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Monster Keep: Deeper strategy

So originally why I was really *happy* with the "Monster Keep" concept/design was the fact that I had finally designed a game that would use both BIDDING and BLUFFING as mechanics. However as I moved along from the idea stage to a more *firm* game, certain elements became more clear: namely how the game would be played.

And it was since that time that the idea, which had bidding AND bluffing, had somehow unravelled. My main concern was that when computing the amount of monsters could be "bought" and the number of rounds, it simply did not make ANY sense but to PLAY all five (5) cards in each hand (Each round you refresh your hand to five (5) cards).

This was a BIG concern. Why? Because it *dumbed* down the game: every turn, just bid the MAXIMUM (five cards) and let the chips fall where they may... This no longer seemed like *exciting* bidding NOR *intelligent* bluffing...

Well LAST NIGHT, while I was still awake in bed, I thought of an *interesting* RESTRICTION (or rule). This restriction would put back some of the mystery of bidding and bluffing.

Basically when players BID on Monsters, they CANNOT exceed a Monster's virtue MAXIMUM. Any cards exceeding the maximum would NOT COUNT ("Junk card"). Okay, let's explain that with a simple example.

Player 1: Bids two (2) cards, and brings his Food to an 8, Treasure to a 3 and Battle to a 6.

In total he has 17 virtue points. Now IF he tried to play a third (3) Hero card which would GO OVER the 10 maximum for Food, that card would not count. So if Player 1 tries to add a Hero card which has 3 Food and 1 Battle, that card would NOT count (because Food = 8 + 3 > 10!)

Same goes for the Treasure and Battle virtues. There is a MAXIMUM of 10 points per virtue. A card surpassing the 10 maximum DOES NOT COUNT (and is basically a wasted bid/Hero card = Junk card).

So this brings back the CHALLENGE of bidding to the BEST of your hand's ability (now with LESS than five Hero cards). What this means is a well played bid with two (2) cards CAN beat a poor five (5) card bid. Obviously this depends on the five (5) cards in your hand...

This RESTORES some of the unique aspects of bidding AND bluffing. The MOST important change is that it's no longer the best move to bid with all five (5) cards... Because if you go OVER the maximum for a virtue, that card is no longer counted towards the bidding total...

And of course, a player who has HIGH two (2) Hero cards (Strong bid) can "add to the fire" and bluff a third card (which could not count). Obviously as cards get revealed, they MUST be discarded after the bid is resolved. This means that player could bluff making a STRONG hand EVEN STRONGER (bluff).

Comments

Number of Monsters

Another aspect which I am *re-thinking* is the amount of monster available to bid on. Originally the amount was "# of Players" + 2...

  • Four (4) for two (2) players
  • Five (5) for three (3) players
  • Six (6) for four (4) players
  • Seven (7) for five (5) players
  • Eight (8) for six (6) players

This may *seem* fine and dandy. But effectively what it does is give THREE (3) choices for the last player to choose from. This seems too HIGH. I have not playtested it YET - BUT I think having that many choices is contrary to wanting players to bid on the highest monster in the pack. Perhaps if the number of choices was only TWO (2), that might be more reasonable (So "# of Players" + 1).

I think this needs more consideration... Also I would like to calculate how this affects the total amount of rounds per player.

More like a sophisticated game of Blackjack

Originally with the five (5) card betting, I thought the game would resemble "Poker". However with the NEW *restriction rule*, it looks to be shaping up more like a round of "Blackjack". Why? Or more importantly How? Let me explain...

Originally I thought the minimum BID (of cards) would be ONE (1) card. But players can lay down up to five cards to make a competing bid. So five (5) cards is like the Blackjack maximum! If I bring the minimum bid to 2 cards instead of one, the game could even MIMIC Blackjack game play.

For example the first card could be REVEALED and subsequent cards hidden. This would be identical to Blackjack with the exception that bidding is computed using the system of virtues and not simply card values... Well in TRUTH I plan to simplify calculations by using a cards points to calculate FAST how many virtue points a bid has... There is the long way, checking each virtue and adding them up, or the short way, just compute the virtue point summary.

