Tag Archives: GDCU09

“Above the Salt!” – a prototype card game of Social Mobility

DRAFT – made public to shame me into finishing…

This is a prototype game concept using a standard pack of 52 cards plus 2 jokers, for 5 to 13 players, which can be played during a formal meal.


The title is inspired by the tradition of denoting the importance of guests at medieval/tudor dinner tables by the location of the salt cellar. If you were “above the salt” you were important to the host, nobility in favour with the King, etc, while those below the salt were those that had to be invited, poor relations, and so on.

Set up
Saltfoot – one of the jokers is placed on the table to denote the difference between nobility and peasant. For now, place it in the middle.

Cards are shuffled, then turned over until a series of Ace to King (of any suit) are retrieved, which represent the starting origin and current status of the players; known as the status pack. Cards that are not taken out are placed at the bottom of the pack. These are then filtered, depending on the number of players: There is always a King and Queen (representing the Court) and an Ace, Two and Three (representing the People). For more than 5 players, the remaining cards are chosen from outside in (Jack, Four, Ten, Five, etc) and unused cards are removed from play. These cards then become the Status Pack by shuffling and adding the Saltfoot (one of the jokers), which is then shuffled and dealt one to each player, who then shows it to all straight away. If this card is the Saltfoot the player taked another card and keeps the Saltfoot to place in front of them when they sit at table. This will determine, which players start as nobility and which start as peasants; if you are below the salt, then you are a peasant. The extreme cases are when face cards, (King, Queen or Jack) get the Saltfoot, in which case all number cards are peasants, or when the Ace or Two get it, in which case all players start off as nobles. Players then sit in the order of rank:

King at head of table, then in decending number order alternating right, left, e.g

Jack Nine Seven Five Three Ace
King  Court       TABLE  Noble     TABLE  Noble      TABLE SALTFOOT TABLE  Peasant TABLE Peasant  TABLE
Queen Ten Eight Six Four Two
Jack Six Three Ace
King Court        TABLE SALTFOOT TABLE Peasant    TABLE Peasant TABLE
Queen Nine Four Two
Jack Ace
Queen Two


“In French decks, the suits represent the four classes: Spades represent nobility, hearts stand for the clergy, diamonds represent merchants, and clubs are peasants.” —http://poker.about.com/od/pollsquizzesandfun/f/4suitsorigins.htm

“That leaves now the eight and nine to account for and define before we bring this card game to a halt. “Eight” is visitors we fete for the courses which they “ate” when they sat down with us all above the salt!” —http://www.brighthelmstone.net/ken_brown/deck_cards.php

Lesson 11 – Game Design Brainstorm

Lesson 11 of the Game Design Concepts on-line course has asked for three game ideas. The constraints are as follows:

1) Create a board game, card game, or tile-laying game  (that is, it must either have a board, cards, or tiles as physical components).
2) You may choose any theme you want, as long as it is original – do not use an existing IP (intellectual property).
3) You may not make a trivia game, or any other game that relies on large amounts of content
4) You may not use “roll-and-move” mechanics in any form.

In addition, add one of the following constraints. This is your choice, based entirely on your area of interest within game design:
* Design your game such that it has a strong embedded narrative that is interactive in some way. You will have to think of ways to tell a story through the player actions of a board game, and how to integrate narrative and game mechanics. If you are interested primarily in RPGs or other forms of storytelling, do this.
* Create a purely cooperative board game for two or more players, so that everyone wins or loses as a team. This is challenging for several reasons. The game must provide systems that are the opposition, since the players do not provide opposition to each other. Cooperative games generally have a problem where a single skilled player can direct all of the other players (since everyone is cooperating, after all), leading to an MDA Aesthetic where most of the players are bored because they are just being told what to do by another player. If you are interested in the social dynamics of games, choose this.
* Make a two-player head-to-head game with asymmetry: the players start with unequal resources, positions, capabilities, and so on… and yet they are balanced even though they are quite different. These games are not so hard to design the core rules for, but they are very difficult to balance. If you are interested in the technical and mathematical side of game design and game balance, try this.
* Create a game to teach any topic that is normally taught at the high school (pre-college) level. It is up to you whether to teach a narrow, specific fact or a broad concept. The challenge here, of course, is to start with a fun game and not have the focus on education get in the way of that. If you’re interested in “serious games” (games that have a purpose other than pure entertainment), then do this project.

So, as we all have to propose three ideas for feedback from other participants, I have decided to pitch ideas for the last three of the above optional constraints. Here they are:

A) cooperative game for two or more players.

Think Simcity meets the Slums. Players have to cooperate to create a viable city block with access to all the required facilities and resources for all. There is no enemy other than bad decisions. Game uses coloured and shape marked blocks to create a Scrabble like flat structure according to rules of play. Each round, one player takes the role of Mayor, to embed the game’s ability to oppose the other players.

