Sep 24 2013

Game Poem 42: Stained Glass

Stained Glass

A game of memories and perception for three or more players

Each player will need a black pen or marker. You will need a sheet of paper – the more players you have, the larger the sheet should be. You will also need a set of colored pencils or crayons.

The first player that is inspired will draw a shape on the paper, using straight lines. It may be a triangle, rectangle, or any other three or four sided shape that you like. Make the shape not too large, but big enough to write a word in. The next player will draw a shape, not too far away from the first one, and then the next player, and so on. After each player has drawn one shape, players may choose to either draw another shape, attached to one of the edges of one of their existing shapes, or they may choose to write a single word inside the shape of another player. Shapes may only contain one word. If someone writes a word inside one of your shapes, stop for a moment, and recount a memory inspired by that word, no more than two or three sentences. Everyone should listen carefully to the memory, and then continue.

Once each player has at least one shape with a word in it, the players may begin to connect their groups of shapes together, by drawing connecting shapes or lines. One a player has connected their group with another player’s group, they may begin to color their memories. Take a colored pencil, marker, or crayon, and fill in a shape that was not drawn by you, and does not have a word that you wrote inside it. Choose whatever color you like, and recount the memory originally inspired by that word in a different way, from a perspective inspired by the color that you chose to fill in. The person who originally recalled the memory must listen, and when the new memory is complete, say “Thank you” to the person who colored it for them.

The game is over when the players decide it is over. You may fill the entire sheet of paper with shapes and colored memories. When the game is over, give it to the player who needs it

Apr 12 2011

Game Poem 41: Scavenger

This is a game for any number of people. To play, you must find and bring together the following items:

  • Two coins.
  • A recording device.
  • One or more business cards.
  • An incandescent light bulb.
  • At least three colors of fingernail polish.
  • An empty DVD case.
  • Several pieces of fruit.
  • Three postcards from other cities.
  • A screwdriver.
  • An empty eggshell.
  • Twelve buttons.
  • A dog collar.
  • A long strip of thick cloth of any color.
  • Two action figures or miniatures.
  • A small handful of sand.
  • A writing implement that is not a pen or a pencil for each player.
  • One person that none of the players knows.
  • An address book.
  • Three small bags, clear plastic or brown paper.

Once they have been collected, take all of these items to an outdoor location and play the game. Make an audio or video recording of your play, and post it in a public location.

Mar 31 2011

Game Poem 40: The Pact

The Pact is a game for two players. The players were best friends as children, and at some point, made a promise to each other, like children do, that if one of them was ever turned into a vampire that they would turn the other one into a vampire as well, so that they could be best friends together forever. At the time, both children knew that vampires didn’t really exist, of course, so after a while the promise was forgotten as juvenile fancy, and there would be no further talk of vampires as they grew up together.

Play begins sometime after childhood, and follows the friends through their lives. The goal of the game is for the players to stay together, and avoid murdering each other.

Before starting, you will need to find a regular deck of playing cards. Remove all of the clubs and spades, and one heart card; shuffle the black cards together and, without looking at them, deal out a deck of fifteen black cards. Add the heart card to those, shuffle them well, and deal a stack of eight cards face down to each player. One player should now have a stack of cards with a random mix of eight spades and clubs, and the other will have seven mixed black cards and one heart, but neither player will know who has which cards yet.

The game will consist of a series of seven short scenes or conversations that take place between the friends throughout their lives. Each scene represents a specific period in a player’s life: their teenage years or high school, college age, their early twenties, early thirties, forties, their retirement, and finally their old age. The players will most likely remain close friends during these years, interacting with each other as friends do; at the very least they will find an excuse to meet every once in a while to catch up with each other.

Every scene will begin with each player looking at the top card in their stack, noting it privately, and then putting it aside. If they draw a club, their side of the interaction will be a positive one, or good things will have happened to them, and they will share their happiness with their friend. If their card is a spade however, they will behave negatively towards their friend for some reason, and that reason will likely come up during their conversation at some point. They will still be friends, of course, but it’s possible that something bad has happened between them – perhaps a betrayal or loss of some sort. The two friends may have pulled similar cards, or opposite ones; the key is to interact with each other genuinely, behaving as dictated by the card drawn without being so extreme as to put the other off, one way or another.

Each scene between the players shouldn’t last more than a few minutes, five or six at the most. When it is time to move on, the players should find a reason to part, turn up their next card, and jump forward in time to play out the next scene.

