Games like Pull! are the reason I keep doing what I do. It isn’t often that I go from design to prototype in minutes and immediately love the project. It’s even less often that I come out of the first prototype still in love with the project. This is that proverbial “high” that I search for in design… and it’s also likely the reason that if you look back through my piles of failed prototypes, you’ll find that 90% lack a great deal of substance. Making what gamers consider deep and thoughtful games with lots of layers is a massive undertaking. Sure, it is a very satisfying undertaking… but it’s also a long stressful journey. Designing that game that “just works” from the get-go is instant gratification. In our microwaved world, it’s about as close as I can get to the popcorn of game design.
Pull! is a partnership game in the trick-taking category. It has a few unique twists, but it’s nothing spectacular. I’m not saying I’ve designed the next Tichu or that it will even make a single person’s top 50 list of trick-taking games. What I’m saying is that the game, as designed, works and it does so quite well. There are strategic plays. There is partnership play. There is exciting hands and fluctuating scores. It plays very well for what it is and I’m completely satisfied with that. So, like all satisfied people, I made changes.
This update was a very subtle change over the last version. I tweaked one rule that read ambiguously and adjusted the scoring on the clays slightly. After playtesting the last version, I had an idea about how to make the clay scoring a bit more interesting. Previously, if a team scored both clays in a round, they would double the points for both, including negatives. This led to some fairly awkward positions where one team could force the other to take two negatives in a round (because of the randomness of their hands) and thus scoring them -16 points. That’s not fun. It also means that no one ever plays their low cards because they are just waiting for the negatives to come out. Similarly, people tend to hold high cards waiting on the 7s. Scoring two sevens in a round is 28 points and that’s huge. Too huge actually.
Because of these two extremes, the middle cards are mostly meaningless in the game. This isn’t really a bad thing as they are generally meaningless in most trick-taking games. The problem here is, without someone in control of the lead, it is too much randomness. We loved the randomness of the clay deck, but the scoring was too dramatic to make it actually strategic. So, I fixed it.
The fix is simple, make the scoring for doubling something other than double. I accomplished this through graphic design. When you score doubles, the cards are rotated sideways, revealing the doubles score. The points for doubling are now:
7 = 7
5 = 8
3 = 6
-4 = 0
If it isn’t obvious, this isn’t even close to the final graphic design of the game. There is still a bunch of work to do to make it pretty before I “release” it as a true print and play. Until then, however, you can get the latest files from the game’s page. If you already have a previous set, you only need to re-do the clay cards. Or, you could not re-do them and just remember their new point values. Nothing else has changed.
Well, there’s that rule tweak… which is really a clarification. It comes down to this: each clay is awarded to the team which plays the highest value card. If both teams play an equally valued high-card, no one takes the clay. Previously, it could be misinterpreted that if both players on a team played the same high card, the clay would be discarded. That would have been wrong.
Where is this game headed? Well, the truth is, there really isn’t a market for trick-taking games… and one with a weird theme at that. Regardless of what some may believe, I do not have some vast net cast over our industry that allows me to just call up publishers and convince them that they want my game. Like everyone else, I have to ground-pound and network my way to success. That’s stressful. I don’t like stress.
My plans for Pull! are simple. There will be an official print and play release that coincides with a print on demand release with both thegamecrafter.com and drivethrucards.com. This, of course, will come after more extensive playtesting, rules refinement, and artwork/layout. That stuff takes time. Lots of time. I work days and play hard at night. I have two children and hobbies. It’s almost Christmas. All of this culminates in me trying to do what little I can each day to advance my projects.
That’s where you come in!
I need testers. I need people to print out the files and play the game. Read the rules and scrutinize my terrible descriptions and use of the English language. I need proofreaders. I need critics. I’ll need graphic design help… which I’ll most likely do in one of my infamous Twitter sessions where I iterate over design ideas for a few hours while people tweet suggestions at each pass. I need the awesome community of friends behind me to help bring the game to light in the best possible manner. Every single one of you reading this is invaluable to me. Thank you.
Also, if you happen to be a publisher (or know one personally) that’s interested in working on a trick-taking project, feel free to let me know. I’m not saying I won’t welcome publication for this game, just that I’m not going to go all out to try and find it.