B) Asymmetrical game for two.

Cease and Desist
Players each build up products and profits on the basis of hidden or patented IP (coloured shape tiles that are turned over and hidden, or revealed). These products are laid out in connected lines from the start tile. The nasty part is the process of patenting/IP licencing that may suddenly reveal another player as breaking the law. Negotiation/legal phases enable high stakes deals to be done to preserve your own profits.

C) Game to teach a topic

Credit Crunchies
Selling of bad loans on to other banks. How the stupidity all started and how not to do it again in Game form.

Lesson 9 – Put a story on a pre-existing game

Lesson 9 attempted to get the idea of narrative and story into games. Ian Schreiber posed the challenge of making the game Pente into a story mode. For reference, from his blog post, here are the original rules:

Players: 2

Place your stones to either create five-in-a-row, or to capture five pairs of your opponent’s pieces.

Place a grid-shaped board (you can use a Pente board or a Go board, or make one of your own – try making it 19×19) on a table between the players. Choose a player to go first.

Progression of play:
On your turn, choose a blank square and place your marker in that square. (You can use colored glass stones, or you can just write “X” and “O” on a piece of paper as with Tic-Tac-Toe.) If there are exactly two opposing markers in a straight line (orthogonally or diagonally) adjacent to where you just placed, and on the other side of the two opposing markers in the same line there is one piece of your own, then the two enemy markers are captured. Remove them from the board (erase the symbols if playing with pencil and paper), and put them off to the side to denote that you have made a capture. It is possible to make several captures on a single turn if there are several sequences of two-enemy-one-friendly radiating out from your placement in multiple directions.

Limitations to capturing:
Captures only take place when a piece is placed. It is legal to move into a place that causes an “X-O-O-X” or “O-X-X-O” line on the board, by placing in the middle. In such a case, the inner pieces are not captured.

If a player ever gets five of their own pieces adjacent in a straight line (orthogonally or diagonally), they win. If a player makes a total of five captures, they also win.

The Homeplay was to embed this story into the game without any rule changes.

Backstory: Alien Seed

What is the setting?
Anyone who has read Scott Sigler’s Infected and Contagious novels (or listened to the free Podcasts) will know that this SF Horror universe revolves about a subtle alien invasion through parasites controlling hosts. The game is an attempt to prevent the Triangles from forming in the body of infected victims. One player represents the infection, which from the novel IS sentient, and the other represents the FBI surgeon attempting to stop the alien parasites.

What do the pieces represent?
The player with the Black pieces is attempting to construct a viable alien parasite, which needs 5 connected DNA fragments in a line to signify an entity that is so fully embedded in the host that removal will kill the Human. The player with the White pieces is attempting to construct an effective anti-viral through highly illegal and experimental medical intervention by introducing nanites (tiny biological robots) in the bodies of hosts.

Why are you placing them?
Both the alien and the artificial FBI created DNA segments are being directed intelligently, and see the other as the most major immediate threat. Both nanites and alien Triangles are more powerful when networked. Both can, for a short time, stop the progression of the other. Placement is to stop the opposition or to work on constructing a viable entity to either take over (Black) or defend (White) the host body.


Did your story make a difference?
Very little playtesting was possible. However, the players who were familiar with Scott Sigler’s works commented mostly on the abstract nature of the 19×19 board, which did not in any way represent the various body organs or the host at all well.

Did it affect the play experience?
I think that, from limited evidence, the story element did change the strategy of the game, with several players reporting that they spread further, or clustered more, given the idea of infection and response from the story.

Or was it exactly the same as if there were no story at all?
For some players, given the lack of a representation of the human host, the game was indestinguishable.


Why do you think you got the reaction you did?
Sigler fan boys (myself included) liked the idea of this fairly incidious side to the novels, which was only covered in a few small elements of the books.

Do you think it would have been different if you had chosen a different story?
Yes. I think that the idea of nanites and intelligent virii fitted the abstraction well, and could not see how more symbolic story elements could be pulled off.

Lesson 8 – A game for Griefers

Lesson 8 of the Games Design Concepts on-line course was intended to investigate types of fun, with the homeplay challenging participants to create a game with the main mechanic being “griefing” (that is, deriving enjoyment from the act of ruining other people’s enjoyment). We had to create just the concept (no rules, etc) for a game built to appeal specifically to griefers (i.e. Bartle’s “Killer” player type).

The Uneasy Edge of Edgy Uneasiness: A Tim Langdell Simulator

Target medium or platform.
Card game.

