Gasp!
Designed by Greg James
Players 2-5
Length 15
Extra Material Suit Chips/Tokens: 10 in each of the Decktet's 6 suits

Gasp! is a chaotic, extremely interactive trick-taking game for the Basic Decktet, a handful of its suited tokens and 2-5 players. Players are likely to gasp in astonishment as they watch their fortunes change with alarming frequency and rapidity.

One token in the reigning suit is awarded after each trick and the winner will be the first player to acquire 2 tokens in each of the Decktet’s 6 suits.

Components

Basic Decktet A, 2-9, crown.png
Tokens, 10 in each of the Decktet’s 6 suits (assemble your own or get the “basic” set)

Setup

A Token Dealer will be required for the job of distributing suited tokens at the end of each hand. If that person is the organized type, he will sort the tokens prior to the game into neat piles - or better yet - into individual bowls or containers. If he is the slovenly type, he’ll just keep all of the tokens in a big heap and fish around for the right one when it’s needed. Worse still, he may start with a big heap and then fidget with the tokens throughout the game - this type of Token Dealer is obviously to be avoided.

The player who can gasp the loudest is the Dealer for the first round, who will then deal 5 cards to each player. Cards are set aside as a remainder unseen for this round. The number of cards in the remainder for a 3 player game is 3. The remainder in a 4 player game is 4. In a 5 player game, the remainder is 1. The rest of the deck is placed face down within reach of all players and forms the draw pile.

Game play

Overview

Players each play one card per trick. The highest ranked card played which matches either of the lead suits wins the trick and is awarded 1 token of the victorious suit (details below).

Ranked cards score their number, crown.pngs score 10 and Aces are low with a score of 1 - unless its matching crown.png is played. In this case, it usurps the crown.png and is the highest card in play - 11 points.

Note: the Ace usurps the crown.png regardless of which card is played first in the trick.

Choose a lead suit

To start the round, the player on the Dealer’s left selects a card from his hand and plays it face up in front of him. He demonstrates which suit he is leading by orienting the card in one of two ways: If he plays it normally, with the narrow side pointing to the centre of the table, he has selected the top suit on the card. If he has chosen the bottom suit, he must rotate the card 90 degrees so that the long side of the card is facing the middle of the table. If he leads an Ace or crown.png, its suit is obviously the lead.

Follow suit or usurp suit

Continuing clockwise, players select a card from their hand and play it to the trick. All cards played to the trick must match at least one suit with the first card played. If a player does not have any cards that match a suit with the lead card, he must still play a card and will thus have no chance of winning the trick. The card led is the winning card on the trick until another card of equal or higher rank is played which shares one of its suits.

Therefore, the lead suit can be usurped by another player who plays a higher card in the other suit. Example: You have led The Mill (8waves.pngleaves.png) and rotated the card 90 degrees to indicate that you are leading Leaves. Another player can play The Darkness (9waves.pngwyrms.png) on this lead and take command of the trick in Waves. (Note that he could not change the suit to Wyrms in this example). All subsequent players can vie for control of this trick in either Waves or Leaves - their choice.

Tiebreaker Rule

In the event of a tie, the tying card (i.e. the second card of that rank played) is awarded the trick. Thus, if The Merchant (9leaves.pngknots.png) was played after The Darkness in the above example, The Merchant would win the trick and the winning suit would be Leaves. Likewise, if the crown.pngs of Waves and Leaves were both played to this trick, the second crown.png played would win the trick.

Score a token

1.1 Token awarded from the supply

When the dust settles on the trick, determine who has won and with which suit. The winner is awarded one token of this suit from the supply (but see rules below for exceptions). This player will also lead the next trick. Tokens in a player’s take should always be clearly visible to all of the other players.

In the example above, if The Darkness prevailed as the winning card on the trick, that player would be awarded one Wave token from the supply. Hoarding tokens is not allowed because…

No player may hold more than 2 tokens per suit in his take.

1.2 Exchange a token with another player

To continue the example, if the winner already has 2 Wave tokens, he is awarded another one for winning the trick, but must immediately give it to another player. If the receiving player has a token in his take of a suit that the donor needs, he takes it in exchange. This exchange cannot be refused by the victim. However, if a player has 2 Wave tokens in his take, he is impervious to this attack.

1.3 Give a token to another player as a penalty

Thus, players should always be aware of tokens in the other players’ takes. Continuing the example further still, let’s say that two opponents have 2 Wave tokens in their take and the third opponent has a Moon token. The Darkness player already has 2 Wave and 2 Moon tokens of his own. He must still give the Wave token he won on this trick to the third player and he will get nothing in return. He should have thought of that before slapping down that 9!

1.4 Return a token to the supply

Worse still, if The Darkness player won the trick in Waves and all players (including himself) have 2 Wave tokens already, he must return 1 Wave token from his own take to the supply as a penalty! This is a real danger as the endgame approaches.

New Trick and End of the Round

After the trick has been scored, the cards are set aside face down in the discard pile and everyone (starting with the winning player and continuing clockwise) draws a card to replenish their hands to 5 cards. When the last cards from the deck have been drawn, play continues until all cards have been played.

