Sorcerous Futures
Designed by Adam Blinkinsop, P. D. Magnus
Players 3-4
Length 45 minutes
Extra Material poker chips or equivalent

An arcane commodity speculation game of bidding and bluffing.

You are sorcerous investors, speculating on the fates of various people and places. You might risk your sorcerous gravitas on the Forest and the Huntress, only to lose it all when a bad moon rises in the end. Or you might get a bargain on a Sailor and a Journey, striking it rich when your ship comes in on a favourable wave.

In this game of bidding and bluffing, players attempt to purchase the most valuable cards with limited information about what their true worth will be. This information takes the form of cards dealt at the beginning, known only to their owner.

The game is played in turns, with one auction each turn. The active player chooses one card to put up for bidding and chooses a format for the auction. The highest bidder in the auction pays the bank and takes the card. At the end of the game, the hidden cards are revealed and determine the worth of each purchased card, which the bank pays out. The richest player after that is the winner.

Setup

In addition to the Decktet, this game requires tokens or chips to represent their gold. Players start with 90 gold each. You can use various denominations; for example: 15 ones, 7 fives, and 4 tens.

You do not need more gold than this during the game, although you can also use chips to track for endgame scoring if you have more.

Initial setup is somewhat different depending on whether there are three or four players.

With three players: Shuffle the Aces and deal two each face up in front of the players

Place the Excuse face up at the edge of the play area.

Each player takes the two crown.png cards that match the Aces in front of them. Follow this arcane ritual: Shuffle the two crown.pngs and pass them face down to the player on your right. Take the two cards you were passed, shuffle them and pass one face down to the player on your left. Take the card you have leftover and the one you were just passed, shuffle them, and pass them both to the right. Shuffle the cards you were just passed, take one, and set the other aside without looking at it.The point of this ritual makes is that it gives each player a crown.png which is their secret but makes it so that no player gets a crown.png that matches one of their Aces.

With four players: Put the Excuse face up in front of one player. (If there is no volunteer, assign it randomly.) Shuffle the six Aces and deal two face up in front of each of the other players.

With four players, there is no arcane ritual to distribute Crowns. Instead, the player with the Excuse takes the six Crowns and follows these instructions: Taking care not to give any player a Crown that matches one of the Aces in front of them, give one Crown face down to each of the other players. Select one Crown for yourself. Set the two remaining Crowns aside.

No player gets a Crown that matches their Ace. But with four players, that Crown is known both to the player who has it and to the player with the Excuse.

Deal valuations

Shuffle the number cards and Pawns together. Deal one face down under each Ace and under the Excuse. These cards determine the value of the suits at the end of the game. The rest of the cards form the deck.

You may look at your face-down \icrown, and you may look at the cards under the Aces or Excuse in front of you. You may not at the cards in front of other players. This means that every player knows something about what things will be worth but will have to infer the rest of the information from how other players behave.

The player who has the Ace of Suns in front of them is the first active player.

Game play

Deal five cards from the deck face up to the middle of the table.

The active player selects one of the face up cards to be auctioned and decides whether the auction will be open or closed.

Open auction: The active player must make an initial bid based on the rank of the card: the number (for a number-ranked card) or 10 (for a Pawn). The player on their left then decides whether to bid a higher amount or pass. Clockwise around the table, each player has one opportunity to bid or pass. Then the active player gets a final chance to bid or pass. The player who bid the highest amount takes the card which was auctioned, puts it in front of them, and pays their bid.

Closed auction: Each player selects an amount of money to bid and hides it behind their hand or in their closed fist. Players then simultaneously reveal their bids. The player who bids highest takes the card and pays their bid. If there is a tie for highest bid, start with the active player and go clockwise around the table until you come to one of the players who tied for highest bid; that player takes the card and pays. There is no minimum bid in a closed auction.

In all cases, only the player who takes the card pays. Gold is paid to the bank, effectively leaving the game, rather than to another player.

If a player has spent all their money, then they must pass in open auctions and bid zero in closed auctions.

the next turn

After the auction, the player on the left of the active player becomes the next active player. Do not deal new cards to the middle of the table until all five cards have been auctioned. When there are no cards left, deal five new cards face up from the deck.

The game ends when the fourth group of five cards has been auctioned. There will be one card left in the deck, and that card does not enter play.

With three players: When the second group of five cards has been exhausted, the card under the Excuse is flipped over and revealed so that all players can see it. Then deal another group of five cards and resume play.

Scoring

At the end of the game, reveal the cards under each of the Aces and (in a four-player game) the card under the Excuse.

Players score for any gold they have leftover and for the value of the cards that they bought at auction. (We add up final scores on paper, but you could pay out chips instead.)

The card under each Ace determines the value of that suit. As a valuation, a Pawn makes the suit worth 1 gold and a number rank card makes it worth an amount equal to the rank.

Cards which you bought at auction score for both or all of their suits.

  • Example: There is a pawn.png under the Amoons.png and a 7 under the Asuns.png. A player who owns a moons.pngsuns.png card collects 8 gold for it.
Then each player scores again for every card they have which shares a suit with the crown.png which they were dealt at the beginning of the game. The value is determined by the card underneath the Excuse. (Again, the value is the rank of the card if it is a number or 1 if it is a pawn.png.)
  • Example: There is a 3 under the Excuse and the player with the moons.pngsuns.png card has crown.pngsuns.png. They collect another 3 gold for that card.

The winner is the player with the highest score (most gold). In case of a tie, the winner is the tied player who had the lowest total of valuation cards in front of them.

Variant: The Sly Excuse

With four players, the player with the Excuse in front of them may be at a bit of a disadvantage relative to the other players. That player has a different kind of information, and that information is harder to use. This variant strengthens their position, at the cost of making it even harder to play. I suggest not using it in your first game and only adding it in if you want there to be even more hidden information.

Instead of just dealing valuation cards under the Aces and the Excuse a the start of the game: The player with the Excuse draws seven cards and looks at them. They then give those cards face down to another player who shuffles them and deals them out as valuations.

This means that the player with the Excuse knows what the possible values are, although they do not know which suits have which values.

Credits

Original Design: Adam Blinkinsop
Development: P. D. Magnus
Design Assistance: Nate Straight
Playtesting: Andy Cole, Steve Debellis, Joe Fritz, Quentin Hudspeth, Tom Kiehl, Dave Schwenker, Jeff Warrender, John Velonis, Kevin Piala, Sam Lafleche

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