Author Topic: Sneak (card game)  (Read 3908 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Online Simon

  • Administrator
  • Posts: 3813
    • View Profile
    • Lix
Sneak (card game)
« on: September 24, 2023, 08:55:54 AM »
Hi,

geoo and I are working on Sneak, a card game designed by David Parlett.

3-6 players. One or two standard decks of 52-cards.

Sneak rules on Parlett's website

We started with the above Sneak rules. Technically, we didn't start with the website, but with the Entensuppe book, a German book from 2008 with translations of Parlett's games. But the website and the book appear to agree.

We played with 3 or 4 players and always used 52 cards.

Eventually, we changed some rules:
  • #1: Replace the standard 52-card deck with Five Crowns, but remove the 6 jokers. This new deck contains 110 cards: 3456789TJQK (no aces, no deuces) in 5 suits and 2 copies per card.
  • #2: Rank straight flush higher than matches (a.k.a. tuples, n-lings).
  • #3: Rank flushes higher than straights. (Both still rank below matches.)
The re-rankings feel appropriate for the 5-suited deck, and it's handy that the rankings now agree with Poker.

It's possible that even for the standard double deck of 104 cards, straight flush should be ranked higher than matches, but we didn't playtest that. We went directly from the standard single 52-card deck to the Five Crowns deck.

Longer decks increase the scope of play before the stock runs out. Still, hoarding cards in hand until the end may be too good: Never sneak, rarely challenge other people's plays, and if you challenge, do it only with your very strong hands. At the end of the game, be the one player with cards left in hand and put them into your pile of winnings.

We'd like to encourage a more daring playstyle. Toward that, geoo is considering to change Parlett's endgame rule to:
  • #4: After a player has drawn the last card from the stock, there will be exactly one more round of turns, starting as usual with the player after the drawing player, ending with the drawing player. On your turn, you must flaunt; if you have zero cards in hand, skip your turn. After this final round of turns, leftover cards in hand become worthless. You don't add them to your pile of winnings.
If this proves sensible in playtesting, I'll write down a full ruleset with these adaptions. Edit: Done, full ruleset with Simon's/geoo's current rules

-- Simon
« Last Edit: December 26, 2023, 10:28:34 AM by Simon »

Online Simon

  • Administrator
  • Posts: 3813
    • View Profile
    • Lix
Re: Sneak (card game)
« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2023, 03:07:32 AM »
I played a single 6-player hand of Sneak with above #1-#4 (= jokerless Five Crowns deck, straight flush high, straight low, 1-round endgame). Nobody but me had played before, but all of them play many other games. Results:

Rankings for 2-card combinations are unintuitive. Early, players snuck pairs, which felt high, but even the same-suited pair ♠K-♠K loses against the straight flush ♦4-♦3.

Players liked to challenge. Rarely, a sneak went uncontested. As a result, sneaking felt weak compared to challenging a sneak. If nobody challenges you, you put reasonable cards on your pile without earning any extra cards. The snuck combination may have been more useful had you kept it in your hand. But if somebody challenges you, you have a fair chance to lose, and unlike the challenger, you have given up your turn -- you could have drawn a card instead.

If you have strong cards, it's often better to wait for another player to sneak, then challenge him. You'll earn twice as many cards. Positioning (having the right to challenge last, before seeing what others do) felt even more important than it was in my Viennese 3- or 4-player games.

Are these problems or merely artifacts from playing with beginners? I think the weak sneaking will self-balance with experience, but only to a degree, and it will remain a problem. How to fix the problems? The group offered these ideas:
  • Put a community card face-up on the table. The sneaker has the right to add the card to his sneak; his snuck cards from hand remain face-down. Replace the community card after use.
  • After you've snuck or flaunted, you still draw a card.
  • If you sneak n cards and lose, you draw n − 1 replacement cards. Compared to your usual turn result after drawing a card, you'll end 2 cards short; that's less devastating. Maybe also let losing challengers draw cards, but fewer.
  • Rank a set of identical cards (♠K-♠K) higher than straight flush. This will only matter for 2-card sneaks (the deck has only 2 copies per card), and it will complicate the rankings.
We didn't playtest any of these new ideas.

