Monday, March 30, 2015

Score! - Posted by Debby

Some people keep score, some don't. Shannon does, for cards anyway. A large part of the fun for many card players is the rush that comes with meeting a challenge. The thrill of victory. For a card game to be truly satisfying it needs to deliver on this thrill.

In its first incarnation, ours didn't.

Shannon made our very first All bid, taking every trick in a hand. Damon was thrilled. "That's awesome!" But Shannon didn't feel a rush. Losing 50 points out of 100, when those who made a zero bid lost 20 just wasn't satisfactory. All that work for a mere 30 point advantage.

Let me explain. In All or Nothing every player starts with a score of 100, aiming to lose points each hand to be the first to reach zero and win the game. Players who bid zero tricks and make their bid, will lose 20 points. Five solid zero bids in a row and one wins the game. For every trick a player is off a bid he/she gains 10 points. However, if a player bids all tricks and makes the bid, he/she now loses 100 points. Enough to win the game in the very first hand.

Believe me. That's a rush. It's not easy to win an All bid when your playmates are bent on sabotage. For me it’s well worth the risk. If I find myself with a hand of broken straights I'm all over it.

Monday, March 23, 2015

You'll Flip!!! - Posted by Debby

I volunteer at the retirement village where my grandmother, an avid devotee of Hand and Foot, resides. When I ran into her one morning outside the cafe, our conversation naturally turned to cards.

"My friends and I are developing a new card game."

"Is it fun?" she wanted to know.

This is the lovely sort of woman who cares for the ill, coos over babies and attends religious services every Sunday. But when it comes to cards she's a fierce competitor.

"It lets you mess with your neighbors," I offered.

"Goooood," She smiled broadly, a menacing, almost hungry gleam in her eye.

All or Nothing is a trick taking game with no trump suit. Each deck of 48 cards has four suits, each numbered 1 through 10, four All cards, which are generally high, and four Nothing cards, which are generally low. Each All or Nothing card, however, can be flipped opposite by exactly two other cards in the deck. These flip cards are the 1, 2, 9 and 10 of each suit. The 2s and 10s flip Alls to Nothings while the 1s and 9s flip Nothings to Alls.

It may seem like a lot of complications to remember, but fear not. These powerful cards are indicated by suit symbols colored gold. Also, each All or Nothing card has its nemesis cards indicated on it. We giggle when the entire table leans in to read an All card together. Who can flip it? Who can turn their neighbor's strategy to dust? Or maybe, your flipping of the card is their strategy?

I think my grandma is going to like it.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

So about me...

How's that for a title?

My name is Damon. I'm a retired Air Traffic Controller who really needs a purpose in life. Well, another purpose. I'm the husband of an amazing woman (my partner in this, Shannon) and the father of three incredible young women.

I am a creative monster. Not that I'll speak to how great what I create is, but I love to innovate, solve problems, and use my brain. For those reasons my second career is author, and now game designer.  Okay, I'm going to speak a little about how great what I create is, because All or Nothing is fricking awesome. It wasn't me alone, by any means. It was me who originated the idea, then my wife and I played practice games in our basement haven to work out the rough rules. Then we invited our other two co-creators into the mix and together we all refined the rules. So yeah, I do have a part in creating some really cool stuff.

I'm an artist, I sculpt, draw and paint once in a great while. I love cars, dogs, and computers. I've been known to screw off playing a video game when I should be doing something productive.

I'm also very modest, because that's how cool I am. :p

I also have an extremely cool dog. Extremely cool.  He's often by my side egging me on to get the next project done. Or begging for a Milk Bone. It's so hard to tell dog motives apart.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Public Exposure

No, that doesn't mean what it sounds like. ;)

We took the game on the road tonight, playing at Montague's Coffee Shop in Colorado Springs. If you haven't been there, it's recommended. Great atmosphere, and a good friend of mine works there. Jade will make sure your time there is up to snuff.

We played All or Nothing with six players tonight, author Bob Spiller joined us along with his lovely bride Barbara. It was the first time the Spillers saw the game and played. Both picked the nuances up pretty darn quick. We played individual play for 5 rounds, and then we played as teams of 2 for a full 10 round game. It was close right up to the end and I was actually worried we were making too much noise.

"Oh, wow, this game is fun!" ~ Bob Spiller

You can find information about Bob and his books here:

It was fun playing. Real fun. Bob gets so animated. He and his wife are a blast to hang out with and of course the four of us who developed the game wouldn't be here in the first place if we didn't have fun together.