At some point during the game, one of the players will turn up the heart card. This means that they have somehow become a vampire. The specifics of how this happened is not important, and should not be discussed with the other player. It is now up to this player whether or not to honor the pact that they made as children. If they choose to curse their old friend to an eternity of undeath, effectively killing the person that they’ve known their entire lives, they may do so at any time after they’ve received their heart card by showing it to the other player. If they do decide to turn their friend into a vampire as well, the game ends immediately. Put away the cards, and do not speak of it again.

However, if the vampire player wishes to spare their old friend, they will simply behave as though the heart card, and every other card they turn up afterwards, is a spade. They may now see their friend as beneath them, a source of food, as mere cattle at worst, or weak, shivering prey at best. Perhaps they fear for their friend’s safety now, and prefer to maintain a certain distance between them, so that their old companion may live out the life that they themselves no longer can. Perhaps they pity them, seeing them as inferior to what they have become, or it could be that they wish to spare their friend the pain and thirst they now know, or maybe they simply believe that the mortal player doesn’t deserve the gift of death and life that they have received.

Whatever the reason, the vampire will continue to push their friend away, no matter what card they turn up in subsequent turns. They will never reveal the reason for their coldness – unless they decide to turn the other player – but they will go on treating their childhood friend worse and worse, until the very end. (A note on aging and looks: For the purpose of this game, the vampire may alter their physical appearance to take on whatever age appropriate, so as not to alert their friend to their ghastly condition.) They must be careful to not be too obvious as to the reason why they are behaving so – at any time, if one player believes that the other has been turned into a vampire, they may destroy them instantly by revealing a spade card that they have just drawn. This will kill the other player whether they are a vampire or not, so be careful – murdering your friend will cost you the game. Either way, end as above, as if one player had turned the other, quietly.

Through seven ages, the friends will come together, reminisce over their shared history, discuss changes in their lives, speculate about their future, or just enjoy each other’s company. As time goes on, the relationship may become more and more strained, or they may find a way to look past whatever lies between them, and remain close and true to each other until the time comes for old age to finally take one of the two.

At the end of the seventh turn, the players will draw their eighth and final card from their decks. At this point, one of them will know for sure that they are a vampire; the other will know that they are not, and will end the game by announcing, “And then, I die…” The vampire player may finish in one of two ways: by saying, “…and I don’t.” Or, if they wish to turn their childhood friend in their very last moments, they may say, “…no, you don’t.” In either case, they reveal their heart card, wherever it may have come up in their lifetime. The dead may go on living, but the game has ended.

Mar 10 2011

Game Poem 39: EDP

EDP is a game poem for a handful of players, somewhere around four or five.

The term “EDP” is an acronym, generally used by law enforcement officers. It stands for “Emotionally Disturbed Person” and refers to a situation involving someone experiencing a severe emotional disturbance.

The play will be set in an institution, or in a questioning room in a police station, or someplace similar. One player will be designated the EDP. The character played by this player is entirely sane and rational, and must convince the others of this fact. The other players have brought the EDP to this place because they are convinced that they are seriously mentally ill, and must be held for their own protection, or the protection of others.

Each player, including the EDP, begins with one coin or token. These tokens will be used at the end of the game to determine the winner.

To begin, the interrogators will ask the EDP to tell them once again if they know why they’re there. The EDP will describe the circumstances that led them to be taken into custody. This could be some kind of scene or public arrest, or perhaps the authorities just showed up at their home one afternoon and brought them in without telling them why. It is entirely up to the EDP to provide these details, and the interrogators must accept whatever they say as true.

The disturbed player must continue to convince their captors that they are balanced and stable, but their examiners will attempt to twist their testimony into a light that shows how completely deranged they truly are. Every piece of evidence that the EDP might be of sound mind should be reframed to demonstrate their insanity. The interrogators, however, may not fabricate facts or details from whole cloth; they must turn their clearly unstable detainee’s assertions against them. The more that they insist that they are sane, the crazier they must be shown to be.

If, however, at some point, one of the interrogators begins to believe that the EDP is, in fact, in their right mind, they may declare them sane, and excuse themselves from the questioning. They will hand the EDP their coin or token, touch them on the forehead, and become a voice in the head of the disturbed person. Whatever they say from that point on will only be heard by the EDP, even though they say it out loud.

The EDP still believes that they are sane, but now they have a new voice inside their head telling them things, telling them what to do, telling them how much trouble they’re in, telling them that everyone is against them, telling them to behave normally, telling them that they’ve got to escape, telling them that it’s no use, telling them that their captors intend to torture or kill them, and so on. Press them hard. It is the duty of the EDP to respond as if these voices are truly coming from inside their own mind, but to continue to convince the interrogators that they are fine, and they should be released.

