Biceps: An Arm Wrestling Card Game Using Only Half a Poker Deck.

A little while back I learned about Button Shy Games, a small-games publisher who exclusively publishes card games small enough to fit in your wallet.

It occurred to me that this kind of size limitation might be a helpful way to focus some of my own game design experiments, so I decided to try and design my own wallet game in the spirit Button Shy’s catalog. The goal is a card game small enough to fit in your pocket, and simple enough to bring through to completion. For the sake of even more simplicity, I’m also limiting myself to using nothing but Poker cards.

I’m calling the game I’ve come up with “Biceps,” and it’s about arm-wrestling, except with cards.

The purpose of the game, like in arm wrestles IRL is to push your opponents “arm” to the table. The idea is that two players, using identical hands of 7 cards each compete in short “arm wrestles” that last around 2-10 rounds or so–admittedly, these are less short than true competitive arm wrestles I’ve seen around (think, rather, WWE meets arm wrestling, which might actually already exist…). Games, like arm wrestles in sort-of-real life, are short, snappy, and meant to simulate that kind of head to head push and pull. Here’s how it works:

Setup:

Each player begins with the following hand: A, 2, 3, 4, J, Q, K (Aces in this game have the value “1”)

Between the two players lay out a spread of cards in a row on the table: 4 3 2 A 2 3 4

Place a counter of some sort (the empty card box, for example) on the A.

The goal is to move, by playing cards, the counter to the leftmost card and then off and on to the table–that moment in a right-handed arm wrestle when the winning player pushes their opponent all the way to the left and touching the table.

Gameplay:

Each player secretly selects a card and then reveals their choices simultaneously.

If both players reveal a number card, the counter is moved the difference between the card in favour of whoever played the higher number.

E.g. If I play a 2 and you play a 4, then we move the counter two cards to your left (my right).

After cards are played they are discarded into a discard pile.

This is the procedure for number cards, (which represent, in theme, the amount of effort used in various moments of wrestle, and thus if both apply the same “strength” neither moves).

The face cards represent the “psychological” side (or, again, the WWE side) to arm wrestling  and have the following powers:

  • A Jack cancels whatever your card your opponent plays, whether number or face-card, making it of none effect (crucial for blocking strong assaults and devastating against a Queen).
  • A Queen refreshes your hand, allowing you to pick up your discard pile (including the queen herself). This, however, makes the player completely vulnerable to whatever card the opponent plays that round. Queens must be well-timed to keep from backfiring.
  • A King doubles the power of the card played next (this only works for number cards–if a face card is played following a King, it is played as normal).

One more rule:

There is just one more rule. It is only possible to push the counter onto the table if you have already passed the middle card (the Ace). If you deal a heavy blow but are not past the middle card, the counter stops on the leftmost card (the 4).

E.g.: If the counter is on the 3 in my territory and I successfully play a king followed by a 4 (which would be equal to a power of 8), I only move the counter 5 cards left, stopping at the leftmost 4. To win I must have at least one more successful play.

This rule is meant the emphasize the most exciting part of arm wrestles–that moment when you or your opponent are just inches from the table.

Thoughts:

We’ve had a lot of fun with this little game so far. It is, more or less, rock-paper-sisters plus hand-management. Since there is no randomness or chance in the design it can feel a bit ruthless, but on the other hand, since games are over in a matter of minutes, loosing is never that bad. Winning depends on anticipating your opponent’s plays and careful planning.

Since this is such a small game, maybe this will be a good opportunity to try pulling together some art assets as well. Turn it into a nice little print and play. We’ll see.

One thought on “Biceps: An Arm Wrestling Card Game Using Only Half a Poker Deck.

  1. Nate says:

    Wow!
    Now this is the kind of game of been looking for. Arm wrestling without the workout. I like the fast pace. Thanks Matthew Joel

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