Belle of the Ball: A Fine and Dandy Card Game for 2-4 Players

A Fine and Dandy Card Game for 2-4 Players
» Last Updated: August 1, 2012
» Current Beta Rules PDF [Prototype O]
» Download the Print-and-Play Cards PDF
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These are the public beta rules for the Belle of the Ball card game. It's been through several rounds of private alpha testing and it's finally ready for the public. I'd love your input!

You are Belles of the Ball. Invite Guests to a lavish party. Your goal is to introduce Guests to each other, make best friends, win ribbons and build the most popular clique at the party. Download the PDFs in the links above and leave any feedback in the comments below. I plan on a commercial release in late 2012.

Updates listed in chronological order.

  • Term changes: "Couples" are now "friends." Up to three guests may be in a "group of friends." Adding a guest to a group of friends is "friending," until we can find a better term. "Social activity" is now "mood." "Physical activity" is now "interest." "Attracting" is now "calling."
  • Each player gets two Belles – one public, one secret. This allows multiple ongoing strategies, offensive countermeasures, and keeps a bit of deduction that was fun from previous versions.
  • Four of the Belles are replaced with Ribbon tokens, each linked to a different interest. Ribbons  reward you for gathering the most guests of a particular interest. Ribbons move around the table like Catan's knight and road bonuses.
  • The game is now one long round instead of a series of three short rounds. The endgame trigger makes the game last about thirty minutes. 
  • Clarified that the winner of a duel decides the order in which the dueling guests get discarded.
  • Ties in duels result in the duelists and the called guest being discarded.
  • The symbols on the cards are now framed by distinct shapes. County is framed by a hexagon, because there are six counties. Mood is framed by a triangle, because there are three moods. Interest is framed by a diamond/square because there are four interests.
  • Removed all card text from the guest and Belle cards. Replaced with symbols. (Thanks to all who offered feedback on the rough drafts.) The rulebook now explains the powers in more detail than was manageable in the space of a card.
  • Some powers are re-arranged so Lordhurtz and Richminster counties don't monopolize them as much. More powers given to Dundifax and Crawhole county.
  • "Steal 2" is replaced with a new power: Swap. This allows you to swap any two guests within your clique. See the rulebook for details.
  • Two New Belle Bonuses: Earn ten points for the fewest groups of three friends. / Earn ten points for having the most cards in your hand.
  • Replaced the FENCING ribbon with a FIRST PLAYER CARD. If you still have an older deck, replace the ribbon with a distinct card.
  • Revised CALLING and DUELING so they are the same action. Now, instead of calling and wondering whether the opponent will duel, you duel for the opponent's card.
  • Revised BASIC ACTIONS so they are distinct choices: INVITE a guest, DUEL for a guest, USE a power. Secondary actions that may arise from these choices are FRIEND a guest and CLAIM a ribbon. 
  • Revised the use of POWERS so that using them is a distinct basic action from inviting and dueling. Now, you simply choose one group of friends whose powers you want to use this turn.
  • Revised "Swap." It is now "MINGLE: Choose any two guests currently in play who share at least one symbol in common. Switch their positions."
  • Revised "Extra Refresh." It is now "EXTRA DRAW: Draw two extra cards from the draw deck."
  • Added an END OF ROUND step, passing the First Player card to the left.