Number of players: 2+

One player plays the (in)famous Liam Tangdell, who “owns” the word ‘LINE’ and even ‘LINY’. That player’s job is to reap rewards from the sweat and tears of the other player(s). Liam selects a few cards, denoting his dubiously acquired IP. All others play developers trying to make profits from their own work, and attempting to offload legal attacks from Liam and each other. They will play cards to represent new inventions and the economic exploitation of these. The strategy is to keep your head down, while Liam attacks other players, then get so large as to be immune to further attacks, or to licence your own invention from Mr. Tangden, losing a percentage of profits, but surviving as he sets his sights on others.

The target market is game developers of all kinds and ages… Satire is an effective way to deal with dangerous and contentious issues.

Lesson 7 Homeplay – “War? Huh! What is it Good for? Absolutely Nothing!”

Big Push: For each complete layer of a Tower of Cards, the following number of cards needs to be dealt: 3N-1. So, for the first layer, it is 2, adding another layer needs 5, adding another layer requires 8 and so on. Towers are constructed in the usual way: two cards placed / in rows with top cards _ to allow a new layer to be added. The maximum size for a tower is four rows high (2+5+8+11=26 cards or half a pack). Once that is achieved, a new tower will be started with 2 cards, and so on.e

Resolution: The game ends when one player runs out of cards, or when one player must play cards for a “war” but they do not have enough cards remaining in their deck and discard pile. That player loses the game, and their opponent wins.

EquiSCRIBBLEum – Scribblenauts evil twin (Lesson 6 homeplay)

This is homeplay for Lesson 6 “games as art/art as game” of the free online course “Game Design Concepts”; details available at http://gamedesignconcepts.wordpress.com/

The challenge, in brief was:
“…a choice of designs, based not on experience level… but on area of interest… four options, all inspired by the “non-digital shorts” at the end of the Challenges [course text] chapter [17]:

  1. Option 1 (Creating emotions): Design a non-digital game that introduces children to the concept of grief. Post the rules and required components. If desired, also include commentary on how you approached this problem and why you think your game does (or does not) succeed.
  2. Option 2 (Persuasion): Modify the board game RISK to advocate world peace. Post your changes to the original rules. If desired, also include commentary on what you were trying to do, whether you think you were successful, and why or why not.
  3. Option 3 (Exploring the boundaries of games): Design a game that has intentionally incomplete rules, requiring player authorship of rules during the play of the game in order for it to be playable. Post your (incomplete) rules.
  4. Option 4 (Exploring the nature of the medium): Choose a digital game that you consider to be artistic and inspiring. Create the rules for a non-digital version of it. Note how the difference in medium affects the experience; think about what kinds of artistic ideas are best expressed in digital or non-digital form.”

NOTE: I think this might fit under option 3&4 but have put it here as it does have some structure and was inspired by two actual video games, although one hasn’t bee released yet.

This year’s darling of E3 was the much anticipated “Scribblenauts” by the developers of “Drawn to Life” a favourite of mine. The promised freedom of the new title will revolve around how well pre-conceived interactions between thousands of objects have been implemented. The earlier work was VERY linear, but also gave the illusion of freedom by allowing players to design their own avatars. However, these designs had to fit to specific templates to enable the animations to work. So, both games are limited and limitless in equal turns – DS titles, so forgivable – and do something novel. They also fail to deliver on their promise, as all computer rendered worlds will be. Hence, EquiSCRIBBLEum.

Players: 2+

Lots of scrap paper, coloured beads, paint, pens, crayons. [Optional scanner, digital camera and printer.]

Players take turns creating a character/object interaction; see later for detailed explanation. For the first round, a player is picked randomly. Thereafter, a King of the Hill approach is taken, where other players can challenge the current leader. A successful challenger takes the lead. Unsuccessful challenges mean back to the drawing board – either new object or new ability – before a new challenge is possible. The winner is determined by the current leader after an agreed time or number of turns.

Ok, the gameplay is freeform and totally defined by players, but you should be ok if you’ve followed discussion of Scribblenauts or are familiar with wizard battles:

  1. I’m a cat
  2. I become a dog
  3. I grow spikes
  4. I turn into a lawnmower
  5. I develop a double jump

Players have to represent change/status/animation of their character object using whatever method possible. A flick book stick figure transformation; using beads to make a pixel picture of several frames (hence the optional digitisation) showing a high jump for example.

The winner of each challenge is decided by consensus. Whether opponents represent obstacles, combatants, etc, is entirely up to the players, but it is recommended that some story is evolved during play to help seed ideas. The quality of the art is less important than the mental duel.

The transition to non-digital allows a virtually infinite number of options; far more than will fit on a game cartridge! I could also envisage one or more players setting up an environment (level?) for other(s) to navigate. Bordering on a tabletop RPG but the essential element should remain abstract and symbolic, rather than physical.

Eagle Alight – A Board Game inspired by Lunar Lander

In honour of my FAVOURITE Computer Game (Arcade), Lunar Lander, and the upcoming 40th anniversary of the (faked?) Apollo 11 Moon Landings, I present…

Eagle Alight – A Lunar Lander inspired board game

Use fuel, Fuel, FUEL to rotate and slow your craft for an “Eagle Has Landed” moment!

