A Game Without A Theme


I recently developed this game for a class about game design fundamentals. It’s pretty simple, and (biased opinion warning, but one that’s been backed up by playtesters), pretty fun. I’ll post the rules below, and you can try it out, but here’s why I’m posting it: I want a theme.

There are plenty of theme-less games out there, but in the current gaming renaissance, a theme helps, and if I pitch this game, I’d like to at least suggest a theme to go with it. So, if you read this and get hit with the idea for a theme, get in touch. In the meantime, here’s the game:

TRADE OR DUEL a game for 4-9 players by Greg Loring-Albright

Components: 18 cards numbered 1-18.

Goal: End the game with the LOWEST hand total of all remaining players.

Setup: Shuffle the cards. Deal each player 2 cards. This is their hand. Keep it secret from all players. If playing with fewer than 9, set aside all unused cards without revealing them to anyone. Determine a first player. 

On your turn: choose any player. Say to that player “Trade.” Or say “Duel.” That player may not refuse. They must say “One” or “Two.” Thus, there are four possible interactions: Trade 1, Trade 2, Duel 1, Duel 2. Here is how each interaction plays out:

Trade 1: Each player chooses a card and lays it face down on the table. They trade.

Trade 2: Above, but with 2 cards.

Duel 1: Each player chooses a card and lays it face down on the table. Simultaneously reveal the cards. The higher card wins.

Duel 2: Above, but with 2 cards, and the highest SUM wins.

Winning Duels: The winner returns their card(s) to their hand. The loser’s card(s) are discarded, face-up, to the center of the table.

Tied Duels: In a tied duel (possible only in duel 2), both players lose, and discard their cards.

Elimination: If you have no cards in your hand, you are out of the game.

Unequal hands: If a player has a hand containing only 1 card, they may not declare or be declared to be part of the 2-card interactions. They (or they player they interact with) must choose Trade 1 or Duel 1.

Endgame: After everyone has taken 3 turns, the game ends. All non-eliminated players compare their hands. The lowest sum wins. If there is a tie, everyone remaining in the game takes another turn. Compare hands. Continue playing and comparing until there are no ties.