Complete list of powers in Prototype J
  • The card backgrounds have been redesigned and polished up.
  • All Belles grant 10 bonus points.
  • All Ribbons grant 5 bonus points.
  • BFF and friend terminology scrubbed.
  • "Matches" are now fully described relationships between those characters, with a subtle Victorian flair. These are tentative.
  • "Friending" is now "grouping." It's more grammatically correct and easier to parse in game terms.
  • You may now use powers of a single guest or group of guests.
  • New powers added: Shove, Reject, Peek, Befriend, and Breakup.
  • Many, many power guests have powers. The only ones who don't get powers are usually those with 6 popularity.
  • Mingle revised to be exclusively within your own clique. Symbol restriction is lifted, though.
  • Consolidated the complete game rules onto one double-sided 8.5" x 11" sheet. The third and fourth pages are extra, are an example of scoring and space for any forthcoming FAQs/credits.
  • All changes noted in this blog post.
  • Reduced the guest deck to 72 cards, which meant re-arranging all the attributes.
  • Removed ribbon cards.
  • Reduced the point values for popularity and group bonuses so they're a bit easier to tally and stay under 100.
  • Added tertiary iconography to make it clear when a guest is royal or when they're wearing a sash, glasses or a hat.
  • Removed Dueling as an action. 
  • Added the "lobby" to make draws a little less blind.
  • All "Powers" are now called "Charms." They now have an affect on your clique and on the other players' cliques.
  • Some guests now have "Insults" which are instant effects that can be triggered by discarding that card along with 2 or three others.
  • Increased Belle cards to eighteen.
  • Totally revised the bonus structure for Belles. They now reward points if you have a particular guest in your clique. They also reward points if you have exactly a certain number of guests with a particular symbol. You get a half-reward if you have over that number.
  • Each guest's three characteristics are consolidated into one circle at the top left of their card. Each circle is divided into three suits.
  • The "Sword" suit is replaced with a "Book" suit.
  • All the County suits are replaced with icons. The letters were just not registering as an icon like the other suits. Instead, those six suits are show Fish, Tree, Sun, Moon, Shield and Gem.
  • Removed base popularity from all guests. The only way to score points is to get the group points. This emphasizes building optimal combos and streamlines scoring.
  • There are many more opportunities for group points now. 36 guests grant 1 group point for being grouped with chat, snub or flirt. (12 of each.) 24 guests grant 2 group points for being grouped with music, book, cake or tea. (6 of each.) 12 guests grant 3 group points for being grouped with Fish, Tree, Sun, Moon, Shield or Gem. (2 of each.)
  • The "Insults" are consolidated into the general listing of "Charm" and revised so that they do not have an additional cost. That was just too much information to convey. Instead, these charms simply require that they be discarded from your clique instead of from your hand. So, there is still a timing strategy to consider rather than resource management. 
  • The text of each charm is now displayed directly on the card. It was easier to do this than to force players to refer to an icon glossary. Once you know the game, the text is unnecessary and you can figure out all the necessary info along the left edge. Unfortunately, this makes the cards less international than I had hoped, but I have to be realistic about my sales goals.
As you saw in my last post, Belle of the Ball has gone through some big changes in basic gameplay between Prototype M and now. All for the best, though! This prototype has all the same set-building strategic fun with a much clearer set of short-term tactics and take-that offense.

  • Shuffle Guest cards. Discard twelve random cards. Set the rest as a Guest Deck.
  • Shuffle Belle cards. Deal three to each player’s hand. Set the rest as a Belle Deck.
  • Set aside spaces for discarded Belles and Guests.
  • Give a Start Player token to the host of this gathering.
  • Each player has implied spaces for four stacks of cards.
  • Give each player five chips.

Example of a two-player setup.

The host deals three Guest cards per player face-up in a LINE. Read each name in an ostentatious voice. For example, a two-player game has a six-card line.


You may play a Belle at the start of your turn. Follow her instructions. Belle cards allow you to ignore certain rules of the game.

STEP 1: Invite
You may take the first Guest card in line. - OR - You may take a Guest card that is further back in line by placing one chip on each skipped Guest card.

An example of inviting the first guest in line.

An example of inviting the second guest in line.

STEP 2: Group
Each new guest goes to one of four stacks, or GROUPS, in your collection, or PARTY. Once placed, Guests may not move to another group. You may only have up to four groups. There may be only be up to five Guests in a group. A group of five is a FULL GROUP.

Example of grouping a newly invited guest.

STEP 3: Score
If you have a full group, look for any suits, or INTERESTs, the guests in that group have in common. Earn 1 chip for each matching interest in that group. For example, if your full group has 2 hearts and 5 globes, you earn 7 chips. You may score multiple full groups in the same turn.

Example of matching interests in a full group.

Example of collecting chips for matching interests.

Discard any of your full groups. The player to your left takes the next turn. Continue until the line is empty.

Example of discarding a full group.

The round ends when the line is empty. Each player draws back up to three Belle cards. (Reshuffle the Belle discard deck if it runs out.) The player with fewest Chips gets the Start Player token. Play new rounds until the Guest deck runs out.

The game ends after the last round is complete. Any remaining groups do not score. The player with the most chips wins!

This prototype refines the basic mechanics from Prototype M's major overhaul. Here are the changes made and tested since the last prototype.

Belle of the Ball - Guest Front 1

  • The guest deck is now just 60 cards. I removed one of the rare interests and redistributed the remaining 12 interests.
  • You use face-down guest cards instead of chips. These are called "BRIBES." Those cards stay face-down the whole game so they don't get mixed up with the rest of the deck.
  • The game begins with three bribes per player and that remains for the whole game. Bribes are never added or removed from the economy and they do not count as points until the end of the game.
  • Belles and Guests are shuffled together in the same deck. Players do NOT start with Belles in their hand. When you take a Guest card from the line, it goes into your party. When you take a Belle card from the line, it goes in your hand.
  • Players begin with a starting party of one guest in each group, dealt at random. This is a nice way to speed up play and remind everyone that a party has room for four groups.
  • At the end of the game, you score one bonus point per bribe in your possession, one bonus point per Belle in hand, and one bonus point for every two cards in your party. This was a way to at least make your unfinished groups worth something.
Daniel Solis
Art Director by Day. Game Designer by Night.