta (Alternate Title: Decktet To Ride) - Playtesting
subscribing to this as it is a fascinating mashup of two game systems
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Ghislain LEVEQUE
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Re: [WIP][2013 2p PnP] Ruta (Alternate Title: Decktet To Ride) - Playtesting
lwdgames wrote:
The biggest issue that I've encountered so far is that the suits are not evenly distributed throughout the location cards. I really wanted to make a point of only using location cards on the map, but as it is, only one route uses Moons, and only two routes use Knots. Once those are claimed, any Moons and Knots cards that are drawn are worthless. In playtesting last night, we reached a point where the Ace of Moons and the Ace of Knots were on the draft board, making the draft board worthless as well.


Maybe you should find a way to treat aces as "wilds" (like the locomotives in TTR)

lwdgames wrote:
I'm also not sure about the endgame. Playing until one person is out of tokens made sense originally, but the game dragged on as we kept drawing worthless cards waiting for somebody to get Leaves (the last remaining routes in our game required them).


Maybe "the game ends when 15 tokens have been placed" ?

Another idea : if some routes are harder because they use more "common" suits, maybe award them more points ?

Edit: anyway, great idea !!!!
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Gene Moore
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Re: [WIP][2013 2p PnP] Ruta (Alternate Title: Decktet To Ride) - Playtesting
courtjus wrote:
Maybe you should find a way to treat aces as "wilds" (like the locomotives in TTR)

Another idea : if some routes are harder because they use more "common" suits, maybe award them more points ?

Good ideas. I'll try out a few possibilities and see if they work.
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Gene Moore
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Re: [WIP][2013 2p PnP] Ruta (Alternate Title: Decktet To Ride) - Playtesting
Okay, I made a couple of changes. As much as I wanted to construct the map from only the location cards, I found that the new layout works much better. It's made up of both location and personality cards, with a single event card (the Harvest) in there. It still accomplishes one of my design goals: to have the kingdom represented in a cohesive and meaningful manner.

I also changed the longest route scoring to be a per-segment score for each player, rather than just 2 points for the overall longest route. More interesting that way.

Not sure about having the aces be wild. I'm working through two other possibilities: allowing a player to draw an extra card when they choose an ace from the draft board, or dealing out a new draft board when both cards are aces (as TTR does with locomotives).
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Jacob Valdez
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Re: [WIP][2013 2p PnP] Ruta (Alternate Title: Decktet To Ride) - Playtesting
Tried one game tonight using the current rules, and so far, it seems to work pretty well. We haven't tried it yet, but if you're looking for an idea to make Aces more desirable, an offhand comment during the game suggested a possible rule. What if you borrowed a mechanic from Alhambra, where if you pay for a route exactly, you get a second turn? most of the time, we overpaid on our routes by a bit, so at first glance, we don't think it would unbalance the game, but we thought it would be worth playtesting.
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Gene Moore
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Re: [WIP][2013 2p PnP] Ruta (Alternate Title: Decktet To Ride) - Playtesting
Thanks for trying out the game! I appreciate the feedback, and I'll give your suggestion a try.
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Jacob Valdez
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Re: [WIP][2013 2p PnP] Ruta (Alternate Title: Decktet To Ride) - Playtesting
Looking at it in more detail as I have time (since I'm at lunch with nobody to play at the moment, and I was very intrigued by this game). I must say I was very impressed with the balance of the new board. I'm not sure how useful it is to anyone, but here's the breakdown by the numbers:

Border - Suit(s) Needed - Total Ranks
Sailor/Forest - Leaves - 9
Forest/Mountain - Moons - 9
Mountain/Diplomat - Moons/Suns - 12
Diplomat/Penitent - Suns - 14
Mill/Harvest - Leaves - 18
Harvest/Castle - Suns - 17
Castle/Watchman - Knots - 17
Watchman/Desert - Wyrms - 12
LightKeeper/Consul - Waves/Knots - 20
Consul/Market - Knots - 16
Market/Borderland - Leaves - 16
Borderland/Island - Waves/Wyrms - 20
Sailor/Mill - Waves/Leaves - 12
Mill/Lightkeeper - Waves - 18
Forest/Harvest - Moons/Leaves - 15
Harvest/Consul - Moons - 20
Mountain/Castle - Suns - 11
Castle/Market - Knots - 13
Diplomat/Watchman - Moons - 18
Watchman/Borderland - Wyrms - 20
Penitent/Desert - Suns/Wyrms - 8
Desert/Island - Suns/Wyrms - 12

Borders By Suits (Points Required)
Total Borders - 22
Dual Shared Suits - 7 (8, 8, 12, 12, 15, 20, 20)
Moons - 5 (9, 12*, 15*, 18, 20)
Suns - 5 (8*, 11, 12, 12*, 14, 17)
Waves - 4 (12*, 18, 20*, 20*)
Leaves - 5 (9, 12*, 15*, 16, 18)
Wyrms - 5 (8*, 12*, 12, 20, 20*)
Knots - 4 (13, 16, 17, 20*)

