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  Mechanic #208 - Collectible Tokens
Posted: Jan 9, 2015

A collectible game format where you collect tokens to bet and play in a Poker-like bluffing game.

  Collectible Everythings!

I've been playing the card game Doomtown: Reloaded recently, which started life as a Collectible Card Game back in the day, now reborn in a format where new cards are not rare or random. I love Collectible Card Games, going back to Star Wars CCG. Heck, I love collectible anything. I hate blind buying, foil cards, random distribution, and all those other things that ultimately exploit and punish fans (especially fans with OCD), but I love how you can get new elements of the game which can change, sometimes drastically, how the game is played.

I wanted to come up with an idea for a collectible game where you didn't collect cards - or at least, the cards you collect didn't represent playing pieces. So I thought about all the other board game materials to work with, and realized that just about every part of board games has been made collectible. Miniatures? Mage Knight, DnD Miniatures. Cards? Magic the Gathering, Netrunner. Dice? Marvel Dice Masters. Playing boards? Heroscape, The Heroes of Might & Magic IV Collectible Card & Tile Game. Scenarios? Memoir 44 and Descent 2nd Edition both have scenario books.

I found two things which haven't really been explored as collectible games. One of them, I'll talk about in a future entry. This particular entry is about Collectible Token Games.

It should be noted that there is a "Collectible Token Game" (or CTG) category on Board Game Geek, but it contains only 10 entries, the majority of which use "token" to mean "basically a miniature". Stuff like Diskwars use cardboard discs to represent units on a battlefield, with abilities and stats printed directly on the disc. Pogs and Tiddly Winks use tokens for games of dexterity, flipping and flicking tokens at missile weapons.

When I talk about tokens, I mean the most basic kind. You can move them from one pile to another. You either have a token or you don't. They don't have any special abilities written on them, with their special power simply being a token that is one kind and not another. I wanted to make a game that could just as easily be played with coins or glass beads. The customizable aspect of the game is that you choose which sets of tokens you play with.

  Bluffing, Betting



Fig 208.1 - A Game of Cards and Bluffing.

At the most basic, the players play a game similar to poker, then bet tokens on whether or not they have better cards than their opponents. The highest cards wins the pool.

I want to make the game a little simpler than Poker, making it less about chance and more about the bluffing/betting aspect. So there's only 10 or so cards total, and each player only picks two. That's it for the basic rules. Pick two cards, then bet on whether your pair is higher than the others. The smaller number of cards means that players can make more reasoned guesses as to what everybody has.

The only set of tokens you begin with essentially equates to money. It isn't used for anything except betting. You are out of the game when you run out of money tokens, and win the game when you have taken everybody else's money tokens.



Fig 208.2 - Tokens.

Beyond your money tokens, you can bring any number of token sets into the game. Each token set comes with a card that explains the rules of that token set, and a set number of tokens associated with it (whether it is one token or dozens). Regardless of what abilities the additional token sets gain the player, they are still tokens which can be bet like the money tokens. However, unless a token set's rules state otherwise, you don't win or lose the game based on betting additional tokens. They do give you abilities, so they aren't worthless.

The cards contain the rules, beginning with a setup clause that tells you how the tokens first enter the board. Some tokens are divided between the players, some are put into a pool on the token set rule card. All the tokens enter play somewhere, and the other rules on the cards will tell you how they are gained, spent, and moved around.

Most of the tokens can be spent by the player to activate some special ability. Most of the time, spending the tokens puts them back into a token pool somewhere, but occasionally, very powerful abilities will remove the tokens from the game completely.

And that's basically it. Gain tokens, spend tokens, bet tokens. It's built around a simple game of deduction and bluffing, but the tokens and their abilities can greatly alter how that game plays out. Play with no token sets, a few token sets, or every token set. Create as complex or as simple a game as you like.

  Token Sets



Fig 208.3 - More Tokens.

The following is a small brainstorm of ideas for various tokens and abilities, and how they affect the card game's flow.

- Player Tokens - One token for each player, given to them at the beginning of the game. During their turn, they can move their token to the rule card for another token set. Some rule cards give special bonuses to players who have player tokens on them. For instance, one card could give you a token from that set if you win a hand while your player token is on it.

- Steal Tokens - These start in a pool off the side of the board. Gain the tokens when you lose a hand while your player token is on the card. When you have less than half the money of the leading player, spend X Steal Tokens to steal X Money Tokens from him. Steal Tokens are removed from the game once spent.

- Peer Pressure Tokens - Everybody starts with an equal number of them. If you ever have less Peer Pressure Tokens than all the rest of the players, you can be forced to redraw one of your cards at random. You can take one Peer Pressure Token from another player by voluntarily showing them one of your cards. Show everybody and you get a token from everybody.

- Lucky Token - There is only one Lucky Token given to a random player at the start of the game. Every hand, it moves to the next player on the left. In the case of ties, the player with the Lucky Token automatically wins them.

- Trade Tokens - These start in a pool off to the side. You gain them every hand (win or lose) by having your Player Token on the rules card. You can trade these tokens for any other token in a non-player pool. The costs of the other tokens is listed on their card. Steal Tokens may cost 10 Trade Tokens, while another token type could cost only 2.

- Frustration Tokens - The player with the lowest hand gets a Frustration Token. Spend these during the draw phase. Draw X cards, keep 2, where X is the number of Frustration Tokens you spend.

- Prestige Tokens - Every time you win a hand in the game, you gain a Prestige Token. At the end of the game, the player with the most Prestige Tokens comes in second place (if they aren't already the winner).

- Old Maid Token - Looks like money on one side, has a skull and crossbones on the other. Try to slip it into other players' money pools without them noticing. Players can spend Frustration Tokens to steal money from the Old Maid player, but they get the Old Maid Token with it.

- Clothing Tokens - Each player get 5 tokens (socks, shoes, pants, underwear, shirt). They can be traded for more money from the bank, or bet during a hand to increase the stakes. Whether you take off your own clothes to match is up to you.

- Exchange Tokens - Get these with a Player Pawn on the rules card. Spend them to force an exchange of cards with another player - a card of your choice for a card of their choice.

- Peek Tokens - Gain through Player Pawns. Spend Peek Tokens to look at the top card of the deck at any time. Spend 1 Peek Token to show everybody or spend 2 to see it by yourself.

- Gambling Tokens - Similar to the Old Maid Token, these tokens look like other tokens on one side. You can bet another player in a game of chance. Create two piles of tokens and the other player picks one. If he picks the one without the Gambling Token, he gets to keep it. If you picks the one with the Gambling Token, you get to keep whatever he offered for the bet.

- Excused Tokens - Gained with the Player Pawn. Spend to fold your hand, forcing you to sit out the hand but not having to bet anything else.



Copyright 2007-2014 Sean Howard. All rights reserved.