Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Spare Squares: A many-player social strategy trading game for BGG.con 2011

I created a new game for the next BGG.con. The game will be produced by Blue Panther LLC in a limited run of one. I struggled to figure out how pay for its production, since it was going to cost more to produce than BGG was willing to spend. I came up with the idea of asking BP to sponsor the run and put their logo on the game, to which they agreed. Win-win-win.

I'm having fun with this design genre: "many players" social-strategy-trading games. I'm pleased with this particular design, which has strong design integrity. Designing for this genre has a kind of  artistic integrity. Not many people are doing it. To make money, I would have to get hired by convention organizers or large companies or organizations who want a brainy activity for their employees during the yearly company kickoff meeting. However, the game could be adapted for a smaller group of players, say as few as three.

Here is the game:

Spare Squares

Created, designed, and illustrated by Yehuda Berlinger for BGG.con 2011. Published by Blue Panther LLC. © 2011, Yehuda Berlinger. To obtain a copy of this game with customized rules and components, contact Yehuda at shadjon@gmail.com.

The BGG.con print run is 5000 unique square cards.

Objective and Play

The object is to submit the best set of arranged cards in one of four different prize tracks (1-4).

You start with four cards and an envelope. Beg, trade, win, or steal cards from other players to obtain the cards necessary for a complete set. Submit your set to any BGG.con organizer before Saturday evening 8 pm. Results will be tabulated and winners announced at 10 pm.

Entry Rules

You must adhere to all of the following rules, or your entry will be disqualified:
  1. You may submit only one set of cards. Entries must be received by 8pm on Saturday night.
  2. The number in the center of all submitted cards must be the same, as pictured. This number determines the prize track.
  3. You must submit exactly four cards. You must arrange the cards in a 2x2 grid, as pictured. Mark all cards with their location in the grid as follows: TL=top left, TR=top right, BL=bottom left, BR=bottom right.
  4. You may rotate cards as required; mark all cards with an up arrow (↑) to indicate the top of the card.
  5. Adjacent images on each of the four interior edges (a) must be the same shape. Filling and color do not have to match.
  6. Submit the cards in an envelope with your name on it.


  1. On each exterior edge (b), you score as follows:
    • 2 points for matching shapes
    • 3 points for matching interior
    • 4 points for matching color
  2. Points are cumulative. For example, the set pictured scores 19 points.
  3. Bonus points:
      If all adjacent images on the four interior edges (a) match in shape AND filling, add 10 points to your score.
    • If all adjacent images on the four interior edges (a) match in shape, filling, AND color, add 20 points to your score. (Note: This is not cumulative with the previous bonus.)

Winner and Prizes

There will be one winner in each of the four prize tracks; the winner in each track is the person with the highest scoring set in that track. Ties will be determined randomly. The prizes are as follows: [TBD, but each is generally a donated game of around $100 in retail value]


Your thoughts? I will be playing around with the bonus scores to find the exact right values, but as long as it's in the ballpark it should be ok. I was considering a doubling bonus for matching the interior edges exactly, but doubling got me in trouble in the first game for being too strong.

Does it look fun?

The players write on the pieces to play; this is required for a large convention like setting, but would not be required for a game played by 3 to 10 people around a table. For only three or four people I would start them off with more cards.

Part of the integrity of the design is that the tiles and the rule-set are separate. The game can be made easier or harder on demand (by requiring no or all edge matches, or by requiring or ignoring matching fillings), or varying the point values (for instance, matching specific colors can yield different points).

My inspiration comes from my previous BGG.con games, which were in turn inspired by Sid Sackson's Haggle. When I first saw the larger games that were to be played at BGG.con, they were all lotteries or tournaments. I thought that a convention of strategy gamers should have a single game to play with upwards of 100 people at a time that was not a lottery, trivia, or quiz games or a tournament of smaller games.

I also drew inspiration from Eternity II, a game/puzzle I haven't actually played and whose name I actually forgot. Still, I remembered the idea of matching pieces and that there was some math behind it.
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