Siege of Jacynth
|Designed by||Greg James|
A challenging tile-laying area control game for 2 players.
Siege! The walls of Jacynth are under attack - a horde of warriors from the eastern deserts are attempting to scale the walls with ladders and smash them down with the aid of their catapults. The defenders are ready with their cauldrons of boiling oil and ultimately one side will be defeated with the invaders being repelled or the walls being breached.
The fortified wall of Jacynth is created at the start of the game by shuffling the Aces, Crowns and the Excuse and then laying them down in a connected line on one side of the table. The Excuse forms one section of the wall and is thus unsuited. The other 6 sections are comprised of random pairs of Aces and Crowns.
On his turn, each player adds a card from his hand to this initial tableau which represents his forces being deployed in the battle. The key concept of the game is that through careful positional play, a single card may score against several sections of the wall simultaneously. The player who has allocated the strongest forces against the most sections of the wall when this is tallied at the end of the game is the winner.
Basic Decktet and The Excuse
12 generic tokens (we use checkers)
Separate the Aces, Crowns and The Excuse from the rest of the deck. Shuffle these and then lay them out so that the short ends of the cards are touching. A connected line of 7 stacks will be formed at one end of the table. A stack will have either The Excuse or a random Ace/Crown pair.
Shuffle the remaining cards and deal each player a 5 card hand. The rest of the deck forms the draw pile which is placed face down on the side of the playing area within easy reach of both players. The first player is the attacker: he uses one of the generic tokens each turn to mark the card he plays.
Play alternates with each player’s turn consisting of legally placing a card on the tableau and then drawing the top card of the draw pile.
Card Placement Rules
All cards are added to the tableau by placing them parallel and adjacent to 1 or more cards in the tableau. Cards may not overlap. The full long side of a card must be supported by a foundation of one or two cards already in play in order for it to be legally placed.
Attacking and defending the Wall
When a card is part of a continuous vertical connection of cards to a section of the wall, it represents that player’s forces via matching suit(s). Through careful card placement, a single card may use its suits to exert influence on several wall sections.
In the endgame scoring example below, note how the Diplomat, Lunatic and Forest are each influencing these 3 stacks: the Excuse, the Sun/Wyrm Ace stack and the Moon/Leaf stack. The Forest scores its 5 against the Excuse, nothing against the Sun/Wyrm stack and one Moon and one Leaf against the Huntress/Ace of Leaves stack.
The Aces and Crowns
Each Ace/Crown stack is controlled by the player at the end of the game who satisfies these conditions:
1) owns one or more cards vertically connected to it which when combined, share both of the suits.
example: one stack is comprised of The End and the Ace of Knots. In order to claim control over this pair, a player must have card(s) which have at least one instance of Leaves and Knots. If the Ace/Crown pair has only one suit, then a player must have at least two cards in play against that stack which have that suit. e.g. In order to lay claim to a stack comprised of the Ace of Waves and The Sea, a player must play at least two Wave cards against it.
2) if both players satisfy the first condition, then the player who has the highest sum of the required suit(s) on his connected cards wins the Ace/Crown stack. If this is a tie, then the numeric values of the cards are summed and the player with the higher total scores the stack. If this is still a tie, then neither player scores the stack.
Control over The Excuse is determined by the combined ranks of the cards which are vertically connected to it. The player with the highest total when the ranks of their cards are summed wins The Excuse. If it is a tie, then the player with the higher number of suits in their forces scores The Excuse. If this is still a tie, then neither player scores it (see endgame scoring example).
When each player has played all of the cards in their hand, the game ends.
Start at one end of the wall and tally the strength of each player’s forces one section of the wall at a time. Whichever player controls the higher number of stacks in the wall wins. If this is a tie, then the player who has the greatest tally of suits which influence the 6 suited stacks is the winner. If this is still a tie, then the game is a draw.
Endgame scoring example:
Chuck the Checker player has defeated Ugo’s unmarked cards 4-3. Close game!
Stack by stack scoring:
|Stack||Chuck’s Checkers||Ugo’s Unmarked cards|
This was a very close game with a couple of fierce battles. Ugo forced a pin on the Moon/Knot stack as his first move by playing the Discovery fully on the Bard/Sea stack. The Author was part of his starting hand and is the only Moon/Knot card in the deck. He thought he could play it late in the game and steal the stack. Chuck managed to save a couple of Knot cards for the endgame and stole this stack for the win.
By playing the Merchant as a fork across the Excuse and the Leaf/Knot stack, Chuck used its 9 against the Excuse and both of its suits against the Windfall/End stack. A powerful opening move.
The Excuse had to be settled by the tie-breaker rule, as the sum of both player’s cards against this stack is 35. When all of Chuck’s cards influencing the Excuse are examined, all 6 of the Decktet suits are present. Ugo’s cards against this stack only have 4 suits - with a void in Waves and Wyrms, so Chuck takes it.
The Mill: a poor play by Chuck. A better play for Chuck at that point in the game would have been to play it where the Forest ended up, as its Leaf still would have influenced the Moon/Leaf stack, but its 8 would have been better utilized against the Excuse. Got away with it this time, Chuck!
Tie-Breaker: For the sake of argument, if the Excuse battle had ended in a tie, then Ugo would have won on the tie breaker because he has a total of 21 suits against the 6 suited stacks, while Chuck has only 19.
Open Draw Pile: The draw pile is placed face up on the table so that the next card coming is always visible. My wife prefers playing this way (but see strategy tips below).
Pie Rule (untested): in lieu of playing a card as the opening move of the game, the first player may elect to swap positions of one Ace or Crown in the wall with another. The Excuse cannot be moved. Player 2 then plays the first card to the tableau.
The ability to count cards and knowledge of the Decktet are strong assets in this game. For those who don’t have the deck memorized, this quick hint will help: each player will play 12 cards in the game and across these 24 cards, each suit will occur exactly 8 times. So, a quick scan of the tableau and your hand can give a lot of information.
Choosing whether to fork or pin cards on the wall in the opening moves can have far reaching consequences, so try to choose wisely.
This is a game with a strong visual-spatial element which some players will find very challenging. Both my wife and son were able to grok the gist of the game after a few moves. This said, complex connections can form and it is my hope that the logic of the game can be readily grasped and that (as it did for us) the mechanics will become intuitive before the end of the first game. My son & I also observed that this game has a chess-like feel to it, with forks and pins being the meat of the strategy in the game.
There must be a tile laying game out there that is similar to this, but I have no idea what it is! I don’t have much experience with domino/tile games at all. The only game which consciously influenced this is a little pnp game (which I haven’t played) called Castle Builders. One night while I was driving somewhere, I was thinking about Castle Builders and what it would play like if it were a Decktet game and this is what came out of that process.
As with all of my Decktet games, the key goal in the design is to create a game which can only be played with the Decktet system and is therefore interestingly double-suited. I also wanted every card to have the ability to score more than once (an idea I explored in sun-bid) . This comes with a price in a tableau style game - counting up at the end can be a chore. I hope that reckoning the scores in this game will not take longer than tallying up a game of Jacynth (for example) and that players find it at least as enjoyable.
This game is an ideal candidate for CJ Winter’s Decktet domino style tiles (or a mini Decktet like mine) if you wish to reduce the footprint the game makes on the table.