Refer to the comments in this comic for the rationale.
The aim is to build a Precocious-themed game on a standard deck of cards, with the suits adapted from the comics (Children suit, etc.).
Since this will be classic suits plus maybe symbols, it is probably hard to make each card have a different effect (Autumn: Snoop! look at another player's hand.)
How do we get the water balloons in?
First try: Human Trophies
References, that is, links in superscript, point to the rationale of the corresponding rule, given below.
"It's open season on Gemstone Estates!
With everybody equating 'smart' and 'devious' (Ursula too, she's been manipulated into it), each group of child wants to prove his superiority. The
neighbours, targets, victims are well-defined; let's see who can trick them the most!
Each gang settles in its own clubhouse, amassing useful toys such as fireworks, uranium or paint. A little backstabbing here and there, escaping the symbols of (relative) law and order that are the parents, and a few evil ideas will prove you are the
worst best villain(s) around the lake!
The four suits are children (spades), parents (hearts), victims (diamonds) and "toys" (clubs), like car keys, fireworks or muffins of doom. Miss Monster roams as the jokers, if so wished.
The children try to trick victims with their toys. The player who has tricked the most valuable victims wins.
During the game, cards can be either in:
- a separate victims deck for the victims, on the table, top card showing. This top card is the next target for all players.
- a drawing deck with the other cards, from which players are dealt and can draw.
- a hand for each player.
- a pile of tricked victims for each player, the trophies tally.
- the clubhouse of each player, namely in front of the player on the table. It is where the kids currently in the player's team are.
- in the parents' discard pile, the lounge. Miss Monster can also end there.
- in the toys' discard pile, the warehouses, where children can "scavenge".
Value and basic role of cards
For all suits except kids, the card value or power is its given number, except for jack, queen, king and ace, which are all worth 11.
For kids, the power or value is:
- 1 for the 2, 3 and 4,
- 2 for the 5, 6 and 7,
- 3 for the 8, 9, and 10,
- 4 for the jack (J), queen (Q), king (K) and ace (A).
- are the price! One is shown. The player who tricks him put him in his trophies tally. At the end, each player adds the value of his victims, and the highest total wins.
- When the deck of victims is empty, the game ends.
- are recruited from the hand into the clubhouse. Once per turn at most. They stay there and can perform actions each turn.
- can be ready (untapped), busy (tapped) or grounded. A ready kid stands straight. A busy kid stands on its long side. A grounded kid is face-down. Tapping a kid means making a ready kid busy. Untapping a kid means making a busy kid ready.
- can scavenge toys in the warehouses. the player uses kids to get toys from the discard pile.
- can trick a victim using toys.
- can be bribed. It's a competition, but a little private fun is a big motivator! Give enough toys to a kid and he will join you and use them for his own machiavellian plans for a while! A parent will get wary during the transaction, however…
- can stop a trick. Ivy was on guard! Play when a player tricks a victim to cancel the trick, with the resources still consumed.
- can punish a kid. You arrive too late! Play when a player tricks a victim to confiscate the toys and ground the child. The victim stays tricked.
- change hands during a bribe.
- are used for bribes, and tricks.
- can be scavenged in the warehouses.
- gives detention. Play against another player. During his turn, the player cannot play tricks (they are in school!). All other actions are possible (there are so many funny things in the lost and found room).
The victims deck is on the table, with its top card showing.
The drawing deck is on the table
Each player starts with five cards in hand.
Players play their turn in clockwise order. The player whose turn it is is called the active player.
The active player is not required to make all the following actions but they must be played in that order:
- ANY PLAYER can make Miss Monster give a detention at the start of the turn. Miss Monster then goes to chill in the lounge. Another player discards Miss Monster. The active player cannot trick any victim this turn.
- Grounded kids are now busy (leaving the house!).
- Let's equip! Kids can scavenge toys in the warehouses. Tap kids for a total value at least equal to that of the toy in the warehouse, and put the toy in your hand. Several toys may be scavenged in a turn, but each of them must be scavenged by a different team of kids.
- Example : the warehouse contains 2, 6 and 9. Alice has the kids 3, 9, Q. The power of her kids is then 1, 3 and 4 respectively. She can scavenge the 2 toy by tapping her 9 kid or her Q kid. Or she can scavenge the 6 toy by tapping both her 9 and Q kids. However, she cannot scavenge the 9 toy because she does not have enough total value, and she cannot scavenge both the 2 and 6 toys, because she cannot make two different teams with value at least 2 and 6 respectively.
- Recruit! Play a kid from your hand. He enters play busy. Only one kid can be recruited in a turn.
- Bribe! You give toys to a kid so that he joins your ranks. Unfortunately a parent sees your strange talking and becomes wary! Take a kid in another player's clubhouse. You have to discard toys (play from hand into warehouses) with total value at least twice the power of the kid. Moreover, you have to give a parent to the player you snatch the kid from. A grounded kid cannot be bribed (try speaking with Autumn when she is chained). No limits on the number of kids that can be bribed in a round.
- Trick! Now that's what it is all about! You are highly encouraged to make your own story for each trick: "Bud lays a trail of muffins of doom and Casey follows mechanically till she falls into the lake." Tap a single kid and play toys with a total value (kid + toys) greater than that of the displayed victim. At least one toy must be played. If no other player interrupts (see below), the victim is moved to the player's trophies tally, and the toys are discarded. The next top card in the victims deck is shown. There is no limit to the number of tricks in a turn. Only one interruption is possible on each trick.
- ANY OTHER PLAYER can interrupt by playing a parent. The parent must have a value at most equal to the total value of toys played. (BEWARE: It's "at most", not "at least". Even Shi Ann knows better than to give the car keys. Now.) The parent is discarded (goes to the lounge after a taxing day). The interrupting player then chooses whether he wants to stop or punish.
