The Everdeck: A Universal Card System

many traditional and modern card games. At only 120 cards, it supports a large number of existing game systems, such as:

The Everdeck is a card game system that can be adapted to play many traditional and modern games.  It’s a portable travel companion, universal proxy deck, and game designer’s prototyping tool all in one.

This isn’t just a deck with extra ranks and suits. Its 120 cards can map to many distinct game systems:

The Everdeck is designed with a ruthless combinatorial efficiency.  Beneath its minimalist pen-and-ink design lies layers of mathematical and linguistic patterns.  This isn’t just a deck with haphazardly placed extra glyphs; rather, it aims to be both beautiful and practical.

This blog post is adapted from the Everdeck’s design document, found in this google docs link.  Game systems are in blue bold text, and hyperlinks are formatted this way.  A picture of all the cards is found at the end.

The Everdeck is now available, please buy it via Please subscribe to the BGG board game page!

Card Anatomy

The Everdeck is an animal-themed deck.  A card’s rank and suit is found at the top-left and bottom-right corners; underneath that is point value of 1 to 5 dots.  Every card is uniquely named and numbered, with a picture at its center. 


Deck Structure

The Everdeck has 120 cards in eight suits.  Suits are paired by color: black clubs/spades, red hearts/diamonds, yellow coins/crowns, and blue moons/stars. 


Each suit has ten number cards 0 to 9, and five black-bordered face cards X, J, Q, K, and A. 8 suits x 15 ranks can be achieved by mapping the face cards to the values 10-14.


Standard 52-Card Deck

The Everdeck can map to a 52-card standard deck by taking  the traditional suits (red hearts and diamonds, black spades and clubs) and removing ranks 1 and 0.  The remaining cards can form a second copy of the standard deck using non-traditional suits. 0 can be added back for Jokers. 

Grouping by Color and Suit

The Everdeck may instead be treated as a four-color deck, giving two copies of (4 colors x 15 ranks).  Two copies of a standard deck may also be combined to get a double standard deck for games like Canasta. 

Sometimes, it helps to differentiate the two suits of the same color. This is done through suit groups “soft suits” have icons with rounded tops, and “sharp suits” have pointed tops.  The point values (dots) of soft suits are drawn with small circles, while sharp suits use diamond shapes. 


For 4 colors x 25 ranks, use the cards shown below and treat all sharp suits as having +10 value.


Letter Frequency

The first letters of each card’s name (bottom-left) have a frequency distribution compatible with English word games. 


Here’s the distribution compared to Scrabble, Words With Friends, and standard English:

letter distribution

Letter Score

A card’s point value can be used for word game scoring mechanisms.  Most letters have one or two possible point values, with rarer letters having higher average scores.


Point Value

Point values are also distributed equally across suits. Specifically, each suit has five 1’s, four 2’s, three 3’s, two 4’s, and one 5 (12345 • 54321).  They can be used as an alternative rank value for games that require an uneven number of specific ranks, like Hanabi.  


Naming Structure and Color Philosophy

All cards of the Everdeck follow a strict naming structure. Within a suit group, every four cards with the same rank are thematically related.


The thirty black cards represent 30 different archetypes (Twenty-two of these correspond to the Major Arcana of the Tarotwhile eight are unique to the Everdeck.) The three other cards are interpretations of the archetype, each filtered through a different color philosophy:

  • Red Hearts/Diamonds is the SOUL, with themes of spirituality, emotion, art, and nature.
  • Yellow Coins/Crowns is the BODY, representing civilization, physicality, and social or military power.
  • Blue Moons/Stars is the MIND, with roles relating to intellect, cunning, and the sciences.

Another way to think about the primary colors is that they are biased viewpoints. These symbolic biases are only fixed when they’re mixed together, forming the universal color black.

Card Names

The symbolism of the Major Arcana is well-established.  The Everdeck follows this symbolism to name all its cards, providing unique role cards for social games like Werewolf.


78-Card Tarot

A standard deck can easily be converted to a Tarot by using the X as a “Page” rank and adding the 22 black cards named after the Tarot Major Arcana.  


Except for the last two aces, the Everdeck Tarot’s sequence number matches their Rider-Waite or Thoth number.  More on sequence numbers below.