When the disturbed player has a voice in their head, they may release it by giving them all of their tokens, touching that player on the forehead, and dismissing the voice aloud. The dismissed player is no longer able to speak or interact with the scenario, but keeps the tokens they’ve collected for scoring purposes. If there are more than one voice in the EDP’s head, only one may dismissed in this manner at a time; if the EDP has no tokens to remove a voice with, they must wait until another player declares them sane to do so.

The game ends after a predetermined amount of time, or after all the interrogators have declared the EDP sane. If time runs out before the EDP can convince everyone else that they are truly not deranged, they will remain in a facility for the foreseeable future, and the non-disturbed player with the most tokens wins. If, however, the EDP manages to talk all of the interrogators into believing that they are sane, they win the game, regardless of how many tokens they have. They will, of course, have some extra psychological problems now, but those can be sorted out next time…

Mar 1 2011

Game Poem 38: Memoir

Memoir is a game poem is played by a single person. You. Over the course of the game, you will be remembering and discovering the diaries of your future self.

To begin, you will need to gather a few of your own personal artifacts, like photographs of yourself with friends or family, a few objects that you might find around yourself, mundane or significant or anywhere in between, and so on. These are the things that others might pick up and immediately know that they belonged to you, or things that invoke certain feelings or memories for you, even if they have no meaning to anyone else.

You will also need to collect a few items that do not belong to you, and do not have any familiarity or bearing on your present day life. These might be photos of someone who looks similar to you, but is much older, some objects that you’ve never seen before, or that mean nothing to you, or any random thing that you might find that does not immediately resonate with you, and make you say, “this is mine.”

The game also requires that you have somewhere private to write. This may be an open text document on your computer, or a fresh notebook or pad of paper, or whatever you feel most comfortable with. You will also need a timer of some kind, that will be set for fifteen minutes.

Settle down someplace quiet, and place the items and photos that you have assembled in front of you. When you are ready, close your eyes, and envision what you would imagine your life might be like in five years – or ten, or twenty, or forty. Only take a few moments to do this. Breathe. Open your eyes.

Write a date at the top of your diary entry, a date some number of years from now. Breathe. Look at the objects set out before you. Let them tell you what has happened in the years between now and the time ahead. Now, start the timer, and write an account of your future self’s life. Write as yourself, in the first person, as if what you are writing is absolutely true, as you remember it. Write without stopping for fifteen minutes, without thinking, just get the words down.

When the timer ends, you will finish your current thought, and be done. Close the document, or put away your notebook, and let it sit for a while before going back to read it again.

You may obviously play this game as many times as you like. If you wish to collect the pages of your future memoir together in some way, be sure to save them and keep them somewhere safe. When the time comes – or when the date that you have written at the top of each entry rolls around – take them out and read them again, and think about how the person who wrote them has lived their life.

Feb 9 2011

Game Poem 37: We Are True Men

We Are True Men is a game poem for two or more male players. You will need something to drink, and a glass for each player. The beverage may or may not be alcoholic, but it is strongly recommended that it is.

The players in this game will play the roles of soldiers from an ancient empire. They may choose to be Romans, Macedonians, Vikings, Egyptians, Persians, Mongols, Samurai, Carthaginians, or men of any other well-known imperium, whether from the real world, or entirely fictional. Whomever they serve, they will be great warriors who have served together for many years, fought in and won many battles, and who know each other better perhaps than they know themselves.

The soldiers of the empire are gathered together tonight, the evening before their greatest battle. Although you have never seen defeat before, this will be a fight like none other, and it is very likely that you will die on the field tomorrow. The players will identify their enemy, and decide they are fighting, and why the battle tomorrow will be so great and terrible. The enemy may be historical or fictional, but they must be named. The dangers that you will face in the morning must be described in detail. This is an enemy greater than any other, and you have all survived many years of war, and you know that even though you may die, your death will be a noble and glorious one.

At the start of the game, the soldiers are gathered in their camp on the night before the fray to come, drinking and telling stories of your past triumphs in battle, bonding with your brothers in arms before facing the carnage that will surely follow the next day. When all of the players have come together, drinks in hand, the boldest of them will come forward and raise his glass in a toast to the greatness of the assembled company, and their valorous triumphs past. He will point to another player, name them, and describe a specific moment of significance of theirs from a previous battle. Perhaps he showed great bravery in the face of overwhelming odds, saved the lives of his fellow warriors, or lead his men to certain victory; perhaps he is simply a masterful soldier, who has slain his enemies in some spectacular fashion.

