But some are bluffing more than others.
-By Jonathan McGeachen
This article has been edited from its original version.
This is a card game that models realist international relations theory in simple, easy-to-understand ways, teaching strategy involving:
-The Security Dilemma
-Balance of Power
-Mutual Assured Destruction
-Perverse Incentives from New Technology
Win by being the last player with cards in your hand, or by having the most valuable cards in your hand when you’re all sick of playing.
Shuffle together as many ordinary decks of 52 playing cards as you want. Jokers are accommodated (see below). Ideally, you don’t want to run out of cards to draw. This will depend how cautiously a given group plays.
Each player draws a card and places it face up in front of them. They then draw a number of cards for their starting hand equal to the value of the card they placed. Face cards through Jokers are worth 10. They may add their face-up card to their hand.
There are no turns; everyone acts when they wish. Priority, when it matters, is up for negotiation within the context of game mechanics. Dealer rotates each round, unless you want to assign someone trustworthy to it. This can also be negotiated.
At the start of a round, each player is dealt one card from the deck, face-down, to add to their hand. If there are no more cards to draw, shuffle the discard pile. If there are still no cards, you just have to wait, or you can add another deck mid-game for all I care.
Then deal a number of cards one less than the current number of players face up in the center of the table. There are no rules whatsoever governing their allocation. Players must negotiate, cajole and bluff over who should get which of them. Players may simply take them without asking if they wish, although the other players would be wise to employ attack mechanics (below) against such bad faith.
It may occur, due to a stalemate, that no one dares take the cards remaining in the center. In such a case, they will be placed in the discard pile at the end of the round.
A round ends when no players have any more actions they wish to take, and then a new round begins.
There are no limits to the number of times any actions may be taken each round, except for drawing.
Gains From Trade
Players may give or trade cards at will. A pair of players who are trading may choose one and only one of them to draw a bonus card from the deck, beyond their normal draw limit. If they cannot agree who, neither of them gets the bonus. A given player may only gain this bonus once per round, and may not gain this bonus from someone they helped get this bonus in the same round.
Use attacks to diminish one other player’s hand. A player may initiate an attack at any time.
Say whom you’re attacking, and choose as many cards from your hand as you wish to place face down in front of you. These are attack cards.
The defending player then may do the same with as many cards from their hand as they wish, or none if they choose. These are counter-attack cards.
Once placed down, cards cannot be taken back.
After both players are satisfied with the cards they’ve placed, the cards are revealed.
Both players must then discard from their hand cards equal to twice or more the total value of the cards used against them. This is their “damage” received. Face cards and Jokers are worth 10. The cards used for attacking and counter-attacking are then discarded.
If a player cannot meet their damage requirements with the cards in their hand, they lose and are out of the game. NOTE: It is entirely permissible to go out with a bang by using all your cards to counter-attack.
Other players may take a side in a fight in progress as long as the attack and counter-attack cards have not been revealed, after any first strikes (below) are resolved. Attacker and defender may assign additional attack and counter-attack cards as appropriate at this point, and the attack resolves normally from there.
You do not need to wait for someone else’s attack to resolve before initiating another, or even your own, if you’re crazy enough.
Attacking is not recommended without the aid of face card abilities (below).
Face Card Abilities
Face cards may be used in the following ways. If a player chooses to use one this way, it cannot be used as an attack or counter-attack card.
Jacks, Queens, and Kings: First Strike
These are placed on the table in front of you when not attacking or being attacked. You may place them face-up or -down. You may only use their abilities if they are face-up. You may flip them up or down at any time as long as you are not currently attacking or defending. They remain out until something requires them to be discarded.
Each allows for 1/3 of a first strike: 1/3 of your attack cards of your choice (not counter-attack), rounded up, must deal their damage before your opponent gets to select counter-attack cards.
This effect can stack up to 100%, but stacking must be from different types. For example, having a Jack and a King grants 2/3 first strike, but having two Jacks has the same effect as one Jack. Multiples may be placed on the table, though, as backups.
Jacks, Queens and Kings that have already been played on the table can be discarded in order to discard a like kind that an opponent has played. Two in any combination may be discarded to discard an opponent’s Ace.
Aces are placed out in the same way, can be flipped in the same way, and remain in play until something requires them to be discarded. Each Ace you have face-up allows you to discard 1/4, rounded up, of an opponent’s first strike attack cards before they are revealed, and 1/2, rounded up, of an opponent’s attack or counter-attack cards after all first-strike cards have been resolved. Aces that would stack beyond 100% may be placed on the table as backups.
Can be played at any time, and is discarded after use.
Another player of your choice must show you their hand, but they don’t need to be happy about it. You may steal one card from them.
Negates the effects of any single card of an opponent until the end of this round.
Negates an opponent’s Joker.
Threats and Bad Behavior
Threats are an important part of the game. Players may threaten to attack each other for any reason at all. There is no penalty for bluffing except for your credibility. Be creative!
“Don’t draw a card this turn… or else.”
“Don’t play that Ace you drew last turn… or else.”
“Give me that Ace you drew last turn… or else.”
“Show me your hand… or else.”
“Don’t attack him… or else.”
There are very few rules governing player behavior outside of the combat mechanics. Behavior that would be disallowed in many games is encouraged as a means to generate conflict.
Examples include but are not limited to:
-Players may try to peek at each others’ hands or face-down cards. Victims are encouraged to employ attack mechanics against this.
-Players may show their hands, or only part, if they wish, to deter others from messing with them.
Basically, if there’s no rule explicitly against it, you can do it as far as the game is concerned. The only limit is what the victims and witnesses will tolerate.
Some things that are actually rules:
-Limits on drawing (above).
-You can’t just ignore cards that have been played.
-You can’t steal cards, aside from using a Joker.
-You can’t trade cards that have been played on the table.
-Dealer mustn’t abuse their position.
-Common-sense stuff about severely disrupting the game or damaging cards. If you need to ragequit, don’t flip the table.
[Update: Patch 1.01 Notes]
After initial playtesting, the following changes are being introduced:
-Introduced a “negotiation” period after dealing cards to the center pot. Players may not take cards from the center until all players have declared which card(s), if any, they want from the center. (Untested: if someone wants to obstruct this phase from progressing, a majority vote can suffice).
-First strike and interception bonuses/penalties may be applied on the basis of the value of cards being used in an attack/counterattack, rather than the number of cards, but it makes for much messier math.
-Clarification: if you run out of cards, you’re out of the game.
All rights reserved by Jonathan McGeachen.