Help Me Test a New Card Game

The Weekender, May 21, 2021


As long-time readers know, on Fridays, I usually do a week-in-review type of thing. Today, I’m still doing that briefly, below, but I wanted to ask you to do me a favor: help me test a new card game.

A very brief back story: one of my kids is really into board and card games and the like, and I’m also a fan of these types of games myself. We’ve been playing a card game called Fluxx lately and it’s legitimately one of the better, more interesting games I’ve ever played. The rules start very simply: you draw a card, play a card, and your turn is over. But the cards you play change the rules of the game. It can be a chaotic mess, but in a fun way. 

I was thinking about the concept of ever-changing rules and tried to come up with my own but quickly abandoned that idea. Instead, I came up with another game. I’ve tested it a few times with the above-mentioned kid, and so far, it’s fine. We kind of like it, but… it’s missing something. What, exactly, we don’t know.  I need more playtesters to give me ideas for how to make it better (or whether to just scrap it). So, if you can help, that’ll be great. All you’ll need is a standard 52-card deck and a friend. 

Anyway, the rules:

This Card Game Needs a Name But I’m Thinking “Generals”

Oh, it’s a two-player game. I think there’s a way to make it a three-person game, maybe even a four-player game, but I haven’t gotten to that yet. 

What You’ll Need
1) A standard 52-card deck. No Jokers. 
2) A friend. No jokers.

You win the game by having three armies larger than your opponent’s of the same suit. An “army” consists of a “general” — a King, Queen, or Jack — and at least one platoon of soldiers, all of the same suit. Each non-face card is a platoon; the value of each card is the number of soldiers in that platoon. You cannot have more than one general per suit.

Set Up
1) Shuffle the deck and deal three cards, face down, to both players. Each player returns two of the cards to the deck and keeps one card, placing it on the table, face down for later use. This is your “Paratrooper.” Reshuffle the deck.

2) By whatever method you want, temporarily assign one player as “black” and the other as “red.” Deal the top card of the deck and place it, face up, between the two players. If it is a black card, the “black” player goes first. If it is “red” card, the “red” player goes first. If it’s anything else, you have a much bigger problem.

3) Deal four more cards, also face up, and place them next to the already-face up card. You should now have five cards, all face up, in a row between the two players. Let’s call these cards “Boot Camp.” 

4) Deal two more cards, also face up. Place those perpendicular to the five cards in Boot Camp. We’ll call these two cards “New Recruits.”

Game Play
On your turn, you either take two actions or use your Paratrooper.

Basic Turn
1) Take one of the cards from Boot Camp and place it in front of you, face up. 

2) Take one of the cards from Boot Camp and place it face up in front of your opponent. 

Paratrooper Turn
The Paratrooper acts as a one-time-use Boot Camp member that shortens your turn. 

1) On your turn, instead of taking from the Boot Camp, reveal the Paratrooper and place it in front of you or your opponent, face up. (For sake of clarity, this is a one-time thing; you do not get another Paratrooper.) 

Whether you go with a Basic Turn or a Patartrooper Turn: If either player now has more than three non-face cards of any one suit, discard one of your choice. If either player now has two face cards of the same suit, discard one of your choice.

Your turn is now over. You’ve either won the game at this point or, more likely, have not. If you’ve won, congrats! The game ends and you are victorious. If you haven’t: 

After Your Turn
After a Basic Turn, take the two New Recruits and place them in Boot Camp (taking the place of the cards that were just added to your team or returned to the deck). If you used your Paratrooper, don’t do this.

Then, take the next two cards from the deck and turn them face up. These become the new New Recruits. If there are no cards left in the deck, shuffle the discard pile to create a new deck and, if needed, add cards to the New Recruits to get to two. Again, if you used your Paratrooper, don’t do this.

OK! That’s the game. But you’re probably asking “wait, how do I know if I won!” so, let me explain that part. (It’s important, after all.)

This explanation may be a bit long, but once you play the game once, you’ll be able to nearly-immediately 

Again, what you’re trying to create are three armies larger than your opponent’s of the same suit. An army consists of a face card and at least one non-face card of the same suit. If you don’t have a face card and at least one non-face card in any given suit, you don’t have an army of that suit. (Armies need both generals and soldiers in this game.)

The size of the army is determined by the non-face cards only unless there’s a tie. If there’s a tie, the army led by the king beats one led by the queen or jack, and the army led by the queen beats one led by the jack.

For example, you may have the king of spades and the nine of spades; your opponent may have the queen of spades with the ace, four, and six of spades. In this case, your opponent’s army is larger — their cards have a value of 11 to your 9. But if you add the two of spades to your army, you’re ahead: while both of you have 11 soldiers in your spades armies, you king beats his queen.

When comparing armies, you only compare those of the same suit: your spade army versus their spade army, your heart army versus their heart army, etc. If you have a spade army and they don’t, your army is bigger — they don’t need to have one for you to get credit. So if you have the jack of diamonds and the ace of diamonds, and your opponent has the ten of diamonds, your army is bigger — even though you only have one soldier to their 10, they don’t have a general and therefore, don’t have an army. 

If you have three armies larger than your opponent’s, you win. 

Okay, onto the week in review.

The Now I Know Week in Review

Monday: The Very Brief Belgium/French Border War of About Two Weeks Ago. In writing this, I found something that I’ll share that in a future story… so that’s a hidden bonus.

Tuesday: When the Winner is a Loser (and the Loser Isn’t)

Wednesday: How Elephants Communicate From Miles Away. I considered titling this “Can Elephants Hear With Their Feet?” but I try not to title things with questions.

Thursday: The Forest Man of India. Not all heroes wear capes.

And some other things you should check out:

Some long reads for the weekend.

1) “The Texas Mask Mandate Mystery” (The Atlantic, 8 minutes, May 2021). The subhead asks “when Gov. Abbott lifted the state’s mandate, liberals predicted disaster. Disaster never came. What does that really tell us?” As the author notes on Twitter, his big takeaway is that “across the country, people’s pandemic behavior appears to be disconnected from local policy, which complicates any effort to know which COVID-19 policies actually ‘work.'”

2) “The Filing Cabinet” (Pieces Journal, 18 minutes, May 2021). Yes, 18 minutes on the piece of office furniture. (Is it “furniture”? I don’t know if that’s the right word. Anyway…) The subhead: “The filing cabinet was critical to the information infrastructure of the 20th-century. Like most infrastructure, it was usually overlooked.”

3) “My Quest to Make My Dog Internet Famous” The story of a one-eyed dog. And by sharing this, I guess I’m helping further that quest?

Have a great weekend!