The Syndicate
Designed by Jason Mutford and P.D. Magnus
Players 3
Length 23.1 minutes
Extra Material scorepad or tokens

a game of internecine struggle for exactly 3 players

This is a game designed in 2010. I've posted it because the Decktet Wiki is supposed to be an exhaustive archive, not because it's a good game. We played it a bit. It's OK but not great. [P.D.M.]

In this game, three players take the role of secret masters. You hatch a plot on your turn, and the other players try to thwart it.

Setup

Determine player order in some nefarious way.

Shuffle the basic deck. Deal 5 cards to the first player, 4 to the second player, and 3 to the third.

The remainder of the deck becomes the draw pile.

Game play

The player who is taking a turn is acts as the mastermind and plots a grand scheme. The other two players act as enforcers and try to stop the mastermind.

On the first turn of the game, the mastermind will already have 5 cards. Subsequent turns begin with the mastermind drawing enough cards so that he has five cards in his hand. Whenever the draw pile is depleted, shuffle the discards to make a new draw pile.

The mastermind selects a card from his hand and plays it face up. He also has the option to play a second card face down.

The way the turn plays out depends on what card the mastermind played face up.

Recall that there are four different types of cards in the deck: facecards (marked facecard.png), locations (marked location.png), events (marked event.png), and Aces (with no mark).
If the masterminds's face-up lead card has a mark (facecard.png, location.png, or event.png): The player on the mastermind's left must play a card with same mark if he has one. If he has more than one, he may choose which to play. If he has none, he selects and plays any card from his hand.

Then the other enforcer must play a card. Again, he must play a card with the same mark as the mastermind's lead if possible.

The mastermind then reveals the face down card, if one was played.

The basic idea is this: the masterminds's scheme succeeds if the total of his cards exceeds the total of the enforcers' cards.

In order to count for or against the scheme, a card must share a mark with the masterminds's first, face-up card.

crown.pngs count as ten (10). Aces don't have marks, and so won't count for or against the scheme.
Example: The mastermind leads 8moons.pngsuns.pngfacecard.png and plays 2moons.pngknots.pngfacecard.png face down. The first enforcer plays 9leaves.pngknots.pngfacecard.png. The second enforcer has no facecards and plays a card of a different type. Since the mastermind's total (8+2=10) is greater than the enforcers' total (9), the mastermind's plot succeeds.

If the mastermind's face-up lead card is an Ace: The enforcers must play cards of the same suit if they have any.

Cards add to the total if their suit matches the initial Ace.

Crowns (crown.png) count as 10.
The Ace that was led counts as either 1 or 11: If the crown.png of the same suit as the Ace is played (either by one of the enforcers or as the masterminds's face down card) then the Ace counts for eleven (11). Otherwise, it counts for one (1).
Example: The mastermind leads Amoons.png with no face down card. The first enforcer plays 4moons.pngsuns.png, and the second enforcer plays 3moons.pngwaves.png. Since the enforcers' total (4+3=7) is greater than the mastermind's (1), the mastermind's plot is foiled.

Scoring: If the enforcers' total is higher than the mastermind's, then the mastermind's plot is foiled. Each enforcer scores one point.

If the mastermind's total is higher than the enforcers', then the plot succeeds. If the mastermind played two cards (a face up lead and a face down card), then he scores one point. If the mastermind did not play a face down card, then he scores two points. Note that it does not matter whether the face up card would have been sufficient to make the plot succeed; having played a face down card makes the plot only worth one point.

If the mastermind's total and the enforcers' total are exactly equal, no one scores points for the turn.

The winner is the first player to reach 12 points. If two players acquire their twelfth point at the same time, then the game continues until someone reaches an untied highest score.

You can keep track of scores using pencil and paper, but we like to do it using tokens. Put a pile of tokens in the middle of the table. As they score points, players take tokens from the pile to keep on the table in front of them.

Turnabout: After points have been awarded (unless someone has a winning score) the player on the previous mastermind's left becomes the mastermind and takes the next turn.

Strategy

Enforcers do not draw cards. As mastermind, you draw cards at the beginning of your turn, so you will have more cards to choose from than each enforcer has. You also know something about their hands, based on the cards they have already played.

The combination of an Ace and crown.png of the same suit makes for an unstoppable plot. If the mastermind leads the Ace and plays the crown.png face down, the total will be 21 (11+10). However, the combination uses two cards and so is only worth one point. Leading the crown.png alone would be worth two points if it succeeded.

Credits

Design: Jason Mutford and P.D. Magnus

Playtesting: Chris DeLeo

The one-against-two structure was adapted from a game by Jason Mutford, using the idea of following mark from Greg James' Shed.

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