Monday, March 23, 2015

A War of Clubs and Hearts

AKA SantiCore's Santi-War
AKA Technician, Magician, Soldier, Spy

I've managed to lightly playtest this, and I think it's a fun and effective party game once people have played a practice session or two. There's just enough unbalance and strategy to keep up the tension and make it rewarding, I think.
I'd love suggestions for the Environmental Effects deck - leftover cards from which one is drawn for each time around the table.

This is a party wargame using only a deck of cards, table space, a notepad, and these instructions.

Get a standard 52 card deck. Separate any Jokers. Separate face cards into one stack, numbers and Aces into another stack. Shuffle the two stacks.

Players then take turns drawing cards to make four units each. A unit is one Face card and three cards from the numbers and Aces stack. All cards begin face down, but players can look at any of their own cards at any time.

Any leftover cards (including Jokers if you want) are put into a new stack of "environmental event" cards.

Players then arrange their units, one to a position - Front, L Flank, R Flank, Rear. Then players can trade their Aces around as they wish, swapping a card from the Ace's new unit to replace it in the old one. All units begin the game with 4 cards per unit.
Then players flip all their own Club cards face up except the Ace.

Card Meanings
Clubs - Soldiers. The only cards which are face up the entire game. They can only attack cards in the unit "ahead" of them (in the same position on another player's board), but can attack in groups (many Clubs attack one enemy card) or split attacks (one Club attacks 2 other cards).

Diamonds - Technicians. Can only attack cards in the unit in front of them, and only one to a card. Get +1 Strength when attacking with or hiding behind Ballista (Aces). Flip up to resolve attacks, but are face down the rest of the time. They can also save Ballista from being destroyed; see below.

Hearts - Magicians. Can attack any card on the board. Flip up when resolving attacks, but face down the rest of the time. Can attack a card another card is also attacking, but not in the unit "facing" them.

Spades - Spies and Assassins. Can be sacrificed on the player's turn to reveal any face down card for one moment. Can only attack cards in the unit in front of them. Attack Clubs as normal (value VS value).
When a Spade attacks or is attacked by a non-Club, both cards remain face down. Each player wagers a number they think is the difference between the values of the two cards. The defender wagers first. When each player has announced their wager, flip both cards face up. The card owned by the player who was most correct wins. If it's a tie, the Spade wins. Cards cannot "hide behind the Ballista" when being attacked by Spades.

Face cards are Unit Commanders, and have a strength of 10. Number cards are soldiers, magic users, or spies, and have a strength equal to their number. Aces are Ballista.
King - are immune to damage from cards of same suit. Can temporarily transfer this ability to any card in own unit, but the King loses it for the rest of the turn.
Queens - Units headed by Queens can exchange number cards with other units controlled by the same player on that player's turn. When a Queen is killed by a Spade card, the Spade card is turned face up the rest of the turn (used like a Club until flipped face down again).
Jacks - Jacks can deflect one spell (attack by a Heart card) per turn; the Jack is turned sideways ("tapped") the rest of the turn and that specific attack does no damage. The Heart's "spell" does not have to be directed at the Jack.

Ballista (Aces) have a Strength of 5 when defending against attacks, but cannot attack on their own. Any non-Ace in the same unit can use the Ballista to attack any other card on the board, instead of that card's normal attack. The attack's Strength is equal to the card "using the Ballista".
Any card in a unit with a Ballista can also hide behind it. This means damage from an attack on that cards goes to the Ballista instead. Attacks from Spades cannot be deflected in this way.
Ballista are flipped over the first time they are used in any way, and remain face up the rest of the game.
Ballista can be captured - if you kill all the other cards in a unit without destroying the Ballista, it becomes part of the victorious unit.
A Technician (Diamond card) on either side (in the unit attacking or being attacked) can sacrifice itself to prevent a Ballista from being destroyed by an attack at the time of that attack's resolution. (but this doesn't save it from a second attack, for instance).

Cards are considered "In front of" or "facing" cards in the the same Position on each enemy side, except for the Rear. (your Front is facing everyone else's Front, your Left Flank is facing everyone else's Left Flank, etc)
Units in the Rear position are not Facing or In Front of any other units until one of that player's other units has been destroyed. Then the Rear position can attack any other position.
A player's last remaining unit, regardless of position, can attack any position.
Keep in mind "ranged" attacks - those by Hearts or cards using Aces/Ballista - can be made on any card regardless of position (except when combining attacks, see "Hearts" above.)

Win Conditions
The game is won in one of three ways:
1. There is only one remaining player with any face cards. Players can continue to act each turn as long as they have cards remaining, but only players with Face cards can win the war.
2. A pre-agreed upon time limit is reached. In this case, the player with the highest total Strength of all cards wins, the next highest is second place, etc.
3. All remaining players agree to end the game, either in a tie or by counting up the Strength of all cards and ranking each other thusly.

If a player leaves the game early (IE while they still have "living" cards), other players cannot affect their cards in any way for the remainder of the game (unless all players agree on a variation to this rule before the game.)

Order of Play
Once the Setup is done, each player adds up the Strength value of all their Club cards. The player with the highest Strength (of Clubs only) goes first. If there is a tie, each player flips over a card from the Environmental Effects deck, and the one with the highest card goes first. If there is still a tie, each player must eat shoe leather. The first to finish their piece goes first.

Then the player decides what each of their Units is going to do, generally attacking the cards of other players. Each Unit gets one action per turn, so only one card from each unit is active per turn (except for effects from Aces and Face cards). A unit is simultaneously facing all other units in the same position. If there are many players, each member of a unit may be attacking a different player's cards.

Each number card can only do one thing to one other card each turn. Face cards may attack and also use their special ability in a turn.

If several cards attack one card and the defender's Strength is higher than one of the attackers, that attacker dies (even if the defender dies).
When all of a Player's Units have acted, the dead are cleared from the battlefield and the next player begins their actions.
The player with the lowest number of Clubs decides if the game goes clockwise or counter-clockwise.

A "round" is one player's actions. A "turn" is once around the table - all players taking a round.

The longer Variant: each card has one action per turn, resolved the following order:
1. hand-to-hand combat - attacks against cards in a unit one is facing, except by Hearts or Aces
2. Magic - attacks by Hearts
3. Ballista - attacks using Aces
4. Special - abilities not covered under one of the phases above.

Environmental Effects
At the end of each Round, draw from the Environmental Effects deck.
Number Cards Mean:
Face Cards Mean:
Aces Mean:

The only other playtest note I haven't dealt with - it seemed like cards with low numbers were pretty useless in the latter half of the game, so maybe they should have some "trick"?

Comment on Googly Plus here.