At the start of the game, maybe deal 3 cards to each player. Dealing 10 cards would be way too much. But I have such soft spot for the unique and elegant setup for Sneak: Shuffle all cards and place them in a pile face-down. Done.

-- Simon
« Last Edit: November 06, 2023, 03:10:31 PM by Simon »

Offline namida

  • Administrator
  • Posts: 12381
    • View Profile
    • NeoLemmix Website
Re: Sneak (card game)
« Reply #2 on: November 06, 2023, 05:11:42 AM »
Perhaps losing a challenge should have a penalty of some kind? Or, alternatively, a cost that must be paid to even attempt to challenge.
My Lemmings projects
2D Lemmings: NeoLemmix (engine) | Lemmings Plus Series (level packs) | Doomsday Lemmings (level pack)
3D Lemmings: Loap (engine) | L3DEdit (level / graphics editor) | L3DUtils (replay / etc utility) | Lemmings Plus 3D (level pack)

Online Simon

  • Administrator
  • Posts: 3813
    • View Profile
    • Lix
Re: Sneak (card game)
« Reply #3 on: November 07, 2023, 03:06:27 AM »
Quote
losing a challenge should have a penalty

It already has a possible penalty: You lose your challenge cards if somebody (the sneaker or another challenger) has a better combination. You always have the choice of not challenging, thereby keeping the cards in hand.

Still, challenging happens out of turn, you're not giving up a card draw. And if you win, you're guaranteed at least the sneak and your own cards. You don't run the risk of playing a monster and getting nothing else.

Upsides of sneaking over challenging: You choose when to sneak. You choose the number of cards. If you sneak garbage and nobody challenges, you turn useless cards from hand into points.

Downsides of sneaking: You don't know if somebody is trapping with a monster of equally many cards (biggest problem). If you sneak a monster and nobody challenges, you earn only your own cards (big problem). If you sneak in general, you give up your card draw (moderate problem), you lose ties (smaller problem).

cost that must be paid to even attempt to challenge.

This is interesting and has led me to the following idea.

The existing rule is: If you sneak or flaunt on your turn, you temporarily halt the normal progression of turns and start a single sub-round; every other player can challenge or pass in turn. After the sub-round, the sneak/flaunt is resolved (best combination wins all cards involved) and the normal progression of turns continues.

New idea #5: Sneaking or flaunting does not start a sub-round. You put your played cards on the table and your turn ends. (Possibly we allow you to draw a card here, to sweeten the sneak.) The sneak/flaunt stays on the table unresolved until your next turn.

Every other player, on his turn, either draws a card or challenges. This introduces the cost of challenging: He doesn't draw a card. He cannot sneak or flaunt himself this turn because only one sneak or flaunt (plus any number of challenges) may be on the table at any time.

On your next turn, you resolve the sneak/flaunt, then continue to take your turn as normal.

It's possible (I haven't tested yet) that, if we play with this idea #5, we also need a rule here to prevent small successive sneaks by the same player, without giving others a chance first. Maybe we should disallow sneaking/flaunting immediately on the resolving turn. Your only option is to draw a card and end the turn. The earliest next opportunity to sneak/flaunt is for the next player after you. Or maybe we should disallow 1-card sneaks/flaunts.

Turn options become:
  • Draw a card. (if there are still cards in the deck)
  • Sneak, then draw a card. (if nobody is sneaking/flaunting and there are still cards in the deck)
  • Flaunt, then draw a card. (if nobody is sneaking/flaunting)
  • Challenge. (if an opponent is sneaking/flaunting)
  • Resolve your sneak/flaunt, then draw a card. (mandatory if you snuck/flaunted last turn)
-- Simon
« Last Edit: November 07, 2023, 07:06:55 AM by Simon »