Sequence Number

Cards are uniquely numbered as well as namedSequence numbers range from 0 to 119 and are used for games like No Thanks! or The Mind. 


The number cards of each suit all start with the same digit. (For example, diamonds are all in the 30’s).  This allows the suits to be ranked:

suit number mapping.png

Colored Digits and Other Digits

The sequence can be split into two numbers. The rightmost number is the colored digit, which ranges from 0-9.  The other digits are colored black and range from 0 to 11.


Colored digits and other digits can be used for 10 suits x 12 ranks or 12 suits x 10 ranks, depending on which one you treat as the “rank” and which one the “suit”. 

colored and black.png

When cards are fanned to the right, it’s easy to focus on the colored digit and ignore the others.  This gives twelve copies each of the numbers 0 to 9 or three copies each of (4 colors x 10 colored digits)

colored digits2.png

Note that the colored digits match the card’s rank as well if it’s numeric.


The Everdeck is an animal-themed deck. Pictures and card names are thematically related, whether through symbolism, biology, or even just simple plays on words.  


Each of the 60 unique animal pictures appear exactly twice, relevant for Memory variants.  Paired pictures always have different ranks and different colors. 

Here are the animals of the soft suits: 

animal large 1

The animals of the sharp suits are the following:

animal large 2.png


Hanafuda is a traditional flower-themed deck from Japan, Hawaii and Korea (where it’s called Hwatu). Its 48 cards are divided into 12 suits (“months”) of 4 cards each.  Hanafuda has no numeric ranks or suits, instead using pictures to group cards into several categories, such as “Ribbons” and “Animals”. 


Hanafuda’s asymmetric distribution of categories can be confusing, so the Everdeck requires a reference for the distribution. Cards of the same month are grouped by rank, and cards of the same category by suit:


Many cards are uniquely named for special scoring combinations.  Pictures of these cards match or visually suggest their Hanafuda equivalent.

hanafuda match.png


If you’ve made it this far, congratulations and thank you for reading about the deck! I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making it.  A full spread of its pictures can be seen below (full size when opened in a new tab).

The system is available via



Improving Flexicat’s design and usability

Three weeks ago I posted the design for a card system called the Flexicat, a “universal card system” – a thought experiment about how many game systems can be stuffed into a small deck without overloading it.

It trended on both r/tabletopgamedesign and r/boardgames, resulting in feedback both good and bad.  I’ve taken this feedback and this post shows how I try to improve on all the issues raised. If you haven’t seen it, please feel free to jump to the original design post.

The deck design is so different now that it’s being developed as a totally new system, called the Everdeck. It maintains the Flexicat math while improving the aesthetics and usability of the whole system.   Please follow or subscribe to the BGG dev thread here.

The picture below shows a Flexicat card vs an Everdeck card; this image will be repeated throughout the post to avoid the need to scroll back up.


This post is structured by first a) bringing up an issue, then b) discussing the proposed solution.  I’ve also pointed out c) negative effects from implementing these solutions, with the hope that the benefit outweighs the changes.

Flexicat Problem: Flexicat has 108 cards, so two suits are missing royals. This is confusing, and means it can’t be used to build two full standard decks.


Everdeck solution: Remove wilds, and add royals to increase the deck to 112 cards. This allows the Everdeck to map to two standard decks, a “double standard deck” (e.g. Canasta), or even a standard deck with four distinct suit colors.   This increases symmetry and intuitiveness.


Sacrifice: 112 cards is an awkward number for printing, since it does not match a multiple for print sheets (9, 18, 54, or 55, depending on who you ask).  However, if we need 126 cards for printing purposes,  it’s easy to add a generic “clubs” suit of 14 cards as a bonus.

Flexicat Problem: The “0-100 sequential number” mapping is almost impossible to use.   To use the sequential numbers in Flexicat, you have to “read the suit as a number”, which is difficult to do in hand, and impossible to do on the table.



Everdeck Solution: Add another element, a big number on the upper-right side.  This big number is consistent with the suit-as-number naming convention (e.g. ice = 6th suit; so “62”), but much more practical, both in hand and on the table.


In fact, this number can also be used for a “11 suits x 10 ranks” mapping; for example, above, “62” is the 2nd suit of the 6th rank.