Whatever the great deed may have been, after the tale has been told, all present will cheer their comrade, raise their glasses to join in the toast, and drink heartily. The player who received the honor of a toast must then approach the one who gave him the accolades, and make some physical sign of brotherhood with him. A clasped arm, a strong hand on the shoulder, a sportive blow to the chin, a manly hug, whatever seems appropriate. They must then declare, “WE ARE TRUE MEN!”, which will be met with another cheer from those present, as they make a bold statement relating the praise that they have just received to how fate will treat him in the coming battle. He may describe the manner in which he will defeat his adversaries, or how they will die with honor, or how he will throw himself on the sword of an enemy, trading his life for that of one of his brothers here.

That player will then turn to another, singling them out, calling them by name and similarly describing a heroic act that they have performed in a previous battle. Again, all present will cheer, toast their comrade, and drink. Again, the player who was toasted will make some physical act of fellowship with the one who toasted him; this act must be somehow greater than the previous ones. It must be more forceful, more intimate, or showing that the two men are closer to one another than they were earlier. This is important: each sign of brotherhood must be physical, and they must escalate in some way as the game progresses.

After the physical act, the player who was toasted must again declare “WE ARE TRUE MEN!”, lead a cheer, and relate their commendation to the coming day. After their boast, they will call out another player, toast them, and the game will continue around in this fashion until it has reached its end. As the game progresses, as the warriors drink and toast each other, their behavior will become more intense. It is possible that previously unspoken rivalries will be aired; it is possible that garments will be pulled aside to display wounds from past conflicts; it is possible that the men will simply embrace, drink, and sing together songs of victory – or grief for brothers lost.

This circle of boasting and tribute and rugged bonding will go on through the night, becoming more ardent and enthusiastic until the sun comes up, or until all of the warriors have run out of drink. (If you wish to continue playing, you may always refill your cup as many times as you like, of course.) When the evening ends in whatever way it may end, hail your brothers in arms once more with the cry, “WE ARE TRUE MEN!”, put out the campfire, and return to your tents. If there is any thing that you wish to do or say to your fellow soldiers before you go to do battle in the morning, now is the time to do so, for tomorrow it is very likely that you will die, and the things the need to be done or said will be left undone and unspoken for all time.

Jan 4 2011

Game Poem 36: Office


Welcome to Office! Office is a game for three or four players at the very least, but it will support arbitrarily large numbers, so feel free to play and experiment. To begin, pick one player – let’s say the oldest – to be the Manager. All other players will be Employees.

The Manager is in charge of setting up everything that is needed to play Office. They will need to find a whole bunch of coins or tokens, at least a dozen or so per player, and a bowl or some kind of container in which to hold them. The Manager will also need to assemble a stack of index cards or slips of paper, and several writing implements. The manager will also want to assign the role of Human Resources to one of the Employees, and put them in charge of distributing two tokens to each Employee. The manager begins with no tokens.

While HR is distributing the initial paychecks, the Manager should take a few moments to write down a bunch of initial assignments on the paper or index cards, at least one for each Employee to begin with. These are the tasks that the Employees will be performing in the course of their work day, and should be relatively simple, straightforward, and easy to verify. Each assignment should take a minute or less to complete, and take up mental space and processing power, but require no special or unusual skills. You will probably want to keep a variety of materials around to ensure the possibility for an interesting collection of tasks.

Here are some sample assignments to get you started, but feel free to make up your own:

  • Write out multiplication tables for the numbers one through ten
  • Write a list of animals, or male and female names, one for each letter of the alphabet
  • Write a list of two or three dozen countries or U.S. States
  • Write out the first thirty numbers of the fibonacci sequence, or the first thirty powers of two
  • Put a shuffled deck of cards in order, Aces to Kings, Hearts to Spades
  • Write out a sequence of times starting at noon, every eighteen minutes, to midnight
  • Count the frequency of letters in all the Employees’ first and last names
  • Draw a series of shapes according to your instructions
  • Write out the words from a short paragraph in alphabetical order
  • Drawn two dozen simple faces with different expressions
  • Write out a list of two dozen movies that are currently playing
  • Sort out a jar of coins into piles of pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters
  • Write out your full name twenty-five times
  • Draw one hundred circles
  • Make a list of your thirty favorite songs
  • And so on…

Assignments must always be written down on an index card, not communicated to the Employees verbally. They may be discussed very briefly, but the assignment must be completed exactly as written, and must be written in such a way that they may be verified for correctness likewise.

