The Outer Hoard

Suitmatch and Counterweight


In an earlier post, I mentioned two card games that I invented but no longer endorse. They are early attempts to invent games that have not stood the test of time. Game invention is a lot like other creative activities in that respect: you know how you cringe when you re-read that story you wrote years ago.

The first of these 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 exchange a card 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. A player who started with a bad hand very rarely 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 in contrast to Suitmatch, changes of fortune are common Each player can almost win several times before the game finally ends.

The rules of Counterweight borrow loosely 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 got the idea 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.

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