Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Showing posts with label Knock-offs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Knock-offs. Show all posts

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Poor Man's Resistance

I stumbled upon a review of The Resistance and immediately thought two things:
(1) this game of hidden identity and "social deduction" should beat Are You a Werewolf? hands down (no small feat, since I'm a huge Werewolf fan) and
(2) this game can be played easily with a small subset of a normal deck of cards.

The game is designed for five to ten players.  Players secretly determine their identities as rebels (attempting to conduct missions) or spies (attempting to sabotage the rebels' efforts) as follows:  From a normal deck of cards, select a number of face cards equal to the number of players such that a third of the cards (rounded up) are red face cards and the remainder are black face cards.  Shuffle the selected face cards and deal them face down, one to each player.  Each player looks at his or her face card to determine whether he or she is a rebel (black) or spy (red).  These secret identity cards remain face down in front of the players for the remainder of the game.

One player is randomly selected as the leader.  Players shield their eyes so that no one can see any of the others.  The leader announces, "spies reveal," and the spies (only) open their eyes and look to see who their fellow spies are.  The leader announces, "spies hide," and the spies close their eyes.  The leader announces "everyone open," and all players open their eyes and begin the game.  By this procedure, all spies should know who all the spies are (and therefore who all the rebels are), whereas each rebel knows only his own identity.  Unlike Werewolf, this is the only occasion in the game when it will be necessary for players to cover their eyes.

The remainder of the game consists of a series of missions.  For each mission, the leader assigns several players to participate in the mission.  The number of people that the leader assigns depends on both the number of players in the game and the mission number to be executed; it varies from two to three players (in the first attempted mission) to three to five players (in the fifth attempted mission) and can be discerned in the table appearing in an image of the gameboard posted on boardgamegeek.

Once the mission team has been selected, players vote openly whether to approve or disapprove the selected mission team.  [Edited for correctness.  In my original post, I mistakenly indicated that the vote to approve or disapprove the mission team was done by secret ballot. - PDO]

If the mission team has been disapproved, the mission is aborted, the role of leader rotates one player to the left, and play resumes as above with the new leader assigning a new mission team to be voted on again by all the players.  (Note that the aborted mission does not "count" as an attempted mission, so the number of players on the mission team does not change.)  If five consecutive missions are aborted, then the game is over, and the spies win.

If the mission team has been approved, then the mission team members (only) each get one red non-face card and one black non-face card.  From these two cards, each mission team member secretly selects a card to execute (black) or sabotage (red) the mission.  Each mission team member turns in his vote face-down to the leader, who shuffles the votes and then turns them face up to determine whether the mission succeeds (all black) or fails (at least one red).  There is an exception to the requirements for a successful mission:  In games of at least seven players, on the fourth mission only, at least two sabotage (red) votes are required to cause a mission to fail.

If this was the third successful mission, then the game is over, and the rebels win.  If this was the third failed mission, then the game is over, and the spies win.  Otherwise, the role of leader rotates one player to the left, and play resumes as above with the new leader assigning a new mission team to be voted on by all the players.

The brilliance of this game relative to Werewolf is that it requires no referee (i.e. everybody gets to play) and - most important to me - does not eliminate players over the course of the game.  Also nice is that it is only necessary for players to cover their eyes once at the beginning of the game to allow spies to identify one another (unlike Werewolf, which requires players to close their eyes in every round).

The reviews I have read and seen are quite exciting, and I look forward to trying this game out with a decent-sized group.

I should add that the original game comes with a small expansion set of cards that provide the leader with some additional "powers" to make the game more interesting, so there's motivation for buying the game regardless.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Poor Man's Court of the Medici

In another of my unintentional series of knock-offs using a deck of playing cards, I was recently acquainted with the two-player card game Court of the Medici, and it wasn't long before I came up with a way to play the game using a standard deck of playing cards.  (I will add that reviews of the physical quality of CotM are very good, so playing the game this way means you miss out on the artwork of Richard James and the Z-Man production quality.)

Set-up
Remove one black king, one red king, and both jokers from a standard deck.
One player gets the 25 remaining black cards; the other the 25 remaining red cards. 
Each player shuffles his or her respective cards and lays out four in the middle of the table to form an "Inner Court" of eight cards. 
Each player also deals himself or herself a hand of five cards. 
The player whose Inner Court has the higher total (Jesters treated as "one") goes first.