Offline namida

  • Administrator
  • Posts: 12381
    • View Profile
    • NeoLemmix Website
Re: Sneak (card game)
« Reply #4 on: November 07, 2023, 09:53:55 PM »
Is there any reason to go for all that rather than simply keeping the sub-round, and making the options "challenge or draw a card" rather than "challenge or pass"?
My Lemmings projects
2D Lemmings: NeoLemmix (engine) | Lemmings Plus Series (level packs) | Doomsday Lemmings (level pack)
3D Lemmings: Loap (engine) | L3DEdit (level / graphics editor) | L3DUtils (replay / etc utility) | Lemmings Plus 3D (level pack)

Online Simon

  • Administrator
  • Posts: 3813
    • View Profile
    • Lix
Re: Sneak (card game)
« Reply #5 on: November 07, 2023, 10:09:09 PM »
Only a reason that I cannot accept myself: Merging the sub-round into the main round was how I came up with the reward (drawing a card) for not challenging. There was already a way to get the reward and I wanted to reuse that.

After napping over it, I'd rather have the sub-round back, too. Especially since I'm inclined to disallow the same player to sneak twice in a row, without giving others the right to sneak first.

Thus, turn options revert to:
  • Either draw a card (only if cards left in deck),
  • or sneak (only if cards left in deck),
  • or flaunt.
Sneaks and flaunts start a sub-round within your turn of the main round. Each opponent, on his sub-round turn:
  • Either challenges
  • or draws a card. If none are left in deck, he passes instead of drawing.
When the sub-round of turns reaches you:
  • You resolve the played cards.
  • Then you draw a card. (if any left in deck)
  • Then your main round turn is over.
Much better, thanks. Compared to my above post's sneaking/flaunting, we draw one card fewer: We skip the "draw a card here, to sweeten the sneak". But skipping that card draw is better for testing anyway. We've already changed the game flow with the cost of challenging, and we should test first if that's enough sweetening for the sneak.

-- Simon
« Last Edit: November 08, 2023, 02:26:50 PM by Simon »

Offline geoo

  • Administrator
  • Posts: 1472
    • View Profile
Re: Sneak (card game)
« Reply #6 on: November 23, 2023, 11:36:34 PM »
The last two nights we played a couple of rounds with two different rulesets, 4-7 handed, double standard deck. Initially, I adjusted the base rules as follows:

  • Card ranks: Straight flush, n of a kind, straight, flush, high card (aka garbage). Rationale: To turn a single card into a hand, there are 4/2 outs for straight flush, 7/3 outs for n of a kind, 16/8 outs for straight, 25/12 outs for flush (double deck/single deck). Similar heuristics apply for going from 2->3 cards, and this only breaks down for very large hands. (For single deck, I believe a very long straight is more likely than a very large flush.) It's not a 100% formal argument, but sounds plausible.
  • You cannot flaunt garbage. You can flaunt or sneak single cards.
  • Even if you flaunt or sneak, you draw a card after your turn. (After rather than before is important, because drawing a card clearly indicates that you're ending your turn.)
  • After the last card has been drawn, everyone gets one more chance to flaunt (you can still decide to skip, if you want to). After that flaunting round the game is over.
  • The limit on cards does not apply for flaunting, only for sneaking: You can flaunt more cards than any of the other players have. The rationale here is that players who get a late last turn may have saved a decent hand (e.g. 5 card straight), but everyone else has already got rid of the last cards. At the same time, you cannot abuse this because you can't flaunt garbage.
  • You cannot undercut a flaunt in order to get rid of cards (you can only play if you beat the highest hand on the table).
  • After the game is concluded, cards that remain on a player's hand count as negative points.

The last rule is crucial: This discourages bunkering, at least in the later stages of the game. The rounds we played were very dynamic and fun. The endgame was an important part of the game and quite strategic. My concern that you get huge sneaks just before the flaunting round didn't materialize. If people realized they had too much garbage on their hand, they sometimes challenged with garbage just to get rid of cards, but I don't see this as an issue.