Sacrifice: Will lose the letter at the upper right, which will have to be moved.

Flexicat Problem: The highlighted letter is too small to be of any use for word games.  Also, words with random bold letters look ugly.  Word games benefit from having bigger text, as they’re usually tiled in some central area to spell words.


Everdeck Solution: Highlight the FIRST letter of each card name, make it bigger, then put it at the bottom left side. 


The combination of the number on top and name on bottom calls to mind the design of tarot decks, which also have the number on top and a name at the bottom.


Sacrifice: The letter is moved to the bottom left, which isn’t easy to fan in hand.  This is  a pretty big sacrifice, but something has to be at that corner, and this is the least damaging among all options. But more importantly, this means that we have to….

Everdeck Solution 2: Change the names so that their first letters are distributed in the correct English Lexicon frequency.  Plus, these have to still retain thematic sense within the row and column.  This was a challenge!


Sacrifice: Had to use “The Aeon” from the Aleister Crowley deck instead of the Rider-Waite “Judgement” to avoid the double-J with “Justice”.  “Death” is also frequently called “the card with no name” so that’s where the letter X was stuffed.

Flexicat Problem: It’s VERY confusing to have to rotate cards to play games.   The “small-suit” mapping and “3D card system” mapping require you to play the cards reversed.  The worst offender is the “10 suit” mapping, which requires you to rotate ONLY the royals while keeping everything else upright!

Everdeck Solution 1: The rank and suits are now mirrored both on the upper-left and bottom-right (including the royals) This allows games to be played without needing to sort card orientation.   The royals lose the ability to be rotated, which is more a good thing than a bad thing.


Sacrifice: We lose the “small value” roman numeral on the lower right side (“III” for the hunter), which can be solved another way by….

Everdeck Solution 2: The “small values” on the bottom-right are now drawn as a set of 0-4 black dots rather than as a roman numeral.  (In the example above, the wolf has a small value of “1”.)  The card is also more balanced aesthetically – UL and DR corners show an “icon – number – icon”, while UR and DL corners have big black text.

Notice that the dot coloring matches the color of the card borders – this also unlocks a new tile-laying game system.

Sacrifice: The math has changed, which means dropping the “3x4x5 3D system” mapping.  No one cares about that anyway.

Flexicat Problem:  There is demand to map to a Hanafuda/Hwatu deck (to play Go-Stop/Koi-Koi, etc)

Hanafuda (“Flower cards”) are a set of 48 cards popular in Japan, Korea and Hawaii.  It’s a strange deck: At its core, it’s just “12 suits x 4 unranked cards”, which sounds easy… The problem is that the cards are all categorized and named! There are categories like “junk” and “poetry ribbons” , and it has many uniquely named cards like “boar”, “rain man” and “sake cup”.


Everdeck Solution part 1:  Transpose the deck by assigning months to ranks instead of suits; special categories are classified per suit.  Hanafuda’s 12 “suits” (months) are assigned to the ranks of the Everdeck – so the “January” cards are rank 1, “February” cards rank 2 and so on.


The special categories are assigned to a particular suit. The red ribbons (red, poetry) are on red cards, blue ribbons on blue cards; “Animals” and “Brights” are Gold and Yellow respectively.  All “junk” cards are black.

While some Hanafuda games only care whether a card belongs to a particular category (e.g. “ribbon” or “junk”), the “Animal” and “Bright” cards all have special names.  What’s worse, we can’t just drop these names, since some games give special bonuses to explicitly named combinations of cards,  (e.g. ” boar, deer, and butterfly.”)   How can we now match the Everdeck’s cards to Hanafuda without explicitly drawing those pictures?

Everdeck solution Part 2: Change the deck to an animal theme.  The Everdeck’s animal theme isn’t just for show, but was made partially to match the Hanafuda distribution.  Distributions were pushed slightly to match an appropriate picture to suggest the Hanafuda card name, even if some of them are a bit… weird 🙂


Sacrifice: We lose the cats.  It’s fine. 😦

Sacrifice: How do we know which cards to select if we want to build a Hanafuda deck?

Problem:  Decktet and Hanafuda have weird distributions.  Users will find it hard to remember which cards to comprise which deck without a reference sheet.  Flexicat tried to solve this problem before by adding a diagonal background behind the cat to identify Decktet cards, but it’s inelegant and wasn’t really used anywhere else.

