Ambition

Those reading rec.games.board or rec.games.card might have noticed a thread called truth about church’s ambition. It had nothing to do with church, it’s in fact about Mike Church and his card game Ambition. For some reason there’s a flamewar of sorts going on around the game. Why, I have no idea, but the thread, especially Church’s own comments about his game, made me investigate the game.

It’s quite interesting, actually. Ambition can be found on the Card Games site, but those aren’t the latest rules (the game’s new, invented in 2003 and probably still a bit of a work-in-progress). Right now the latest version of the rules can be found at Cardschat.com discussion forum. The game also has a blog, where I guess the final rules will appear one day (Church says at the Cardschat he’s working on a final rules document). The Games Journal will, it seems, have an article about the design of the game in the March issue.

Ambition is a trick-taking game. It’s a point-trick game and mostly a derivative of Hearts, as far as I can tell. Church’s design ideal has been to reduce the effect of card-luck, which is a honorable task. There are certainly some clever ideas in the game that work to reduce that effect. Here’s a small overview of the game’s features:

– Basic trick-taking, no trumps, normal ordering of the cards from ace (high) to 2 (low).

– However, 2 in the led suit is the highest card if a honor card (A, K, Q or J) of the same suit is played in the trick.

– Hearts, diamonds and spades score points, as do the king of clubs and six of clubs.

– There’s Hearts-like passing.

That’s all rather basic, though I like the thing with twos. The scoring is where it gets interesting. Collecting points is the goal of the game, but that’s not all.

– If player has at least 57 points (of 91 possible), he or she scores a Slam — 36 points.

– Player with the most points (and less than 57 points) gets zero points and a strike.

– Player with 1-10 points gets points scored and a strike, unless he or she already has two strikes.

– Player with zero points scores a Nil and gets 24 points.

– In other cases (11-56 points, someone else gets most points) players score their points.

It sounds more complicated than it is. Game ends, when someone gets three strikes or 10 rounds pass (which is very rare). Player with the three strikes loses regardless of points. Player with the most points after that wins.

Based on reading the rules, I’d say Ambition is a clever game. That’s certainly not the only way to reduce card luck (Die Sieben Siegel demonstrates a different approach), but it certainly looks good. Players need to work for different goals depending on their cards and also keep an eye on the other players so they don’t end up getting most points (using chips or other visible tokens to count points during hands is probably mandatory).

At the very least Ambition gets on my games to play -list.

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