A few nights ago on Twitter, I got to thinking about a simple mechanic for replicating the poison cup scene in Princess Bride. (You may recall I've explored this theme before in a previous post: Where is the Poison?)
Each player has a supply of seven red cubes and ten blue cubes. On your turn, you place one, two or three cubes in each hand and "serve" them to your opponent. One hand is open, its contents visible. The other hand is closed, its contents hidden. Your opponent must choose one to accept. The goal is to get seven blue cubes and win, or to eliminate your opponent by forcing them to take five red cubes.
There were a number of mathematical problems with this premise, ably and quickly pointed out by Paul Owens. I've been stretching my brain to get a functional Princess Bride prototype ready before PAX East, to submit to GameSalute's license, and these mathematical issues keep getting in the way of a pure deduction game.
I think expanding the basic mechanic beyond a plain binary and removing elimination may be the key to making this idea functional as a real game. In the process, I'm exploring the two-player bluffing mechanic from Antoine Bauza's forthcoming Little Prince tile game and some familiar scoring from Sushi Go.
The cards you see above are an example of what you might see in a typical turn of a two-player game. Each card bears icons representing various elements of the Princess Bride story. On your turn, you draw as many cards as there are players, plus one. Choose one of these cards to keep face down, then present them all to the players. You choose the turn order for each player to take one card. The last player takes two cards.
At the end of the game, you score points for sets of icons.
- Hearts to express your true love: If you have the most hearts, at the end of the game, earn Xpts.
- A map to navigate the Fire Swamp: Each is worth Xpts. If you get five, earn +Ypts.
- Swords to defeat Inigo: Each is worth X. If you get three, earn +Ypts.
- Fists to defeat the Fezzik the Giant: Every pair earns you Xpts.
- Poison for the Battle of Wits: If you have the most poison at the end of the game, lose Xpts. If you have the second most poison, lose Xpts.
- Miracles to recover from mostly-death: Each Miracle earns you Xpt for each poison. This effect is cumulative for each Miracle in your possession.
- Masks to hide your identity as long as possible: In play, as soon as all players have one mask, the player with the most masks earns Xpts per mask in her possession. If the game reaches the end without all players getting masks, the player with the most masks still earns Xpts per mask in her possession.
And so on. I think two or three more icons would round out an initial prototype.