Borders By Points Required
Takes 8 - 1 (Dual)
Takes 9 - 2
Takes 11 - 1
Takes 12 - 4 (3 Dual)
Takes 13 - 1
Takes 14 - 1
Takes 15 - 1 (Dual)
Takes 16 - 2
Takes 17 - 2
Takes 18 - 3
Takes 20 - 4 (2 Dual)

I don't think you can come up with a better distribution of the suits on the board. It is interesting to see how the points required seem weighted toward either end of the distribution, rather than a bell curve. Also, some suits will be easier to take borders for, whether by ranks required or the dual-suit allowing more cards to count. I wonder if there would be a good way to work in the scaling points, like TtR does for track lengths. If you did, the most likely candidate would be for some suits to be worth more than others. Have the games been relatively close in the games you've played so far? If so, you might not need to correct anything else -- it felt pretty solid as it is, except for, as you said, looking for a way to make it worth giving up a turn to pick up an Ace.
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Gene Moore
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Re: [WIP][2013 2p PnP] Ruta (Alternate Title: Decktet To Ride) - Playtesting
So far with the current setup, the games have been close, but I also haven't had as much time to playtest as I'd like.

My wife and I had the same discussion about making some routes worth more than others, but I like the ease with which you can score the game right now. It's very simple to just count the number of tokens used, and find each player's longest route for bonus points.

In the handful of games we have played, the "smallest" routes (Sailor/Forest, Forest/Mountain, Penitent/Desert, and Desert/Island) haven't been as unfairly weighted as they might seem. In one game in particular, I jumped out to an early lead by claiming 3 of those routes, then had to rebuild my hand because I was out of cards. My wife went on to win that game, 16-12. I think it helps that the small routes are mostly along the outside, so you still have to pay to get into the middle of the board.

Great analysis, by the way.
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Steffen Eichenberg
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Re: [WIP][2013 2p PnP] Ruta (Alternate Title: Decktet To Ride) - Playtesting
What a great idea! I will give this a try (weekend).
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Jacob Valdez
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Re: [WIP][2013 2p PnP] Ruta (Alternate Title: Decktet To Ride) - Playtesting
Okay, we played three more games tonight (so I could conveniently log the scores of each on a cribbage board). While doing so, I noticed an error in my earlier tables (I had mistakenly counted the Island as 6 wyrms -- I corrected that in an edit). We played each game a little bit differently, with the scores as follows:

Game 1: The current ruleset. At first, we hadn't thought about the strategy of concentrating on building a long route, so our scores reflect that. Scored 15 to 13 (10 to 9, and a longest route of 5 to 4).

Game 2: Added the exact pay rule. We noted a few turns in that we found ourselves specifically saving up to pay exactly, so I decided to use that game to test the strategy of one person purely trying to save up and ONLY pay exactly, while the other just tried to take borders, although they did get the extra turn if they happened to pay exactly. Paying only with exact change isn't a good strategy -- while I managed to place all but one piece, I found myself with a hand full of cards I couldn't use, since they would involve overpaying, and then losing the chance to play my cards when my opponent just happened to take one I was saving up for. As a result, I couldn't pull off the point gain by keeping as many of my routes connected as possible. Scored 20 to 13 (10 to 9, and a longest route of 10 to 4).

Game 3: Left in the exact pay rule, but no restrictions on strategy (so we could pay exactly or not, as we chose). Again, we found ourselves a little more likely to build up our hand for a while before claiming a route, to the point where my wife actually managed to take 4 turns, paying for three borders exactly, and then drawing. She was trying to catch up, because while she'd been saving, I'd gotten lucky and happened to take a double and a triple turn, so I was down to three tokens left, while she still had 7 to place. I managed to keep my lead, though, and we ended up with a score of 19 to 14 (10 to 8, and a longest route of 9 to 6).

We noticed the game felt considerably more tense with the exact pay rule, as it was possible to lay down several tokens at once, pulling into a comfortable-looking lead before having to start refilling your hand, not to mention getting to take a draw immediately after using up so many points. Playing with the regular rules, we seemed to basically go back and forth. One person claims, then by the time they build their hand back up, the other person had claimed a route.

We definitely were more likely to draw the Aces, shooting for that extra turn. Now, since we were primarily focusing on our own game (most of the games we play don't have much picking on your opponent as part of the gameplay), we tended not to try to disrupt each other's long routes, even though that would be a good strategy to sabotage bonus points. Each of us were too busy just building our own long route on opposite sides of the board. There's no point in putting in a rule to force you to do otherwise - that just happens to be our style of play.

