In an earlier post, I mentioned two card games that I invented but no longer endorse. Originally I wrote about these games in two seperate posts, but in a June 2009 update I am making the decision to combine them.
The first of the two games is Suitmatch, which I invented somewhere in my early teens. It wasn’t the very first card game I invented, but it was the first that I recorded and I’ve completely forgotten the rules for any earlier ones. Back in the day it seemed to work, and I have memories of playing a few rounds with my younger cousins for example, but when I revisited the game as an adult I discovered that it really wasn’t up to scratch.
The mechanism and objective are both original, and I think they were both good ideas in theory. The mechanism is that you receive a card in exchange for one or more cards that add to the same value, and the objective is to obtain a hand with an equal number of cards from each suit. Whether that mechanism and that objective can fit together in a truly satisfying game is an open question, but Suitmatch fails because one of two things generally happen. Either one player wins very quickly, denying everyone a sense of satisfaction in the process of play, or unlucky players end up collecting inordinate numbers of cards with little hope of success. What very rarely happens is that a player who started with a bad hand overcomes the disadvantage and wins in the end, and I think card games need some reversals of fortune in order to be satisfactory.
I invented the second game, Counterweight, less than a year before I started this blog. The game is for two players only, and much better than Suitmatch. In Counterweight, changes of fortune are common, which is to say that each player can almost win several times before the game finally ends. That in itself is a vast improvement over Suitmatch, and for one thing means there is hope in every bad hand.
Another nice thing about Counterweight is the satisfying way in which it borrows from Newton’s second law, so that for every action you perform, you must also perform an opposing action. For example, place a high card on a low card, and you must also place a low card on a high one. I think this works rather well, though I must admit that the game has never been reviewed by a physicist (and of course, the rules are not enslaved to the metaphor, nor should they be). I got the idea for Counterweight by wondering if Ups and Downs could somehow be crossed with the genre of card games known as fishing games (it couldn’t, really, so I invented Counterweight instead).
With luck, a game of Counterweight can be enjoyed well enough, but I’ve invented a couple of better games since then and with hindsight its flaws are all too apparent. The main flaw is a tendency to stall and become repetitive. The game often reaches a stalemate situation in which the same cards flow back and forth between one player and the other, and meanwhile the stock is gradually emptied and nobody wins. That is very much an anti-climax, and is particularly frustrating given that the game can take quite some time to play and require considerable concentration. Most of that concentration is never rewarded.
I have added an appendix to the rules, which partly addresses some of the issues with the game, though I’m the first to admit that it doesn’t go far enough.
Suitmatch and Counterweight were early attempts on my part to invent games. I now regard them as exhibits in the museum of my creativity, but I’ve moved on since then. You are, of course, welcome to try them – they may inspire ideas of your own.