As a game designer I have the most fun with games I create myself. When it comes to a game that is fun and interesting to play it’s hard to beat game you put together with your friends. I learned this first back when I was in college and living with several other students, one of them being an art major. Now I had played a lot of games with them and spent a great deal of time just hanging out with them, but after I was introduced to a particular card game is when I believe I had the most fun with them.
This game was called, very fittingly, Arbitrary Card Game, and is played easily with a stack of index cards and some pens. The game is simple, each player is given a stack of 5 to 15 index cards and then they spend the next 10-30 minutes making the game. Hows that’s exactly? Easy! The players all make cards which consist of a title, a picture and an effect. The effect can be anything, but must fit into some simple guide lines. An effect cannot grant or remove more than -1000 points from any player. Effects must be completable, so you can’t challenge people to things that are un-doable. That’s it. Really, that’s it.
The game is played after the cards are all created and shuffled together in a deck. Each player draws 5 cards when the game starts and you choose someone to go first. It doesn’t matter who goes first, but usually we went left of the dealer. Players then go around the table playing cards. Every time you play a card you draw another unless the deck is depleted, the winner is either the person with the most points when you end, or the most points when there are no more cards in the deck, when you end the game is really up to you, it’s arbitrary.
This game is crazy. You may end up playing cards that are very competitive and function like normal card games would or you may end up playing cards that pit people against each other in free style rap battles (it’s happened). Some times you get demolished by people, sometimes your the demolisher, but every time is exciting and fun and each time you play the game it gets more complex as you add more cards.
Below are some examples of cards from one of my decks:
As you can see this game can get interesting and it can really be anything you want, but I think that that is the best part of it. Without any major rules or guidelines you can make something that is fun and re-playable while at the same time developing the game as a social experience. As you can see some cards are drawn better than others and some cards are written neat while some should be re-written. As a house rule we keep all cards, and typos and mistakes are elevated to a form of comedy. Most occur due to the time limit, but some of the fumiest errors come from simple spelling changes or from complete lack of punctuation. We have some cards that people have made for the deck that contain measly amounts of points. we have some cards that are back breaking and allow you to win the game most handily, but most importantly we have lots of cards, each lovingly crafted by our friends.
This game is one of the few things that inspired me in such a profound way that is changed my life. I would like to thank the people who introduced me to it (you know who you are). Without this game I would not have gotten up one day and said, “Hey, I want to design games for a living!”
I encourage everyone who reads this article to give it a try. If you have questions about the rules, trust your instincts. If you make something cool, let us know! We would love to see you post your cards on our Facebook wall and show off what you have created. Thanks for reading everyone, I hope you enjoy this free game.