Memory Auction Card Game with an "Hourglass" Deck

Hourglass 1

James Ernest has a couple games that use a "triangular" deck distribution, most notably the very fun 12 Days and the newly released Pairs. A triangular deck means the cards are numbered from 1 to whatever, and the number is also how common that card is in the deck. In other words, the card distribution would be something like:

2 2
3 3 3
4 4 4 4
5 5 5 5 5

...And so on. It makes for a nice scaffold for some interesting mechanics. In 12 Days, if you collect the majority of a number, you score that many points. In Pairs, you're trying to get a low score, pushing your luck to reach the very rare lowest cards before getting a pair of identical numbers.

So here's a loosey-goosey idea for an "hourglass" deck, built around two inverted triangles that meet at their lowest numbers.

6  6  6  6  6  6
5  5  5  5  5
4  4  4  4
3  3  3
2  2
-2 -2
-3 -3 -3
-4 -4 -4 -4 
-5 -5 -5 -5 -5
-6 -6 -6 -6 -6 -6

Here's a simple "memory auction" game you might play with this deck.

  • Shuffle the deck and deal a hand of 5 cards to each player.
  • Put one face-up card per player in the center of the play area, these begin the Stacks.
  • Set aside the deck and begin taking turns.
  • On your turn, take one card from your hand and put it on one of the Stacks with the following rule:
    • If the top card is face-up, your card must be placed face-down.
    • If the top card is face-down, your card must be placed face-up.
    • A stack cannot have more than four cards in it.
  • Continue taking turns until each player has one card left in-hand to use as a Bid.
  • Whoever has the lowest bid gets first turn to pick a stack to keep. Continue taking turns taking stacks, in ascending order. (Cards of the same rank would have alphabetical notation for tie-breakers.)
  • When you keep a stack, set it face-up in front of you to keep track of your score. Add your Bid card to this collection as well.
  • The game continues with a new round, starting again from the top.

When a full hand cannot be dealt, the game is over and players tally their score. If you have the majority of a number, score that many points, whether that's positive or negative. Highest score wins.

I've no clue about a theme for this, but I like the idea that the strongest bids can also potentially cost you the most points. Sure, if you're lucky enough to bid -6 several rounds in a row, you guarantee you'll be taking a 6 point hit against your final score.


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