The Four Courts
Designed by Greg James
Players 3-4
Length 30 mins

The Four Courts is a set collecting game for 3 or 4 players and is recommended for younger players.

Description

The 4 Court cards have tokens matching their suits placed on them to form the tableau. These tokens are being vied for each round and are worth 1 point each. When a player is the first to play 3 cards which match a suit with their Court, he immediately scores one of the chips on that card. Players are also awarded bonus points for having the most tokens of certain suits at game end.

Components

Extended Decktet with Pawns and Courts
Tokens: 7 in each of the Decktet’s suits

Setup

Arrange the 4 Courts face up, widely spaced and staggered on the table. (If you don’t have Court cards, just use the Pawns for this function). Leave enough room adjacent to each Court for a card to be played on each of its sides without touching the cards played on the next Court. The 4 Courts will remain in this position for the whole game.

At the beginning of the game, there should be one token matching each of the Courts’ suits on each Court card. e.g. The Island (court.pngsuns.pngwaves.pngwyrms.png) will have 3 tokens: 1 Sun, 1 Wave and 1 Wyrm.

Next, the "Most" goals are determined. Take one token of each suit and perform a blind draw which will yield 4 of the tokens. Set aside two tokens in each of these four suits off to the side in clear view. (Note: Remove two tokens in each of the suits that were left over from the blind draw - they are not used in the game.) These tokens represent the “Most” goals and are awarded to the player with the most suit tokens in these suits at game end. To qualify for the "Most" bonus, a player must have at least two tokens in the bonus suit. If two players are tied in a suit at game end, the bonus is shared between them and they score one bonus chip each.

When the setup is complete, there will be three tokens in each suit left in the supply. This forms the clock mechanism which will trigger the end of the game.

As all card play is performed simultaneously, it doesn’t matter which player is the Dealer. The Dealer must deal out the entire deck evenly to all players at the beginning of each round. If the deck cannot be distributed evenly, set aside any extra cards so that all players have the same number of cards.

Aces are high in this game, scoring 11. Crowns score 10 and if you are using the Pawns, they are ranked above 9s and below the Crowns for determining turn order.

Game Play

All cards played must match at least one suit with the Court it is played against.

To keep track of cards played during the round, the player on the South side of the table always plays his cards on the South side of each Court. Thus in a four player game, each Court will be the centre of a cross symbol. Players should slightly splay their cards as they add them to each Court so that all players can clearly see the number of cards in play on each Court.

All tokens in a player’s take should remain visible throughout the game.

Simultaneous Action

Each turn, players select one card from their hand and when all players are ready, cards are simultaneously revealed. The highest ranked card is played first (against the Court of the player’s choice) and remaining cards are played in descending rank order.

Ties are resolved by following the order of the Decktet’s suit hierarchy. The suits in rank order from highest to lowest are: moons.pngsuns.pngwaves.pngleaves.pngwyrms.pngknots.png. This is discussed on p. 12 of the Decktet Book and a card with this sequence is also included with each Decktet. Thus, if the Ace of Suns and the Ace of Waves were revealed on the same turn, the Ace of Suns would be played first. If The Chance Meeting 7moons.pngleaves.png and The Cave 7waves.pngwyrms.png are played on the same turn, The Chance Meeting would go first, because its highest suit (Moons) is higher than The Cave’s highest suit (Waves).

Scoring tokens

When a player is the first to lay a card against a Court which gives him a total of 3 cards (regardless of what they add up to), that Court is immediately scored. The winning player will take 1 token of his choice from the Court and add it to his take. His cards on that Court are then removed from play and placed face down in the discard pile. Other players’ cards against that Court remain in play. The second time the Court is scored, the winning player will choose 1 token from the two remaining tokens and then discard his cards from the Court. The final token is still up for grabs and is awarded to the next player to have 3 cards in play against that Court.

When a Court has been emptied of its last token, it is "reloaded" with 3 tokens from the (dwindling) original supply.

End of round business

After all cards from players’ hands have been played, the round ends. All cards in play remain and are “carried forward” to the next round in their positions against their Courts. Tokens on Courts are also left in place for the next round. The discard pile is gathered, shuffled and dealt so that all players have an equal number of cards. Any left over cards are set aside to start the new discard pile.

Game End

If it should happen (and it will!) that a Court is cleared of its last token and there isn’t a complete set of 3 matching tokens in the supply to “reload” it, the game ends immediately and scores are tallied.

For the purpose of tie-breaking, all cards revealed for the last turn remain on the table and are considered to be played. Players should keep any remaining cards in their hand in case they are needed for the tie-breaker.

Players first count the total number of tokens in their take. Next, they determine who qualifies for the "Most" bonuses and award the two bonus tokens to the player with the most chips of the bonus suit. If more than one player has the same number of tokens for a “Most” goal, they each score one point. The player with the most points wins!

If there is a tie, players calculate the number value of the cards remaining in their hands. Highest score wins. If this is still a tie, then the player holding the highest ranked card wins and if this is still a tie, the player holding the tied card with the highest ranked suit wins. If players have no cards in hand the winner could be determined by following the steps just described to the last card played by each player or the game could be called a draw (depending on your preference).

Notes

This idea of “Goal” chips is obviously borrowed from Race for the Galaxy: The Gathering Storm. We are really enjoying this expansion in Race and I have been searching for a way to make a Race mechanic work in a Decktet game and this is what I’ve come up with. I hope this is okay with everybody!

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