They're creepy and they're kooky

OK, so I know I am planning to try progressing (and finishing off?) games as a main focus for this year, but I just can't help it, right?  I'm allowed a few new ones here and there.  After all, I need to find a load of bad games in order to unearth the good ones that are probably lurking somewhere around here.

Actually, I have a good incentive to work on one particular new game.
Another top quality prototype.
A little background...

For over a decade now, my family and I have been taking an annual trip to a big social event in West Wales, which started off being a medieval-style banquet themed on the Arthurian myths, but has developed into more eclectic themes over the years, while still remaining the general banquet structure (something like a dozen courses served over five or six hours).  The last few years have been based on a fairy court extrapolated from A Midsummer Night's Dream, the Firefly 'verse, and A Game of Thrones.  One of the traditions from these events is that some of the regular attendees exchange small gifts, often (but not exclusively) home made craft or food products.  Usually, S. does a lot of work to make gifts (for the fairy banquet, for example, she knitted dozens of small, cuddly "goblins" to distribute) and I have been very poor at contributing to this.  But no longer!

As one of my main hobbies these days is creating tabletop games, why can't I make some games to take along to give as gifts?  Here goes...

So the theme for this year is loosely based on the Addams Family, and will be a gathering of weirdos, freaks and monsters.  I need to make a game that reflects that theme.  The aim is to create a small card game (hopefully 18 cards or fewer) that can be learnt and played quickly and easily.

My initial concept was to make a game with guessing, deduction and, hopefully bluffing.  I figured that I could have one set of nine cards, which are gifts that the characters might be receiving.  The usual sort of thing: chocolates, flowers, cakes, axes, whips, bombs, and so on.  Then another set of nine cards representing characters, each specifying two gifts that they want, and one that they definitely don't.  I made these cards up, and usually that would be enough for me to start tinkering about and figuring out the rules and interactions between the components and players.  The problem is this would be a multi-player game where the game is built around not knowing what other people know and trying to improve your situation in that environment, and that is something that is really difficult to test on your own.  Or at least, I haven't yet figured out how to do it.  Maybe if I keep notes for each "player" I could do something...

Anyway, I haven't yet been able to get this in front of an appropriate group of players, so if I'm going to progress the game, I'm going to need to do some more thinking and they grab some players when the opportunity comes up.  I know that the basic moves in the game would have to be a combination of gaining information about who is holding which cards, and swapping cards around, but beyond that...?

My next step was to start a thread on Board Game Designers Forum, outlining my thoughts so far and seeing what might turn up.  This has, at the time of writing, Yielded a couple of bits of input, one of which suggested basing the game on Happy Families/Go Fish.  I liked this idea, though it wasn't entirely clear to me how I could fit this into the (limited) plans I had so far.

As an aside, this also fits in to my long-term plan to take "classic" games that gamers don't take seriously and try to make more interesting games based on them.  Happy Families would be a perfect fit for that list.

After sleeping on this, ideas started to congeal a bit.  The basic Happy Families mechanism is asking other players for named cards, which they have to give you if they have them.  My game could have an element of that (if you want, say, an axe, you ask another player if they have one), but allow instead of it being a one-way street, you have to trade a card for the one you receive, so everyone keeps the same number of cards.  Furthermore, if someone asks you if you have a particular card, you don't have to answer truthfully, and the actual identity of the card you pass will only be revealed to the recipient when they actually receive it.

So that's about where I am at the moment (more or less), so I'll continue to fill in the gaps until I get a few players together to try it out, at which point hopefully we'll be able to try a few variant sets of rules to help narrow things down.  I'll play to write more about this after something has happened...

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