Pitch Tag 2013 Vol. 3!



Welcome once again to Pitch Tag, the creative exercise where Fred Hicks and I will take turns tossing absurd titles at each other, then respond with somewhat sensible game ideas using that title. We keep doing this until we plotz. This year's Pitch Tag session is documented in the first and second installment. Today's installment includes streetwise ballerinas, Incan foot messengers, breakfast cereals and spicy mobsters.


Daniel:
TATTUTU

It's STEP UP, the deck building game! You're playing out the archetypal "teacher saves a class of troubled urban youth" fantasy, this time by teaching a group of rabble-rousing hoodlums to dance ballet. Each player is a teacher with his own "classroom" of cards, which begin with your standard set of suboptimal cards. In time you acquire dance lessons to win acclaim from the dance world, but must still fend off the dangers of the streets like gangs, drugs, and so on.

Your Turn:
DOILY


Fred:
DOILY

DOILY capitalizes on the popularity of Downton Abbey. (I don't watch it, so I'm extrapolating wildly.) It's a crumbling-empire game where each player takes on the role of a "Dowager Countess" bent on making sure that her family's historic and wildly expensive to maintain home isn't lost to said wild expenses. Or rather, most importantly, that every other player's homes are lost first, making hers the last one standing (for at least a few months more).

Each turn actions must be taken to keep the estate solvent. If all actions could be taken, there might even be a chance of keeping the whole thing afloat. But you can only take a few, and you have to keep moving around the various tasks to keep them from being vulnerable. The other players are maneuvering, using windows of opportunity to "place a doily" on some unsightly task you haven't had the chance to address recently (tasks left undone after two turns become targetable). They're just helping you keep up appearances, dear. Of course you dare not disturb the doily, so you're locked out from doing that task for one more turn. Did you build up enough of a buffer to survive the enforced neglect?

Your Turn:
CEREAL MONOGAMIST


Daniel:
CEREAL MONOGAMIST

Each player has a hand of Cereal cards featuring various fictional brands. Sugar Shock. Fiber Blast. Etc. Each card has nutritional information noting the vitamins and calories available from the featured cereal. (Each card is uniquely numbered.) To set up, each player is dealt a hand of three cards. Simultaneously, each player reveals one card from her hand and places it face-up in front of herself as a "serving" to the other players.

Thereafter, play is as follows: Each player reveals one card from her hand and places it face-up in front of her as a *second* serving. Each player only has room for two servings, so if there is ever more than two after this reveal, the oldest serving becomes "soggy" and must be discarded.

Whoever played the card with the most calories takes first turn. She may take one of another player's face-up cards or a card from the top of the deck. Then she may place it in her private collection, or into her hand, or discard it to make a space for a *third* serving in an opponent's tableau. (In other words, there are six possible moves in your turn.) (There cannot be more than three servings per player.)

Whoever played the next highest calorie cereal gets next turn, and so on, until all have had a turn. Any remaining face-up cards are discarded.

The game ends when the deck runs out. At the end of the game, check who has the most of each vitamin in his collection. (Ties are okay.) The scoring player wins the sum of calories from cereals with that vitamin in his collection. No other vitamins are scored.

Thus, you're trying to win dominance over one or two suits, but in vying for first pick, you potentially serve a high value card to the other players. Going second or third gives you opportunity to take more calories, but they may not be of a vitamin you actually want. Throughout this, you're also trying not to run out of cards in your hand, so you periodically need a "breather" round to replenish your supply.

Your Turn:
CHASQUI (The Incan relay running messengers)


Fred:
CHASQUI

Players run a network of chasquis, Incan relay running messengers, in a cooperative effort to make sure that the Inca Empire's goods and messages are delivered quickly as possible, so as not to do a disservice to the Sapa Inca, ruler of the empire.

The board is a networked map of routes covering the empire. Each route has its own travel times and challenges. Each round unforeseen events can show up to complicate things (rope bridges breaking down, outlaws along roads, cattle hazards, inclement weather) along certain routes on the board. Other times the gods smile.

Each player has a small number of meeples representing their chasquis. The board is divided evenly in all cases depending on the number of players. Within a given part of the network, a player places one meeple at each of their controlled tambos (relay stations), and has a limited budget of spares that he may place at some of his tambos in order to double up. Then play starts

Each round starts with an event draw and a number of messages or packages originating at various tambos (relay stations) around the board. If an available (upright) chasqui meeple is at that tambo, it is available to take the item to its destination (also indicated on the card). Each individual meeple only runs from one tambo to the next on his turn; the card are small (half sized, like Timestream), so they move along on the board with the meeple. At the end of the turn, any laid-down meeples stand up. Any meeples that ran a message or item on their turn are then laid down. (They must rest.) Only upright meeples may pick up a relay on the next turn.