Once the Manager has created the initial set of tasks, they will distribute them to their Team, one per Employee. When the last task is assigned, the Manager will start a timer for fifteen minutes or so. As soon as the timer starts, the day’s work has officially begun; when the timer goes off, the work day is done, and the game is over.

During the work day, the Employees may do a couple of things. They may work on their assignments, and when they are done, turn them in to the Manager. When a task is turned in, the Manager will give the Employee that completed the task one token, and also take one token for themselves. The task should also be verified for correctness; if it was completed properly, the Employee earns an extra token, and a bonus token will be awarded to either the Manager or the Employee, at the Manager’s discretion. Once they’ve collected their pay, the Manager will assign them a new task, and send them back to work.

An Employee may also decide to malinger and shirk off their assignment for a while, instead of working. To do this, they just need to go talk to another player for a bit about sports or television or politics or what they did over the weekend or their hobbies or anything that isn’t work. While they talk, the player that is being distracted may not work, but must count slowly to ten, and when they reach ten, they must give the slacker one of their tokens, and they can both go back to work. Or go forth and slack some more, somewhere else.

It is clearly in the Company’s interest to minimize goofing off, so the Manager or the Human Resources representative may interrupt someone who is distracting another player. If the malingerer is interrupted before their target counts to ten, they don’t take a token, and must go back to work without wasting any more of the Company’s time. Keep in mind that the Manager must also be continually coming up with and writing down new tasks for their Team, so they must split their focus between keeping an eye on the Employees while making sure that there’s always work to be done.

Employees may always feel free to complain to their Manager at any time if they think that the Manager is doing a bad job, rewarding them unfairly, giving them tasks that are too hard or too simple for their abilities, or ignoring the inappropriate behavior of the other Employees, or whatever comes to mind. There is no mechanical reward for this beyond the airing of the complaint itself.

Eventually, the timer will go off, and the work day will end. The Employees may turn in any tasks that they have just completed, but if the Manager says that it’s time to go home, then no more work may be turned in, and the game is over. Each player will count up their tokens, and the one who generated the most value for the Company wins! (If there is ever a tie, the Manager decides the winner.) This will very likely be the Manager, so you will also want to see which Employee has the most tokens – that player will be awarded the title Employee of the Month, and may play as Manager next time!

Jan 3 2011

2010 Recap, Plans for 2011

Whew, it’s been a crazy year. When I started this project, I had no idea what would happen, and I’ve got to say, I’m pretty pleased with the results so far. Let’s review: A year ago, in January of 2010, I decided to try to write one game poem a week for a year. I didn’t reach that goal, but I did make thirty-five out of fifty-two, and that’s not too bad, all things considered.

In that time, I also managed to get the wherewithal to pick my favorite twenty-four game poems (so far), edit the heck out of them, learn me some Adobe Illustrator to create some art, and lay out and publish a book of game poems that hit the ground at GenCon 2010. I hand-made fifty copies, signed and numbered them, and either sold them or gave them out to interested parties, and all fifty were gone by the time I left, thanks in big part to the folks at the Design Matters booth. The book (unsigned and un-numbered, but still as sweet) is currently offered for sale in print and PDF at, and I’m also very excited to have it now available at Indie Press Revolution, currently only as a PDF, but I just ordered a fresh print run, and they’ll have those up for preorder any time now.

I fell into a slump, poem-writing-wise, after GenCon, partly because putting together the book took a lot of time and energy, and partly because I spent a good amount of time working on a game (Skin Men) for the 2010 Game Chef competition. (Skin Men is still in development, and in dire need of fixing up, playtesting, and re-writing. Look for more as the year progresses…) I managed to get another half-dozen or so new poems out before year end, but definitely lost the momentum that I had earlier in the year.

So, what’s on the table for 2011? I’d like to re-attempt my goal of a game poem per week again, but I don’t know if I can realistically spare the cycles to commit to that. I will try, though, and if I wind up hitting at least half that number, I’ll be totally happy. (There will probably be another book forthcoming this year, as well, if the writing-machine keeps up.) I’ll also be devoting more time to my other games, and other projects, but I’ll always come back here as often as possible. In fact, expect a new one any day now…

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks for playing!

