a Tasmanian Devil on the heap

Pouches of Destiny started as Greedy Devils which started as an entry to the 2017 200WordRPG challenge. Hurriedly squeezing it into 200 words (plus never having actually played it outside of my own head) meant that many nuances needed (a) discovering, and (b) ironing out. After some play-testing, the rules have improved, and it does seem like there is a fun+interesting game in there. Meanwhile, we’ll keep tinkering.

Any feedback? Leave a comment.

The Rules (version 1.6, 2017-09-30)

Setting the scene

You are highly motivated marsupials, scrabbling around for food on an ever-shifting rubbish heap, fighting for survival and supremacy. Everything you carry in your pouch leaches into you, changing your capabilities. Pick wisely. (ok, so, marsupials don’t usually carry food in their pouches, but, artistic license, dammit!)

The first marsupial with a pouch full of 5 different foods, standing on the highest possible spot on the heap (i.e. the King), wins.

You will need

  • a standard deck of playing cards
  • at least 2 players (also works with 3, and we are testing with 4 players e’en now)
  • a unique token to mark each player’s position on the heap
    • small enough so that 2 or 3 can fit on a single playing card
    • e.g. chess or monopoly pieces
      • or actual little plastic marsupial figures for that extra touch of authenticity…
  • enough space
    • in the middle, to lay out a 6x6 grid of cards, with room round the edge
    • in front of each player, to display up to 6 cards

Prepare the heap

Start with a deck of 52 cards.

Remove three Kings.

For two players, remove three Aces, two 2s, and one 3.

For three players, remove two Aces, and one 2.

For four players, remove one Ace.

Shuffle the remaining deck, and deal them face down as 9 mini piles arranged in a 4x4 grid. Doesn’t matter that the piles have different numbers of cards. Turn over the top card of each pile to be face up and, later, any time the top card is taken from a pile, ensure the revealed card is face up.

An example heap

The value of the top card in each of the piles represents the height above bedrock of the heap at that location. Aces are low, Kings are high (literally).

You start next to the heap, on bedrock, and can move alongside or onto the heap.

Your pouch

As you scramble across the heap, you can pick up cards to put in your pouch. It can hold a maximum of 5 cards, and you must immediately DISCARD any excess cards.

Your pouch cards are laid out in front you, face up, visible to all the other players at all times, except when you are selecting a card for fighting.

Each card in your pouch can be considered as food (if smaller than 6), or a weapon to be used in a fight (bigger is better). To win, you will need one of each of the possible food values (Ace,2,3,4,5) in your pouch. Furthermore, the cards in your possession ‘leach’ into you, affecting your capabilities.

If you have any

  • Spades => you can PICK two cards (rather than one),
  • Diamonds => you can MOVE up a height difference of 5 (rather than 4),
  • Clubs => each card (of any suit) you play in a fight scores +1,
  • Hearts => if you play it in a fight, and there is a tie, the highest heart acts as a tie-breaker.

Actions

In each round, each player in turn chooses one of the following actions

MOVE

Moves are one step NESW to a neighbouring spot on the grid, staying on or beside the heap.

If you are beside the heap, you can move diagonally, cutting across the corner of a heap card, to another spot beside the heap.

You can

  • step along to a card of the same value
  • step uphill, from a lower card to a higher-value card, if the difference is less than or equal to 4 (or 5, if you hold a diamond)
  • slide downhill all the way in one glorious swoosh (as far as you choose), as long as you follow a sequence of ever lower cards
  • stay where you are

PICK

You can pick

  • the card you’re standing on (and so reveal the one underneath that),
  • or a card from below a higher neighbouring point (as if you’re digging into the side of a hill).

DISCARD

You can choose to just discard a card from your existing pouch, or maybe you have to make room for a newly picked card.

The card is discarded as far away as a MOVE, i.e. to a neighbouring NESW position, or can slide all the way down. When it comes to rest, it is the new top card. You can discard onto bedrock (spreading the heap out sideways).

You can only discard onto your own position if it doesn’t raise your height by more than 4.

FIGHT

Any time two or more marsupials are on the same location, however fleetingly, any of them can immediately initiate a fight.

A fight might happen

Each marsupial in turn has a chance to initiate a fight with one other marsupial. This might mean choosing to fight again with the marsupial who started the previous fight.

For each fight between two marsupials, each gathers up their pouch and secretly selects a card to be a weapon. The weapons are revealed simultaneously. The two card values are compared, factoring in any ‘leaching’ effects, and the higher score wins. Both cards are immediately discarded. The pouches are revealed again, and the winner (if there is one) chooses a card from the loser’s pouch.

Taking turns

In each round, each player takes their turn to choose one action (with a caveat that a fight could break out at any time). And when deciding if there is to be a fight, the players are consulted in the same order as for choosing actions.

For 2 players, alternate who goes first in each round.

For 3 or more players, pick a player at random to start, then go round clockwise from them for each round. Every so often, at random or when someone complains, pick a new person and direction to start each round.

Or make up your own fair solution for mixing up the order in which everyone gets to make their choices.

– End of the rules –

Scavenging across the heap



Any feedback? Leave a comment.

Edge Cases, Worries, Weaknesses, Maybes

  • So far, the rules have mostly been tuned for 2 players. We anticipate there will be a need to adjust some details for more players to keep things balanced.
  • Perhaps the heap could be built from 2 or more decks of cards?
  • No reason why the heap can’t expand out beyond the 5x5 grid with discards.
  • Maybe there is a better metaphor than Tasmanian Devils?
    • Marsupials !
      • … which do not carry food in their pouches :-(

Alternative Names

  • Pouches of Destiny
    • Cheek Pouches of Destiny ? (with squirrels)
  • It’s a rubbish life
  • Heap of Trouble
  • Scramble
  • Scavengers
  • Top Rat
  • Piles
  • Marauding Marsupials
  • Fill the Pouch

Major rule changes

  • 1.0 The initial version as submitted to the 2017 200WordRPG challenge
  • 1.1
    • ‘leaching’
      • effects are clarified to be regardless of the number of each suit in the pouch
      • hearts now is a tie-breaker in fights, rather than an enlarged pouch
      • diamonds now allow climbing higher, rather than moving twice
    • fighting
      • can now happen any time 2 or more marsupials occupy the same location, rather than being an explicit action
      • sequencing is clarified
    • discarding onto your current location has been clarified, so cannot raise yourself up too high.
    • Staying on a local peak is now ok
    • sequencing has been clarified. No more coins. There is a specified turn order within each round.
  • 1.2
    • allow the pouch to hold duplicate values, but to win you need one of each of the food values: Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5.
  • 1.3
    • refined off-heap movement to allow diagonal steps
    • winning now requires being on the highest (or equal highest) spot
    • the mechanic for taking turns can be confusing, and is definitely helped by using the Snake of Selection to mark the start and direction of rotation of each round
    • swooshing is very pleasing indeed.
  • 1.4
    • Name change: Pouches of Destiny !!!
      • the over-strained metaphor, ‘greedy devils’, breathes a sigh of relief.
  • 1.5
    • simplify Taking Turns
    • to create more pressure for conflict, limit resources by removing key cards at the start.
    • require that the player must be on a King card to win
    • a win can be achieved the moment the conditions are met (not waiting to the end of the round)
  • 1.6
    • fixing inconsistencies in the grid sizes