Sunday, November 11, 2007

The World's Largest Strategy Game: Piratenhändler

I've designed what I believe will be the world's largest simultaneously played strategy game: Piratenhändler. Every participant at BGG.con will be handed cards to play, and the game will be played continuously over the course of three days. Of course, I don't guarantee that every one of the 600 participants will be interested in playing, necessarily.

While more than this number of people have taken part in strategy game events, such as Bridge tournaments, those are multiple games which aggregate results into a single overall score. This is in fact a single strategy game being played the entire time.

The game began as a version of the game Haggle originally designed by Sid Sackson, one of last generation's greatest game designer, but now sadly passed on. I really liked the idea of the game, and I worked on creating a version of it to be played en masse by the readers of Gone Gaming around a year and a half ago. The version I created would have required my constant interaction with all participants as a moderator and card distributor, constantly selling new cards in exchange for each player's limited point capital. Since I didn't have a few solid days where I wasn't working to devote to it, I decided to put it on ice.

A few weeks ago I decided to revisit the idea for BGG.con, since I thought my take on the game was still interesting. This time I created it in such a way that no moderation on my part would be necessary, since I'm going to be away from the con on shabbat.

Haggle's traditional format is that there is a master set of rules, and each person gets ten cards and one rule. People trade cards and information about the rules and then hand in what they think will be the best set of cards.

In my version, each card has values for five different rewards, so there's no single best set. Each card has an ability that modifies one or more of the values on one or more cards you possess.

Add to that a pirate theme and hundreds of original rules ala Magic for the card, optional combat and luck mechanics for those who want to try them, a few math and logic puzzles, and you have a game with dozens of viable strategies and directions to play. Even I haven't a clue as to the best way to win this.

I asked Aldie for permission in introducing the game, and he agreed. Then he agreed to print up the cards for me. Then we began to clarify the card wording, tighten the theme, tweak the names of the cards, and so on. He came up with the name and card design. So Aldie and co have contributed a lot to the game's theme and design, not to mention the prizes that will become the awards.

Of course, will people really play it, or will it sit unplayed? Will the game really work like it's supposed to? I'm so nervous! I hope it goes well and gives people something extra fun to do during the con, not to mention bring together groups of people who might otherwise not interact.


Another nice shabbat. We went out to some new friends and were 14 for dinner. I had several conversations that went, almost identically:

"What do you do?"

"I play games."

"(assuming that I'm kidding) Ha ha! I wish I did that for a living!"

"And I run a game group."

"Wait, you're serious?"

"And I design games and I blog about games. Mostly I blog about games."

"That's so amazing. Computer games?"

"No, board and card games, on the table top."

And the usual litany of games they like, which generally means Scrabble.

It's nice to be able to have that conversation.



Jason said...

Do you have a link to a recap or thoughts about how the game went?

Yehuda said...