Solution:  Integrate the Hanafuda/Decktet filter into the border system!  By the power of math, we can do the following:

  • If you choose all cards in the deck with a black right border, you get a Hanafuda deck (with a few extra 0s as jokers)
  • If you choose all colored cards in the deck with a black left border, you get a Decktet!

Sacrifice:  People have to remember Right = Hanafuda, Left = Decktet.  (“eastern” and “western” card system, maybe?)


The Lunatic is not part of the Decktet nor the Hanafuda. Remove it.

The result is a system which is nicer-looking, cleaner, and SIGNIFICANTLY more practical.   Many of the loose systems have been dropped, leaving a deck of cards that punches way above its looks.


The Everdeck is a system under continuous rapid development.  Follow its development by subscribing to the BGG design thread!

Contact:, bgg:inaytaobako

Cat icons CCBY3.0 Denis Sazhin; animal icons Saeful Muslim



The Math of Flexicat

This post documents the mathematical properties of the FlexicatAbsolutely none of this information is relevant to the average player.  Basic patterns such as ranks and suits, letters, and names are covered in the previous post.


  1. Small values
  2. Royals’ reverse rank
  3. Secondary-suits
    1. Suits 1-6, Ranks 0-K
    2. Suits 0-7, Ranks 0-10
    3. Paired suit frequencies
  4. Tertiary-suits
  5. Flexicat-Decktet additional properties
  6. Letter distributions

Small Values


  • Ranks 0 and X (10) all have small values of “4”, while the small values from “1” to “3” are distributed from ranks 1 to 9.
  • The sum of small-values per suit are equal.
  • The sum of small values per rank are equal.  This is true whether you sum from suits 1-6 or suits 0-7.
    • Corollary: Sum of small-values for suits 0 and 7 is 4.

Royals’ reverse rank


The reverse-rank of the 18 royal cards form two mirrored magic squares. Side effects include:

  • The sum of reverse-ranks of each suit is 15.
  • The sum of ranks of per type of royal is 30; 15 for light suits, and 15 for dark suits.
  • Each queen has the same reverse-rank as the other Queen of the same color.  Each Jack has the same reverse-rank as the King of the same color.


  • Rank 0 cards have one suit.
  • Rank 1-X cards have two suits.
  • Suits 0 and 7 never appear as secondary-suits.

Secondary suits have different properties, depending on which slice you get.

Secondary-suits: Suits 1-6 from Ranks 0-K


  • The sum of secondary-suits per rank is 28.
  • The sum of secondary-suits per main-suit is 35.
  • For main-suits 1 to 6, each secondary suit appears exactly once or twice per main suit.
    • Specifically, for each main suit, four types of secondary-suit appears twice, while two secondary-suits appear once.
    • The sum of the secondary-suits that appear once per main suit equal 7.

Secondary-suits: Suits 1-6 from Ranks 0-K


  • The secondary-suits 1…6 appear once each per rank.
    • Corollary: The sum of secondary-suits per rank is 21.
  • The sum of secondary-suits per main suit is either 46 or 45, alternating between suits.
  • For ranks 1 and X, the secondary-suit is the same as the main-suit.  For all other cards, the secondary-suit is different from the main-suit.
    • This is a side effect of the Decktet Aces and Tens being single-suited.

Secondary Suits: Suits 1-6 from Ranks 1-X

Decktet introduced the idea of “sympathetic” and “antipathic” suits; that is, combinations of suits don’t appear together with the same frequency.  Flexicat is similar – some suit combinations appear more often than others.


  • The ff. combinations appear 4 times: 1/6, 2/5, 3/4; 1/4, 2/6, 3/5
    • Paired suits (e.g 1&6) appear a lot.
  • The ff. combinations appear 3 times: 1/2, 1/3, 2/3; 4/5, 4/6, 5/6
    • Two of the same light-colored suit, or two of the same dark-colored suit, appear three times.
  • The ff. combinations appear 2 times: 1/1, 2/2, 3/3, 4/4, 5/5, 6/6
    • Ranks 1 and X have the same main suit as secondary-suit.
  • The ff. combinations appear once: 1/5, 2/4, 3/6.


