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Flood01:24 AM -- Mon January 12, 2009

This weekend was a Mini-LD48 contest with an interesting theme. Each contestant was to make a game that had a single level, and was completely monochrome (you pick any one color and then can only use shades of that color). You got to pick from a pile of secondary themes (pretty much every theme that had ever been chosen for an LD in the past) for your entry. That didn't constrain me enough, so SpaceManiac told me to use "Flood" as my theme. Thusly limited, I could create!

Well, sort of. I didn't take the whole thing very seriously and didn't actually code anything ever even draw a pixel of art. But I did come up with a semi-working game! It's a card game, and you can give it a shot yourself. We played it a couple times to try to work it out, and I think it's actually just a tweak or two from being good. It's not really fun for humans to play, but you can. It would be better solitaire, since the Flood's strategy is easy to automate (but it's still too much thinking and doing for an 'opponent' in a solitaire game). It really would work best played against a computer (where I could also change the specific cards available to make it more challenging), but go ahead and give it a try to see what you think, and where you think it could be improved most easily:

One player is Player, the other is Flood. Each player has a full deck of cards, but Flood has all cards lower than 5 removed from the deck. Both shuffle separately. To start, Flood lays out a row of 8 cards across. Any that are lower than 10 (Aces are high) need to be discarded and redrawn until they are 10 or higher. Reshuffle the remaining cards, including any discarded. This row of high cards is The River.

The Player's set-up is a lot simpler: just draw 3 cards from your own deck.

Each card in The River is representing the middle of a column of cards 7 tall, so there are 3 empty spots above and below each card. Imagine, if you will, that there is a house in that 3rd empty spot. The Flood's goal is to destroy the house by rising its water to that point. The Player's goal is to save as many houses as possible by blocking them off with sandbags.

The Player goes first, choosing any card from her hand to lay down in any of the empty spaces. This is a Sandbag. A Sandbag blocks the Flood from playing any card there that is lower in value than the Sandbag. Player should play cards sideways just to differentiate her card from the Flood's (if the decks look the same). Then draw a replacement card.

The Flood then draws a card and plays it off of the River, extending any column up or down by one card. It can only play a card if it is equal to or lower than the value of the card it's being played off of. It can play in empty spaces, or on top of a Sandbag if its card is equal or higher than the Sandbag. The flood's robo-strategy is simple: play the card drawn off of the lowest card that it can be played off of, preferring to extend longer columns over shorter ones. If there's no valid place to play a card, it is discarded.

The game is over when the Flood is out of cards or every column is either completely flooded (all 3 spaces in that direction have Flood cards) or unbeatably Sandbagged. The player then receives 62 points for each house that is saved (the contest said your game should award 0-1000 points, this makes a max of 992). There's no winning or losing, just scoring higher or lower than your previous attempts.

There is only one special trick to make things interesting (it probably needs more, and there was another, but it made it too easy for the Player): if the Player can get 3 Sandbags in a row horizontally that are the same value (and none of them are flooded over yet), those 3 are unfloodable, regardless of value.

All in all, this is a game you tend to win with most of the houses unflooded. You pretty much inevitably lose one or two, but it's very easy to keep more than that from going away. It's extremely luck based. I don't think it makes a very good card game, but probably kind of a fun quick diversion when on the computer. And of course on the computer, I would get to tweak what cards each side had available until it was reasonably challenging.
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