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Greedy Devils • 2017 rpg

Chris Gathercole •

You are greedy (Tasmanian) devils on an ever-shifting rubbish heap. The first with a pouch full of food, standing highest on the heap, wins. Everything you carry (a) leaches into you, changing your capabilities, (b) is a weapon. Pick wisely.

For the heap, shuffle 52 playing cards, deal face down as a 5x5 grid. Always reveal top cards. Aces low, Kings high (literally). Each card can be food (if smaller than 6), or a weapon (bigger is better).

You start next to the heap.

To synchronize each turn's action, everyone reveals their coin simultaneously: heads => MOVE/PICK/DISCARD (first), tails => FIGHT. Toss for sequencing.

Your pouch of PICKed cards is visible: immediately DISCARD any duplicate values or more than 5* cards. Leaching from Hearts => pouch+1*, Spades => PICKx2, Clubs => weapon+1, Diamonds => MOVEx2.

* MOVE: NESW, on/beside heap. One step uphill (if <4 higher) or along, or can keep sliding down, or stay (but not on local peak).
* PICK: The card you're standing on, or from below higher neighbouring point.
* DISCARD: as far as MOVE.
* FIGHT: Pair-wise, on same heap location, each secretly picks a pouch card. Compare as weapons, DISCARD both. Winner chooses card from loser's pouch.

Author Comments

I have a hankering to achieve a rich, RPG/board-game-esque vibe with a standard deck of playing cards, moving away from the usual hand-based games (such as Bridge, Whist, Rummy, etc). The only way to have a chance of achieving that (it seems to me) is to overload the cards with different uses in different contexts (as in Race for the Galaxy), and have a tiled map (as in Carcassonne). A limitation of rectangular cards is that they only really offer NESW connectivity, and you can only achieve a fairly small grid with a standard deck. By considering the card values as heights, you get a much richer landscape and, as the cards change, the landscape changes. A card, when picked up by a player, can become food and/or a weapon, and affects the player’s capabilities. This means four different ways of interpreting a card. Fighting borrows from Top Trumps and, in fact, there are lots of possibilities for different fight mechanics making more use of all the cards in each pouch plus the location in the landscape. The food you need, in order to win, makes poor weapons, but you’ll need weapons to fight and defend your food, and will probably discard good cards along the way (which resonates with Lamarckian Poker). Synchronisation of fighting/moving/picking, etc, was borrowed from RoboRally, and that too could be extended to lock in longer sequences of actions. The pouch limitation comes from Munchkin. There are myriad ways this game can be tuned; awkward edge cases will keep cropping up. The theme, greedy rats-with-pouches (aka Tasmanian Devils) fighting for food on a rubbish heap, helps stitch all the mechanics together into one coherent drama.

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