But we when we reflected on the rules, we got conscious again of the issue that challenging feels better than sneaking. Thus, we played with an adjustment:

When a sneak or flaunt goes unchallenged, instead of drawing 1 card, you draw the amount of cards that you sneaked/flaunted. This makes mid-game flaunting slightly useful, and sneaking more enticing. People were more encouraged to sneak (especially many cards), at the same time people were also encouraged to challenge to deny the reward. However, the former seemed to outweigh the latter, thus making sneaking more attractive overall.

In the end, I think this rule set is pretty solid. The only unelegant aspect I see is that mid-game flaunting is still not that useful.

So I had the following other ideas (which we didn't have the chance to try out though):
  • To reduce complexity, I considered cutting flaunting entirely: During the last round, cards still have to be played openly, but the leading player does not determine what kind of hand can be played (so like with sneaking, best overall hand wins). You are still not allowed to undercut in order to get rid of your cards. The hand type constraint at the end of the game is interesting, but I don't know if it's a positive or negative thing.
  • Before we thought of the rule of drawing n card if your sneak/flaunt goes unchallenged, I suggested allowing players to draw 2 cards after a sneak (regardless of outcome). But I think the rule we ended up playing with is more interesting. Sneaking is encouraged, and I don't know if challenging is still better than sneaking. But if you perceive that it still is, sneaking/flaunting could be sweetened further by allowing to draw 2 cards after your turn, and n+1 if your sneak is unchallenged.
  • We didn't try the suggestion from the previous post (not challenging is rewarded with drawing a card). It sounds interesting, but my main concern is that the pile will get depleted too fast like this. Especially near the end of the game, if there are many players, you last chance to sneak may be while there are still 20 cards on the pile, because next time it is your turn the pile is gone.
« Last Edit: November 23, 2023, 11:47:09 PM by geoo »

Online Simon

  • Administrator
  • Posts: 3813
    • View Profile
    • Lix
Re: Sneak (card game)
« Reply #7 on: November 24, 2023, 03:12:28 AM »
Thanks for the report!

100 % agree that all card drawing should happen at end of turn, as a signal for the next player to take his turn. And yes, ideally, every turn ends with drawing at least one card. That's consistent. Let's always draw 1 card even after a challenged sneak.

For both the single 52-card or double 104-card standard deck, it makes sense that straight ranks higher than flushes. Compared to Five Crowns, in standard decks, the suits are longer, thus it's harder for any two cards to be consecutive. And there are fewer suits, thus it's easier for any two cards to be of same suit. My only reservation remains how { straight ranks higher than flush } breaks Poker hand rankings, but that's not a strong counterargument. Make Sneak as good as it can be on its own.

How do you feel about the value of two identical cards? They always feel stronger than straight flush, but it's hard to define a nice ranking that captures the idea. E.g., I don't feel that ♠3-♠3-♦J-♦J should beat a 4-card straight flush.

I like the simplicity of how all midgame plays must be sneaks. But if you're allowed to draw n cards when your sneak/flaunt remains unchallenged, I see one opportunity for midgame flaunting: Flaunt a 5- or 6-card flush (the weakest combination) and hope that nobody has a better flush. Convert it into points, draw 5 or 6 random replacement cards, and hope that these random cards are not too weak -- after all, you could have hung to your 6 same-suited cards and eventually turned them into a straight flush. Would we flaunt such a 6-card flush or rather try to improve it? If you wouldn't flaunt it, I think you can safely remove midgame flaunting from the ruleset.

Quote from: geoo
After the game is concluded, cards that remain on a player's hand count as negative points.
The last rule is crucial: This discourages bunkering, at least in the later stages of the game.

Negative points for cards in hand is a substantial change. It will dovetail into several rule adjustments such as the explicit no-undercutting. We'll have to sleep over it.

It sounds like it dampens the need for consolation prizes for a challenged losing sneaker: At least he got rid of n − 1 cards because he draws 1 card at end of turn. We'll have to see if it's enough compensation. In my one playtest (that I described on 2023-11-06), players felt like losing to challengers was the worst fate in all of Sneak. But we had not yet reward unchallenged sneaks, nor had we drawn 1 card at end of turn after sneaking.

