Tag Archives: card game

Argh, Who am I?! – Playtests & Hiatus

I’ve had chance to playtest Argh, Who am I?! a couple more times and have decided to put it on hold for now, however it may come back in another form. Here are some of my reflections on the last two playtests.

Playtest with my MA students

The first of the two most recent playtests I learnt that players were quickly identifying who was telling the truth/lying and then narrowed down on who it was. I noticed that players were more likely to ask someone who was telling the truth, in order to avoid the mental anguish of dealing with untwisting lies.


I decided to up the complexity and allow players both a chance to lie and tell the truth. To do this the players turn their cards upside down each time they’ve asked a question. This difference had an additional benefit of allowing for a mechanism for telling who had and had not being asked a question, meaning no player was left out from asking or answering a question.

Thanks to Hadeel, Tom, Sun, & Jai for playtesting.

Playtest with the Board Game Studies Colloquium

In the second of the two most recent playtests the upped complexity didn’t really add anything other than further confusion, which in this case isn’t really an interesting solution.

Players had fun, but I think the amusement came from coping with the mechanics rather than playing the game. This can be good in certain situations, like the weird mental block that occurs when matching pairs in Dobble, or racing against time trying to roll dice in Escape: Curse of the Temple. However, the connection did not feel right in this instance.

Thanks to Ralf, Jacob, Tom & Tiago for playtesting.


Final Thoughts

Overall the game had two parts that didn’t connect very well. First was working out who was telling the truth or lying and the second narrowing down to the card you’re holding. Players would start the game, in brain twisted confusion, then clarity, then finish with systematic logic. I think there perhaps needed to be a less linear relation between these two parts.

For some reason lying as an answer was difficult to do. First the question had to be assessed, then check for a yes/no answer and then potentially reversed. This process just seemed more tasking than it aught to be. There was a few times where players got confused and gave the wrong answer (including myself).

In the end the game play had very little interesting choice, much possibility for strategy or fun inherent in the game play. The players were told whether to lie or tell the truth. On reflection I think lying is more likely to be amusing when you can be caught out, and there’s a risk/reward tied to this.

An Observation

The most interesting thing that arose from the games was the possibility for ambiguous answers and questions, and the possibility of players disagreeing with each other about the answers.

For example:

  • Someone asked if they were alive or dead, when they were holding a robot card.
  • Someone asked if they were magical, when they were holding a zombie card.

Both these questions gained different responses within the groups. Perhaps there is something in this, an idea for another game. For now at least the game where you don’t know your own identify is on hold.


Argh, who am I?! – Revision and Playtest 2

I made some revisions to both the cards and rules for Argh, who am I?!

Previous Posts: Argh, who am I?! v1 rulesMaking of, Playtest 1.


Changing the Card List

The card list has been expanded and changed from all Hollywood monsters:

  • Frankenstein’s Monster
  • Mummy
  • Skeleton
  • Vampire
  • Werewolf
  • Fish Person
  • Zombie
  • Ghost

To a range of people/things:

  • Alien
  • Robot
  • Pirate
  • Ninja
  • Cowboy
  • Demon
  • Angel
  • Zombie
  • Vampire
  • Werewolf
  • Santa Clause
  • Tooth Fairy
  • Easter Bunny

This should now allow the players to narrow down their potential character card in a larger range of ways, similar to 20 Questions.

Changing the Rules

The first set of rules I wanted to change from version 1 of the game, was the question and statement section. The answering back and forth was messy.

The main issue I was trying to avoid with the original rules was that as soon as the players realise that one player is telling the truth (or lies) they become the most reliable source and there is no reason to ever ask anyone else a question. By giving the player who is asked a question some power, it reduces the chance of this happening. In changing this aspect I did not want to lose the freedom of the players to ask whoever they wanted a question.

There were a number of possible work arounds which I considered:

  1. Every player must be asked at least one question before, players can be asked another question. This at first seems a fair method however it has a downside in terms of elegance. The players will require an additional token or card to remember who has and has not been asked a question. Additionally, the first player will get to ask their choice of all other players whilst the last player will not get a choice, every round. This could be solved by skipping the first player of the previous round to change the first player for the current round. Balancing out in the end. All this adds a lot of additional components and rules for a relatively small game.
  2. Players who are asked a question get to ask the next question, and must ask someone else. Players in this case have to balance asking someone who they know is telling truth/lies with giving them the power to ask another question about their own card. In this manner the game should self balance. One issue might be that players may realise the point at which someone has worked out their own card and therefore not ask them a question again, so they cannot declare. To get round this a player could declare at any point.

Of these I selected the second option.

Changing the Setup

Another issue that needed resolving was the length of the game, which for its type was possibly too long. Also there was difficulty in knowing what the cards were in the deck, so you could work out who are or are not. A problem exacerbated by the newly increased character list.

This was solved with a simple setup rule change.

  • The entire deck of cards is shuffled.
  • Cards are laid face up, one at a time, in a grid.
  • Any time a card matching an existing grid card is found it is added to the play-deck. Therefore, mixing the matching truth and lies cards between grid and play-deck randomly.
  • Once the grid and play-deck both contain one of each character type, the play-deck is shuffled again.
  • Each player takes one card from the play-deck.
  • Players help each other orientate their cards correctly.
  • The game begins.