On the following turn, the cards at that tambo are picked up by upright meeples there and carried off to the next stop along the route, etc.

Messages and items are scored for the players upon reaching their destination. If a card cannot travel in a turn, a marker is put on it, reducing its value. If it already has a marker, the card is put into the "disfavor" pile. If "disfavor" grows too great, the players lose the game. Otherwise they're trying to get the score pile to a certain total for a victory.

The challenge comes as the pace of the game picks up and more messages and items are put into the system than the chasquis can easily handle. Additionally chasquis operate under certain limits: a single chasqui can carry multiple messages in his quipu (see Wikipedia), but only one or two objects in his quëpi (again, Wikipedia) depending on size, so if you get an object pile up you could need multiple meeples to process it.

A limited number of rested chasquis that are not running messages may be redeployed from tambo to tambo *without* laying down after their travels. You can also make a "sacrifice move"

Can you organize your network of chasquis such that all messages and objects are delivered as fast as possible? Or will you face the displeasure of the Sapa Inca?

(With the right mind designing it this could be a hell of a eurogame.)

Your Turn:
WRECKED ANGLE
(say it out loud, fast)


Daniel:
WRECKED ANGLE

This is a co-op dexterity-based abstract puzzler that features lots of wooden blocks in various shapes and colors. Players are trying to build the tallest structure after three rounds of play. "Structure" here is used very loosely, as it can be a very finely crafted tower or a big wreck, but it must be kept within the bounds of a very small circular board.

Start a timer for 30sec and BEGIN! Roll dice to determine the quantity blocks you may use from the supply. Then you must take one block and place it on the board or on top of another block. You may only use one hand at a time and hold one block at a time. Once you have used all of those blocks, the next player rolls to add more blocks to the structure. Once he's done, the next player does the same, and so on... until the timer runs out, or all players have completed a turn, or any blocks fall outside of the board (even just a corner).

If the timer runs out before all players have had a turn, the group takes a point penalty card for each player who did not complete a turn.

At the start of the next round, the next player who would have had a turn in the prior round goes first. The game continues as described above until all blocks are gone from the supply. At this point, players use any blocks that are already on the board to add even more height to the structure.

After three rounds, the team's score is one point for each block in the height of the structure, minus any penalties incurred.

Your Turn:
QUINOA CORPS


Fred:
QUINOA CORPS

In the dark distant future, vegan fights vegan in a war for control of the planet's most humane crops! This is a comedy miniatures battle game, where you play members of the Quinoa Corps, hunting down rogue carnivores, and battle those members of the traitorous ovo-lacto splinter factions. Your troops are armed with a variety of weapons. Nonlethal weapons, of course, and as such each battle resembles a very, very healthy food fight. Captured troops from the opposition get a very stern talking to and a steady diet of granola -- and quinoa, of course. It is a superfood! They will be converted!

Your Turn:
RELATION CHIPS


Daniel:
RELATION CHIPS

This is more of a puzzle challenge game for one or more players. Each member of a very large family is featured on a cardboard chip. One side shows just the relative's face, the other shows his or her parents. At the beginning of the game draw two chips at random. Your goal is to find the shortest path long the family tree between these two relatives. To set up the game, set all the chips face-upon the table in any order. On your turn, you can pick up any chip and look at its under side. You may take notes if you wish. At any point in the game, you may announce a number and then pass any remaining turns. Play continues until all players have done so. No one may announce a number that has already been announced. This number is your prediction of the shortest path between the two relatives. If you are closest to this number without going over, you win. If there is a tie for predictions, the player who took the fewest turns wins.

Your Turn:
FRAMED


Fred:
FRAMED

This is like a version of Hearts with one or more Queen of Spades in the mix, only you want to take the tricks ... so long as there's not a "frame" in there, indicating that you've been set up. Cards represent various valuable art-pieces (suits are sculptures, paintings, artifacts, etc) sought by the thieves (players). Cards are played, tricks are taken, points are scored, with the high score indicating the winner.

But if a "frame" card goes down on the "job" (trick), the points of the trick count *against* the total of the person who wins it. Once a a "frame job" has been taken, everyone passes their hand to the left, and play continues; essentially, whenever someone gets set up, the whole scenario changes, and the assets you thought you had are now in someone else's hands.

The deck has 79 cards (a prime number), so there's always some number of cards not in play no matter how many players you've got going. Breakdown probably goes like: 3 frame cards, and 4 suits of 19 cards each; or 4 frame cards, and 5 suits of 15 cards each. Cards would be ranked 1 through X (10?), plus "face" cards ranging from minor work through masterpiece, or something along those lines.

