Monday, September 18, 2017

Change, a game system whose games work just as well with regular cards

I probably still have two or three copies of Change, since it was so cheap and it is so small. One copy lived in my bag for a while, in large part because it is the size of a box of matches.

And the idea of Change was one that appealed to me and still appeals to me. Instead of one game, it's three different rule sets for a tiny, special deck of cards. You know, a game system.

Really, given the whole found art nature of James Ernst design aesthetic, you could say that game systems are his speciality. In many ways, that has so far culminated with the Pairs deck.

But Change was a very early approach to a game system in the world of Cheapass Games. And, I really hate to say it, it shows.

It's a deck of fifty cards. There are no suits. Instead, there are ten 1's, 3's, 5's, 7's, and 10's. They are decorated with cute pictures of the Fridey's zombies and done up to look like paper money. It's card stock, which might have the word card in it but doesn't make for good cards but this is Cheapass we're taking about.

The games comes with three rules sets: Make Your Own Change Night, Boneyard (which I admit I never played) and Diminishing Returns.

Here's the big problem. Make Your Own Change Night is a retread of Hey Bartender from Chief Herman's Holiday Fun Pack and Diminishing Returns is a retread of Pennywise from the same collection. In other words, they were games I was already familiar with, just tweaked for the special deck.

Now, I have had fun with Make Your Own Change Night so it's not like Change is a total waste. But a deck of cards can do the same trick and I can play a whole bunch of other games with that.

(It's telling that Boneyard has since been released as a rule set for regular cards, although you do need two decks of cards to get the right card count.. I also have to admit the rules to Boneyard confused me when I first read them years ago but they seem perfectly simple now, although I still think calling the auction sets buckets is bad jargon)

What a game system needs, more than anything else, is a great game. A killer app. For instance, if the only game you had rules to play with the Looney Pyramids was Zendo or Volcano, I'd still be happy with those games. Change it only doesn't have that killer game, its games work just has well with regular cards.

I have seen a lot of different kinds of decks over the years. Five or six suits, pyramid decks, multi-suited cards, straight up numbered decks. I haven't seen another deck like Change and maybe there's a reason for that. It would be really interesting to see what a killer game with a deck like this and I still don't know what it would be.

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