Game Concept — Lysen Co.

Welcome to your new position of Commisioned Human Resource Dispensation here at Lysen Co Food Technologies! We trust that you’re going to do your best for the betterment of all mankind as represented by the correct and accurate construction of optimal ‘tiger team’ panels for the full-time distribution of actualised test partners! Don’t worry, we know you’d never let us down – no member of our employment family ever has!

Okay it’s card game design. It’s a trick taker game too. It’s modelled on a Corporate Stalinist vibe, with untrustworthy operators in a Monsanto-style food company that is doing hinky stuff and where people can get disappeared for bad culture fit reasons.

Gameplay Loop

Play goes in a series of round, and starts with that round’s Team Pro-Partner. The Pro-Partner chooses a card from their hand, and places it in the centre of the table, face-up, showing the number on it and the type of card it is. Then, each other player plays a card face-down into that pile.

This pile represents Team Formation, where the Team Pro-Partner is setting up a Team to address one of Lysen Co’s latest Pro Partnership Quarterly Operator Projects or whatever funny name I devise for them later. When every player has played a card into the pile, the Team Pro-Partner chooses up or down, and then takes the face-down cards maintaining their order, and lays them out face-up in order of the players who put them into the pile. The Pro-Partner then counts this list out, and ‘sorts’ them.

In Lysen Co, we value it team fits very highly. So for that, we use a proprietary sorting method that is perfect for its efficiency. Starting with the Team Pro-Partner’s card, go through the list in order, and counting up or down, as per the Pro-Partner’s choice, they discard each card that’s out of order per its Comunal Operation Number. So for example, if the Pro-Partner chooses ‘down,’ and reveals like so:

(Pro-Partner’s Card) 43, 42, 16, 44, 41

Then 43 counts down to 42, then to 16 – and 44 is out of order, so it’s discarded. 41 is also out of order, so it is also discarded. Just like that in one swift sweep, the team is formed!

By comparison, if before flipping the cards, the Pro-Partner chose counting up, then you start at 43. Then drop 42, then drop 16, then 44 is included, and 41 is lower than 44, so it gets dropped. Only two people in the team get formed, but hey, there’s the team!

If more than half of the potential teammates are recruited properly, the Pro-Team’s card does its job, and that player gets the associated power. If half or less than half of the potential teammates are recruited, then the Pro-Team’s team doesn’t fire. Then, in order, each player’s whose card remains in the team gets their power, obtains any currency as appropriate. Players keep their cards that fired, face-up in front of them, representing their team history, and then all the dropped cards get put into a discard pile, and the next round begins with the next Pro-Partner.


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

  • Card combos. If a player can get a certain number of sabotage cards set up, the business fails, and they can be the sole winner.
  • Money, direct advancement. Some cards may give you a payout in terms of money, which can be either a simple matter of score, or it could be a currency that’s independent of cards. If it’s independent, then players can steal it from one another, or spend it.
  • Brown-Nosing. Being immune to some cards because you’re the Boss’ Favourite, that kinda thing.
  • Actually Doing Work. Some kind of stat that the person with the least of it gets disappeared.
  • Office Dullard! Maybe you can foist a card like this on someone and it reduces the overall value of their tableau
  • Tertiary (for the strong bad reference) Assets: Black box security crew. If you have one of these lurking in your tableau, the next time someone ‘disappears’ you can take them and add them to your tableau?

Mechanical Space

In any given trick you need n cards for each player, and even if the players’ hands deplete over time, you need to make sure that their hand is never so small their final hand is a non-choice. There need to be a fairly large number of cards to ensure that there’s room between the numbers so players can try and make ‘safe’ guesses about what order their cards show up.

I am thinking that maybe this game needs to be just a single deck of cards, with one single card back, and then can use tokens and counters provided by the players for currency. That in a standard deck is 52 cards strong and we love 52. That’s a number with some factors, and it’s very close to 48, a number with a lot of factors going on.


Okay, what gave me this idea, and why this aesthetic and vibe?

Content Warning: Alright, I’m going to reference Stalin here, and I mean Stalin. Not communism or socialism, things that I regard very differently to most of the way people use them when they refer to Stalin. This is going to involve mentioning and referencing ways that Stalin was, in fact, a pretty rotten dude, who did some things that suck. If your delicate sensibilities aren’t here for watching an anarchist talk shit about a dude who did fascist things in the name of communism, maybe just walk on.

At some point I started learning about different types of algorithm for sorting things. This is a thing computers do all the time, and because they do it all the time, doing it slightly better means a lot of better use of resources over time. To simplify, your sorting algorithm wants to be efficient how many operations it has to do on your data. It’s a tiny program, so the simpler that program is, the faster it can run repeatedly. This means that tinier sorting algorithms can often be efficient in different ways.

One of these very efficient, tiny sorting algorithm is the Bogosort. A bogosort is famously bad but also very efficient. Bogosort randomises your entire dataset, then checks to see if it’s sorted, and if it’s not sorted, it randomises it again. To present as a human search method, you grab a deck of cards, you shuffle it, then you flip it over and check if anything is out of order – the first two cards being out of order is all you need to know to test that – then shuffle it again and check it again. The actual instructions of a Bogosort are very small and efficient. The sort itself is absolutely terrible.

The existence of the Bogosort leads to other, equally unhelpful but ‘technically useful’ solution algorithmic sorting methods. One of them answers the question: Can you make an efficient sorting method that generates a sort in the fewest possible parses through the data? And the answer is yes. The Stalinsort. The Stalinsort is the method described above in the game rules: You go through the data set in order, and any time you find something out of order, you drop it out of the data.

What this means is that by the end of the sort, you will have all your data in order. You don’t even need to check! You could have almost all of your data destroyed, but you do have the data in order.

I learned about a Stalin Sort from this Youtube Video, but there’s no source I’d refer to as a reference document. Apparently a common thing is to rename the sort based on what particular leader you want to cite. I’m a little bummed about Stalin Sort being seen as the name for this and associating it with hammers and sickles, because the symbolism of workers is pretty cool and the dude Stalin sucks. But on the other hand, just changing the name of the sort to some other leader I dislike isn’t really doing justice to the metaphor of the sort. After all, it is meant to make the data go away because it isn’t important. It evokes the way that Stalin disappeared people, getting rid of them but also refusing to acknowledge their previous presence.

Also calling it a Maosort just feels kinda racist coming from me.


A bunch of card designs, and some test art to have a sort of Soviet Corporate Shittiness art style and font choices. Oh maybe I’ll put in a backwards R in the logo so I can watch someone annoyed at me about stylisation of English text.