Russian Nesting Doll Card Game

Indian nesting dolls

Ever get one of those ideas where you know how it ends, but you're not sure how it begins? Well, in continuing my exploration of triangular and square scoring, I've got that going on with this idea for a run-building card game themed around Russian nesting dolls. By "run-building," I mean a game in which you may play a card from your hand as long as it is a higher rank than the last card you played.

The deck's cards would be divided into several suits, each depicting a unique motif for a doll. Within a suit, cards would be ranked in sequential order. "1" would represent the smallest doll, with each higher rank increasing the size of the doll. There would be two cards of each combination of suit and rank, one card depicting the top of a doll and the other card depicting the bottom of the doll.

In play, you'd be trying to assemble as complete and well-matched set of dolls as possible within a time limit. You're trying to build two runs at once. One run represents the top of your doll set and the other represents the bottom of your doll set.

At the end of the game, you review your set of dolls and score along a Linear, Triangular, and Square sequence, based on matching suits within in the run and matching suits and ranks between the two runs as noted below.

  • You score the sum of all ranks in your collection.
  • If you have two of the same suit within a run, score 6 points. Three of the same suit, earn 10 points. Four earns 15 points. Five earns 21. Six earns 28.
  • If you have one matched pair (top and bottom), earn 4 points. Two pairs earn 16 points. Three earns 25 points. Four earns 36 points. Five earns 49 points. Six earns 64 points.


In other words, you score points equal to the sum of ranks in your run, triangular bonuses for matching suits within a run, and square bonuses for matching pairs between two runs. At the moment, the scoring seems pretty evenly weighted towards the linear bonus since it's least restrictive on its scoring condition. I wonder if I should change those to be alphabetical ranks, only awarding actual points for the upper echelons of the ranks, perhaps noted by stars.

Either way, the next step in development would be to figure out how players actually acquire these cards. Auction? Drafting? Trades? Not sure. The scoring mechanic is complicated enough that I'd want to keep the rest of the game very streamlined and simple, but it would be great if there were at least some simple trading going on, too. How about something like Jaipur?

On your turn, you can either take cards from a central public tableau or play cards from your hand into your set.

  • If you take, you may take one card for free, which is then replaced by a random card from the deck.  If you take more than one, you must replace the taken cards with an equal number from your hand.
  • If you play, the cards you play must be in sequential order. In other words, each card played must be of a higher rank than the preceding card played. To play a card, you must also discard a card from your hand. So you're not just trying to build up your run, you're also trying to build up "funds" for your run.

I'm still not sure what the endgame condition would be. When all players have played at least ten cards? That means everyone might have an incomplete run and rushing the endgame might be a viable strategy. Hm. That might work! Perhaps it's time to hit the table with this soon.
Daniel Solis
Art Director by Day. Game Designer by Night.