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Svarog's Den - Board Games

Designer Diary: Line-it

by Tim Juretzki

I love games with rules so simple that you can explain them in a minute. Games should never feel like work, and games should make people happy, so if a game comes with a good deal of randomness, that’s great: If you win, it’s because of your superior tactics — but if your opponents win, they were just lucky.

My first published game was meant to be a simple game right from the beginning. Of course Line-it has been heavily influenced by Steffen Benndorf‘s The Game. What’s simpler than lining up numbers? It really is an inspiring game.

I’ve been fiddling with The Game cards in various colors for years, and one day, while toying with them once again, the idea was to draw a number of cards, let players choose one of them, and build ascending or descending card lines. The resulting game experience was…rather underwhelming. Gameplay generated a huge waste of time because often players would prefer not to pick any card at all, resulting in a lot of cards being sent to the discard pile. Ouch.

But what if these cards weren’t discarded, but made into bonus cards instead? I remember I really felt excited when that idea first came up. After just a handful of test matches, I realized this would be the defining idea of the game. The fewer cards players choose, the more bonus cards will be available and the more dynamic the game will get — what a nice balancing mechanism!

After that breakthrough, a large number of test matches were necessary to find the optimal detail settings. How many cards should be drawn each round? Should it be mandatory for players to pick a card? Should special rules exist for differing numbers of players? It was extremely helpful that game agency White Castle and publisher Gigamic generated a lot of insights. In the end, that classic rule of thumb — the simpler, the better — could be applied here, too. We reduced each player’s choice (they MUST pick one card) and the game still worked!

This is a game in which the defining idea made it from the beginning to the very end. Fine-tuning the details was much work, but great fun, too. I loved the whole process, and I enjoyed collaborating with White Castle and Gigamic!

Tim Juretzki

Gameplay overview:

In Line-it, you build an ascending or descending line of numbered cards to score points. Will you play safe and bank the points to start a new line, or will you keep trying to add to the line to claim a jackpot?

The deck consists of cards in four colors numbered 1-100 and six “Bet” cards numbered 3-5. Shuffle the deck, then lay out cards in the market equal to two more than the number of players. Starting with the first player, each player must pick a card, then either start a line/add it to their line or place it in their hand. Your maximum hand size is two, and if you can’t add the card to your hand or to your line (because it would break the ascending/descending pattern), you must score your line, then play that card to start a new line. You can add one Bet card to your line without regard for its ascending/descending status or the value of your end card.

After drafting a card, you may choose to play one card from your hand into your line, then you may choose to score your line. When you score, if you have a Bet card in the line, see whether you’ve added a number of cards to your line after the bet that at least equals the value of the Bet; if so, take a positive number token equal to the Bet card, and if not, flip that token to its negative side instead. Next, discard three cards from the line, then flip all the remaining cards face down and place them in your scoring pile.

After everyone one has drafted (and optionally played and scored), discard unchosen Bet cards, then place unchosen number cards under the jackpot token that matches their color: yellow under the star, green under the leaf, etc. If during your turn, you add the third card of a color to your line, you immediately claim the cards under the matching jackpot token and place them in your scoring pile.

When you can’t lay out enough cards, each player in turn plays one card from their hand, then scores their line and tallies their points. You earn 1 point for each scored card, then gain/lose points from the Bet tokens you collected. Whoever has the highest score wins.

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