As this is effectively a simulation of gravity, two hex maps are required: One with a small playing piece for the larger wide scale view of the moon surface; the other representing the various landing sites by use of layered colour hexes, with a larger playing piece to represent the ship in close-up. In the interest of best representing the original game, the two boards will be double sided, with one side giving the large scale where the two boards are placed side by side (landscape).

Main Board Left Full size version

Main Board Right Full size version

The Main Board hex map is oriented with clear horizontal rows of 36 hexes with alternate rows zigzagging in the vertical plane. This represents the small bumpiness of the landing area, and allows for a more vector appearance in honour of the original arcade game.

6 Landing Area for the large scale map are marked:

1x – Landing area marked by 6 markers (1 of)
2x – Landing area marked by 5 markers (1 of)
3x – Landing area marked by 4 markers (1 of)
4x – Landing area marked by 3 markers (2 of)*
5x – Landing area marked by 2 markers (1 of)

* denotes that on a coin toss landing “Tails for Wales”  – or rolling 1-3 on a die –  landing here successfully gives a fuel bonus of 50 Fuel Units.

The other side represents a close up view of landing areas (3 to a board), so that the board not in use for the large scale contains relevant representations of small scale landing areas; the board not in use is flipped when the ship gets close enough. Hope that makes sense!

Right Board Back Full size version

NOTE: Only done one, so you can only land on the left hand areas for the prototype.

The Lunar Lander is represented by
[*]a single hex size piece for the ship at long range, with the “down” pointing through a corner.
[*]A tiered hex arrangement for the larger ship in close-up

Two dice are required of different colours to represent the rocket thrust: One is the course control to be adjusted by the player; the other (ideally RED) one will be used randomly, and represents the inaccuracies of fine control.

Dials representing the ship orientation and the power of the thrusters, as well as ready reckoners for applying horizontal and vertical rocket power are needed. Finally, a record of horizontal and vertical speed is required, which uses counters on six 11 hex long lines:

-5|-4|-3|-2|-1|+/-0|+1|+2|+3|+4|+5| Gross Vertical
|-5|-4|-3|-2|-1|+/-0|+1|+2|+3|+4|+5| Course Vertical
-5|-4|-3|-2|-1|+/-0|+1|+2|+3|+4|+5| Fine Vertical

-5|-4|-3|-2|-1|+/-0|+1|+2|+3|+4|+5| Gross Horizontal
|-5|-4|-3|-2|-1|+/-0|+1|+2|+3|+4|+5| Course Horizontal
-5|-4|-3|-2|-1|+/-0|+1|+2|+3|+4|+5| Fine Horizontal

NOTE: Counters for GCF will always be the same sign or zero

Various Dials and Counters needed for play. Includes a first draft larger scale version of the first landing site that was subsequently discarded.

For simplicity, we will be using base 6, so Fine represents fractions (+/-0.[0-5]), Course represents units (+/-[0-5]) and Gross represents the “tens” column. Therefore, the maximum speed of a craft is represented by +5G+5C+5F = 55.5 (b6)
= (5×36)+(5×6)+(5/6) = 210.8333 (b10) changeable in increments of +/-1/6 = +/-0.166

The smallest speed (apart from completely still) will be +1F = 0.166. This will be represented on the small scale map as one hex
The scale for the larger map will be one hex = 1C (i.e. the ship will move one hex in a turn if it’s speed is 0G1C0F

Note: The Gross level of speed shouldn’t really be used, but is there as a warning to the player that letting speed creep up will have dire consequences.

Set up

Put a counter as position 0 for both Gross and Course Vertical and Gross Horizontal
Roll the two dice for Fine Vertical, and Course and Fine Horizontal. Take the smaller from the larger to define starting values.

Roll 1 (red) and 6 (white) means your starting Fine Vertical is +5
Roll 3 (red) and 4 (white) means your starting Course Horizontal is +1
Roll 5 (red) and 2 (white) means your starting Fine Horizontal is +3
Roll 1 (red) and 6 (white) means your starting Course Horizontal is +5

Set Counters accordingly.

Set a Counter on the Rocket Thrust dial to 0 indicating no rockets in use at the start.
Set the Rocket Orientation Counter (a lander with protruding flame) to point the fire to the 3 on the right.

Place the Lunar Lander counter with the base pointing to the right (i.e. 3pm) at the top and left most hex.

