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How to motivate bluffing and challenging bluffing players?

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Joined: 01/02/2011


I am designing a game with cards. Let me briefly describe it.

There are cards with numbers on them from 0 to 9. A card has either a male (4 of every number), a female character (4 of every number) or both (2 of every number). The number of these cards is therfore 100.

Each player is dealt 5 cards from the deck.

There are three stacks before the players.
On the first one, a random card is drawn from the deck. The player can put a card from his hand to this stack only with a card with the number exactly one greater than the number on the card on top of the stack. So, 1 goes on 0, 2 goes on 1, 3 goes on 2, 9 goes on 8 and 0 goes on 9, so it circles. The second deck is similar but goes backwards.

Now, the third deck is the interesting one.

The deck has two spots around the main spot. One from the left side, other from the right. At the game setup, one card is placed on the middle (main) spot face-up, and one is placed on the left one face-down. Now, on a player's turn, he can decide to place to the "open" spot (the one with no cards) any number of cards (but at least 3) with consecutive numbers, starting with the number of the card that is face-up. For example, if a card is 4, a player can place cards 5,6,7 on the empty spot. Now, the player does that secretly. When he places the cards on the empty spot, he takes all the cards from the opposite spot (not middle) and places them face-up on the middle stack, thus opening the other side of the stack. The player scores a certain amount of points depending on how many cards he placed next to the stack (in my example 5,6,7 - 3 cards = 3 points). If he placed more, he would score more. However, since this is done secretly, he can bluff placing for example 6 cards (even though they are not consecutive) and score 6 points. Any other player may think he is bluffing and challenge him. If the numbers were consecutive, the player that was challening looses that many points, the player that played his sequence gains his points + 2, and every other player gains 2 point. If a challenge is succesful, and the bluffer is exposed, the challenging player gains the same amount of points as there were cards played (6 in the example) and bluffer's cards are returned to him and he loses 3 points.

Now this mechanic may be interesting, but I see some problems.
The players may be too scared to challenge the possibly-bluffing player because the punishment is too heavy. And if it were lower, they would challenge him every time. I want this action to be a felt risk but the punishment or reward to be adequate.

What do you see as other possible mechanic that would motivate the users to challenge another player or for a player to try to bluff? This middle stack should be the central part of the game, so bear this in mind. Players score points when they get rid of all their cards from the hand (in which case they are dealt another 5). So that may be another factor in wanting to bluff in as many cards as possible.

I'd like to hear your comments, both on mechanics and how to motivate players to bluff and other players to try to challenge.

Thank you very much.

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