More Exclamation Cards for Suspense

I was fortunate enough to play Suspense a few more times with southern gentleman gamer Jonathan Bolding. Together we brainstormed a handful of new exclamation cards to add to the basic Suspense deck for further replay value. In the base game, you just shuffle the whole deck and deal it out to each player until only the thirteenth card is left as the secret card. Out of the thirteen cards, only one isn't a number: the exclamation, which currently says "Lowest Sum of Numbers in Play."

With some simple permutations, we came up with a bunch of different exclamation cards.

• Lowest Sum of Numbers in Play
• Lowest Sum of Numbers in Hand
• Highest Sum of Numbers in Play
• Highest Sum of Numbers in Hand
• Lowest Black Sum of Numbers in Play
• Lowest Black Sum of Numbers in Hand
• Highest Black Sum of Numbers in Play
• Highest Black Sum of Numbers in Hand
• Lowest White Sum of Numbers in Play
• Lowest White Sum of Numbers in Hand
• Highest White Sum of Numbers in Play
• Highest White Sum of Numbers in Hand
• Fewest Cards in Play
• Fewest Cards in Hand
• Most Cards in Play
• Most Cards in Hand
• Sum in Play Closest to 6 without being over
• Sum in Hand Closest to 6 without being over
• Sum in Play Closest to 6 without being under
• Sum in Hand Closest to 6 without being under

That's twenty different cards total. Now, one of the appeals of Suspense as a microgame is that it doesn't have a lot of cards. There is almost a fetishistic appeal in that minimalism.

If I were reluctant to add 20 cards to this deck, I'd just add one card that has all of these permutations listed on it. I'd remove the victory condition from the exclamation card so it's just a blank placeholder. Then before each round, you roll a d20 to determine what the exclamation card represents this round.

But I'm not that reluctant to add more cards to the deck. In production terms, the cost-difference between a thirteen card game and a thirty-two card game is pretty slim. We'll see how that turns out!

1. Some quick reactions to this...

Adding Exclamation cards to "increase replay value" assumes the play value is a novel reveal at the end, something like how the play value of Munchkin is in reading the jokes for the first time. It seems the play value of a deduction game (even a light one) should be in the deduction, which leads to my second comment...

Doubling the number of possible secret conditions weakens by half the already filmy ability to deduce the secret condition in this game. You have precious few turns to formulate a deduction as is, and doubling the possible solutions would make it almost entirely a crap shoot. Which leads to my final comment...

I stand by my earlier assertion that there shouldn't be a reward for folding, or at least not one that equals the value of getting it right (which is itself mostly random already). With as much overlap as there is in the victory conditions, the chances of a tie with more than two players is significant, which halves the victory point award, making folding (already statistically more likely to be the correct choice) just as profitable as staying in.

You can easily test this by adding a dummy player the next few times you play test. It should play randomly and alway fold. Track it's score and see how it stacks up over a series of games. For that matter, you should do the same with a dummy player who plays randomly and always stays in. If you can't beat the random dummy opponents on a regular basis, that should tell you something about the game.

2. I hear you, but 've tested this several times with real people and dummies already. Presently the reward for folding is 1pt, the reward for winning is 2pts. I am keeping the reward for folding. It just feels better in play, regardless of what the statistics say. Players like being Kirk in the Kobayashi Maru. I don't mean to be stubborn on this point, but that's just the feedback I'm getting.

So, the variable to tweak ought to be the reward for winning the match. Right now I'm thinking 4pts for individual victory, 3pts for tied victory. Also a +1 bonus pt if you win with a 3 or 4 card since they're so rarely the victor. Folding still has some compensatory value this way, but an outright victory feels more satisfying.

3. Raising the points for winning to 4/3 makes it much better. I understand wanting to be able to cleverly back out for a consolation prize, but the consolation prize shouldn't be better than actually winning. There's just no risk in backing out when the points are that close.

4. What happened to the alien theme from earlier? That theme felt really atmospheric and flavorful and naturally implied suspense. Just calling it suspense doesn't make me feel any emotion. My primary game is magic, so maybe I'm biased and prefer to play with cards that let me "experience" some kind of fantasy. But I think that's the reason a lot of people play games.

5. There wasn't a connection between the theme and the actual gameplay. Also, I couldn't afford proper art for the game with its current theme. So instead I abstracted the theme, focused the cards on the most relevant information, and made visuals I could do myself.