Card descriptions
Queens are treated as "Ministers," which are worth zero points but have special abilities.
Aces are treated as "Ladies-in-waiting," worth one.
Jacks are treated as "Jesters," wild cards from one to ten in value.
Kings are treated as "Dukes," worth 15.
All other cards are worth their face value.

Play
In a turn, a player plays a card from the hand to the table, then draws a new card from the deck to the hand.
Playing a card can take one of the following four actions:
1.  Play a card alone to the table in front of himself or herself as part of the "Outer Court." 
2.  Play a card on top of an existing card - Inner or Outer Court, of either color - to build an alliance.  (The card is played in an overlapping manner so that the value[s] of the card[s] beneath can still be seen.) 
3.  Play a card on top of an existing card so that the new total value of the alliance equals that of any other alliance or of a solitary card anywhere on the table to form a conspiracy.  The alliance or solitary card whose value was matched is now discarded from the game.
4.  "Plan for the future" by taking a card from the hand and placing it on the bottom of the deck, then drawing a replacement from the top of the deck. 

Special abilities of cards
When building an alliance, a Minister may be used to discard all other cards in that alliance.
When building an alliance, a Lady-in-waiting may be used to disperse all other cards in that alliance as separate, stand-alone cards in the respective Inner or Outer Court.
When played, a Jester assumes a value from 1 to 10 declared by the person playing it at the time.
When a Jester is played to form a conspiracy, the person playing it may also declare a new value for one other Jester already on the table.

Game end
If both players "plan for the future" three times in a row, the game ends in a draw.
When one player has no cards in the Inner Court or when both players have no more cards to play, the game ends, and whoever has more points on the table wins.

I look forward to trying this out with my wife soon.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Poor Man's Triumvirate

I read Chris Norwood's recent post on Triumvirate, and it intrigued me enough to learn about the game.  I'm always on the look-out for new two-player games to try out with my wife.  On boardgamegeek.com, I found Ender Wiggin's review, which was sufficiently descriptive that I was able to reproduce the game play with a modified deck of regular playing cards (in true cheapskate fashion).

The premise of Triumivirate is that the players are playing cards to represent political machinations to place Caesar, Pompey, or Crassus on the throne as Emperor of Rome.  When one of the three nobles becomes Emperor, the game ends, and the player who has secretly pledged greater support to that noble house wins the game.

To assemble a knock-off for Triumivirate, I removed all the clubs, all the tens, and the two jokers from a normal deck of playing cards.  The three remaining suits - spades, hearts, diamonds - represent the three Roman noble houses of Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus.  The face cards in each suit are used to track the progress of each faction, so that when spades (or hearts or diamonds) wins a hand, the Jack of spades (or hearts or diamonds) is turned face up.  When spades wins a second hand, the Queen of spades is turned face up, and when spades wins a third hand, the King of spades is turned face up to indicate that the "leader of the house of spades" has won ascendancy as Emperor of Rome.

The Ace through nine of spades, hearts, and diamonds are used to win tricks on behalf of the three suits.  When three tricks are won in a single suit, that hand is over, that suit wins the hand, and that suit's next face card is turned face up to represent progress in that suit toward becoming Emperor.  The four, six, and eight of each suit are also eligible to use as "pledges" for the players each to secretly support one of the three factions.  At the end of the game, players reveal the cards they have pledged in each suit, and the player with the greater total in the "winning suit" wins the game.

The details of how to play each hand and how to win tricks are well described in Ender Wiggins review on boardgamegeek, so I won't belabor the mechanics here.

Kathy and I tried two games on Tuesday evening.  The first game was a learning game as we got familiar with the mechanics.  The second game gave us a little more appreciation for the tactics of vying for ascendancy and throwing support behind the faction you think will win while undermining your opponent's efforts to advance the faction to which you think he or she has pledged the most support.  In the end, we both agreed that it is an interesting game, but we didn't get as excited about it as we have about other games.  We'll probably try it again some time, but it won't be on our short list, at least not right away.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Poor Man's Incan Gold

I read an entertaining review yesterday of Incan Gold (designers Bruno Faidutti and Alan Moon, publisher Fred Distribution's Gryphon Games).  I really like risk management games (also known as "push-your-luck games"), even though I'm pretty bad at them.  (I got eliminated early in the Can't Stop tournament at PrezCon, which my buddy Grant G. won.)  In the case of Incan Gold, players advance into an ancient ruin to find and share treasure but risk encountering monsters that can force them to drop their loot and run.  At any point, each player has an opportunity to take his share of the loot back to his tent, which guarantees that he keeps what he has but means that the players who continue get a bigger share of whatever additional treasure turns up.

