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Halmstad

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Challengers
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Joined: 12/31/1969

Halmstad
a game for 3 players
by Mitchell Allen

Story:

You are a 21st century Swedish shipping magnate with a decidedly 19th century superstitious belief in nisser – little helpers – whom you credit with keeping your business running smoothly. Your local competitors publicly mock you, although privately, they too maintain good relations with their nisse. Your international trading partners don't care how it's done, as long as they get their regular shipments of timber.

Equipment:
Two poker decks with four jokers, 18 poker chips or other counters

Cast of characters and objects:
2-10 of Clubs - each card represents a quantity of timber (18 total)
2-10 of Spades - each card represents a quantity of ballast (18 total)
2-10 of red suits - each card represents supply and demand (36 total)
All Face Cards - captains of the vessels
Jokers - the nisser
Aces - goodies for the nisser

Setup:
Shuffle both decks together and deal seven cards to each player. Next, place five cards side-by-side face-up in a tableau. Finally, deal three cards face-down above the tableau. Place the remainder of the deck to one side of the tableau.
The tableau, and any cards placed upon them, represent the Port of Halmstad. It is from here that players recruit captains, load ballast and communicate with the international traders. It is also where timber is warehoused until loaded onto the vessels.
The face-down cards represent the collective belief system of all three players. The presence or absence of a nisse among these three cards determine how easily the objective can be attained.
The deck represents opportunities. During play, cards will be drawn from the deck as needed.
Place the 18 counters near the tableau, where they can be reached by all players, but will not obstruct play.

Objective:
Complete as many contracts as possible while there is a supply of timber.

Play:
Depending on the initial tableau and the contents of your hand, it may or may not be advantageous to go first. Accordingly, each player must bid for the right to do so. This is done by simultaneously revealing one card from their hand. Here is the rank, from high to low: Joker, King, Queen, Jack, Ace, Ten … Deuce. If there is a two-way tie, the odd player goes first. In the case of a three-way tie, players must repeat the bidding by selecting one of the remaining six cards from their hands. After the first player has been determined, the cards are returned to each player's hand.

The main rule is that there is no forced play. You are free to do any or all of the following on your turn:
· Pass, doing absolutely nothing
· Draw enough cards so that your hand contains seven cards (until the deck is depleted)
· Swap one card from your hand with one of the five cards atop the piles in the tableau
· Examine beliefs and optionally swap one of the cards with one from your hand
· Claim a contract

Details:
Pass the turn to the the player on your left, if there is nothing else you want to do – you do not have to immediately replenish your hand.

Draw enough cards to replenish your hand to seven cards. Then decide whether to pass or continue.

Swap a card from your hand with any one of the top five cards from the tableau. Your aim is to be able to claim a contract as soon as possible (including the current turn!) It's highly desirable to grab a nisse that shows up at the port. You'll have a chance to manipulate the belief system, or bluff your opponents into thinking you put the nisse in the belief system!

Examine beliefs by looking at the cards without revealing them to the other players. You may swap one card from your hand with one card from the beliefs. If a nisse is among the beliefs (either because you swapped it in from your hand or because it was already there), you may be able to take advantage of it immediately! Return the cards face-down to the table.

Claim a contract (There are three ways to do this)
1. Without a nisse – this is the most difficult option. The set you play must have the following:
· a demand card (must be one of the five cards currently atop each of the piles in the tableau)
· enough supply cards in your hand to add up to the value of the demand card chosen (add up only red cards)
· enough timber and ballast cards in your hand to add up to the value of the same demand card (add up only black cards between 2 and 10, at least one must be a club)
· a captain in your hand (any face card)
· one counter for each timber card played

2. By turning up the beliefs and revealing a nisse – this is great, if you're sure of your beliefs! (If you are wrong, you can't complete any contracts for the rest of your turn.)
· the demand card (must be one of the five cards currently atop each of the piles in the tableau)
· any supply card, regardless of value
· any amount of timber and optional ballast that is less than or equal to the demand card chosen
· a captain
· one counter for each timber card played

3. By feeding a nisse and implying that a nisse would be revealed if the beliefs were examined – the bluff! If the other players believe, they won't challenge you. If the don't believe, they can challenge you. To feed a nisse, play any Ace from your hand. Before laying down the rest of your set, give your opponents about half a minute to decide if they are going to challenge you. If they decline, your belief is rewarded! without revealing the belief system, simply add the following cards to your set:
· the Ace
· any one demand card (must be one of the five cards currently atop each of the piles in the tableau)
· any amount of timber and optional ballast that is less than or equal to the demand card chosen
· a captain
· one counter for each timber card played
(no supply card is needed from your hand)

Special bonus: If you are challenged, reveal the belief system. If a nisse is among the three cards, your set will consist of:
· the nisse
· the Ace
· any one demand card (must be one of the five cards currently atop each of the piles in the tableau)
· any amount of timber and optional ballast regardless of the demand card chosen!
· a captain
· one counter for each timber card played
(no supply card is needed from your hand)

Cards used to complete a contract are placed face-down in front of the player, along with the counter.

Special penalty: If you lose a challenge, each opponent gets to "visit" the port and take one card from anywhere in one of the piles! (Even if their hand would have more than seven cards.)
The challenger also gets to complete a contract consisting of the three belief cards, a counter and one timber card (the timber card can be from his hand or from his visit to the port).
Finally, the challenger deals three new belief cards face-down.

Ending the game:
Once the final counter is collected or the deck is depleted, the game is over. Alternatively, the first player to collect five contracts wins.

Scoring:
If the alternate ending is not used, each player scores his contracts as follows:
Each nisse is worth four points
Each contract counter is worth one point
Tie-breaker #1: add up the value of the timber
Tie-breaker #2: whoever used the least ballast

Designer Notes:

I never heard of nisse until tonight. They're pretty cool little people, and easy to make a game around. Once I found out about them, I picked a Swedish city at random. Halmstad turns out to be a port city, thus the theme. I like the requirement to have an unknown mechanic. I hope my "collective belief system" is considered to be an interesting one.
This was not play-tested or analyzed for fatal flaws. I just wanted to have a bit of fun.

Mitch

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