Battle of the Bards
Designed by Adam Blinkinsop
Players 2
Length 20 min
Extra Material score pad

an old-school bardic jam

When telling the story of how the Diplomat and the Huntress were swept away to a far off land where their spirits dwelled in clockwork bodies, you usually take your time elaborating their escape from the capital. The audience seems restless, though, so maybe you'll just jump to the bit when the monster attacks.

In this game, you and your opponent are rival bards telling epic stories to fickle listeners. Each tale within your story is represented by a line of cards. You can tell upto two tales at the same time. When you conclude one, you score points for it and can start another.

Setup

Shuffle the deck.

Deal one card face up to represent the dominant meme.

One of the player draws four cards, picks two to start her own tales and the other two start their opponent's tales.

The other player takes the first turn.

Game play

On your turn, draw five cards without showing them to your opponent. Look at them and split them into two groups. Put one group face up and the other face down on the table.

You can make the groups two cards and three cards, or you can make them one card and four cards. You can put the larger group face up or face down. It's up to you.

Just looking at the face up group, your opponent decides which group she will take and which one you will get.

The player who gets the face up pile takes those cards and plays them one at a time, in any order. Then the player who gets the face down pile reveals them and plays them.

You play a card by adding it to one of your tales. It must share at least one suit symbol with the latest card of that tale.

Before or after playing a card, you may choose to conclude one of your tales. When concluding a tale, score points (see below) and then discard all the cards in it. You may start a new tale by playing any card.

Note that you must play all of your cards. In order to play a card that does not share suits with the last card in either of your tales, you have no choice but to conclude one of the tales.

After both you and your opponent have played your cards, it is your opponent's turn. If there are fewer than five cards left in the deck, the game is over. Otherwise, she draws five cards and take her turn.

Scoring

When you conclude a tale, add its value to your score.

In order to be worth any points, a tale must hold the audience's interest. In game terms: It must have at least one card with a rank equal or greater than the total number of cards in the tale. Aces count as 1 for this purpose, Crowns count as 10, Pawns and Courts count as zero.

Example: If 7 is the highest ranked card in a tale, then it is worth no points if it contains 8 or more cards.

A tale which holds the audience's interest can score points in two ways:

(A) 1 point for each card that matches one of the suit symbols on the dominant meme. A tale card that matches two suits on the dominant meme is worth 2 points. If you score any points this way, discard the dominant meme and deal a new one from the top of the deck.

(B) Points for cards in the tale of the same rank. A pair is worth 4 points. Three or more of a kind is worth 9 points.

The end

When a player cannot draw five cards from the deck on their turn, the game ends.

The player who would have taken the next turn immediately concludes and scores her remaining tales. Then her opponent may score any remaining tales.

After the deck is exhausted and the dominant meme is discarded, treat the dominant meme as having no suits.

The player with the highest score wins. In the case of a tie, the player who had a tale with the Crown of Suns in it is the winner. If neither tied player had the Crown of Suns,

The extended deck

Pawns and Courts follow the rules as written.

When you play the Excuse, you must immediately conclude one of your tales. Score as usual, except that you may name an additional suit to score as if it were on the dominant meme. If the Excuse is the dominant meme, you can name any one suit to match when concluding a tale.

Variants

Double Deck: The game is pretty quick with a single deck. It's more sweeping with a double deck, following the same rules.

Note that it is possible with a double deck to follow a card with the exact same card to make a pair. For example, the Crown of Moons is the only Crown which can immediately follow the Crown of Moons. This is fine, because the split-and-choose mechanism means that it isn't easy to set that up.

Credits

Original game: Adam Blinkinsop
Development: P.D. Magnus
Playtesting: Cristyn Magnus

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