Dec 3 2010

Game Poem 35: Warriors of the Celestial Emperor

Dragon Phoenix Tiger Tortiose

For centuries, the earth-bound warriors of the four celestial clans have fought each other to gain the favor of the gods. This battle will continue for many years to come, each element defeating the one before it, and defeated in turn by the next, as the great martial cycle wheels on through eternity.

This is a quick fighting game for two to four players, each taking on the role of a warrior from one of four ancient clans of warriors, vying against each other for the favor of the Celestial Emperor. This fight is but one of many, each victory bringing their order of martial artists to final victory.

To play, you will need a regular deck of playing cards. Each player will take the thirteen cards from one of the suits in the deck, as each suit represents a different school of warriors:

  • Diamonds: Dragon Clan, from the East. Represents the element of Wind. Their color is Green, and their season is Spring.
  • Hearts: Phoenix Clan, from the South. Represents the element of Fire. Their color is Red, and their season is Summer.
  • Spades: White Tiger Clan, from the West. Represents the element of Metal. Their color is White, and their season is Autumn.
  • Clubs: Tortoise Clan, from the North. Represents the element of Water. Their color is Black, and their season is Winter.

Each clan has a distinct fighting style. Dragon Clan warriors are swift and precise, and are said to sometimes be able to focus their energies to move the air itself against their foes. Phoenix Clan style is volatile and explosive, and adepts of this school can burn their opponents with a touch. Fighters of the White Tiger school are aggressive and relentless, and are skilled in the fabrication and deadly use of all manner of weapons. Finally, the Black Warriors of the Tortoise Clan have formidable defenses and a methodical fighting style that is bolstered by their power over water, both moving and still.

If there is a member of the Tortoise Clan present in this battle, they will describe the setting where the fight will take place. (If there is no Tortoise, then the White Tiger will detail the setting, or a Phoenix if there is no White Tiger.) Are the warriors meeting somewhere deep in a bamboo forest, next to a bubbling stream? Are they perched upon a cloudy mountaintop, or do they face each other in the moonlight atop the roofs of a village in the hills? Do they fight among the stones of a ruined temple, or in the courtyard of a palace?

Once your environs are decided upon, it is time to begin the fight! Dragon Clan warriors will always attack first, followed by each subsequent player in the cycle: Phoenix after Dragon, then the White Tiger, and then Tortoise, and back around to Dragon. It may be helpful for the players to sit in order, but it is not required.

To make an attack, the fighter will choose someone as a target, describe how they wish to attack that target, and place a card from their hand face down in front of them. Remember to be colorful and vivid in describing your attack, using any and all elements available to you, whether they be part of your Clan’s style or a piece of the setting. A Phoenix may lash out at their opponent with a whip of flame, or perhaps a White Tiger will slash their target with their dual Singing Jade Swords. A Dragon warrior might strike his foe with the legendary Coiled Cloud Fist, or maybe the Tortoise will maneuver his enemy towards a cliff that overlooks the sea, intending to send him over the edge, and onto the rocks below!

Whatever the attack may be, after the initiator has laid his card, their target will choose a card from his own hand and play it to the table as well. The players will then flip over their cards and compare the values. If the cards are of equal value, then the round is a tie, and both cards are discarded. The target of the attack may describe how the attack was nullified, but no advantage was taken by either side.

However, if one of the cards is higher than the other, the person with the high card wins this round of the battle. (Aces are low cards, and are beaten by every other card.) The victor describes how they either strike a powerful blow upon their enemy, if they were the attacker, or easily turn away the attack of their aggressor, if they were defending. After the victor describes their present success, the loser of the exchange then tells how they move away, into a different part of the setting, or alter or re-frame some part of the environment. So, for example, if a Dragon was successful in slamming a Phoenix warrior into the ground with a great gust of wind, the Phoenix may describe how they kick-spin up and run upstairs to the second story of the tavern, setting the room ablaze behind them, or they may blind the Dragon Clan fighter for a moment with a flash of heat, allowing them to run into the street outside. Perhaps a Tortoise Black Warrior sidestepped a White Tiger’s spear thrust, grabbing the weapon and neatly snapping it in two; the White Tiger may respond by flipping backwards and grabbing a pair of swords from the wall, or leaping up onto a chandelier!

After both sides get a chance to briefly describe the outcome of the attack, each player will take the card that the other player laid down and put it into their hand. After this exchange, each player will choose a card to discard from their hand – not necessarily the same card they just picked up – and place it on the table, face down. The winner of the attack will take these cards as a “trick” and place them in front of him to indicate that he has scored a victory. Neither player may look at the discarded cards.