“A crash [happened] when the vertical speed exceeds 15 and the horizontal speed exceeds 31.” http://www.arcade-history.com/?n=lunar-lander&page=detail&id=1417

Briefly, each turn on the large map happens like so:
1) Vertical Course Speed is increased by +1 (Lunar Gravity). If this takes it above +5 or below -5 the Gross counter is also adjusted.
2) Vertical and Horizontal Speed is adjusted by the Rocket’s previous power setting (see below for more details).
3) Player chooses what rocket power and ship orientation to use for next turn.
4) Ship is moved according to its Horizontal and Vertical Speed; e.g. a HORZ. Speed of +3C moves the ship 3 spaces to the right, VERT Speed of -1G-3C moves 6 (for the gross)+3 (for the course) upwards (presumably an abort!). Whichever of Horizontal or Vertical is larger is done first. (see details below)
5) If there is a F speed between -5 and -1 or +1 and +5 a die is rolled for both Vertical and Horizontal. If the roll is at or below the value of the F speed an additional space is moved; represents random variations.
6) If during movement the ship hits the Lunar Surface, the player has lost.
7) If near a landing strip, the player turns over the board not in use and switches to the small scale version.

Details for adjustments of speed:
NOTE: Horribly complex and needs simplifying.

Power| All | 1/3 | 2/3
6 | 6C0F| 2C0F | 4C0F
5 | 5C0F | 1C4F | 3C2F
4 | 4C0F | 1C2F | 2C4F
3 | 3C0F | 1C0F | 2C0F
2 | 2C0F | 0C4F | 1C2F
1 | 1C0F | 0C2F | 0C4F

If adding Fs takes it above +5 or below -5 then the Course is adjusted as well.

Details for moving on large map:
When moving vertically down, moving an even number of rows is straightforward, as cells are in line. If moving an odd number of rows, place the ship between the two cells beneath the starting cell. Then apply the random vertical adjust (it may be that an additional row will be moved, removing the problem. If this doesn’t happen, roll a die. If the rocket has Zero horizontal speed, then 1-3 means left cell, 4-6 means right cell (represents buffeting). If there is any speed to left or right, a roll of 1 goes against that speed, 2-6 means the ship is moved in the direction of travel.

Small map movement.
You will see that the orientation for the small scale map emphasises more accuracy for the vertical. The rule for horizontal movement is similar to that for adjusting vertical on the larger map. On this scale map, cells reflect the Fine level; i.e. a speed of +1C+2F vertically will move the ship 6 (for the +1C)+ 2 cells (for the +2F), so the scale is for play purposes 6 times larger. This may prove too hard.

For test purposes, there will be no fuel tally. For playtesting later, a limited fuel supply will be added.

“The [original arcade game] scoring system [gave] 50 points for a good landing, plus 50 fuel units as a bonus. A hard landing earned only 15 points, and a crash earned 5 points… The point scores for a good or hard landing [were] be greatly increased by landing on an area with a flashing multiplier, for example 2X or 5X. Thus, a good landing on the very narrow 5X site would give that player 250 points.” http://www.arcade-history.com/?n=lunar-lander&page=detail&id=1417

Landing with a vertical speed greater than +1C5F is a crash.

I think, and hope, that this is enough for play testing as I have run out of time now!

Research (30 minutes):
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunar_Lander_(arcade_game) wikipedia article
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunar_Lander_(computer_game) more general wikipedia article
http://www.arcade-history.com/?n=lunar-lander&page=detail&id=1417 a REALLY good description of key features of the game; for example, did you know that this was the first arcade game to have an “Insert more coins to keep playing” option?
http://www.klov.com/game_detail.php?game_id=8465 Another write up

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJLmXildv2E Arcade (BEST!) version
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8727SlgcJiI 2600 version footage I
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bxYP6FRqQYA 2600 version footage II
http://www.springfrog.com/games/lunar-lander/ Passable but slow simulation of the original
http://games.atari.com/arcade.php?game=lunarlander – official Atari simulation

I used Hex World Creator http://www.members.tripod.com/rooksnest/academy/geography/geography.htm and MS Paint to create my board. NOTE: It is rather buggy so SAVE Often!!!

Lesson 3 homeplay – Design a World War One Game

The Lesson 3 homeplay is a slightly modified form of Challenge 2-5 in the Challenges text, with an optional difficulty level based on previous experience with game design:

“Most war-themed games have an objective of either territorial control or capture/destroy (as described earlier). For this challenge, you’ll be pushing beyond these traditional boundaries. You should design a non-digital game that includes the following:

EASY – The theme must relate to World War I. The primary objective of players cannot be territorial control, or capture/destroy.

MEDIUM – You cannot use territorial control or capture/destroy as game dynamics. That is, your game is not allowed to contain the concepts of territory or death in any form.

HARD – As above, and the players may not engage in direct conflict, only indirect.”

