Game design has always been something I’ve been interested in. I actually went to school for video game design for a short while until they pulled the rug out from under me and cancelled my degree program 😦 But I still occasionally pick up and read game design books, and I’m always anlyzing games to see what makes them fun, what makes them unfun, how they could be improved, and how they are similar to and different from other games I’ve played. So I guess it’s kind of natural I’d invent some sort of game eventually.
Oftentimes in fantasy worlds there will be a made up gambling game that the residents of the world play, usually in bars. Examples would include Arcomage from the Might and Magic series of video games, Watch Me from the Dark Tower series of books (highly recommended read by the way), Tonk in the Black Company series of books (also highly recommended), and many others. I wanted to invent just such a game for a fantasy world I was working on. I had a few basic design principles I wanted to adhere to:
- Portability – The idea is that people could play it anywhere it anytime, without needing a special board, tons of playing pieces, etc.
- Simplicity – I wanted it to be something that anybody could pick up and play quickly, but at the same time…
- Strategy – I definitely did not want it to be a simple luck-based game like 4-5-6 or High-Low
- Speed – I wanted this to be a game that could be played very quickly if need be. I imagine two characters in a fantasy world playing a game to see who pays for dinner.
- Scalable – The game needs to easily accommodate 2 – 6 players
My initial idea was to use three different types of playing pieces in the game: cards, dice, and something else. I never did come up with a good “something else”, so it ended up using just cards and dice. 5 of each, thus the name 5 x 5. I’m not ready to put the rules up online, but I will talk about the first play session 🙂
My first guinea pigs were my family members. My mom, dad, sister, and brother in-law all sat down and played it one night after dinner (thanks again for playing gang!). I thought it went really well and I got some good feedback on the game. Each player starts with three “chips” and when he runs out of chips he’s out of the game. I envisioned chips as being anything in either the real world or a fantasy world: gold pieces, dollars, quarters, plat, etc. We played the first game strictly for funsies, but the second game we actually played for three quarters.
Each game took about 30 minutes, which I thought was a very acceptable time for 5 players. We worked out a lot of little subtleties with the rules that I hadn’t considered when I was playtesting the game by myself. My brother in-law was the first one out of the first game, at which point he declared it “the stupidest game he’s ever played”. He was much more complimentary when he won the second game though, calling it “awesome” as he raked in all our quarters 🙂
Everybody seemed to like it, and I thought it was pretty fun. It has some similarities to the game 31, but you have a lot more options and things to think about when you play, which is always a good thing in my book. I need to get together another group of willing or not so willing guinea pigs and see what they think of it. I don’t have any plans to try to sell it or anything like that, but it would be fun if it spread out and become something people played once in a while.
Let me know if you want to play sometime! 🙂