When the round has ended, the next fighter in the cycle (Dragon -> Phoenix -> White Tiger -> Tortoise) will choose someone to attack, and proceed as above, describing their attack and playing a card, the target defending, and so on. Anyone may attack anyone else on their turn, until their hand has dwindled down to one last card. A player holding only a single card may neither attack nor be attacked, and must place their last card face-down in front of them to indicate that they are no longer in the fight. When no player is able to attack another player, either because they have only one card, or because there are no targets available with more than one card, the battle has ended, and it is time do determine the ultimate champion.

First, if there is a player left who has more than one card in their hand, they must discard down to a single card. However, each one of the cards that they discard counts as a trick for them! So, if the Phoenix won four rounds of fighting, and was the only one left at the end with three cards, they would discard two cards, down to one, which would give them six tricks total for the endgame. (This is a good reason to keep track of how many cards the other players have, and make sure that nobody is just standing by and not participating in the battle!)

Once every player has a single card left, everyone will reveal what their last card is. Each player will count the number of tricks that they have taken, and if there are one or more players whose final card is equal to or lower than the number of tricks that they have taken, the player with the highest card that is lower than the number of their tricks is the final winner of the fight! Ties are resolved by highest number of tricks taken, and then, if there is still a tie, by reverse order of play, beginning with the Tortoise, then the White Tiger, then the Phoenix. If no player has a final card whose value is lower than or equal to the number of tricks that they have taken, then the player who has the final card with the lowest value is the winner; ties here are broken the same way as above.

The ultimate winner may take a moment to describe how he has vanquished his foes, and then the other players may tell how they intend to return to fight again, continuing the warriors’ cycle.

Dec 1 2010

Game Poem 34: Purse Snatcher

Purse Snatcher

This is a game for two players, one man, and one woman. The male player will play the role of a female tourist who is traveling abroad, and whose purse was just stolen on the street. The purse contained her passport and all of her money. The female player will take the part of some authority figure, probably a police officer at a nearby station, who the tourist has come to for help.

There are two sets of rules, one for the male player, who is playing the female tourist, and one for the female player, who is playing the authority. The tourist will read their rules – and their rules only – first, then pass them to the police officer. Once the officer has finished reading their section of the rules, and both players are standing and ready, the game will begin.

Rules for the Female Tourist, played by the Male Player

You are a man playing the role of a woman. Attempt to portray a woman’s actions and reactions as genuinely as possible, without relying on stereotypes.

You are a female tourist traveling abroad, and your purse has been stolen on the street by a purse-snatcher. All of your money was in that purse, as was your passport. You are shaken, and desperate to have your purse found and returned to you, and you have come to a local police station to get help. You are afraid that you will not be taken seriously, but you are unfamiliar with the area and unsure if the authorities here are able or willing to lend you their aid, but you must try.

You will have a coin or some other token in your hand. If you do not have one now, find one while the other player is reading their part of the rules. This token represents responsibility for what happened. You should not leave until the other player is holding it.

You must attempt to do whatever the authority requests of you, within reason, and answer any questions that they may ask. It is probably a good idea to begin by addressing the policeman as “officer” or “sir”, but it is not necessary to do so throughout your interaction.

If the officer asks you questions about the robbery, give them as many details as you feel are necessary to demonstrate the gravity of your situation, and to help them find the criminal who stole your purse. The more details you provide, the better able they will be to solve this crime and return to you what is yours. Without your purse, your money, and your passport, you are lost and alone in this foreign country, so it is very important that you do not leave until you are completely satisfied that the authority has helped you to the full extent of their ability.

You will begin the game standing. At the beginning of the game, the officer will ask you to sit down; do so. During the game, you will be in one of three states: sitting, standing, or touching the other player.

When you are sitting down, you must do what the officer asks you to do, you must answer any questions to the best of your abilities, and you must respond to the authority as politely as possible.

When you are standing, you may begin to make stronger assertions, and make demands of the police officer who is attempting to help you. You must still attempt to follow any instructions given to you, but you are no longer required to be polite, and you may choose to refuse to answer any questions that may be asked of you.

When you are touching the authority, you must put one or both hands on their shoulders or arms. You may only make requests of the officer, never demanding action or telling them what to do, and you must behave deferentially to their authority. You may still assert your rights, but must still follow their instructions and answer their questions.