Your Turn:
FREE COUNTRY


Daniel:
FREE COUNTRY

In the heady days at the turn of the last century, several experimental communes and artist retreats dotted the North American countryside. One of these was called FREE COUNTRY and you're going to help it run!

This is sort of a classroom exercise more than a strategy game. The community of FREE COUNTRY is a blank slate at the start of the class. No laws, no responsibilities, but still plenty of needs for its citizens. These needs include food, shelter, the basic stuff -- All represented by a deck of cards, one drawn on each game-day. Citizens of FREE COUNTRY are represented by cards showing their picture, a description of skills and family relations.

The players must decide how to deal with these challenges as best they can. If any solutions call for prerequisites, the teacher should remind the players of that. For example, if the citizens need food, that food must be grown at home after a long wait, hunted from nearby forests, or purchased from neighboring towns. Citizens may be assigned to various tasks, but eventually the demands will outweigh supply.

The teacher should describe to the players the consequences of their decisions, even as new challenges come forward in the following days. These may serve as an entertaining simulation of the challenges of the democratic process and civil discourse. Fun.

Your Turn:
FLATUS QUO


Fred:
FLATUS QUO

Each of the countries of Flatland like their geography the way they've decided it's always been. Thing is, none of them can agree on what the original geography was in the first place.

This is a competitive geometry-placement game where players take turns putting down abstract shapes representing the geography of Flatland. Each player has a card that shows the ideal layout of the geography, with points scored for particular objectives. ("All red areas must touch each other, gain 1 point for each red area that shares a border with another") These objectives are kept secret. Each player has a small number of coins they can spend to change pieces already placed on the board. To spend it, they must declare "that's not how it's always been!" and pursue the flatus quo by revealing one of their objectives and spending one coin per shape altered or replaced to satisfy the revealed objective. Each change made must be something that takes a piece from *not* satisfying the objective, to a state of *definitely* satisfying the objective. (This may also satisfy other still-hidden objectives, but that's just a fringe benefit.) Other players may bid coin to increase the paying player's cost, but even if outspent the player still gets to make one single change. Play continues until the board's full of stuff and nobody wants to spend any more coins to change things.

Your turn:
PEEKS AND VALETS


Daniel:
PEEKS AND VALETS

The seedy underworld of valet parking holds many riches... if you know where to look.

This is a game that puts honest work up against sneaky double-dealing. There is a line of cars waiting to be picked up by a valet. There is also a line of meeples, several of each color, each color representing one player's team of valets.

Turn order is decided by whichever meeple is at the head of the line. On your turn, one of your valet meeples picks up the first car and drives it to the parking lot. This is represented by simply by keeping the card face-up in front of you.

It takes a certain amount of time to reach the parking lot and run back home, represented by how far back in line your meeple is placed. Players may take a turn out of order of the line to play an action card, that will rearranged the meeple order or the car order.

Once all cars have been parked, they must be returned to their owners in a speedy fashion. Then it's a race again to deliver the cars on your turn and not keep owners waiting too long. The car's value minus time spent waiting equals points earned.

Your Turn:
SPICE RACKET


Fred:
SPICE RACKET

In the not too distant future, all organized crime tries to go legit by moving into the boutique spice shop trade. Old habits die hard, though, and as soon as territorial disputes arise, mob instincts rule!

Each player represents the interests of the head of one of the Spice Families. Play Don Cinnamoni, or the deadly Pepper Patrón, etc. Each family starts out with one particular spice monopoly, and options to buy additional monopolies over the course of the game.

Cards go out on the table representing popular restaurants. Each has a variety of dishes it might want to serve its demanding clientele, and the spices needed for each dish. Players leverage their monopolies to extort the biggest payment out of those restaurants. Money equals score at the end of the game, but you'll need to spend it to claim more territory (monopolies) from the "free" spices at play (there's a list, represented by a board, and you'll place markers as you expand your exclusive territory out from your first monopoly).

The order in which a restaurant will pay out in order to fund a particular recipe depends on card order (of the recipes attached to a restaurant) and ingredient order (most needed to least needed) on each recipe card itself. Many dishes can still be served so long as the first few ingredients can be bought by the restaurant. But any given restaurant only has so much money to spread around.

If one of the restaurants is doing particular well for those *other* families, you can employ tactics to put the squeeze on them and force them out of business. New restaurants spring up all the time, after all. It's like fashion.

Your Turn:
THIS SIDE UP
Daniel Solis
Art Director by Day. Game Designer by Night.