Wednesday 22 May 2024

Drama from Inelegance

In Rock, Paper, Scissors, players simultaneously throw out one of three hand symbols. Rock beats scissors beats paper beats rock etc. If the thrown symbols match then the result is a draw and players typically throw again.

In Odds & Evens each player is assigned as either Odd or Even. They simultaneously throw out either 1 or 2 fingers and check the total number of fingers shown. If the total is even the even player wins, if it is odd the odd player wins.

By having fewer hand-types to choose from and removing the draw it could be argued that Odds & Evens is a more elegantly designed game than Rock, Paper, Scissors. Certainly if you're using the game to quickly find a winner, such as "who gets first turn in the real game we're about to play" then Odds & Evens is going to get you there quicker.

I grew up with RPS and I remember having thoughts similar to the above when I learned about O&E as an adult. RPS is obsolete, spread the word!

But something is missing from O&E and all its elegance, and when the game is this small you really notice when something is lost.

There's power in that moment when you draw a round of RPS. Let's say you both throw down scissors. You pause, look at each other, and throw again, but now there's context. Do you stick to your guns and throw scissors again? Maybe they'll do that, in which case you should throw rock?

The idea of "gambits" for RPS is probably meant as a joke, but it ruffles my feathers that it fails to account for draws and how to respond to them. It's a real gap in competitive book play.

Of course it mostly comes down to chance, barely different to flipping a coin, but the experience of playing RPS is entirely different to flipping a coin, and O&E with its ruthless efficiency fails to capture that.

While I might seem evangelical for elegance and minimalist design, there's sometimes power in those moments of inelegance.

Something to consider for RPGs and wargames, but how about we introduce even more inelegance to RPS?

(much like Chess there's a long history of messing with the rules of RPS, so I'm not claiming origin of any of these)

All the below assume a game of playing to 3 points.

Symbol Values

If you win then you earn points based on the symbol you threw.
Rock (3pts), Scissors (2pts), Paper (1pt)
I've seen this variant with Paper as 2pts and Scissors as 1pt but I prefer it if the weakest symbol beats the strongest.

Tie Breaks

If you tie then an Event occurs depending on the symbol thrown.
Rock: Bump rocks. Both players lose 1 point to a minimum of 0 points.
Paper: Stack papers. If a player wins the next throw they earn an extra point.
Scissors: Sharpen scissors. If the next throw is won by scissors then that player immediately wins the game.

Power Creep

A new symbol is added: Dynamite, represented by a "thumbs up" gesture. It beats any other symbol, and ties with itself.

Dynamite can only be thrown by each player once per game.

If playing with Symbol Values then Dynamite is worth 1pt.

If playing with Tie Breaks then tied Dynamite returns both players to 0pts.


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