If the victory condition has not been met, the new Dealer is the player on the old Dealer’s left and he will shuffle all of the cards including the remainder. The first player in the new round will be the player on the new Dealer’s left.

Game End

When a player accumulates 2 tokens in each of the Decktet’s 6 suits, the game ends immediately and that player is declared the winner.

Partnership Rules

Gasp! can be played in partnership with players on each team sitting on opposite sides of the table. The winning team will be the first to acquire two tokens in each of the Decktet’s 6 suits.

The rules are adjusted as follows: The lead player does not declare suit. Tokens are held by one player on each team. No team may hold more than two tokens of one suit. The token exchange rules are in effect as in the standard game. Thus, if both teams have 2 tokens of the same suit and a team wins a trick of that suit, they are penalized one token of that suit.

The point values of partner’s cards played to a hand are added together for a combined score if they share a suit with each other that is in common with the lead card. A token in the highest scoring suit is awarded to the winning team.

Example: The Author 2(moons.pngknots.png) is the lead card. Team B’s first player plays The Pact 9(moons.pngsuns.png) and takes command in Moons. The Author’s partner plays The Betrayal 8(wyrms.pngknots.png) and takes control of the trick again for Team A, but in Knots. The Pact’s partner plays The Castle 7(suns.pngknots.png) as it is the only card in his hand which follows suit with The Author. Team A wins the trick with 10 points and is awarded 1 Knot token. The Betrayal player leads the next trick.

An Ace scores 1 unless its matching crown.png is in play. If partners play the matching Ace and crown.png, the team scores 21 points and wins the trick. If the Ace and crown.png are played by opposing teams, the crown.png scores 10 and the Ace scores 11.

The tiebreaker rule remains the same, with the trick being awarded to the team that plays the card which ties the score.

The next trick will be led by the player who plays the highest ranked card in the winning suit. If both players play a card of the same rank and win the trick, the token is awarded in the suit of the second card and he will lead the next trick.

Example: The Author 2(moons.pngknots.png) is the lead card. Team B’s first player follows with The Pact 9(moons.pngsuns.png), which puts his team in the lead with a score of 9 in Moons. Team A’s partner plays The Castle 7(suns.pngknots.png) which ties the score at 9 and puts them in a victory position in Knots. Team B’s partner plays The Merchant (9leaves.pngknots.png) , which ties the score at 9 again and thus wins the trick for Team B. Team B is awarded one Knot token and The Merchant player will lead the next trick.

2 Player Rules

Gasp! can be played as a 2 player game by adopting and adapting the Partnership Rules. It becomes a bit more of a thinking game in this format and I think players will be surprised at how different the game play is from the standard game.

The victory condition remains the same: the winner will be the first player to acquire two tokens in each of the Decktet’s 6 suits.

The rules are adjusted as follows: Players are dealt a 10 card hand and a remainder of 4 is set aside unseen for each round. The rest of the cards are placed face down to form the draw pile. The non Dealer leads the first trick. After each trick, each player draws 1 card to their hand. When the deck is exhausted, play continues until all cards have been played. If the victory condition has not been met, all cards are gathered and the non Dealer will be the new Dealer for the next round.

The lead player does not declare suit. Each player plays 2 cards on the same trick and play alternates
A-B-A-B.

The point values of your cards played to a trick are added together for a combined score if they share a suit with each other that is in common with the lead card. A token in the highest scoring suit is awarded to the winning player. The winning player will lead the next trick.

Example: The Author 2(moons.pngknots.png) is the lead card. Player B’s first card is The Pact 9(moons.pngsuns.png) and takes command of the trick in Moons. Player A follows with The Betrayal 8(wyrms.pngknots.png) and retakes control of the trick in Knots with a score of 10. Player B plays The Castle 7(suns.pngknots.png) as it is the only card in his hand which follows suit with The Author. Player A wins the trick with 10 points and is awarded 1 Knot token. He will lead the next trick.

The Ace rules are adjusted as follows: An Ace scores 1 unless its matching crown.png is played by your opponent. Then it scores 11. However, if you play the Ace and crown.png together out of your own hand, the Ace will only score 1.

The tiebreaker rule remains the same, with the trick being awarded to the player who plays the card which ties the score. Likewise, the token exchange rules are the same as in the Partnership Game rules.

2p and Partnership special scoring case

It is possible for the lead team (or player in the 2p game) to win a trick with two cards bearing identical suits e.g. The Mountain 4(moons.pngsuns.png) and The Diplomat 8(moons.pngsuns.png). In this case, the lead player may choose the suit of their winning token from the suits on their cards i.e. either a moons.png or a suns.png.

Background

Unlike The Four Courts (which took forever!), this game came in a flash with the crux of the game fully formed in my head. The bit about swapping tokens came during the first playtest and the game was done. A few days later I added the partnership variant, which I think is an even stronger game. Try it both ways!

The title, like the others in my Decktet Token Trilogy, are nods to music I enjoy. I’m not particularly adept at coming up with titles or themes, so I look through my iTunes library for inspiration.

“Gasp” is the title of a tune on Robert Fripp & Brian Eno’s latest collaboration: The Cotswold Gnomes, a title which I thought suited the game quite well.

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