Game Concept — Bad Advisors

Did you hear what the king’s advisors were talking about? Well, I heard from one of them, that they think that the other advisors are too focused on their wine, or their parties, or their lovers, or enriching themselves. Why, you didn’t hear it from me

This is a concept writeup for a card game. The aim is a single-deck, form factor game which needs no sorting, you just shuffle it up and go. My aim is for a game that fits into our $20 range on Invincible Ink, so think like an ordinary deck of playing cards in terms of size.

As a setup note, this game imagines each player is pretty translatable to one another. You start the game by shuffling up a deck and dealing it out to everyone. The vibe here is something like Cockroach Poker.

Gameplay Loop

Play goes in a series of turns, and starts with that turns’ Leader. The Leader chooses a card from their hand and offers it, face-down to another player. This card is a Rumour, and you’re trying to build a collection of Rumours that affect one another, and idealy, leave you with the highest score. Rumours have a type (a suit, basically) or a value (how much it reduces your score).

Note that all Rumours offer negative score. You’re trying to get as close as you can to a score of 0. You offer a Rumour and tell a player either its type or its value. They can decide then to either take it, or to pass it to another player, who can decide if they want to keep it or pass it on, and so on. The only player you can’t pass cards to is the player who passed to them or who has had the Rumour offered to them this turn, which means a Rumour can bounce around the table until it winds up back at you and if it does, you have to take it.

When a player takes a card, they can look at it, and tell the table if the player who submitted it lied or not. You have to say this honestly.

Then the next player in turn order leads the next turn.


I can think of a few basic player goals that can be built into this design:

  • The vibe is meant to be advisors bickering with one another about their scandalous behaviour while they try to influence the monarch, so players are trying to avoid having too many cards in their heap that make their score bad.
  • But also the running of the country does matter, so I’d want to include the mechanic I used in Winston’s Archive of a card type where the player with the least loses the game.
  • I want there to be cards you want to get back, because they can bounce back to you and the idea of navigating things so people don’t trust your cards enough to pick them up is something I like. So there should be cards that have a really positive effect on your score.
  • I also love the idea that some scandals, if they’re big enough, become a charming thing of their own. Like, maybe each suit has a Boyfriend in it, but if you have all the boyfriends then really, obviously, you’re too audacious to be shamed about having a boyfriend.

Mechanical Space

Suits and values are part of this one. I only want one kind of card, and I want the deck to hover around 54 cards. At 54 cards, there’s room for 9 suits of 6 or 6 suits of 9, which means there’s room for a lot of types of scandal, and room for them to interact with one another.

To make sure that each card has stuff it can interact with I can imagine constructing a web, or map, that shows each card’s relationship avenues. I don’t want it to be a fixed bias but I like the idea that Rumours of type A are good for neutralising types B and C, so if you hear that there’s a type A card, and you have a bunch of B or C, you can decide if you want to avoid picking that card up.


I’ve low key had an idea in my mind for a long time about a game built around the idea of viziers competing with one another for a plan, forming temporary alliances to thwart other, different viziers whose ideas work against their own. The original idea was actually set in the Aspects universe of Glory in the Thunder, Resplendant in the Sky.

That idea morphed over time into a game that honestly became part of my Honours Thesis about designing games in response to other games, where I decided to try and represent a complex relationship space and a culture as an agent in Imperial Settlers as instead the movement of trade goods and the helpless acceptance of weird god behaviour along the trade route.

But that original idea persisted. A few days – oh weeks, now – ago, I saw someone talking about ruffled shirt advisors being meanspirited gossips to one another and the idea rebubbled. At this point, the only real mechanical idea I have was that I like the notion that you may be trying to defray embarrassment for spreading a rumour something you did was someone else’s fault, and that created the idea of the ‘bounce around’ drafting design. Eventually, I realised that design approached the Cockroach Poker mechanism and I decided to use it.


At the moment, the main thing a prototype of this needs is just some playtesting. I can do this game with a deck of playing cards if the relationships are fixed – jacks always defuse fours, kinda thing – but if I want to make a print-and-play version, or a version for play with a normal reference sheet, I’ll need to do some math. I also need to look into the kinds of things that count as scandals in the Aspectsverse, and the attendant aesthetics of a royal, monarch or some kinda satrap with a bunch of useless, bickering advisors.