I found the mechanics and components to be straightforward enough that I could recreate the gameplay (if not the artwork) with simple gaming components.  From a normal deck of playing cards, I assembled the two jokers, the twelve face cards, and one each of black ace, two, three, four, five, seven, and nine, and red ace, three, four, five, and seven.  Each player gets a different colored pawn, and a set of poker chips serves as gold treasure.

In my version of the game, the aces and number cards represent treasure.  Black cards are worth their face value in gold (with an ace representing a value of one).  Red cards are worth their face value plus ten (so that the red seven is worth 17).  Jokers represent single artifacts worth ten each.  Face cards represent monsters.

[What follows is a description of the rules of the game, but the review I read illustrated them nicely and with a touch of humor.]

The game consists of five rounds.  Each round starts with the deck being shuffled and a card being turned face up to start the journey into the ancient ruin.  If it is a treasure card, the players divide the loot equally.  Now, players have two piles of money over the course of the game.  One pile is their "loot bag," which is where they add found loot but is also what is at risk of being dropped if a monster scares them away.  The other pile is their tent, which is where they dump their loot bag when they decide to leave the ruin and keep what they've found.  Treasure in the tent can never be lost.

When treasure from a treasure card is divided evenly among the players, any remainder is left on the card.  Each player now has an opportunity to decide to go back to his tent and keep the money in his loot bag, or to keep going deeper into the ancient ruin in search for more treasure.  This decision is simultaneous among all the players.  The way it is executed is that all players take their pawns and put both hands under the table.  All players then place one closed hand on top of the table.  When everybody is ready, all players open their hands.  A hand with a pawn in it means that the player has decided to go back to his tent; an empty hand means that the player has decided to continue with the expedition.

If any players decide to go back to their tents, they divide evenly among themselves any treasure that had been left on any cards so far in the expedition.  Then they move all the treasure in their loot bags to their tents, and they are done for the round.  If any players decided to continue with the expedition, they place their pawns on the table next to the face up cards, and another card is drawn and placed face up alongside the last one.

If the card drawn is a face card and it is the first face card of that suit (spade, heart, diamond, or club), then nothing happens.  Players again decide whether to continue or to turn back.  If the card drawn is a face card and it is the second face card of that suit, then all players who are still in the expedition lose all the treasure they have accumulated in their loot bags, no one gets any of the treasure left on any cards, all the cards are shuffled into the deck, and the round is over.  (Players that had previously left the expedition and returned to their tents suffer no loss.)

The Jokers represent special artifacts.  When a Joker is turned up, poker chips representing ten gold are placed on the card.  An artifact can't be divided among players, so if more than one player is still in the expedition, the ten gold stay on the card.  Later, if exactly one player leaves the expedition and returns to his tent, he can retrieve the ten-gold artifact along with all the other treasure still on cards.  If two or more players leave the expedition simultaneously, none gets the artifact (because they squabble among themselves), and it stays on the card.

A round ends when all players have returned to their tents or when a second monster (face card) of a suit is turned up and scares everybody out.  After five rounds, the player with the most treasure in his tent wins.

My son Liam, my wife Kathy, and I tried out this home-made knock-off of Incan Gold yesterday evening, and Liam bolstered my working hypothesis on teenagers and risk assessment.  He was always still in the expedition when the second monster of a suit came up, so he ended up with no treasure after five rounds.  I ended up winning because I adopted a thumb rule of bailing out of the expedition when three different suits had turned up; in my mind, the risk of getting a second monster of any of those three suits was generally too high to justify hoping for more treasure.  Often, I was the only one to leave the expedition, so that meant I got all the leftover treasure on the cards at that point for myself as well.

As I looked at the card distribution, I noticed that most of the treasure cards are prime numbers or at most the product of two prime numbers.  I find that significant because the intent of the designer seems to have been to try to have some remainder to leave on the card after the treasure is divided among the players, at least more often than not.  (There is no six-, eight-, 12-, or 16-gold treasure card, which would frequently divide evenly among a typical number of expedition members.)  The interesting effect is that as the expedition progresses, the motivation to bail out becomes stronger; not only does turning back allow a player to keep what he has in his loot bag and avoid the risk of a monster, but it provides the added "carrot" of picking up some or all of the leftover loot on the previous cards.