If you wish to escalate from sitting to standing, or from standing to touching, you must add some new detail to the theft of your purse that gives the crime additional weight or importance. Perhaps there was an object of great sentimental value in the purse. Maybe your tickets home were in there, and you are leaving tomorrow morning. It could be that the thief attacked you in another way in the process of grabbing your purse.

At any time, if you feel that the authority figure is not being helpful or respectful, you may challenge him. Meet his gaze, raise a fist, and close your eyes. He will say, “okay”. When he does, raise between one and four fingers, and wait for him to tell you to open your eyes. When you do, count the total number of fingers between the two of you.

If there are an even number of fingers, you win the challenge, and the officer must do one thing that you demand, or answer one question. If you win a challenge while you are touching the authority, however, they may ask something of you in return, and you must comply.

If the number of fingers is odd, you lose the challenge, and must either de-escalate your posture (go from touching the other player to standing, or from standing to sitting), or escalate by adding a detail as above and going from sitting to standing, or from standing to touching. If you lose a challenge while you are sitting, the authority may ask you to leave, and you must obey.

The player playing the police officer may not touch you at any time unless you ask them to, unless they are arresting you. If at any time they touch your shoulder and say, “you are under arrest”, the game is over, and you lose the game.

You may leave of your own free will at any time. If you leave while you are still holding your coin or token, you lose the game.

Rules for the Male Police Officer, played by the Female Player

You are a woman playing the role of a male police officer in a foreign country. You speak English well, and you will attempt to portray a man’s actions and reactions as you understand them, without reverting to stereotypes.

A female tourist has had her purse stolen, and she has come to you to make a report. You are very busy, and have many duties to attend to, you you are willing to help her by taking down her information. After the basics are covered, however, she should leave your office as soon as possible.

When addressing the other player, you will always refer to her as “ma’am” or “miss”. Attempt to be polite and efficient, but do not allow her to make unreasonable demands of you or your time. You have many other pressing matters to attend to, and you see robberies like this every day. You will ask for details about the purse snatching, note them down, make some attempt to satisfy whatever concerns she has, and ask her to move on. It is not your duty to track down her purse, her money, or her passport, nor is it to be her travel agent or counsellor. You will take down the necessary information to make a full report, and be done.

You will begin the game standing. At the beginning of the game, you will ask the tourist to sit down, and she will do so. Do not begin asking questions or anything else until she is seated.

At some point, the tourist may challenge you, and try to force you to do something or answer a question. She will do this by raising her fist and closing her eyes. When she does this, you may close your eyes, say, “okay”, and hold up between one and four fingers. After you have done this, tell her to open her eyes, and you will count the total number of fingers raised between the two of you.

If there are an even number of fingers raised, she wins the challenge, and you must do your best to accommodate her request, or to answer her question. After that, you are no longer required to do anything that the tourists asks, unless she wins another challenge. If she wins the challenge while she is touching you, however, you may ask anything of her in return, and she must comply.

If there are an odd number of fingers raised, you win the challenge, and she must either go from touching to standing, or from standing to sitting, or she must escalate her position by adding a detail to her story about the purse-snatching, and go from sitting to standing, or from standing to touching. If the tourist loses a challenge while she is sitting, you may ask her to leave the station, and she must do so.

You never have to do anything that the tourist says, or answer any of her questions unless you lose a challenge. As the authority in this situation, however, you have some special conditions that affect whether or not you may close your eyes during a challenge.

  • When the tourist is seated, you may choose whether or not to close your eyes during a challenge.
  • When she is standing, you must always close your eyes during a challenge.
  • When she is touching you, do not close your eyes during a challenge.

Since your eyes may be open during a challenge, you will be able to determine whether you win or lose by choosing the appropriate number of fingers to raise. Do not abuse this power to simply win every challenge; save your power for when it will benefit you the most. Most importantly, do not allow the tourist to know that you are watching her while her eyes are closed.

During your conversation with the tourist, you may move around the room as you see fit, as long as you can easily see her when she is initiating a challenge. You may never touch the woman unless she tells you to, unless you are arresting her.

At some point, the tourist will attempt to pass responsibility for the crime that she is reporting to you by passing a coin or some other token to you. Do not take it into your hand. If you do, you lose the game.

After fifteen minutes or so have passed, you will note that you have another urgent appointment to attend to, and you must bid the tourist good day. She may not stay in the office – she must leave, and if she does not do so of her own free will, you must make her leave. If you order the tourist to leave, and she does not do so, touch her shoulder and say, “you are under arrest”. She will then go to jail; this means that she loses the game, and you have another stack of paperwork to do now.