Counting was easy with worthless hand cards:
  • Toss your hand face-up in the middle of the table.
  • Place your squared-up pile next to the opponents' biggest-looking pile.
With negative-value cards in hand, either keep them near you in a second pile, subtract two pile counts, and announce the difference, or count cards off your points pile before comparing piles by height.

Quote from: geoo
(not challenging is rewarded with drawing a card). It sounds interesting, but my main concern is that the pile will get depleted too fast like this. Especially near the end of the game, if there are many players, you last chance to sneak may be while there are still 20 cards on the pile, because next time it is your turn the pile is gone.

I agree that the low-running drawpile has always been a strategic concern. Now it's even more a concern if cards in hand are worth negative. I haven't playtested this idea to reward non-challengers, it was merely the most obvious first idea.

In general, doling out more cards as rewards for doing X isn't the nicest design. It's so easy to come up with it and to write it down in a ruleset, but it messes with the game ending.

If we reward an unchallenged sneaker with n cards, does it have a similar effect? I.e., when the pile is at 15 cards, do you worry about getting more sneaking turns? I expect { reward A: the unchallenged sneaker draws n cards } to be less critical for pile depletion than { reward B: non-challengers draw a card } because a single challenger is enough to block all n cards of A, but there will always be 1-4 non-challengers that would draw for B.

Thus, good call.

Quote from: geoo
During the last round, cards still have to be played openly, but the leading player does not determine what kind of hand can be played (so like with sneaking, best overall hand wins).

I'll call the existing rule same-type challenging: When your opponent flaunts, you may only challenge with a combination of the same type. If he played a straight, you may only challenge with a straight; even your straight flush counts only as a straight here.

Maybe same-type challenging served to improve the midgame flaunting, which we are about to cut from the rules. In that case, you may remove same-type challenging altogether.

But I believe (untested) that same-type challenging is crucial to the endgame. In the middle game, you have two tasks: Get points with smaller sneaks and challenges, and build your one true magnificent flaunt for the endgame. That flaunt can be even of a weaker type because the rule of same-type challenging protects it. It introduces a separate direction of hand management into Sneak.

And this build-up of tension -- you have exactly one flaunt during the game, at the very end -- goes in a great way with your proposed cut of mid-game flaunting for simplicity. It sounds wonderful on paper.

Downside: Same-type challenging is a special rule only for the very end, with unclear purpose. If somebody happens to make the same type of combination, you're hosed while everybody else's flaunt stands. That will feel random. If we remove the restriction of same-type challenging, more people get hosed. It will still feel random; will it feel better?



I think I'll try next time:
  • No flaunting when there are cards in stock. Sneak or draw.
  • The usual sub-round during a sneak/flaunt, but no reward for nonchallengers.
  • After sneaking n cards, draw 1 card. If nobody challenged, draw n cards instead of 1.
  • A single round of flaunting after the stock has run out. Probably with same-type challenging.
  • Leftover cards in hand are worthless, but not negative.
Worthless leftover cards seem like the cleanest design, both for easy bookkeeping and to avoid extra rules like no-undercutting. I really want to make that work. I'm open to switching to negative points when worthless cards don't produce the desired strategic late-game decisisons.

-- Simon
« Last Edit: November 24, 2023, 06:47:32 AM by Simon »

Offline geoo

  • Administrator
  • Posts: 1472
    • View Profile
Re: Sneak (card game)
« Reply #8 on: November 24, 2023, 08:37:45 PM »
Quote
But I believe (untested) that same-type challenging is crucial to the endgame. In the middle game, you have two tasks: Get points with smaller sneaks and challenges, and build your one true magnificent flaunt for the endgame. That flaunt can be even of a weaker type because the rule of same-type challenging protects it. It introduces a separate direction of hand management into Sneak.
This is what I'm not sure about. I have only played it with the same-type challenging, I think it would be interesting to see if/how the dynamics change without it. I don't see any clear argument in favor or against it.
The main reason I suggested trying to cut it was to simplify a game while cutting a mechanic what I perceived to be weak (at least mid-game).