My game is not intended to be “fun”. It’s not necessarily a “serious game” either. It came from my own experiences as “a pacifist with a temper” and the criteria above. What has always upset me is the complete lack of understanding of what it means to be Conscientious Objectors (COs or “Conchies”) and the price/consequences of such a choice; here’s an example of this lack of understanding. This isn’t surprising, but if you knew the suffering, violence and death that COs experienced, as well as the mindless deaths of those that took the “easier path” it is hard to think of making it into a game, without the fear that others will think you demean the lives of our forebears, as well as those suffering today. However, here goes…

Title: “A Matter of Conscience” aka AMOC



All that is needed is a table and 2 or more chairs and a deck of standard playing cards. One of the chairs must be as uncomfortable as possible.


“I might as well die for a principle as for lack of one” – WW1 Conscientious Objector REF

NOTE: Given the historical perspective, where only men were conscripted, the following rules use the masculine form.

The game consists of using a deck of standard playing cards to simulate the tribunal hearing and the consequences of applying for Conscientious Objector (CO) status in World War One (WW1). It is a game for 2+ players, with all but one (1) taking the role of the CO tribunal. One of these, or the only one in a game for 2 players only, will take the role of the ‘Military Representative’ (MR).

The CO (aka Coward, Traitor) sits in the most uncomfortable chair, or failing this MUST stand up for the whole game. No food or drink is to be consumed during the game. He is dealt FIVE (5) cards face down from the shuffled deck. These will be his Resolution Cards and must be kept separate and untouched.

The MR will sit where the hell he wants to and eat/drink freely. He is also dealt FIVE (5) cards face down from the shuffled deck. These will be his Resolution Cards and must be kept separate and untouched.

Other players will sit where the MR tells them to, and can eat and drink when given permission by him. They are not dealt Resolution Cards.

The rest of the 42 cards will be dealt out face down to all players starting with the Military Representative first, and the Conchie last. In the case of the 2 player only game, then three piles of cards are dealt, with two being combined together for control by the MR. It is possible that this will mean that some of the players will have one fewer card than others, which is OK.

The basic mechanic of the game is for the deck of cards to be exhausted while the Conchie still has resolve cards left. If the CO runs out of cards (aside from Resolution Cards), then he will enter the Resolution Phase involuntarily. If any player other than the CO runs out of cards, then they have been exhausted and retired from proceedings. If the Military Representative runs out of cards, then he can choose a pile from another player, who will then be relieved of duty and play will continue. If there are no cards left for the MR to requisition, then the CO enters the Resolution Phase voluntarily. Retiring players will have their discard piles removed from play at the end of the current stage.

Tribunal stages will consist of each player turning over one card in front of them. In the two player version, the Military Representative will initially lay two cards down from his larger pile. At any time, apart from the Resolution Phase, the CO can elect to end the tribunal by agreeing to take military service. There are three acceptable outcomes at this stage:

a) He can agree to bear arms as a soldier – Counts as involuntary at Resolution Phase

b) He can become a stretcher bearer – Counts as involuntary at Resolution Phase

c) He can agree to do civilian support work – Counts as voluntary at Resolution Phase

The consequences of this choice will be resolved in the Resolution Phase stage below.

1) If all cards turned over are the same colour, then the panel are in sympathy with the applicant. A new stage of turning over cards then commences. In the two player version, this will require the Military Representative to lay an extra card each time for future turns; e.g. MR lays two cards that are the same as the CO so in future turns he will lay three cards, etc.

2) If there is a hung result – namely that not all the tribunal panel cards are the same colour – then if the Conchie chooses to continue his defiance of the tribunal, the panel members must turn over new cards until consensus is reached (i.e. all their cards are the same colour). NOTE: Panel members can place unused cards on other tribunal member discards.

The CO can choose, prior to the panel attempting to achieve consensus and at any time during this phase before the panel have the same colour cards showing, to turn over a card to try to maximise the need for panel members by turning over one or more cards; e.g. in a 4 player game, the CO is showing a black card, and the three panel members are showing black, red, red. Clearly, the panel only need one red card in order to successfully attack his resolve. So, the CO can use a card in the hope that he will change his own discard to red, requiring the panel to use two (or more) cards to mount an attack. Alternatively, the panel might elect to use fewer cards to achieve a sympathy stage (see 1 where all cards are the same colour) in order to progress to the next round; in this case, the special changes of (1) apply, namely the number of discard piles increases for the two player game.

This process continues until the stacks reflect the first or third condition, where the panel all have the same colour. In order to lay cards, players raise their hands. Permission is given to lay by the MR, but he must allow the CO to lay first if he at any stage raises his hand in advance of others who may already have their hands raised. Players, including the CO may raise their hand immediately after laying a card should they wish to do so. The MR can lay his own cards when and where he chooses, saving the case where the CO has his hand raised to lay a card.

