Runs & Wild Suits

The Looney Labs Pyramid Arcade is a nice set of widgets with which to design your own games. I posted a new one here last week and asked in a couple of Facebook game groups if someone would like to help me play-test it via email or Messenger. Sadly, no one responded.

That was strictly a two-player game. This one is for two to four players. The idea is, each player has five cards on the table in front of her, and the winner is the first person to acquire cards that make a winning combination. I wanted to use a few of the pyramids in addition to the cards, moving them around on the card layout. So here’s the starting position.

This is a three-player game. The Pyramid Arcade deck has five suits; stars are added to the usual four. Each player has one trio of pyramids, which correspond in color to one of the five suits. That correspondence is important.

The 5×5 card layout in the center is by way of being the board for the game. All of the pyramids will be moving around on the board. In each turn, you get to move one pyramid (or put one on the board, if you have one that isn’t there at present). All of the pieces move like chess rooks, either left/right or forward/back along any unobstructed row or column. The pyramids never stack.

When introducing a pyramid onto the 5×5 board, you can place it on any vacant card in the row of cards nearest you.

The cards that you’ll creating a winning combination with are the pip cards — 2 through 10 in each suit. Jacks are wild, and the queens, kings, and aces trigger special actions.

Acquiring Cards

In order to acquire a pip card (or a Jack) or take a special action, your piece must start its move on a card that matches either the value or the suit of the destination card. That is, you can always move a piece, provided it isn’t blocked by other pieces, but your move won’t gain you any immediate advantage unless it ends on a card that has the same suit or value as the card from which the move started.

If the destination card is a pip card or a Jack and you have a suit or value match, you move it into your array. Your array always has only five cards, so you’ll have to make room for it by returning one of your cards to the board, placing it under the piece that just moved. That is, the destination card and one of the cards in your array are trading places.

At the start of the game, you may have kings, queens, or aces in your array. In this situation they must be the first cards that you replace, putting the king, queen, or ace onto the board.

If your piece lands on an ace (again, it must match the card from which the piece departed either in suit or in value), the ace gives you the power to swap the card of your choice from your array with a card of your choice in an opponent’s array. Quite often, you’ll be stealing a jack in preference to a card you don’t want.

After the ace is used in this way, it is discarded, and one of the cards from the draw pile replaces it on the board. Even if this card happens to match the card from which the piece departed, nothing happens; a match is created only when a piece is moved. If the draw pile runs out, shuffle the discard pile.

The same thing happens when you activate the power of a king or queen by landing on it. The king or queen is discarded and replaced by a card from the draw pile.

When your piece lands on a king and is able to activate it, you can pick up any of the four cards that are adjacent to it (touching along an edge, not a corner), replacing that card with one from your hand.

When your piece activates a queen, you can choose to do a conveyor-belt rotation of either the row or the column of cards that the queen is on, by one position either up, down, left, or right. This will of course mean that one of the cards will slip off the edge of the board and return on the opposite edge. When this happens, the cards carry any pieces that are on them along with them. The piece one the queen is moved too, and then the queen is discarded and replaced by a card from the draw pile.

It will sometimes happen that two kings are adjacent to one another. In this situation, you can’t pick up the other king and add it to your hand; there would be no reason to do so. However, the power of the king is transmitted through the other king, giving you access to any cards that are adjacent to either king. If you do this, both kings are removed from the board and replaced by cards from the draw pile.

The Winning Combinations

A winning combination of five cards will be either a run or a spread. A spread consists of five cards with the same value (anything from five 2’s through five 10’s). Runs consist of cards with consecutive values — for instance, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. The combination 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 is also considered a run. In a run, either all five cards must be of the same suit or all five must be of different suits.

The reality is a bit more complex, however. Each player’s pieces correspond in color to one of the suits. That suit is the player’s “wild suit.” A card in the wild suit does not have a wild value: If it’s a 7, it’s still a 7 and can’t be used to replace a card with a different value. But it can pretend to be of any suit. So, for instance, if your wild suit is spades, a winning run might consist of the 5 of hearts, the 6 of spades, the 7 of spades, the 8 of diamonds, and the 9 of stars. One of the spades is pretending to be a club. And of course a jack can substitute for any card at all, in either a run or a spread. There is no limit to the number of jacks you can have; an array containing four jacks is an automatic win.

More about Movement

Why, you might ask, are a player’s three pieces of different sizes? Does that have any significance?

The game could indeed be played using three pyramids of the same size in each given color. That would be simpler. The sizes introduce an added wrinkle. A larger piece can “bump” a smaller piece, pushing it back by one square in order to occupy the square formerly occupied by the smaller piece. If the smaller piece was at the edge of the board, it is bumped off the board and must be returned to play in a future turn. It can’t be bumped if there’s another piece behind it, however. Bumping is not transmitted to the second piece.

To compensate for its vulnerability, a smaller piece has an added power. It can “carom” off of a larger piece by turning to the left or right and continuing its move until it reaches a suitable destination or the edge of the board, or is blocked by another piece. Conceivably, a smaller piece could make two or more caroms in a single move.

My first run-through of this game lasted only eight or ten moves (see below). I suspect it’s not a long, drawn-out game. But it may not be easy to gain access to the card you want. There might not be another card of the same suit or value in its row or column. And there’s always a danger that when you’re set up to gain that card on your next move, someone will activate a queen and rotate either your piece or the destination card away, so that you can no long acquire it.

The orange/star player (in the foreground) has won. An orange pyramid landed on an ace, allowing orange to steal one of black’s jacks. The two star cards are this player’s wild suit, so one of them is pretending to be a club or something, producing a winning 5/6/7/8/9 run.

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