Quote
And this build-up of tension -- you have exactly one flaunt during the game, at the very end -- goes in a great way with your proposed cut of mid-game flaunting for simplicity. It sounds wonderful on paper.

Downside: Same-type challenging is a special rule only for the very end, with unclear purpose. If somebody happens to make the same type of combination, you're hosed while everybody else's flaunt stands. That will feel random. If we remove the restriction of same-type challenging, more people get hosed. It will still feel random; will it feel better?
That's not really how it works in practice. Why would you build up to a big flaunt? You're better off using your good cards to catch a sneak (or at least sneak in the hope of catching someone else's cards), rather than just bringing them home. This is what happened in practice: good stuff was played to sneak or catch sneaks, while at the end the flaunts were just cobbled together with what was left. Unless you reward the flaunting at the end (everybody flaunts and the same time and the winner takes it all?), I don't see what you described happening at all.


Quote
Worthless leftover cards seem like the cleanest design, both for easy bookkeeping and to avoid extra rules like no-undercutting. I really want to make that work. I'm open to switching to negative points when worthless cards don't produce the desired strategic late-game decisisons.
Negative points for leftover cards was probably the single most significant rule change, and affected the whole dynamics near the end of the game. Our games were too close anyway to compare stacks by height, so you had to count. But we just removed the same amount from our point stack and then counted. Most played had nothing left anyway, I don't remember if anyone ever had more than 2 cards left. I think the negative points at the end are quite natural (and similarly the no undercutting rule), and adds barely any complexity. I don't think it's unelegant. It brings a great improvement to the game dynamics at (in my opinion) pretty much no cost.

I really found it interesting how the dynamics change as the game progresses, pretty easy-going at the beginning, people get more agressive as the game progresses, some exciting maneuvres as the pile draws to an end, and completely different dynamics in the final round. I don't see this happening if remaining cards don't score negative. The pressure to get rid of cards really adds to the later game.

After the rounds from the last days, the cutting of flaunting discussed above is really the only change I can think of at this point that seems promising (but for the reduction of complexity, I don't expect much of an impact on the game dynamics).

Online Simon

  • Administrator
  • Posts: 3813
    • View Profile
    • Lix
Re: Sneak (card game)
« Reply #9 on: November 29, 2023, 06:53:51 AM »
Sounds like the negative points have a game-warping effect that worthless cards don't have.

In this case, it's reasonable to design the game around the negative points. If you see no big flaunts, remove particularities of flaunting altogether, and try an endgame without the restriction of same-type challenging, as you suggested. Do these endgame flaunts even have to be open or can the endgame be a round of normal sneaks?

I still want to try a few rounds with worthless leftover cards in hand. Maybe even take it in the opposite direction than you did, and reward hand management or big flaunts, e.g.: Disallow midgame flaunts, and award 2 points per card in an endgame flaunt that went unchallenged. But that would again introduce extra rules that first have to pull their weight.

-- Simon
« Last Edit: November 29, 2023, 07:21:24 AM by Simon »

Offline geoo

  • Administrator
  • Posts: 1472
    • View Profile
Re: Sneak (card game)
« Reply #10 on: December 10, 2023, 03:52:41 AM »
I tried the game without the flaunting mechanic (same-rank mechanic), and at the end each hand is played openly. It felt like the game played quite similarly to before. (Probably needs more rounds to really determine that though. We also played single-deck, which made the game feel different by itself.)
The rule set is marginally simpler, but the last round still needs a similar amount of explaining because it is quite different from normal rounds:
  • Cards are played openly
  • No garbage allowed
  • No undercutting
  • No limit on the number of cards played

Maybe there's a more elegant way to allow a bit more play after the pile is depleted without the possibility to just sneak all your garbage home at the end. But the normal limit on the number of cards you can play (somebody must be able to challenge) can be quite a big disadvantage to the very last player.

Online Simon

  • Administrator
  • Posts: 3813
    • View Profile
    • Lix
Re: Sneak (card game)
« Reply #11 on: December 13, 2023, 04:36:31 PM »
I agree that there should be no limit during the final round.