Overall, I like it -- it's a nice tableaux game for the Decktet, with just enough strategy to make you think a little bit. My wife says she actually likes it better than Ticket to Ride, especially with the addition of the exact pay = extra turn rule. We'll keep you posted on how the scores run if we play enough games with it for someone to get all the way around the cribbage board (based on the scores, that'd be about 6 to 10 games, unless we adjust our strategy to mess with each other more).
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Gene Moore
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Re: [WIP][2013 2p PnP] Ruta (Alternate Title: Decktet To Ride) - Playtesting
Interesting. We haven't tried the exact pay rule yet. I was concerned that it would add confusion to the game. We'll work that into our next session.

Tonight we played a couple of games with the rule that if you take an ace from the draft board, you get an extra card (only once per turn). With that rule, the motivation for taking an ace is that you get to alter the draft board for free, and possibly get a card that you really want as a result. It worked pretty well for that purpose.

The three short routes are definitely very enticing; I found myself going straight to them in both games tonight. If it starts to look like too much of weak spot on the board over time, I'd entertain the idea of making the four 20-rank routes worth 2 points each. That would be one way of balancing the routes without requiring a pen and paper to keep score.
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Jacob Valdez
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Re: [WIP][2013 2p PnP] Ruta (Alternate Title: Decktet To Ride) - Playtesting
We'll try the Ace draw idea on its own, and with the exact pay rule next time we playtest (not tonight, she's off for a girl's night out).

My gut tells me that the 20-point routes aren't that difficult (she had that side of the board, and picked up several of them), since I think there's still a good number of 10-ranked cards in the deck. When I get a moment, I'll lay out the board, take note of ranks, and do a chart for you of what's left in the deck, so we can look at probabilities.

By the way, since I haven't mentioned it before, I like Ruta as the title better -- it fits in more with all the unusual Decktet game names more than a pun on Ticket to Ride.
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Gene Moore
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Re: [WIP][2013 2p PnP] Ruta (Alternate Title: Decktet To Ride) - Playtesting
Throkda wrote:
By the way, since I haven't mentioned it before, I like Ruta as the title better -- it fits in more with all the unusual Decktet game names more than a pun on Ticket to Ride.

Yeah, the funny thing is that the entire concept for this game came about when the "Decktet to Ride" pun popped into my head. For that reason, I'm partial to it, but even I have to admit that Ruta (Spanish for "route") fits better with the existing slate of Decktet games.
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Nate K
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Re: [WIP][2013 2p PnP] Ruta (Alternate Title: Decktet To Ride) - Playtesting
You could subtitle it. Ruta: Decktet to Ride.
 
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Gene Moore
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Re: [WIP][2013 2p PnP] Ruta (Alternate Title: Decktet To Ride) - Playtesting
kurthl33t wrote:
You could subtitle it. Ruta: Decktet to Ride.

Maybe, but since it's really just inspired by TTR, it should have its own identity.
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Jacob Valdez
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Re: [WIP][2013 2p PnP] Ruta (Alternate Title: Decktet To Ride) - Playtesting
Okay, pant pant, yet another long analysis post, to see what's actually left in the deck to claim borders with.

Remaining Cards by Suit
Moons Left - A, 2, 3, 6, 7, 9, C, K
Suns Left - A, 3, 5, 9, C, K
Leaves Left - A, 2, 3, 7, 9, C, C, K
Waves Left - A, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, K
Wyrms Left - A, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, C, K
Knots Left - A, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, C, K

Since it would be really ridiculous to figure up all possible permutations to capture a border, I just opted to figure up the number of ways to take a border using only 1 or 2 cards, which would be the best possible circumstance. Obviously, I included all the overpayment options. For the low costing spaces, I omitted the totals that used a card that could have taken it singly (no point in counting A/9 to capture an 8)

Border Costs by Suit (# Combinations)
Moons Only - 9 (8), 18 (3), 20 (1)
Suns Only - 11 (11), 14 (6), 17 (3)
Leaves Only - 9 (6), 16 (9), 18 (4)
Waves Only - 18 (1)
Wyrms Only - 12 (22), 20 (1)
Knots Only - 13 (15), 16 (6), 17 (6)
Moons/Suns - 12 (45)
Waves/Knots - 20 (3)
Waves/Wyrms - 20 (3)
Waves/Leaves - 12 (58)
Moons/Leaves - 15 (37)
Suns/Wyrms - 8 (16), 12 (59)


I'll spare you the combination list. Wow, it was a beating checking for duplicates with the cross/suit borders. shake

Obviously, using those criteria, it looks like the 20s are very difficult to get, but odds are, you will be paying for those with at least 3 cards, in which the number of possible combinations jumps significantly, since most of the suits have 7, 9, a Crown, and the King in the deck. Factoring in that, I don't think taking the high-cost borders is difficult enough to warrant extra points. I think when you added the "longest route" rule, it took care of balancing the scores. If that feels too even, you could score it where the person with the longest route scores 1 point for each segment more than their opponent's longest route.

