Pivoting on Wiccage

Last time, I wrote about the hot mess that was the first version of Wiccage. In summary, it felt too much like Cribbage, except for most of the bits that I'd added, which sucked. It was, frankly, a bit disheartening. Bad first versions of games are no big deal, since basically all first versions are terrible. No, the bad part was how pointless the game seemed. I needed a much better reason for the game existing beyond just adding spells to Cribbage. Wozzle, after all, ended up evolving quite a bit from a similar origin to be its own thing, and I needed to start that process with Wiccage.

I had mentioned reading about Écarté last time, and trimming my deck down. It was a start. I started thinking about Bezique as well, which has a structure that somewhat mimics Cribbage in some ways. With my newly stripped deck, perhaps adding some trick-taking would be a good idea (I'm not obsessed! I swear!). One of the issues with the first revision of the game is that the individual hands had too much of a swing to them. In Cribbage, you play enough hands that luck is given more of a chance to even out. In the first revision of Wiccage, hands were more consequential and thus the luck of the draw played a bigger part.

The next idea, inspired by those two games, seemed clear: add a trick-taking phase before you show off your hands, replacing the normal Cribbage play phase. It would give a new avenue for skilled play and more places to cast spells and change your circumstances. By having the players draft their cards as they won tricks, I could provide further places for player skill to apply. It would also allow players to perhaps use their unique hidden information in fun ways with the cards. The idea seemed to have some merit. I also added scoring potential for taking the majority of tricks, which meant that there were now two major ways to score points: taking tricks and building a big Cribbage hand.

This was a big conceptual leap, and a huge departure from the structure of Cribbage. By replacing the play phase of Cribbage with an entirely different type of card competition, it significantly changed the character of the game. It was becoming its own thing. Perhaps this would be the boost the game needed to have an excuse for existing.

A basic trick-taking structure was simple enough to write: the up-card from Cribbage served dual duty as the trump suit, with a simple rule that players had to follow the led suit. Winner took their choice of two face up cards into their hand and leads the next suit, after the loser takes the other card and two more are faced. I chose 7 tricks as a way to give both players a chance to improve their Cribbage hands while not taking forever to play out (and also being odd to ensure somebody won the majority). It was a basic chassis, but it seemed like it would work.

A few embellishments followed: I added a couple wrinkles to the trick play to add some unique character (some forced plays as well as an additional way to score points); I converted what used to be the dealer's crib into an alternate hand that you had to compete with (sort of a Frankenstein's monster, which I loved conceptually); I wrote some new spells. The new, improved Wiccage was ready for a playtest, armed with an entirely new phase of play and a structure that I hadn't really ever seen in a card game before. And a Frankenstein's monster rule.

Next time, how that playtest went.