3) If all cards are the same, except for the Conchie, then the panel are united in attacking his beliefs. For the two player version, the MR can reduce by one (to a minimum of two piles) the cards needed to be laid in future turns; e.g. MR successfully attacks the CO’s belief with 4 cards of the same colour, meaning that he will only need to lay 3 cards in the following turn. The MR can never lay less than 2 cards per turn. Any unnecessary discard pile will be removed from play. The Conchie and the MR must then use one of their remaining Resolution Cards. Unless there is only one remaining Resolution Card, then without looking at their cards, the MR must declare whether the CO must turn over a higher or lower card than his own. At this stage, both turn over the top card on their respective Resolution Card piles. If the CO successfully beats the MR, then a new tribunal stage commences. If the CO draws the same card value, or does not beat the MR, the process is repeated. If each has only one remaining Resolution Card, then the CO must enter the Resolution Phase involuntarily.

Resolution Phase

If entered voluntarily, the CO has successfully proven that he has conscientious objections to war. He must pick one of his Resolution Cards without looking and attempt to guess the Value and Suit (e.g Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts or Spades). If he is successful then he survives “the Great War” unscathed. If he gets the colour correct then he is “scarred forever by his experiences”. If the colour and suit are not guessed correctly, then he is “disabled mentally or physically from injuries sustained in prison/war work”. If the CO correctly guesses the value and suit of the card, then unfortunately, he dies from “wounds sustained in prison”.

If entered involuntarily, then the CO and MR must choose one Resolution Card without looking, or use their remaining one, Both turn over at the same time and apply the following results:

Cards are the same or one different in face value – The CO is killed outright (8 million of 60 million European troops were killed in WW1)

If the cards are two different (e.g. Ace and a three) – The CO dies from disease or non-military related cause (Spanish Flu killed 50 million after the war)

If the cards are 3 different (e.g. King and Ten) – the CO receives a permanent disability from wounds sustained either in action or internment. (7 million of 60 million were seriously injured. Many committed suicide, or had trauma (aka Shell Shock) that was never recognised.)

If the cards are 4 different (e.g. Four and Eight) – the CO receives a serious physical injury. (15 million soldiers received serious wounds in the War)

If the cards are 5 or more different (e.g. Two and Seven) – the CO merely has mental scars that will last the rest of his life.

[Stats from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_I#End_of_war]


“There have always been people who are committed to an idea, an ideal, a value, a religion, a cause. Among them, there have always been people convinced that, at whatever risk to themselves, their commitment must not involve the use of violence or war. They have hung on to that conviction despite being despised, condemned and punished for it. It takes a lot of courage to hold out against violence and killing when your family and friends are threatened and may themselves turn against you, when you face public hostility and hatred, when the leaders of your society are determined that war, not peace, is the right and heroic way forward, and when you are accused of being a coward and a traitor. The conscientious objectors who refused to fight in the First World War were courageous in this way.” REF


In honour of the three levels of difficulty presented above for the game designs, I have decided to include three levels of difficulty in the game itself. This reflects the three stances that COs took in WW1:

EASY – ‘Non-combatants’, who accepted call-up into the army, but not to handle weapons. You can enter the Resolution Phase at any time.

MEDIUM – ‘Alternativists’, who took civilian work that indirectly supported the military effort. You can only enter the Resolution Phase after one successful stage (i.e. all cards of all players are the same colour)

HARD – ‘Absolutists’, who believed that any support of the war effort was immoral. You must embrace “Don’t AND Die!” (the opposite of “Do or Die”) and ‘fight’ to the bitter end.


“I fear God, not Man!” – Charles John Cobb, WW1 Conscientious Objector, “who died from injuries sustained in prison”

“I had eight months solitary confinement at Lincoln Prison. Three months bread and water treatment until the doctor wouldn’t allow more. And yet one had a sense of freedom which I can’t describe….. one had an extraordinary sense of personal liberty, personal freedom.” – Fenner Brockway. WW1 conscientious objector REF

As you can probably guess, there aren’t really any winners in this game…

My first “homeplay” assignment – design a game in 15 minutes

Ballpoint Sumo

Ballpoint Sumo is my homework for the 15 minute Board Game Challenge – details at http://gamedesignconcepts.wordpress.com/ but basically, this is the brief:

“Following the four steps set forth in Level 1 (summarized below), try to create a board game in only 15 minutes, using a sheet of printer paper for the board, and a sheet of notebook paper for the rules. Four Steps:

  • Draw a Path
  • Come up with a theme or objective.
  • Create a set of rules to let the player move from place to place.
  • Create conflict.”

— http://gamedesignconcepts.pbworks.com/15-Minute-Board-Game-Challenge [Restricted access. Login required]

BallpointSumo is for 2 players, although it could be single player at a push for training. You will need two ballpoint pens (preferrably not the end button retracting kind) or soft leaded pencils (not too sharp) of different colours, and a piece of paper.