We'll see how this weekend's playtesting goes this weekend, but aside from making a decision on the Ace rule options, I feel like any other rules modifications would just be tweaking for the sake of tinkering -- the scores and possibilities seem fairly well balanced after the games I've played, and your report that your scores have been pretty close would seem to bear that out.
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Steffen Eichenberg
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Re: [WIP][2013 2p PnP] Ruta (Alternate Title: Decktet To Ride) - Playtesting
My wife and i just finished two games of Ruta.

First of all: we like it a lot. And we like it the way it is.

We played with the base rules but without the excuse (to keep things simple) and added optional rule 1) (exact payment rule).

What we think: there is no need for optional rule 2). Because of optional rule 1) the aces are valuable enough. And there is no need for optional rule 3) either. It is not that hard to buy a route for 20. And because you try to get the longest route, the 20 routes are a must have. The incentive of getting the longest route is motivation enough to spend that much. Optional rule 1) is a must have. It generates extra tension (the extra turn is a real advantage).

Last but not least: we have another suggestion for a name for the game: "Bridges" or "Bridges of ???" (insert cool name here). We played with square decktet tokens we placed between the cards, and it looked a lot like islands or districts connected with bridges.

We definately will play Ruta again. Thank you for a good new game.

We wish you good luck with your game in the contest!
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Steffen Eichenberg
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Re: [WIP][2013 2p PnP] Ruta (Alternate Title: Decktet To Ride) - Playtesting
I forgot one thing: it would be fantastic if you manage to add one or two additional 'maps'. That will keep things fresh.
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Gene Moore
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Re: [WIP][2013 2p PnP] Ruta (Alternate Title: Decktet To Ride) - Playtesting
Thanks for playing the game Steffen, and Jacob thank you for all of your analysis.

I still need to get some games in with the exact change rule myself, but it sounds like that one is a big hit.

As far as alternate maps, there are definitely different ways that you can approach it. It would be easy enough just to pick a few ranks from the deck, take all of the cards from those ranks, and arrange them in such a way that there is at least one common suit in each direction. I almost chose to do that when my original setup (using only location cards on the map) didn't work out as I hoped. From a design standpoint, however, I wanted to tell a story with the "kingdom". The cards that I chose, and their placement on the map were deliberate toward that purpose.

For a challenge, I think you could probably take all of the cards from 6 to Pawn, and get them into a 4x4 grid with the Pawns in the middle. You'd get a good map in terms of gameplay, but the storytelling aspect would be gone.
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Steffen Eichenberg
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Re: [WIP][2013 2p PnP] Ruta (Alternate Title: Decktet To Ride) - Playtesting

Wooops, we didn't notice that there was a story in the map. Sorry! whistle

I do not really care for a story, as long as the map is good. And i think it doesn't need a story. My wife said, that this game is a 'mathy' and abstract game, and because of that she likes it.

We will try to create a random map next time and report the results.

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P.D. Magnus
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Re: [WIP][2013 2p PnP] Ruta (Alternate Title: Decktet To Ride) - Playtesting
Since this was in the Board Game Design forum, instead of one of the Decktet forums, I didn't become aware of this thread until today. The game looks really interesting.

lwdgames wrote:
Yeah, the funny thing is that the entire concept for this game came about when the "Decktet to Ride" pun popped into my head. For that reason, I'm partial to it, but even I have to admit that Ruta (Spanish for "route") fits better with the existing slate of Decktet games.


I recommend against naming your game some variation on the title of an existing game. It suggests that it is just the other game, played with the Decktet.

Even though this is inspired by Ticket to Ride, it is not just a clone. The route cards are a defining feature of TtR, but they are entirely missing here. I wouldn't have thought of TtR by reading the rules if you hadn't explained the influence. (I was reminded of Alhambra, but this isn't a clone of Alhambra either!)

This is it's own game, and - if it's worth playing - it deserves its own title.
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Re: [WIP][2013 2p PnP] Ruta (Alternate Title: Decktet To Ride) - Playtesting
pmagnus wrote:
Since this was in the Board Game Design forum, instead of one of the Decktet forums, I didn't become aware of this thread until today.

I'm such a noob to BGG, I didn't even realize that there are Decktet forums.

I have the thread here because of the contest, but when the rules for Ruta are finalized, I hope to be able to add the game to the BGG database and the Decktet wiki.
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Steffen Eichenberg
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Re: [WIP][2013 2p PnP] Ruta (Alternate Title: Decktet To Ride) - Playtesting
A picture of one of our games. Green won.

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