  • All royals and wilds have three suits.  Suits 0 and 7 never appear as tertiary-suits.
  • None of the 18 royal cards have the exact same three suits on them. (order does not matter)
  • Each suit icon from 1-6 (regardless of position) appears exactly 9 times.
    • There are exactly 20 possible ways to choose three suits from six choices, ignoring the order. Since there are 18 royals with unique combinations, there are two missing combinations. The missing combinations are “1, 3, 4” and “2, 5, 6”.
    • The two wilds have the following suits: 0/4/3 and 7/5/2.  If we treat the 0 as a 1 and the 7 as a 6, we get “1/4/3” and “6/5/2”, the two missing combinations!



Flexicat’s version of the Decktet preserves all its existing mathematical properties, and gains additional ones.  This is mostly because Flexicat’s multiple suits don’t always have to be drawn in the same order.


  • Each main-suit has six cards each: an Ace, a Ten, and four cards between ranks 2-9.
  • For each main suit, no secondary-suit appears more than twice.
  • The sum of ranks of the decktet cards from main-suits 1-6 are 32, 32, 35, 35, 32 and 32. [Personal rant: this is REALLY annoying.  There are 16.8 million ways to reduce Flexicat to the decktet, but NONE of them results in a solution where all six suits are all equal to 33.] Even though these aren’t all equal, it still results in some good patterns:
    • Sum of ranks all light main-suits and all dark main-suits are equal. (32 + 32 + 35 = 99 each)
    • Sum of ranks of decktet-sympathetic suits (1-2, 3-4, 5-6) are equal.
    • Sum of ranks of flexicat-paired suits (1-6, 2-5, 3-4) are equal.


Letter distribution percentage, including vowel percentage, was pattered and approximates English and word games. (Scrabble, Words With Friends)



Contact:, inaytaobako@boardgamegeek. Cat icons edited from Denis Sazhin


The Flexicat: A card game system for new games, or to emulate way too many existing ones

Edit: This system is a proof of concept  heavily under development.  Many of its core systems have been been improved, simplified, and updated, and now under development as The Everdeck. Please follow or subscribe to the boardgamegeek thread, starting from here.



The Flexicat is a versatile card game system that can be used to play many traditional and modern card games. At only 108 cards, it supports a large number of existing game systems, such as:

It also has deep, entirely new card systems built-in, which can be used for building and playtesting new games.  The design is clean, modern, and has pictures of cats doing silly things.


Continue reading The Flexicat: A card game system for new games, or to emulate way too many existing ones

Features of Fully-Fledged card systems

In the previous post, I tried to categorize features that exist in many existing card game systems.  Some systems, however, are unique or complex enough to not be simply categorized as such.  In this post I try to dig deep into them and explore some of the subtle mathematics of each deck. (featured pic: Glyph)

Jump to links within page:

    1. Decktet
    2. Galloway
    3. Glyph
    4. Green Box of Games
    5. Holydeck
    6. Mesa Playing Cards
    7. Monster Deck 55
    8. Pentology
    9. Rainbow Deck
    10. The Roman Empire
    11. Scroker
    12. Sconudi
    13. Tack
    14. Zont

Continue reading Features of Fully-Fledged card systems

Existing Alternate Card Game Systems

Featured image: Red7

Research for the Ultimate Deck of cards.  What other existing card systems are there, and what interesting features do they have?  We can go to the “game system” page of boardgamegeek, and filter by card game.

There are many recurring themes that can be found, and I’ve attempted to categorize them below.  However, there are also many fully-fledged card game systems that have enough unique features components that they deserve their own individual analyses. I’ll detail them in a future blog post:

  1. Decktet
  2. Galloway
  3. Glyph: Multi-use card system, similar to Rainbow.  See link for breakdown.
  4. Green Box of Games
  5. Holydeck: Mash-up. Each card shows a playing card, letter, die result, and a number.
  6. Mesa Playing Cards
  7. Monster Deck 55
  8. Pentology
  9. Rainbow Deck
  10. The Roman Empire
  11. Scroker
  12. Sconudi
  13. Tack
  14. Zont

The other kinds of card systems are grouped below.

Continue reading Existing Alternate Card Game Systems

The Ultimate Deck of Cards

I want to make a single card game system than can play anything.

