If you follow the gaming kickstarter scene, you'll remember the massive smash hit James Ernest's Pairs. As a part of fulfilling that campaign, James Ernest is releasing several versions of the Pairs deck, each with new art and a unique variant standalone game that can be played with that deck.
I was lucky enough to playtest the variant rules for the Professor Elemental deck seen above. Over the course of a few weekly rigorous playtests, with a rotating band of eager and generous testers, the rules changed quite a bit based on collaborative, iterative, speedy revision. Eventually the result was the current version of Venture, which was posted on the Cheapass site in late April.
It's a fast-paced, raucous game with a bit of bluffing and a lot of player-driven chaos.
- Deal out the entire deck to all players so they have equal hands, then place any remainders in the center of the table as a "buffet."
- Choose a card from your hand then everyone reveals their chosen cards at the same time. This begins the "firing" phase, but because my group played with the traditional fruit-themed Pairs deck, we called it the "eating" phase. We also referred to playing a card as "serving" a card.
- The player who served the lowest number, eats the highest numbered card(s) on the table, gathering them into her personal score pile off the table. Continuing in ascending order, each player then eats any card(s) lower than the card they played, again gathering them into a score pile.
- Continue playing turns until everyone's hand is empty. Each card in your score pile is negative one point. However, if you have all the cards of that number, then they're worth positive points. The player with the most points wins.
- We also played with a variant where you draft your initial hand at the beginning of the game to control your starting position a bit.
- We also did a lot of negotiating and alliances to make sure we wouldn't have to eat on a turn where we didn't want to eat. These phases were brief, but spiced up gameplay quite a bit.
That's just an overview. The more complete and up-to-date rules are on the Cheapass Games page. I'm proud to say James was kind enough to list me as a co-designer, but it was really a group effort from all the playtesters. Go grab your Pairs deck, 3-8 players, and give Venture a spin. I really think you'll dig it.
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