My wife, Shannon, had a big fat slice of banana cake that was apparently delicious as well. I didn't ask her, but there weren't any leftovers. So it was an all around amazing evening of playing cards with friends and eating good grub.

That's exactly what we wanted from All or Nothing. A good social game where friends could have a bit of friendly competition anywhere they choose to do so.

For the record: I won the 5 round game. Then Barbara and I lost in last place during the teams match, but it was so close we could have won right up until the last hand. My wife and Bob Spiller (noob luck!) won the team play.

See how she treats me?

Monday, March 16, 2015

Suit Up! -- Posted by Debby

"Why," we have been asked, "are All or Nothing's hearts and diamonds white and not red like everyone is accustomed to?"

The easy answer is, "It's Shannon's fault. She's like that." But the truth is really a little more complicated.

Card games made their way to Europe from Arabia and China in the 14th century. The Arabian decks included a nifty polo club suit. Some Chinese decks had images of characters from their favorite novels. Fourteenth century Europeans, obsessed with royalty as they were, preferred the images of kings and queens.

Early European card decks were elaborately hand painted. Different countries had their favorite suits: cups, swords, acorns, leaves, batons, coins and even bells. Much lore and symbolism has been attached to card game symbols in their many permutations, and why not; we humans love stories every bit as much as we love games.

It is reported that a couple of 15th century French men, Etienne and Etienne, good friends and avid players, developed the suits of hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades generally in use today. The flattened styling was especially cheap to print. The French decks made their way to America through New Orleans.

One evening, before our little group was allowed to play our usual game, a large piece of white poster board was placed in the center of the card table. Then a plethora of pens was passed out. Previously, concepts for the look of All or Nothing had been tossed around, but still none of us knew what any of the others were talking about. Pictures being worth so many words, we were instructed to explain ourselves with drawings.

All or Nothing. Yin and Yang. Black and White. Not one color printer between the four of us.

"What if we have black suits on a white background and white suits on black? We could eliminate the red altogether?" suggested Shannon.

And why not? Pure hearts and white diamonds have as much cultural relevance as bleeding hearts and blood diamonds. It's good to look at old ideas in new light. The preliminary drawings we worked up were pretty cool. Modern simplicity and tradition combined. But how to indicate the flip cards....?

Monday, March 9, 2015

Card Tricks -- Posted by Debby

We were tired of being held to our trick bids. Well actually, we were tired of Jeff making his bids exactly while the rest of us missed ours by a little bit. We'd been playing a popular trick bid game avidly for months and we losers were starting to lose interest.

Card games with trick taking have been around since at least the 1400's. Many popular games such as Bridge, Spades, Euchre and Pinochle involve taking tricks.

Generally, trick taking works the following way. Imagine a table for four with Damon, Shannon, Jeff and Debby seated clockwise. Damon deals each player in this imaginary game, for the sake of brevity, two cards. With two cards there will be two rounds of play. Two opportunities to take tricks. The players look over their hands and 'bid', or guess really, how many tricks they will take with their two cards. Shannon, next to the dealer clockwise, bids first. Everyone's bids are noted by the score keeper.

Shannon plays out her first card, face up to the center of the table. The first to play a card in the round is called the lead. Jeff, Debby and Damon play in turn. Let's say Jeff plays the winning card. He takes the four cards played. This is called a trick. He sets them aside in a little pile and leads out with the first card of the next round, the second card in the hand. The player who plays the winning card of this round, according to the rules of whatever game is being played, wins this trick. I hope it's not Debby. She bid zero. Scores are tallied before Shannon takes the deck, shuffles and deals the second hand.

We waited until Jeff left the room to devise our plans.

"Is it a lucky chair? He always sits in the same spot."

"Is it the seating order?"

"Should we make everyone bid zero?"

"Should we let everyone change their bids half way through the hand?"

Damon, a fiction author and by far the most devious among us, went away to his desk that night scheming his friend's demise.

The next time we met, Damon's face was beaming, or maybe gloating. He proposed a new game with approximate bids, All or Nothing. Even if a player didn't quite make a bid, all would not be lost. And better, Jeff would be less able to bid exactly the number of tricks he thought he could take, so he'd be missing his bid more often. Those of us with less exacting talents would have an in. But don't ask us who won the game last night. It's an in. Not a panacea.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


Our current focus is in two spots. One is a successful card testing session hopefully with a few dozen people in one room playing the game and giving us feedback.

The second focus is learning how to do a Kickstarter. This is a resource I found today that seems useful. We don't want to get ahead of our project, but it seems the video for Kickstarter is quite important. So much consternation, head scratching, and conversation will be had on that topic.