So, although the list of characters is longer, the actual play-deck is smaller than the original version. Additionally there is no need for reference cards for the player as setting up the game creates a grid reference for all the players. There is also now no repeating of the same characters.

Playtest 2

I took the new cards and rules to my monthly board game meet-up and played a couple of games.

The first game went ok, but there was a weakness found in the system. Once someone had identified who they were once, and therefore had the most cards, they could keep randomly guessing to diminish the deck and win with their single card.

The second game we removed this issue, if you’re wrong when you declare you are removed from the game. However if you’re the first person to declare correctly you win. This added a nice layer of tension, do you risk guessing early without all the information but with good odds, or do you risk waiting and someone else guessing first. It also reduced the playtime to a nice length for the style of game.

I did however get confused with the truth and lies, and double negatives at one point, giving a player some incorrect information.I handled it in that moment with a friendly apology, however, this is something that needs consideration in the future.

We played with a relatively large group of people and at times I noticed that some were being left out more than others, so further testing is required for different group sizes.

Once the game was reduced to two/three players the game play changed. For two players it is impossible to have the don’t question back rule.

Thanks to the Playtesters: Ricky, Robin, Patrick, Jonathon, Jazz, David & Peter.

What’s next?

  • I am going to have another look at balancing the character list, so it doesn’t swing too heavy in any sub-genre’s favour.
  • I need to test it a lot more times with different group sizes, and different deck sizes.
  • I’m interested to see if I can expand the deck, but add an additional stage to the set-up which removes a number of cards depending on how many players and how difficult the players want the game to be. This might need a little bit of math to get to a nice starting point but will be ultimately balanced in playtesting.
  • Consider testing the other rules variation with the additional tokens, to see how it feels.

Can I get the new cards?

I’m going to hold off uploading the new cards for a little while until the game has settled and I have time to do some more placeholder art rather than just text titles.

Emergent Card Game by Daniel Palmer

Whilst attending a conference on Swarm Robotics in Brussels I got a chance to play Daniel Palmer’s work in progress, Emergent.


This is a cooperative game, where each player’s hidden objective must be met in order for the players to win the game. The only way the players have a communicating if their objective is met or not is with a two sided card; one side of the card is green representing ‘clear’ and the other red representing ‘blocked’. The player keeps this card placed in front of them and changes which side is facing up based on the current state of the game.

Additionally, the players must also have placed 12 cards down on the 4×4 grid in order to win.

The cards that are required to be placed have 16 types,  a combination of 4 colours (red, blue, green, yellow) and 4 symbols (star, square, diamonds, circle).

At the beginning of the game 4 of these cards are randomly selected and randomly placed on the grid.

Each player is also given an objective, there were around 10 categories of objective and no more than one from any single category is played in a single game (this removes the possibility that two objective cards will be in conflict with each other). Examples include:


On a players turn, they suggest two options which can be a combination of:

  • Placing card(s) taken from stock piles.
  • Removing card(s) from the grid to the discard pile.

or alternatively they can suggest

  • moving a card to a new position on the grid.

The rest of the players then vote on which of the two options the prefer, majority wins with tied votes decided by the player suggesting the options. This process is helped by handy double sided cards which have ‘place’ and ‘remove’ written on them.

What ever the outcome, two cards per turn are removed from the stock of coloured cards to the discard pile, which act as a timer for the game as well as resources.

The next player is the next person clockwise who is blocked. In the case that no one is blocked the next player clockwise takes a turn.

During the game you are allowed to discuss and speculate upon other player’s objectives, but not to confirm/deny/hint at your own. Your voting preferences may give some indirect hints to the objective you may have.


I managed to have two games in which we beat the game the first time and lost the second time. I do not know how much our game was helped by the fact I was playing with a group of computer scientists.

Overall, I really enjoyed playing the game and it brought to my mind Hanabi by Antoine Bauza. I thought the individual hidden objectives was a really great concept, and the player turn order was well worked out. I suppose one issue could be that you never take a turn, but that does not mean that you are not taking part and speculating on other people’s objectives.

One thing that seemed to confuse a number of players, was when it came to dealing with the outcomes of specific votes. This happened especially when the player’s two suggestions were to remove one existing card and to place one new card. The players often voted to remove the card and were shocked to see the card that has ‘place’ on it also removed (as this was the option that was NOT taken). There just seemed to be some sort of mental block on this issue.

Daniel is still testing options on what to do with this. My suggestion was that when ever an option is voted upon, the alternate option’s ‘remove/place’ card is flipped. Then the players carry out the instructions on both the ‘remove/place’ cards (i.e. their voted option, and NOT the other option). Whether this would actually help or not would not be clear without testing. I think if the rule book comes with a really clear way of explaining the steps in this part of the game, after a couple of goes the players will get the hang of it.

My second suggestion was that the cards that are currently numbered 1-16, that make up the grid, could contain more useful information on them. They could show which directions are considered ‘above’, ‘below’, ‘left’ and ‘right’. Additionally they could also include which are the four random starting positions at the beginning of the game.

When I last spoke to Daniel he was looking to create a Kickstarter for this project sometime in the next year and when he does I’ll be sure to back it. Just like any game I’m not sure this is for everyone but it really pipped my interest, and I wish him all the luck for the future.