I’ve always had a strange fascination with card game systems. As Shut Up and sit Down says, “In terms of price, tactile joy, depth, presentation and flexibility, the 54 card deck is the greatest board gaming product ever made.”  They’re ubiquitous and interesting, rich with mathematics and symbolism.  Sites like have pages and pages of amazing games invented for the humble 54-card deck.

But I want more.

There’s a list on BoardGameGeek that lists the basic deck structure (number of suits, ranks, special cards needed) for many amazing, modern games.  Now the fantasy is this – can I have one single deck that can play all of those games?

Continue reading The Ultimate Deck of Cards

Analyzing game design weaknesses in Card Crawl by Tinytouchtales

Card Crawl by Tinytouchtales is a great concept, combining solitaire, roguelikes, and excellent art into an elegant package. It was casual enough to appeal to a large audience, and the sales figures reflected that.  (IOS link here)

However, I didn’t enjoy playing it.

I tried, I really did. However, it was nowhere as elegant as Scoundrel, the game it says it’s inspired by. I tried looking at its game elements to understand my reaction, and I found several design choices which combine in unfortunate ways.


1. The near-equivalence of all cards.

Despite having a variety of cards, they are all the same under the hood. Monsters reduce your HP. Swords, Shields, and Potions give you positive HP (i.e., reduce negative HP).  Everything can be sold for coins in a 1:1 ratio.  Once you figure this out, winning becomes trivial – it’s just a game of positive and negative numbers. Just imagine your health as a dot moving up and down on a first-grader’s number line and make sure it doesn’t spill off either end (i.e, don’t waste potions).

Here’s the “health impact” of each card in the deck:

Health Chart

Without special cards and without selling anything, you will ALWAYS win with 2HP. If you do a single reshuffle (costs 5HP), you die. If you sell a single Shield(3), you die.  How can people even be losing this game? Why are there people commenting that it’s “tough and addictive”?

2. The game has zero decisions relating to the basic cards.

Once you understand the numeric equivalence of the basic cards, Card crawl turns into a non-game. Me and everyone I know who realizes this (or I explained it to) has win rates of 90% and above, marred only by bad spreads (which you can’t control).

3. The only cards relevant to your score are special cards

Since the basic cards are deterministic, they’re useless when it comes to improving your score.  With only 5 special cards in your deck, much of the game is spent juggling and positioning the other cards to make use of the specials.  Which wouldn’t be so bad except…

4. Some special cards are obviously much better than others

… The special cards are also wildly varying in power! It’s also insultingly easy to calculate the risk-benefit ratio of special cards; compare these two, which are both used in the same way (when you are at low health).  Why would I ever use the first one?

  1. Sacrifice (deal damage to a monster equal to your missing health) – 1 to 10 points net gain
  2. Blood Pact (pictured) – Gives you 0 to 18 points (if you swap at 1 health with a 10 health monster)


Some cards, like Sap (push back a card into the deck) and Vanish (redraw all cards) actually give you a zero point swing, making them useless for improving your score.   This means there are only a few cards that you would ever think of using to get a high score in constructed, and…

5. The game is solvable, but getting the highest score becomes a question of luck instead of skill.

…To get a high score in Constructed mode,  I’ll get the highest potential gain cards (e.g. Morph, Midas, Swap, Betrayal, Lash or some other powerful ones) and just start praying to RNGesus.  No skill involved, just hoping that the cards are dealt in the correct order.

6. Counterintuitive unlock scheme to get high scores in Normal mode.

Furthermore, to get a high score in Normal mode, where special cards are randomly chosen, you have to NEVER UNLOCK any of the weaker cards (so they do not get added to your random pool.).  Just grind to get enough money using the basic cards, and only unlock the specials with a high potential life swing.

7. The difference between an “ok” score and a “high score” isn’t all that large.

But is it worth it?  The difference between the theoretical highest score (something like 150) and my normal score (120)  isn’t, you know, all that much.


I hope I wasn’t too harsh on the game.  It is actually quite good as a diversion for the first couple of hours; art style is excellent, and the quests are much, much more interesting than the basic game.  But when your core loop can so easily be dissected and broken down this easily, it had nowhere near the staying power I expected.  I can’t help thinking that maybe there should be a little more to crawl into.

