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Personal Challenge: 18 cards only

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larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
"Mirocosm" is a good example

"Microcosm" is a good example of compact game design. The core idea is to have multiple functions on the same card.

Joined: 07/06/2013
Met with Weresquid yesterday.

Met with Weresquid yesterday. New deadline for finished rules and cards is August 31st, and we'll try to convene the jury at some point after that.

Here's a greatly simplified version that I want to test. This might just be too simplistic (and result in a lot of tied portfolios), but playtesting is needed to be sure. I'll post a card list when I finalize the spreadsheet.


A Card Game for 3-5 Players

In Urban Development, you take the role of corrupt city councilors and their contractor cronies. The goal is to get the best development deals through the council – and built in the right neighborhoods.


There are 18 cards, each depicting a specific type of building project. Each card has one or more zoning symbols corresponding these zoning categories:

  • Residential
  • Commercial
  • Industrial
  • Civic

The cards also have a Cost rating from 3 to 5, represented by dollar signs.

Also, some cards have conditional score modifiers written on the card. For example, the Suburban Villas are worth +1 point if you have no industrial buildings. The conditional score modfiers are only used to determine the winner when the game is over.


With an odd number of players, set aside three cards face-down and at random to form the burn pile. With four players, set aside two cards.

Shuffle and deal the cards. Randomly determine which player will be the initial Chairman.


The game is divided into rounds. Each round is divided into three phases:

  1. Planning
  2. Voting
  3. Building

Revealing Information: As a general rule, you may show any number of cards in your hand to any number of players at any time, at your discretion.

Phase 1: Planning

In the planning phase, the Chairman chooses either right or left. Starting with the Chairman and going in turn, each player passes a card face-down to the next player in the chosen direction.

The Chairman must pass a random card from his or her hand. Subsequent players may choose which card to pass on. You may look at your new card before passing a card, and you may even pass on the card that you just received.

Phase 2: Voting

In the voting phase, the Council decides which building project to approve, if any. A maximum of one project can be approved each round.

In turn, each player must place one card from his or her hand face-down. The Chairman then shuffles the cards and turns them face-up. These cards are the proposed building projects for this session.

Only one of the proposals can be selected, but the proposals can be freely debated until a motion to move to a vote is made and seconded by anyone, including the Chairman.

The Chairman decides how the debate is otherwise conducted, as well as the order and method of voting. During debate, players may negotiate to their heart’s content, but no promises made are binding.

Voting is done by absolute majority vote. Abstaining is permitted. In a four-player game, the Chairman’s vote breaks ties.

Failed Vote

If no proposal achieves the required majority, the Council must adjourn. In that case, shuffle the proposed cards back together and deal them out randomly. Then go back to the planning phase.

Successful Vote

If a project is approved by majority vote, the selected proposal becomes a contract and remains on the table.

The player whose proposal was approved picks up the discarded proposals, secretly adds one of them his or her hand, shuffles the rest and deals them out to the other players face-down.

The Chairman does not get a card. If the Chairman's proposal was accepted, that player simply shuffles and deals the discarded proposals to the other players.

1st Round Special Rule

In the first round of the game, if the initial Chairman’s proposal is accepted, that player gets to draw one card at random from the burn pile.

Phase 3: Building

In the building phase, it’s time to see who gets contract in his or her neighborhood.

Bidding on a contract

Beginning with the Chairman and going clockwise, each player may reveal any number of cards from his or her hand and/or neighborhood to create a portfolio.

Declining to bid

Instead of bidding and revealing cards, you may draw a random card from the burn pile and secretly discard a card to the burn pile.

Comparing portfolios

When all players have bid or declined to bid on the contract, the player with the strongest portfolio gets the contract.

Each zoning category symbol in a portfolio that matches a symbol on the contract card is worth 1 point. In the event of a tie, the cheapest tying portfolio wins. If still tied, the Chairman decides which of the tying players wins the contract (but the Chairman cannot choose him or herself).

The player that won the contract then builds the building in his or her neighborhood and then becomes the new Chairman. Cards in your neighborhood are placed face-up in front of you.

Winning the Game

The game is over when any player is out of cards in hand at the end of a round.

To determine the winner, add up the total cost of the cards in your neighborhood and calculate any conditional score modifiers to determine your neighborhood’s value. The player or players with the most valuable neighborhood wins.

In the event of a tie, the tying player with the lowest number of zoning symbols in his or her neighborhood wins. If still tied, the tied players win jointly.

Joined: 07/06/2013
A few notes on the

A few notes on the parliamentary procedure at work here:

1. A minority (in a five-player game) can invoke cloture and move to a vote. Not sure if this is a net benefit or a potential problem.

2. There's no motion to adjourn. Proposals have to be voted on, using the procedures decided by the Chairman (potentially arbitrary stuff like enbloc votes between package deals, etc.). Again, not sure if this is a problem or not -- a dedicated majority can still tank all the proposals, it's just cumbersome.

Joined: 07/04/2020

Aspirinsmurf wrote:
I've entered a head-to-head design challenge with a friend of mine and fellow game designer. The rules: make a game that uses only 18 poker-sized cards. No pen and paper allowed, no other components allowed. Deadline is January 20th, 2019.

I’ll use this thread as a journal of sorts. Feel free to join in on the discussion!

# The Jury
Names altered for privacy.

__Alice:__ Alice is methodical, strategic and introverted. She prefers games where she can slowly build up to an unbeatable advantage over time. She also enjoys cooperative games and storytelling games, and she has a very high tolerance for complicated game mechanics.

__Bob:__ Bob is a master strategist. He enjoys playing 4x computer games, and he usually emerges victorious in our regular Twilight Imperium sessions. Bob thrives when there are multiple avenues to victory and possibilities for long-term planning. If there are few, he makes his own fun by going for high-risk moves and creating chaos and destruction.

__Catherine:__ Catherine is the most casual of our usual players. She prefers games with simple mechanics and social dynamics, such as bluffing games, party games and deduction games. Among her favorites are Coup, The Resistance and Love Letter.

__Dave:__ Dave is very competitive and tactical. He likes games involving subterfuge, surprise attacks, diplomacy and risk management. He also likes two-player games more than probably anyone else in the group. Favorites include Illuminati and Shadowfist. Dave also designs games.

__Ethan:__ Ethan isn't really a boardgamer at heart, so I've yet to suss out what type of games appeal to him the most. He plays Chess and Darts competitively, but not all that many other abstract strategy games or pub games. He's an avid reader though, with a great love for volume-spanning fantasy and science fiction epics.

Voting will be by simple majority and secret ballot.

# Playtesting
We're allowed to playtest our games with anyone (including the jurors) as much as we like, as long as the other competitor is present. We're aiming for finished and tested games here, not unfinished drafts.

__Admins:__ Feel free to move this thread if this isn't the right forum for this sort of thing.

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