While you’re mulling over whether to take her up on the offer of a game, you recall something.
“Hold on a moment, would you?”
You step away and tap Mark Conchway on the shoulder.
“I remember you said something this morning about having better taste in games than Lisa over there. So how about you show us?”
Mark seems upset, probably due to the presence of his rival, but after a moment he pulls a game board and some tiny colored towers out of a satchel.
“This is Turrets,” he says. He puts a blue tower and a red tower down on opposite ends of the board. “The rules are straightforward enough: on your turn, you can place a tower in a space adjacent to one you already have. That includes diagonals.” He then puts another red tower down in the middle, then puts two blues to its up and right. “When you have two towers adjacent to an enemy tower, you can attack it. If you build a tower and it lets you attack, you can make one right away; otherwise, you need to use your turn to do it. But, when a tower is downed by an attack, then it can’t be built on by either side right away – whoever wants to build has to spend a turn clearing the rubble.” He turns the red tower on its side. “That’s how we mark it. The goal is to get to the other side’s command tower and take it out, or to cover more than half the map with your towers.”
“Seems that whoever attacks first has a big advantage,” Lisa chimes in. “They get more control of the board, which is hard to recover from.”
“Oh, that’s right, I forgot a rule.” He puts another red tower next to one of the blue ones. “Remember that you need two towers to attack an enemy? Well, you can count a downed tower as one of them. So I can do this.” He drops the blue one. “So attacking carries risk – you may lose one of your towers, and then you can’t extend from it.”
“But you can’t attack from two downed towers, I take it?”
“No. And when one side opts to clear a downed tower, the other side can’t do anything with that space until it goes up. Of course, if you rebuild one of your own, the enemy can attack it right away, so it’s a bit of a silly move unless you’ve cleared out one of the attackers.”
“It seems to me it would be easy to do that if the enemy clears one of your fallen towers too, if you’re set up for it. How would you breach the defensive line?”
“Well, the main way is using traps… oh, right, I wasn’t going to talk about those until after we’d played a round to make the basic idea clear.”
“Traps, you say. Why don’t you tell us more about them.”
“We need a referee. Are you volunteering?”
“Maybe. What would I need to do?”
“Well, before the game starts, each of the players picks out five spots on their half of the field – well, on this board it’s five, on a bigger board you get more. We mark those spots on a piece of paper and hand that to you. Then, if one of us tries to build a tower on a square the other player laid a trap on, it fails and that turn is wasted.”
“So it’s a guessing game?”
“Somewhat, I suppose. More of that you need to plan around the possibility of hitting a trap. So, do you want to referee that version?”
“Actually, I’d rather play it. Marshall can referee.”
“And here I thought you were just the card game expert.”
“Haven’t played a lot of other games, but on the other hand, I’ve never lost at them either. It’s always interesting to see if my luck will hold. What do you say, Marshall? Would you like to watch me at work, or would you rather play it for yourself?”
Let’s be the ref for this round!
Marshall is content to referee!
Yeah ref it up. Be gamemaster.
This is another improvised game, so I pretty much just threw the rules together without a lot of thought about balance. The only potential issues I thought to address were the ones directly noted in the story.
Not mentioned: the grid is eight-by-eight. Also, in case it’s not clear from the text, each player has half the grid and can only place traps in their half, so there’s no issue with them both picking the same square.