A Case of Awkward Rules Wording


Happy to report that the this week's playtest of Nine Lives went very well. The new trading and set collection rules are working well, encouraging plenty of decision-making each turn. In the next update, I'm adding some special abilities and I'm stumbling on how to word some of the more complicated ones if they're going to fit neatly onto the cards. They don't necessarily need to fit on the cards, but it would certainly help early learning of the game.

For background on the game's terms, cards in your hand are called your hand (naturally). Cards that are face-up in your possession are called your kennel. Cards in the middle of the table available for capture are called the alley. And the deck is called the deck.

That in itself is a sticky wicket. I could come up with generic terms for kennels and alley, like tableau and pile, but I like integrating thematic terms where they will be the least confusing. I did the same thing with Koi Pond's Pond (tableau), House (hand), Lake (central pile), and River (discard pile). Heck, even the word "deck" fits nicely with that watery theme.

But I'll address that later, for now here are the nine powers I'm trying to word concisely but clearly.

  • Move a card from the alley to your kennel.
  • Move a card from an opponent's kennel to your hand.
  • Discard a card from any kennel.
  • Move a card from your hand to your kennel.
  • Move a card from your kennel to your hand.
  • Move a card from an opponent's kennel to yours. Move two cards from your kennel to theirs.
  • Move a card from an opponent's kennel to yours. Move a card of equal scratches from your kennel to theirs.*
  • Move a card from an opponent's kennel to yours. Move a card of the same cat from your kennel to theirs.*
  • Move a card from an opponent's kennel to yours. Move a card of lower rank from your kennel to theirs.*

The powers with *asterisks are the ones that are too long. And honestly, I'd even consider just changing those powers so they are simpler if it means shorter wording. I posed this problem to Twitter last night and got several suggestions. Here's what I'm considering.

  • Steal: Alley to your kennel
  • Steal: Opponent's kennel to your hand
  • Discard: 1 from any kennel
  • Move: 1 from your hand to your kennel
  • Move: 1 from your kennel to your hand
  • Kennel Swap: Take 1, Give 2 of any card
  • Kennel Swap: Take 1, Give 1 of same scratches
  • Kennel Swap: Take 1, Give 1 of same cat
  • Kennel Swap: Take 1, Give 1 of lower rank

Seeing the powers written up so concisely, I can see how there are some odd outliers. There are four kennel swap powers, but only one Discard power. I might be a little neurotic, but I almost want to try making three Steal powers, three Swap powers, and either three Discard powers or three Move powers. I may explore that later.

Still happy to take suggestions, but this seems like it'll be one of those times when it may just be easier to show these powers as diagrammatic icons with very short gamey phrases.
Daniel Solis
Art Director by Day. Game Designer by Night.