Cellsweeper.xlsm: Dungeon Crawler RPG based on Minesweeper


New game is Cellsweeper.xlsm, a dungeon crawling RPG. The link below contains two files – the Excel itself and the “Cellsweeper” font. You could play the game without it, but it would depend on your tolerance for fighting alphanumeric characters instead of monsters. 🙂

Here’s a link to the game – Cellsweeper 1.1 (last updated 9/2/2015)

v1.1 Changes:

  • Fixed the assassin bug that hurts you for every cell opened if you mis-backstab on a wide open space
  • Emphasized that backstab only works on monsters of the *exact* same level

Design Notes:

The game is inspired by Mamono Sweeper, and attempts to improve some design elements in Mamono I didn’t like:

  1. The game is a bit too abstract.  
    • I felt that the game didn’t fully embrace the “RPG” aspect, and could easily be an abstract minesweeper version with multiple mine levels.
  2. The difficulty curve is reversed.
    • Since there are many more low level monsters than high level ones, it starts off hard and becomes easier at the end, not the other way around.
  3. There’s no point to the level 1 monsters.
    • It’s obvious that the player can immediately click on any cell adjacent to a “1”, and it just costs the player additional clicks.
  4. The game becomes rote at player level 5 (and to an extent, 4).  
    • At high levels, it becomes clear which cells are clickable, giving the last part of the game less tension. The game ends on a low note by having to click all remaining cells.
  5. The “Second click” problem
    • The first cell is always free, but the player can frequently get a huge damage hit on the second click.
    • Also, players usually play by jumping around for the first few clicks to try to open a large space.
  6. A cell with a monster also has a helper number “underneath” that monster.
    • It’s frustrating to keep switching between the “number view” and the “monster view”, since the cell can’t represent both at the same time.
  7. The player has to keep referring to the legend to remember the monster levels.
  8. There’s little replayability once you’ve figured out the optimal strategy.


For Cellsweeper, I tried to tie my solutions to a strong “dungeon crawling” theme.  I find the result much more fun to play (hopefully you do too!):

  1. Difficulty curve:
    • When the hero levels up, there’s a 50% chance for weaker hidden monsters to level up as well.  The difficulty curve is now balanced – the player first explores an “easy” area, with the areas becoming more difficult as he becomes stronger.
  2. Little point to level 1 and level 5 monsters
    • Introduced a win condition: The player wins by defeating the necromancer, not by clearing out the board.
    • Fighting an enemy of the same level also damages the hero.  This means that bats (LV1) pose a threat at the start, and wraiths (LV5) are still a threat at max level.
    • The hero gains XP from exploring the dungeon.
  3. “Second click” problem:
    • The player can only explore cells adjacent to open ones, like a hero navigating an actual dungeon.  This also prevents information overload, as the player only concentrates on small parts of the map at a time.
    • The first cell is automatically selected for the hero and is always a “1”.  This prevents him from cavorting off and getting killed immediately.
    • Changed borders to look like the player is “carving out” the dungeon.
  4. Helper number underneath the monster
    • Removed this feature.
  5. Need to keep referring to the legend
    • Monsters are color coded with increasing color warmth; the legend is still needed, but it’s a bit more intuitive.
    • Originally, I thought of adding a subscript to the monster showing its level, but was worried that players might confuse this for a helper number.
  6. Replayability
    • Added high scores.
    • Added multiple character classes with different abilities – three basic characters (fighter wizard rogue), and three “advanced” classes (barbarian monk assassin).
    • Significantly tweaked the difficulty of the classes – now people of different skill levels can play.

Buzzword.xlsm: A word game where your greed is your own worst enemy


Today’s game is Buzzword.  The premise is simiple – you have a limited number of letters, which appear one at a time.  Use the letters to form words – the longer and more complex the word, the higher the score.

The problem is that you have limited space for the letters that arrive.  Should you go for the smaller, safer words? Should you wait for more letters but at the risk of overflowing your rack?  Should you risk words you’re not sure exist? Do you want to use low scoring words to get rid of the harder letters? Why is your rack full of J’s, V’s and U’s??

Also for this version please don’t play with sound.  It’s annoying.

Buzzword.xlsm v1.0 – Link here, two files for both 32-and 64-bit versions of Excel.