Craggy Components are Ready!

Finally! Over the last month or two my progress on my various projects has been slower than I would like, and hanging over me in particular has been actually writing a rulebook for my intended entry for this year's print and play wargame design contest on Board Game Geek.  This was the one thing holding me back from moving the game to the "Components Ready" stage of the contest, which means that all elements of the game are, at some level, ready for someone to try them out.

As of this evening, though, I managed to complete a push to get a full draft of that rulebook written and uploaded for people to access.  I need to add illustrations and examples, and I am certain that parts of the rules will be unclear or badly phrased -- and that is before we even get into changes that need to be made due to testing -- but it's at least something.  You have to start somewhere.

If you are interested in finding out more, here is the work in progress thread on Board Game Geek, which includes download links for the rules and other components.


Tricky Business

I recently saw a conversation on Twitter about "WTF is a trick taking game anyway?" (and similar discussions there and elsewhere over the years) and it was really one of those things that reminds me that everyone has different knowledge and experience. Even within hobby gaming, not everyone understands things the same way. I was brought up regularly playing games with standard playing cards, including several variants of the Whist family, the archetypal trick taking games, so the concepts of tricks, trumps, bids, and keeping score on a pad of paper, are just totally natural to me. It is easy for me to forget that other people aren't used to this sort of game.

5♠ was led...

So, what actually is a trick taking game?  Well, it can vary, but in general...
  • Most trick taking games are played using cards, and almost certainly usually using a standard 52 card, 4 suit deck (spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs).
  • Players usually have a "hand" of cards, dealt randomly from the deck.
  • A "trick" usually consists of each player selecting and playing one card from their hand. In most of these games, this play happens one at a time, in sequence around the table.
  • Most trick taking games pay attention to the suit of the cards, and you very often have to play the same suit as is lead by the first player, if you can.
  • Somebody wins the trick, very often the winner is the player who played the highest ranked card of the suit led by the first player.
  • Many trick taking games have a "trump" suit, which is usually interpreted as a suit which beats any other suits in a trick. There are many variations on how a trump suit is decided.
  • There is usually a scoring system, generally based on either the number of tricks each player wins, or the actual cards that are won in tricks.  Usually a full game consists of several "hands" where cards are shuffled and dealt afresh each time, and scores are recorded and added up to determine the overall winner.
Over and above all that common stuff (and, for each of those points, I feel certain you could find something that could be described as a trick taking game that breaks the "rule"), there are loads of variants that crop up more or less commonly.  For instance, in the game that I was taught as Slippery Anne (better known to the world as Hearts), the objective is to take the fewest tricks and score the fewest points, but you get a huge bonus if you manage to take all of the tricks. A load of games (in particular, several Whist games) have players bidding for how many tricks they think they can make, and score according to how well they achieve their "contract", 

There are plenty of really cool aspects to this style of game. For me, I love the aspects of figuring out what cards other players have, of trying to "finesse" to win more tricks or points than my hand might naturally be worth, the tension of playing out a hand, and the pace and tempo of most of these games when they are played by experienced players.

Thinking about this reminds me that I have never designed a trick taking game (other than by stretching the definition of the genre to the point of breaking), not even just applying a skin to an existing game, so I think it is about time I changed that and tried making one.  Challenge on...

To be continued...