Unlike in Blackjack where a player LOSES if he goes over 21, "Monster Keep" restriction rule makes it IMPOSSIBLE to go over... So you bid with the BEST possible hand... Sort of like *sticking* with a hand of 17!

One difference between a typical game of "Blackjack" is players usually play against the DEALER. In "Monster Keep" players play against EACH OTHER (in the case of competing bids)...

More on bluffing

One difference between "Blackjack" and "Monster Keep" (What a comparison?!) is that players can BLUFF their way to victory. No this has nothing to do with having an *iron-faced look*, what it has to do with is ADDING junk cards to a BID. What are junk cards???

I use the term *junk cards* to represent cards that go OVER the 10 Virtue point maximum. These cards add ZERO points towards your virtue total and are played to try to out manoeuvre an opponent... This is an interesting TWIST that adds REAL BLUFFING to what would appear to be something similar to "Blackjack". With the added BONUS of REAL BLUFFING, this is surely going to make "Monster Keep" an instant CLASSIC!

Four or Five card bids

The minimum bid for any monster must be two (2) cards. As such it becomes RISKY to play hands with either four (4) or five (5) cards as part of a bid. Why? What happens if you lose the hand to an opposing bid which was HIGHER makes it that during that round, you do not have enough cards to be able to bid on another monster after the competing bid gets resolved.

This also ADDS to the game's overall strategy: do you try to go over top with four or five cards or do you play it safe and only bid with three cards, leaving you an out to bid on a remaining monster...

Standard 52 card deck

Okay, so I was thinking that maybe I could use some of "Monster Keep" fundamental mechanics and apply them to a standard 52 deck of cards. Why? Just because it would be a severely simplified version of the game. If the core mechanics can be played using a standard deck of 52 cards, well then the *extended* game would be that more challenging to play.

I will test this out to see if it is possible... Obviously the standard version will have less *features* than the original "Monster Keep". But what it will have is betting and bluffing (and no monsters - so sad!) But if the rules for the *strip-down* version hold true, the game should still be fun to play.

I will report back with an update!

Note: I will be using *Poker Chips* for the betting aspect of the game. Unlike in "Monster Keep" where the cards are part of the bidding process, chips will be used for betting... This seems to be a variation from the original game, so I guess the standard version will have rules specific to itself only.

Why not use two poker decks

Why not use two poker decks with different backs? You may discover something really interesting with your mechanic, kind of a double layer poker game. Imagine seven card stud, your monster hand starts with two face down cards. Now you use a fresh five card hero hand to bid for face up monster cards to improve your monster hand.

NEW form of "Blackjack"

Well the major point is that I believe that I have *stumbled* upon a NEW form of "Blackjack". I have just playtested it today using two poker decks. For ease, each player has his own poker deck. Casino's Blackjack is played using four (4) or six (6) decks to make it harder for players to count cards.

The thing is that my game allows players to BET (Ante + betting) since players play against EACH OTHER. It's more common to have a hand of 20 because of FACE cards which count as a 10. In "Monster Keep" there are only four (4) "10 point" cards. With a standard deck of 54 cards, there are SIXTEEN (16) face cards. The more decks you add, the more face cards you will get. So having under 20 is considered a *weak* hand.

Adding *junk cards* to a bet is another strategic move, since players can raise their bet twice before all cards are revealed. Junk cards can build tension... But would often be used to pad a hand with a value of 21 (example: 10 + 7 + 8 + 4).

I think I will retry another session, but this time ONLY with cards Ace to 10, no face cards. This would probably be more in the spirit of "Monster Keep".

Update: Well I tried the game without FACE cards and it's much better (in term of hands). As suspected when there are too many face cards, anything less than 20 is a *weak* hand. But with the face cards removed (like in the spirit of "Monster Keep"), there are only four (4) "10 point" cards. This makes it tougher to always make a hand of 20+ points.

When there is a TIE, the pot is split amongst the remaining players (those who have not folded).

I have decided to call the game "Straight Face 21" a Blackjack variant!

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blog | by Dr. Radut