We agree that drawing cards after sneaking is good: After sneaking n cards, if the sneaker got challenged, he draws 1 card regardless of who won. If nobody challenged, the sneaker draws n cards (instead of 1 card). Let me know if players still think that sneaking is too weak. I too believe that it's okay now.

We agree that early flaunting isn't useful unless we offer strong rewards, which neither of us plans to introduce. We'll likely be fine without early flaunting.

Hmm, it would be nice to have fewer special rules for the final round.

We're still looking at different ways for the endgame, but I'm beginning to like the 2-point difference between a played card and an unplayed card. You award 1 point per card in your pile and −1 point per leftover card in hand.

How strong are king-making effects from the negative points? Player A wants to get rid of negative-point garbage. Player B sneaks, but B has a big pile of points already, therefore A won't dump his garbage on B's sneak. Instead, A hopes that player C will sneak and plans to dump garbage there. Interesting decisions or annoying sidetracks?

You told me that players do not collect cards specifically for a single final big flaunt. If we award only 1 point per card in the flaunt and assume/require that nobody undercuts, I agree. Reason: Sneaking n strong cards will usually get you at least n points -- somebody might reasonably try to beat it with high garbage or a low flush/straight.

I'm considering to playtest:
  • 1 point per card in your pile,
  • 2 points per card in your flaunt (keep them face-up),
  • 0 points per leftover card (discard face-down in the center of the table).
I'll disallow all challenging during the flaunting. But I'm unsure. It sounds elegant, it ties into the no-limit final round, it's quick because everybody can flaunt at the same time, but it diverges from the core idea. I discussed this 2-point challenge-immune flaunt with Uwe (who playtested with me in November) on the phone, and Uwe wonders whether players will now separate their hand in some obvious and trivial way, e.g., keep all diamonds for the final flaunt and play the normal game with the 3 other suits.

For New Year's Eve, I'm invited to play board games. I'll try to playtest Sneak and I'm formalizing a ruleset for that. A full current ruleset will also be helpful to everybody else. I'll see how easy it will be to describe both of our experimental versions with one ruleset. They don't differ that much.

-- Simon
« Last Edit: December 13, 2023, 08:52:15 PM by Simon »

Online Simon

  • Administrator
  • Posts: 3813
    • View Profile
    • Lix
Re: Sneak (card game)
« Reply #12 on: December 16, 2023, 12:25:14 AM »
Deal

4, 5, or 6 players: Use 2 standard 52-card decks shuffled together, for a total of 104 cards.

3 players: Use a single standard 52-card deck, but you can also use 104 cards.

Shuffle all cards and place them all on the table as a face-down stock. Nobody gets a starting hand.

Play

Turns go clockwise around the table. On your turn:
  • Either draw a card,
  • or sneak.
To draw a card, take the top card from the stock and add it to your hand. This ends your turn.

To sneak:
  • Play face-down 3 or more cards from your hand in front of you. (Warning: I haven't playtested "3 or more". geoo and Parlett allow to sneak 1 or more. If you allow 1 or more, a 2-card straight flush will beat 2 identical cards, which feels odd.)
  • Sneaking generates (within your turn) a sub-round: Each opponent, in turn order,
    • either passes,
    • or challenges: He plays face-down exactly the same number of cards that you played.
  • There is a limit on the number of cards in your sneak: At least one opponent must be able to challenge. E.g., in a 4-player game, when the players hold 7, 5, 4, and 2 cards each, the 7-card player may only sneak up to 5 cards.
  • After each opponent has challenged or passed: Resolve the played cards (see below: Combinations).
  • The winning player adds all played cards face-down to his pile of winnings in front of him. Each card in the pile will be worth 1 point at the end of the game.
  • After resolving, you draw:
    • If 1 or more opponents challenged, draw 1 card.
    • If nobody challenged, draw as many cards as you sneaked.
  • After drawing, your turn ends.
Players continue to take turns until, after a turn, the stock has run out of cards. When this happens, don't start the next turn; instead begin the endgame (see below).

