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Tabletop Game - 4 people group

Nov 2022 - Dec 2022

Project Overview

Recess is a four-player, two versus two trick based card game all about keeping your team’s seesaw balanced with as many kids as possible, while watching out for your opponents’ attempts to cause it to become unbalanced and slide your kids off! The game utilizes two custom decks of cards, one four-suited 24 card Kids deck with 2 sets of numbers 1 to 3 per suit, and the five card Bully Deck. The team with the heaviest collection of kids on their seesaw after all cards have been played wins, but watch out, the Bully might come by to throw a wrench into your plans!

My Contributions

Inspired by selected passages in the article The Balloon, and tried to explore the intersection of storytelling and games to produce dramatic player experiences.

Designed two custom decks of cards with SAI, one four-suited 24-card Kids deck with two sets of numbers one to three per suit, and the five-card Bully Deck.

Trimmed the fat, removed fastidiousness, curbed the randomness, and centered the core mechanic of card attractions after multiple trials.

The change of Recess began with the starting point of deepening the strategic depth and increasing dramatic moments but retaining the main structure and keeping everything simple. In the early stages, we tried to reduce the randomness of the game by avoiding the ever-changing situation at each turn, so our discussions were all about how to give players the chance to preserve the progress they have made, so they can make decisions based on that, giving cards abilities when they stay on the playground was frequently mentioned. But later we realized adding abilities will enlarge the scope and is hard to balance, also, we found the current problem comes from the contradiction of the scoring system and the core card-pulling mechanics, making changes to scoring might be a better solution. Then we immediately got rid of the cash-out stage such that players are no longer required to care about when is the best time to score, instead, having the highest numbers on their playground would be both their temporary and ultimate goal, in this way, players could always focus on what they plan to do. However, this is still not enough as players would only play and pull as many cards as they can on their playground, and no meaningful choice can be made during the play, therefore, we discussed the feasibility of sabotage-players can reduce the numbers on other players’ playground and win on a relatively low score but higher than others. Keeping the principle of simplicity in mind, we decided to not add any extra actions, and our plan was to make playing a card on the playground become a double-sided sword, we added the number difference restriction on the playground, and players need to balance each side to avoid all cards sliding off the playground, which prevents them from constantly playing cards on their own playground, we also added the rule of allowing players to play cards on others’ playground, giving them another choice than increasing their own score but reducing others’.


In conclusion, a lot of the design of our return to Recess was driven by the responses to the game in the first round of final critiques of the game. We got a lot of useful feedback, but we decided to focus on four main areas of improvement for our initial design:

   1. Trimming the Fat 

  • We reduced the suit count back down to 4 from 8 to make it more manageable, and changed the card numbers from 1 to 5 per suit to two sets of cards from 1 to 3 per suit to make math more manageable.

   2. Removing the Fastidiousness 

  • We limited the attraction mechanic to only working according to suit as opposed to based on both card suit and card rank.

   3. Curbing the Randomness 

  • We moved away from the idea of set collection as the core scoring mechanic, which as a result of the amount of card movement to which the mechanic was contributing, created a lack of ability to make meaningful plans. 

  • We instead settled on the seesaw mechanic which resulted in much less card movement per turn which enabled a greater level of player planning based on playtesting.

   4. ​Centering the Core Mechanic of Card Attractions 

  • Ultimately, we thought that the most interesting element of our initial design was the card attraction movement mechanic, and so we wanted to make sure that it was not only carried over into our next design, but made to shine in the way it was always meant to shine!

Want to work together?

If you like what you see and want to work together, get in touch!

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