Royal Draft

Here's a game that originally appeared in the Summer 2013 issue of Casual Game Insider.

It's an exploration of the basic half-blind drafting mechanic that I tinkered with earlier this year for Princess Bride's poison cup mechanic, which in turn was inspired by Antoine Bauza's two-player variant of the Little Prince: Make Me a Planet. You may also notice some familiar turn-order mechanics that I would later use in Nine Lives.

This game was paired with an article about how to present a choice between chaos and order to make an approachable filler game.

This simple drafting game has players present chaos/order choices to each other. It requires a standard deck of playing cards with one joker. It takes two to five players and lasts about ten minutes. The goal is to score the most points. It’s quick enough that can be played multiple times with scores tallied across all plays.

Remove the four kings and the joker from the deck. Shuffle and deal one to each player face-up. If no one got a Joker, discard it from play. Shuffle the remaining kings into the rest of the deck and set it down in the center of the play area within reach of all players. Each player should have enough room for a row of up to ten cards. Use poker chips or a notepad to keep track of score.

Noting the rank of a card is important for determining turn order. The ranks are (in order of lowest to highest) Joker, Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, and King. Suits are also ranked. They are (in order of lowest to highest) Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts, and Spades. Alphabetical order, in other words.
So, a 7 of Spades is ranked higher than a 7 of Hearts, which is higher than a 7 of Diamonds, which is higher than a 7 of Clubs.

Preparing Each Round
Play is divided into rounds. Each round, one player takes the role of Dealer. In the first round, the player with the highest ranked king is the Dealer. Thereafter, the role of Dealer will pass amongst players according to their choices during play.

To start each round, the Dealer draws one card per player, plus two, from the deck.
So if this is a four-player game, the Dealer will draw six cards. (4+2=6)

The Dealer places two of these cards face-down in the center of the play area, then places the remaining cards face-up alongside the face-down cards. These cards are collectively called “the offer.”

Turn Order
Now players take turns. In the first round, the player with the Joker or lowest-ranked king takes the first turn. The player with the next highest ranked king takes the next turn, and so on, until the dealer takes his turn, thus ending the round. In future rounds, turn order will change based on player’s choices during play as explained below.

Playing a Turn
On a turn, the active player takes one of the offered cards and adds it to her collection. Cards in a collection are kept in a neat row, with the earliest card (the king) on the far left, with the most recently taken card on the far right. If taking a face-down card, the active player must turn it over so it is face-up.

Busting: If the active player has taken an odd-numbered card and there are two face-up odd-numbered cards already in her collection, she must turn those two cards face-down. The newly added card remains face-up. Note that this only applies to numbered cards. Aces, Jacks and Kings are fine.

Dealer’s Privilege: Though the dealer gets last pick, he takes two cards from the offer. The Dealer decides the order in which they are placed in his collection.

End of Round
There is one card remaining in the offer after everyone has had their turn. This is discarded from play, ending the round.

New Round, New Dealer, New Turn Order
Each round, the player who took the highest ranked card in the prior round is the new dealer. Thus, the turn order is also rearranged so that whoever took the lowest card will get first pick, followed by the player who took the next highest card, and so on. (Strategy Note: Each turn, you face a choice of whether you want best pick of the offer or the option to take two cards as the dealer.)

The game ends when one player has nine or more cards in her collection.

Royal Score: Each Jack, Queen or King in your collection scores 1 point per card of their suit in your collection. A royal card does score for itself.

Joker Score: If you have the Joker, score 2 points for each face-down card in your collection.

Set Score: A continuous row of cards with a matching suit or rank, scores 1 point per card in that set.

Example of Scoring
At the end of the game, your collection has the following cards, in this order.

Royal Score: Your King of Hearts gives you one point per heart in your collection, including itself. There are three Hearts in your collection, so you score 3 points from your King of Hearts. Your Queen of Diamonds gives you one point per Diamond in your collection, including itself. There are two Diamonds in your collection, so you score 2 points from your Queen of Diamonds.

Joker Score: You don’t have a Joker in your collection, so you don’t score any points for your face-down cards. (If you did, your two face-down cards would score 4 points.)

Set Score: You have three Hearts in a row, which scores you 3 points. You have two 2s in a row, which scores you 2 points. You have two Diamonds in a row, which scores you 2 points.

In total, you score 11 points!


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