Combinations

When no opponent wanted to challenge your sneak, don't show your played cards. Add them face-down to your pile of winnings.

If at least one opponent has challenged, simultaneously reveal all played cards. The player who has revealed the highest combination wins all played cards. He flips them face-down and adds them to his pile of winnings.

Types of combinations, from highest to lowest, are:
  • Straight Flush: All cards have the same suit and form a sequence without gaps and without duplicate ranks. E.g., ♦J-♦10-♦9-♦8.
  • n of a Kind: All cards have the same rank. Duplicate suits are allowed. E.g., ♦Q-♥Q-♣Q. E.g., ♠10-♠10-♥10-♣10.
  • Straight: All cards form a sequence without gaps and without duplicate ranks. E.g., ♠7-♥6-♠5-♣4.
  • Flush: All cards have the same suit. Duplicate ranks are allowed. E.g., ♦K-♦Q-♦10. E.g., ♣7-♣7-♣2
  • Garbage: A.k.a. high card. The cards don't qualify for any other combination. E.g., ♥A-♣5-♣4.
In a straight or straight flush, the ace may be high (above king) or low (below 2), but you can't make straights around the corner (e.g., you can't count Q-K-A-2-3 as a straight).

Among combinations of the same type, the combination with the higher-ranked top card is higher. If top cards are of equal rank, compare second cards; if tied again, compare third cards, and so on. E.g., the flush K-K-9-8 beats the flush K-Q-Q-3, which beats the flush K-Q-4-4. Aces are high. Exception: If you use an ace below the 2 in a straight or straight flush, the ace is the lowest card.

If players still tie for highest combination, e.g., a 3-of-kind of 7-7-7 vs. another 7-7-7, the hindmost player involved in the tie wins, which is the tying player who played his challenge cards last.

If all players reveal garbage, you still compare the garbage as usual: Highest cards first; if tied, second cards, ..., and, if all card ranks are perfectly tied, the hindmost tying player wins.

No suit is better than another.

Remember that all compared combinations will have the same number of cards in them. Reason: You can only challenge the sneaker by playing exactly as many cards face-down as he did.

Endgame

After a player has drawn the last card from the stock, the endgame starts. Each player gets one chance to flaunt. A flaunt is like a sneak, with the following exceptions:
  • You play your cards face-up in front of you, not face-down.
  • You cannot flaunt garbage.
  • There is no card limit. You may flaunt more cards than each other opponent has in hand.
geoo's version: There will be exactly one more round of turns, beginning with the next player after who has drawn the last card. On your turn, either pass or flaunt. Opponents choose to pass or to challenge with the same number of cards face-up; each challenge must beat or tie all face-up combinations. Resolve combinations and win cards as usual. After everybody has had one chance to flaunt, the game ends. Score 1 point per card in your pile. Lose 1 point per leftover card in your hand.

Simon's version (not yet tested): Each player may flaunt one combination from hand. There won't be any challenging. It's not necessary to take turns here; each player keeps his flaunt face-up in front of himself. Leftover cards in hand are worthless, discard them face-down in the middle of the table. Score 1 point per card in your pile. Score 2 points per card in your flaunt.

Variations

Use a Five Crowns deck, but remove the jokers (110 cards). Allow flushes to beat straights. A straight flush will still beat an n-of-a-kind.

Or shuffle together 3 standard 52-card decks, but remove the aces and deuces (132 cards). Allow a new combination of all-identical cards, e.g., ♣9-♣9, e.g., ♥2-♥2-♥2; it beats even a straight flush. In light of this, definitely allow 1- and 2-card sneaks/flaunts.

(After all, my reason for the 3-card sneak minimum was: Without this rule for all-identical cards, ♥3-♥2 beats ♠K-♠K, which feels unnatural. But allowing all-identical cards for the 104-card deck (= 2 standard decks of 52 cards) would introduce a special case that's only relevant for 2-card sneaks, which again feels unnatural. If you add a third deck, all-identical cards become more natural.)

-- Simon
« Last Edit: December 17, 2023, 12:28:34 AM by Simon »