Game Makeover: Nines – Round 1

Design Workbench

I immediately had several ideas about how to change up this game and noted them on my planning board (subject for another article). However, I am applying the changes stepwise and analyzing the results before making other changes.

Theme Me

Since this exercise not only started with a mechanism, but a complete game, any theme at this point may be considered to be “pasted on.” However, I am generally a theme-first gamer so the first change I want to make to the game is to apply a theme so that all future decisions are impacted by and hopefully will conform to the theme. Like making over a room in the house, we already know the purpose of the room and are starting by pasting on the wall paper before we have selected the furniture and wall-hangings. We are setting the décor of this room with the theme.

First Thoughts

While extending the theme of golf may seem like the obvious choice, there is nothing about this game that makes me think of golf. However, a collection of things that have point values equal to the depicted number except the highest depicted point card has a value of zero made me think of clocks. So, some early thematic thoughts:

  • The 12 o’clock card scores zero. 12:00 is also 00:00.
  • Of course, these clocks have to be collectible so they are fancy and/or antique.
  • The collection already has clocks in it: some (3) that are known and some that are of unknown value.

So if the numbered cards are replaced by cards:

  • With clocks with times on the hour of 1 – 10,
  • And the Kings are replaced by 12:00 cards,
  • What about the Jacks and Queens? What about 11:00? Pitch them all.

OK, I have already broken the theme. I am using clocks on the hours without 11:00, but I’m moving on.

Early Graphic Design (concept)

Employing the clock and collections concepts to the graphic design and art:

  • The card faces for point cards have clocks with their faces depicting their values as times 1-10 and 12 on the hour.
  • The card faces depict suit (still 4) by the type of clock depicted (traditional mantle, pendulum, torsion pendulum, etc.)
  • The jokers are special clocks that do not match any others. For now, they can still be in their packing crates marked Fragile. (They must be Italian clocks).
  • The card backs depict a dusty clock obscured by cobwebs and in sepia tone or grey scale.

Name Me

So now the game is one of collecting clocks, but oddly enough, for the time displayed on their faces, not for the type of clocks. Collecting clocks for an odd reason? Hmmm. Welcome to:

Eclectic Clock Collectors

Story Me

A peculiar and scary old gentleman has hired you to complete his collection of antique clocks. He has three shelves with enough room to hold three clocks each. His collection starts with three clocks that you have identified and (for now) six clocks that are too dusty to recognize. More than just collecting clocks, though, the old collector says he is "saving time." You aren’t sure what he means by this, but he says you will be rewarded for collecting clocks that have stopped at the same time.



Using the 3 standard decks that I had assembled to play the original game, I just eliminated the Jacks and Queens.


I simulated 2 and 4 player games several times. The Jacks eloped with the Queens and were not missed. The increased percentage of valued cards (Joker, K, A, 2-5, maybe 6) is real. Though not highly perceptible, in game speed, the frustration of getting one of those usually unwanted face cards is gone.

New Rules

The deck has changed, but there are no specific rules changes yet.

Working It Out

So have I made any progress with these minor changes?

  • Bland
    • I have a theme that is at least a little more interesting and has potential narrative for game mechanisms.
  • Wasted Components
    • I have trimmed the deck by 15% and eliminated cards that are mostly overlooked or unwanted. Though, still a long way to go on this one.
  • Wasted Information
    • I haven’t addressed this directly yet, but I am making an artistic commitment to suit which will have to be addressed.