January 31, 2006

Version 3.0: Finished!

I've finished drafting, play-testing, and refining the rules for Ambition, version 3.0. While I'm a couple months behind the schedule of my six-month cycle, alas, the creative process cannot be so easily regulated.

I'll admit that I've been slow to finalize this game. It has been over two years since I've conceived of the thing, and yet I'm still tweaking rules. I don't regard this as a bad thing, but eventually I will amass a player base that will demand stability. Now is the best time to change Ambition's rules, if doing so can improve the game, because less than 0.1% of those who will eventually play Ambition already have played it, much less heard of it. Once it develops a large play community, the game will be tougher to control.

The biggest changes were made to scoring; specifically, I revamped the point values of the cards. The red suits were too weak, under the original system, so I bumped red honors (J, Q, K, A) to 3 points a piece. I also gave the 5d (which replaced the 3d as initial lead) a 5-point value; the 2h, 7. In order to maintain the personality of the spade honors, I bumped the As to 10 points, and to keep the Kc strong, I bumped it to 17. Removing the 6-point 6c that existed in ver 2.0-- it's now a zero-point club, like the others-- this brought a total of 112 points. I removed the optional 6-point deduction for the person taking the last trick, which I had always regarded as a bit of "patch work"; my scoring revisions as put will tend to reduce the "end-load" factor.

These changes brought natural cause for revisions of Nil and Slam. Slam, I determined, should be set at 72 points out of the possible 112. The reward for a Slam is now 40 points, with the caveat that no points or strikes are given to other players-- Nils and understrikes that occur in such atypical rounds do not usually reflect upon the skill of the other players. Thus, the value of a Slam is increased, to a degree, but its difficulty as well.

Nil I have revised to 21 points, which is not a substantial bonus; Nil has been overvalued for quite some time. In the "double Nil" scenario-- that is, where two players achieve Nil-- each scores 14. In order to maintain some value to the Nil strategy, I added an optional (recommended) silent bidding mechanic that allows players to bid Nil and score additional points upon making it. Bid Nil scores 35 points, but 21 in the "double Nil" situation. If Nil is bid and failed, a player earns a strike and no points.

I decided to remove the "Hold" round in passing, it being more prone to hand-luck than the others. Therefore, the pass cycle is now Left-Right-Across-Scatter, repeating every four rounds.

The above comprise the revisions to scoring. I also decided to lengthen the game somewhat: it ends when one player takes 4, rather than 3, strikes. However, I removed the rule that prevents a player from striking out on an understrike; in my view, a strike is a strike.

I retained the "hard" limit on game length, revised slightly to 11 rounds. While three- and four-round games are unsatisfying (hence, my desire to alter the ending condition) I find it unlikely that anyone will complain that an 11-round game was too short.

I'll release an updated document in a few days, to fill in the details.