- If he stops, the parent arrives early and prevents the trick. The kid stays busy. The toys are discarded (had to hide them in a hurry! But now everyone can scavenge them…). But the victim stays on top of the victims deck, unaffected.
- If he punishes, the parent arrives after the fact. The victim is moved to the active player's trophies tally, and the next top card in the victims deck is shown. The toys are confiscated: the interrupting player puts them in his hand. Moreover the kid is grounded. He is face-down. The effect is that he cannot play next turn.
- Example (continued) : Alice has finally bought the 6-toy with her 9- and Q-kids. In her hand, she already had the 5- and 10-toys. The current victim is a King (value 11). She must then attain 12 in kid+toys value to trick him. She taps her 3-kid (value 1) while playing the 5- and 6-toys (total value 11), for a total of 12.
- Example (continued) : Bernard seizes the moment. He interrupts Alice by playing his Jack-parent (value 11 to be compared to the value of toys played, that is 11). Since he needs toys, he decides to punish and takes the 5- and 6-toys while grounding Alice's 3-kid. Alice keeps her victim. Charlie would also have liked to interrupt, but was slower than Bernard and could not.
- Example (continued) : Alice could have played differently. She could have scavenged the 2-toy with her 9-kid. Then tricked the King-victim with her Q-kid (value 4), using her 10-toy (value 10), for a total value of 14. Bernard could not interrupt with his J-parent, since its value (11) is more than the value of toys played (10). However Charlie still can! He plays his 7-parent, and decides to stop Alice. The 10-toy goes to the discard pile, and the king-victim is still available for grab! But with only her 3-kid still ready, and the 2- and 5-toys in hand, Alice does not have enough to try again to trick him.
- Busy kids are now ready. Untap all kids who are not grounded.
- Draw a card from the drawing deck. This ends the turn.
End of game
The game ends when either:
- all victims have been tricked.
- all players pass (do nothing, without being in detention) in a row.
Each player adds the value of the victims in his trophies tally. The winner/most dangerous/funny Poppinstock team is the one with the highest total.
Rationale for different rules
- Having four top cards allows having four different cards at the same level as the top one. For example, it makes top parents more useful for interruptions.
- Kids are not discarded. Hence if they had the same value range as other cards, top kids would be too much stronger than other kids or other cards, or would require more complicated rules.
- The order is chosen to avoid that a player scavenge the toys he has used for bribing or tricking. Moreover, tricks come last so that a player must allocate kids to scavenging without knowing whether a parent will stop his tricks.
- So that they miss this turn.
- The scavenging rule is there to keep the game going: otherwise all toys would probably be consumed before all victims are tricked. It might seem strange to see the toys that have been used for tricking available for scavenging, story-wise. I imagine that the kids have seen they are useful and it's worth "finding" them.
- The aim of this rule is to give a chance to players who have no kids in hand in the first rounds. Also, I wanted a way to have our Poppinstock kids change allegiance.
- If there are more than two players, my first ideas for the cost of bribing looked too crippling for both players. Giving a parent to the player you steal the kid from softens the blow. More on the cost of bribing in Discussions below.
- So that we do not bother with the value of a face-down kid.
- A single kid so that the rule for parent interruption stays simple. Otherwise, you could play a very small toy and almost no parent could interrupt with those rules.
- I want a top toy (or the value thereof) to be needed to take down a top victim with a value 1 child. Otherwise top parents can almost never interrupt.
- So that player must pay a card from his hand, and so that a parent might always interrupt.
- No, you cannot punish yourself to keep your toys. Stop making us use rule #24.
- I want the value of parents to have an effect. With that rule, all parents can interrupt at least the four top toys. It might be more intuitive to have higher-value parents stop more things, but then we would have to have a rule like "interrupts if parent value + toy value is at least 12". Alternatively, we could have more low-value toys than high-value toys, but that's probably less intuitive with the standard 52 cards.
- The idea is that all resources (kids, toys, parents) should have different uses so that players have to make choices.
- Magic players might be confused by the fact that untapping comes at the end of turn. The reason is that it allows an easy and clear way to have a kid miss a turn when grounded. You cannot "unground" at the end since your kid is grounded during your turn, and if you untap at the start, you may not be sure if you have just ungrounded a kid or forgot to untap it.
Discussion, remarks, and variations
- The adults are the only cards that stay discarded. So that there can be only a finite number of interruptions. Hence the game will end!
- One reason strong kids are strong is that they allow using lesser toys, so are harder to interrupt.
- The first player obviously enjoys a nice advantage. A way to mitigate it would be for the next players to start with more cards in hand.
- The rule for bribing is important to allow (almost) any first hand to be played, but currently very cumbersome. I initially had a price in toys only, but then the player whose kid was taken would be hit too hard. Also, I am not sure this is the right price. Maybe three times the value of the kid in toys, or 5 + kid value… I don't know… We could imagine that the parent given to the stolen player be at least the face value of the kid, so that high-value parents are good; but that would defeat the purpose of allowing almost any hand to be played (except 5 toys).
- We could also restrict bribing to one kid per turn. On the other hand the cost is a limitation in itself.
- Another idea would be to have each player start with one kid, and forbid that the last kid of a player be bribed.
- If each player starts with one kid, it would also allow compensating for first-player advantage more easily: first player starts with a value-1 kid, second player with a value-2, etc. From the fifth player on, add a card in the starting hand.
- The rules use sometimes "greater", sometimes "greater or equal". That's not very intuitive, but it looked like the right values. If somebody can get other values that work well and are simpler, good!