The SPQF Rules Demo

This weekend, March 9-11, I'll be at Game Kastle Mountain View for my favorite event: Protospiel San Jose. It's an event where local Bay Area designers test their new designs with hundreds of volunteer testers. It's a really great event. While space is limited and already spoken for by designers, entry is free for testers. There's also food, giveaways, and more, so if you're at all curious, give it a shot.

This year I'll be testing three designs.

SPQF: This is my deck-builder for 2-4 players that plays in about 30 minutes. It features a novel mechanism for buying and selling cards, which is that cards you don't play by the end of the turn can be obtained by others. It is also highly interactive as you can follow other players' actions, which means you're building a deck not only for your engine, but to maximize the efforts of others. Rules here

Ringworld: This is my light-medium euro for 2-4 players that plays in about 30-45 minutes. It features a novel component where you manipulate a three tiered ring to program your robots as they rush to prepare a new planet for colonization. It's a euro-styled game that I think will have great table presence and accessible, but crunch decisions. Rules here

Rail Contango: This is my light euro for 3-5 players that plays in about 40 minutes. It features a mechanism I call action trading where you take a simple action, but then you must give it to someone else. Of course, which someone gets it can be determined with a helpful bribe. It features light stock manipulation and social richness that I think is really compelling. Rules here

SPQF is my lead game that I'll be devoting my time towards. It is a game that is deep in development. It has been tested about 75 times, including blind tests, and is mostly going through balance testing and refinement. Because of this, I won't be seeking early feedback on whether it works or not. I know it does! I'll be looking to fine tune accessibility and gauging people's overall enjoyment of the game. If nobody likes it, then it has gone the wrong direction. Because it is a more mature prototype, this also means my demo to teach the game is critical. If people dont' really grasp the rules based on how I teach it, they'll stumble over obvious mistakes and their feedback will be less useful to me.

That means I need a good demo. I Tweeted about this last night and was asked to present an example. Ultimately, I think a good demo pitch needs to consider the following:

Player motivations and incentives. Beyond simply explaining how to win, illustrate items and paths players should consider, without divulging the game's strategy.

Rules that can be excluded. When being taught a game, especially a learning game, there will be a point where people will stop paying attention. What rules can you set aside for later? 

Illustrating key connections in mechanisms. There may be some connections people may not fully grasp at first that are rather important. It may be useful to bridge some of those gaps initially.

I'm still working on the script, and this is by no means final, but here is a potential example demo script that I may use for SPQF at Protospiel San Jose. I hope I see you this weekend!

"Hi! This is SPQF, a civ-themed deck-builder inspired by the Roman and Greek civilizations of Antiquity. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins. You'll score points by expanding your tableau, storing resources, and playing certain cards that you'll recruit over the course of the game.

Each turn you're going to play one card for its action. You can modify this card - which I'll explain in a minute - and others can play certain cards to copy this action. This is called following. You will want to not only build a deck for your strategy, but to take advantage of the actions others take. 

There are four core actions (point out icons for each): Gather resources, expand your tableau, store cards and resources, which is helped by expanding your tableau, and scoring points. Some cards have multiple actions, and you can do them in any order. Actions in the black box can be followed. Actions in a red mark with this dash cannot be followed.

Let's cover a turn (point to reference card). First, play one card for its action. If it says "per," you can increase the action's output by playing certain cards. You need to match the same symbol on the action, using the icon on the left of your card. This card lets me gather crops - green cubes - by playing scythes. I can play these two cards with scythes to increase it by two. You can also play cards with the oak leaf, which is the wild symbol. Others can follow this if they play ONE scythe, and only one, from their hand, or wild card. So, the active player would gain four green cubes. Those who follow get one. 

Now, you must recruit one card from a trade row. But, before we go into this, let's skip to the next phase. Any cards you played to follow or as an action are discarded. You also discard cards with an X - your starter cards. Anything else? You put in your trade row. This means until the end of your next turn, opponents can recruit one of your cards! You'll need to choose what to play, and what to keep, if certain cards are crucial for your deck. Back to the previous phase, when you purchase a card, you take a card from any trade row - central, or an opponent's - and place it in your discard. You then draw five new cards from your deck. If your deck ever runs out, shuffle your discard pile. 

Let's return to the core actions. When you gather resources, you gather from the central supply. You can never have more than five of each. 

To expand your tableau, you spend resources shown on your reference card, then move your marker forward. If you're the first to build that level, gain 1VP. You'll earn VP at the end of the game based on your current expansion level.

This symbol means store. You can store 1 card per expansion level, plus one. This streamlines your deck, but also, you can use these symbols on your turn to modify an action. You cannot use these cards to follow! You can also store resources, one per expansion level plus one. Stored resources are worth 1VP at the end of the game. You cannot spend them. There are some cards that will help you gather resources and score VP using your stored cards and resources. This is a useful side action! 

Finally, you can score VP by using this action. 

The game ends if one player has 25VP or one player builds their fifth expansion. You finish the round so that every player gets an equal number of turns. You then tally final scores. 

At the start of the game, you all get the same four starter cards that let you gather resources, build, and use cards in trade rows. You also all get a monument. At the end of the game, it'll give you one point per card in your deck that matches the symbol. And whoever earns the most points for this gets a bonus 3VP. Finally, we're going to start you with five random cards from the deck. Let's take the first turn."

Things excluded:

  • I didn't explain every variation of every action. I assume people will ask. 
  • I didn't explain that some cards are worth 1VP, shown in the top right corner. I assume I can mention this later. 
  • I didn't go into the fact there are six types of cards, or the distribution (eight each). 
  • I didn't explain the general mechanisms behind the six types of cards. 
  • There is a third way the game ends, but it's less common.
  • I didn't mention the tie breaker.