The paper should be marked with an odd number of circles (3 for a short game, 5 or more for a challenge) – drawing round a 2p would be about right, but a diameter of 2-3cm and roughly round will do. Circles should have a gap of 2-5cms around them. So, the paper would look roughly like this:

| ( )  ( )  ( )  ( )  ( ) |

Both players play by controlling their pen(cil) with one finger at the blunt end while the point is in contact with the paper; carefully balancing the angle allows players to push the tip to draw a faint line. The skill involves judging the correct angle: too shallow and the pen will fall; too steep and pressure will not draw a line. Both players start in the centre for an evenly matched game, but handicaps can be allowed by starting in circles closer to one end or the other. The goal is to WIN in the last circle nearest to the opponent. It would be expected that some back and forth might occur, so a time penalty could be appointed and a win on points be declared by who was nearest to opponent’s end.


Each balanced pen(cil) is a Sumo wrestler trying to unbalance or push the opponent out of the circle; aka “Fell Mighty Tree”. If a nib moves out of the circle or finger loses control then that player moves back one circle towards their end and prepares to battle again; aka “the short hop of lamentable defeat”. If both pen(cil)s fall or leave the circle at about the same time, the loser is the one with the least distinct or most broken line, or a draw can be declared.

The mechanic is to use your pen(cil) to push/trip/bump the opponent into losing control and falling or leaving the circle.  The winner has to then navigate their Sumo Wrestler from the current circle to the one where their opponent is waiting; it is acceptable for the player to reset their finger before attempting the “Long Walk to Victory” but this allows for and requires the current victor to be at a slight disadvantage because they have to successfully maneuver their Sumo to the next dojo. Once successfully navigated to, but not through or out of, both players can reset their hold on the pen(cil)s before beginning a bout. Bouts basically involve moving your finger to control the pen(cil) into pushing the opponent out of the circle.

An alternative strategy exists, because a player might simply plant their pen(cil) vertically with a strong downward pressure; aka “Stand like Tall Oak”. As this could lead to a stalemate and be rather boring, an opponent can “Bend like Gentle Willow” by drawing a controlled line – nib does not leave paper, finger does not drop, with a continuously drawn line into next circle, stopping to show control of the nib. If achieved successfully, the opponent will have to move back to join the currently winning player. Again, both players then have the chance to reset their grip before the bout begins again. This option would not be possible as a victory condition in the final edge circle, as there would be nowhere to ‘bend’ to. So, at least one proper bout will be needed to win.

Clearly, this second strategy is risky, as it involves (potentially deliberate) leaving the current circle, but it allows for greater variety. The super risky third approach, “Flow like Running River” would be to draw an uninterrupted line from the start circle through all the intermediate circles, with a pause in each to show continued mastery, to the opponents end, with no jumps or loss of control. However, one bout in the final circle would still be needed, and I think that this should only be a tie break option.

This is a non-contact sport with only pen(cils) and controlling finger able to contact the opponent. Hand contact with opponent’s body, finger or pen(cil) will receive a first warning, then concede a point by moving back one circle. If this occurs in the last circle a foul will be awarded as a victory against the fouling player.

A victory in the circle nearest the opponent’s end, either by getting there first with Willow or River, then winning a bout, by opponent fouling, or by simple Sumo wrestling –  “Dig up Stump!” – in each circle one at a time.


Playtesting and Version 2 modification

Post Lesson 2 post-mortem: After playtesting three things became apparent. The first was that the winner of a bout guiding their pen forward to the next circle was just too hard for most people. It was, therefore, decided to scrap/simplify this constraint. Subsequently, the ability to side-step combat by drawing a line to the next circle was also removed, due to the difficulty spike. It had been originally put in to provide an alternative strategy, because it was thought that a conflict only game would be too samey; actually, this was not necessary as play testing never highlighted bout only play as a problem. This was an example of over-complicating things unnecessarily. The third issue from gameplay testing with young children, young adults and seniors – ages ranged from 8-70 – was the rule that the clearer line wins when both pens leave the circle at the same time. When people of different strengths played together it was quite common for there to be bouts where both pens shot out of the circle. Clearly, when only one pen skidded out there was an obvious winner. When both left, but one was measurably before the other, again a winner was straightforward. However, the rule of clearer line was expected to be seen as a mistake prior to testing. In fact, the surprise of testing was what seemed to be an inconsistency, was a perfect way to balance game play. When a 9 year old girl played with a 17 year old sporty boy, the latter’s attempts to force his opponent out of circles, consisting of brute force, frequently resulted in both pens falling, but his making a fainter line, resulting in a loss. This was an unexpected bonus in playtesting. therefore, the anticipated removal/reversal of this rule was not justified. The only caveat being that after extended play – think Roddick v Federer! – the paper gets rather marked up, making calls difficult/easier to contest. In playtesting, we just called draws more often than expected. When the paper gets scuffed up, new paper or circles drawn in different places might be necessary. So, some changes, some justified non-changes. A simpler game.