[In the Lab] Belle of the Ball

The Belle invites you to attend a most festivitous, celebratious, ostentaneous party! All guests should be on their best behavior! Seriously. Behave. Belle of the Ball is a saucy Victorianic tile game. Invite guests to a grand party and score points by entertaining the Belle.

» Development Status: Definitely Alpha. See notes at bottom of post.

Stuff You Need
2-4 Players
Download and cut out these tiles and tokens.

You'll also need a 7x7 grid like this (Click to embiggen):

Lastly, you'll need a paper and pencil to keep track of each player's current score.

The Guest Tiles
The Belle enjoys inviting both peasantry and nobility, delighting in the culture-clashing mayhem that ensues. Some guests are loud boors, others are known to get into fights, and more than a handful are known philanderers.

On each Guest tile, you'll see the distinct family crest for the Goatsbury, Lordhurtz, Richminster, Dundifax, Boarbottom and Crawhole families. On the lower left or lower right, you'll see symbols representing what that guest is doing at the party.
Flirt: Eat: Dance: Snub:

The Belles
There are five Belles, each with their own effects on how you play the game.

Lady Lara Lately's Libatious Luncheon
If this is your first time playing, use Lady Lara as your Belle to learn the basic game.

Sally Swansea's Saucy Soiree
On your turn, inviting a Guest with a [Flirt] earns you 1 point.
At the end of the party, each Honored Guest with a [Flirt] earns +1 point.

Felicia Fawsley's Felicitous Feast
Inviting a Guest with a [Eat] earns the player 1 point.
At the end of the party, each Honored Guest with a [Eat] earns +1 point.

Ruby Rosen's Receptious Riot
Inviting a Guest with a [Dance] earns the player 1 point.
At the end of the party, each Honored Guest with a [Dance] earns +1 point.

Alexandra Avendale's Aloof Affair
Inviting a Guest with a [Snub] earns the player 1 point.
At the end of the party, each Honored Guest with a [Snub] earns +1 point.

How to Play
Set Up
Step 1: Choose a Belle to be in the center of the Ballroom. Each Belle favors different behaviors at her party. In play, this means some tiles will be worth more points than others and some slight tweaks to the rules may be enacted for this game. Set aside all other Belles for the rest of the game.

Step 2: Shuffle the Guest tiles and keep them face down. If you are playing with only two players, remove the tiles marked with a star at the bottom. If you are playing with three or four players, use the full deck. If you are playing with two players, the guest deck will have 36 tiles. With three or four players, the deck will have 66 tiles.

Step 3: Deal four tiles to each player. Do not reveal your tiles to the other players.

Turn Order
Play proceeds with each player taking a turn, starting with the youngest player and continuing clockwise around the table.

On your turn...
Step 1: Draw a Guest Tile from the deck.

Step 2: Inviting a Guest: Take a tile from your hand and put it on the board. Your tile must be next to another tile that is already on the board, either vertically or horizontally, but not diagonally. If you're playing a two-player game, you may only place tiles in the lighter spaces of the ballroom. If you're playing with three or four players, you can place the Belle on any space in the ballroom.

In this example, the green checks note places where you may legally place a tile on your turn in a two-player game. The purple checks note places where you may legally place a tile in a three- or four-player game.

Step 3: Score Points: If your Belle is Lady Lara, you can skip this step. Otherwise, you score points by inviting guests with symbols noted by your Belle.

For example, in Felicia Fawsley's Felicitous Feast, you will gain one point whenever you invite a guest with [Eat].

Honored Guests
Throughout the game, you use the family tokens to keep track of Honored Guests of the ball. The Honored Guests are the smallest group of guests for each family. A group is comprised any tiles from the same family that are next to each other horizontally, vertically or diagonally. A group may be as small as one guest.
 Keep the family token on the smallest group of guests for that family.

For example, the Honored Goatsbury Guests are currently a group of three Goatsburys highlighted below:

You put down another Goatsbury on the board, completely separate from that group. That single tile is now the smallest Goatsbury group, so it is now the Honored Guest. Move the Goatsbury token to that tile.

If at some point this new group grows to three Goatsburys, they will still be the Honored Goatsbury Guests.

If the new group grows to four or more Goatsburys, then it is nor longer the smallest group on the board and the token would move back to that first group.

If this situation occurs and there are multiple groups that tie for being the smallest, then the current player chooses which group to Honor.

End of the Party
The game ends when the ballroom is full of guests.

Step 1: Determine each family's point value: Each family is worth a different number of points, based on the number of Honored Guests from that family. For example, if the family has 1 Honored Guest, that family is worth 1 point. If the family has 2 Honored Guests, that family is worth 2 points, and so on.

Step 2: Reveal the tiles in your hand and score points for the Honored Guests if you have a tile of that family in your hand. If you have multiple tiles of the same family, score those Honored Guests again. 
In other words, you get points equal to the size of the smallest group multiplied by the number of matching tiles in your hand.

For example, the game has just ended. The players currently have these scores:

Player 1 has 3 points.
Player 2 has 2 points.
Player 3 has 4 points.
Player 4 has 4 points.

The board at the end of the game looks like this:

Boarbottom is worth 3 points, because it has three Honored Guests.
Lordhurtz is worth 1 point, because it has one Honored Guest.
Richminster is worth 3 points.
Dundifax is worth 1 point.
Crawhole is worth 2 points.
Goatsbury is worth 3 points.

Tallying up each player's tiles and points:
Player 1 adds 8 points. New Total: 11
Player 2 adds 8 points. New Total: 10
Player 3 adds 8 points. New Total: 12
Player 4 adds 4 points. New Total: 8

Step 3: If your Belle is Lady Lara Lately, you can skip this step. Otherwise, your Belle makes some tiles more valuable.

For example, in Sally Swansea's Saucy Soiree each Honored Guest with a [Flirt] is worth an additional point. Let's look at the board again:

Boarbottom is worth +1 point, because one Honored Guest has a [Flirt] symbol.
Lordhurtz is worth +1.
Richminster is worth +1
Dundifax is worth +0.
Crawhole is worth +0.
Goatsbury is worth +1.

Player 1 adds 3 points. New total: 14
Player 2 adds 4 points. New total: 14
Player 3 adds 2 points. New total: 14
Player 4 has 1 points. New total: 9

So yes, all that rigamarole just to produce a three-way tie. I think adding one more card to each family will reduce the chances of this happening, though.

In the current distribution, no players had any Crawholes or Boarbottoms. That significantly reduced the chances of there being wider point spreads in the endgame.

I also think making the Belles more persnickety will help. Perhaps decoupling the in-play point scoring from the endgame point scoring. That seems less of an issue than the basic distribution of tiles, though.
Daniel Solis
Art Director by Day. Game Designer by Night.