Counterweight

A two-player card game by Adrian Morgan

This game was invented by Adrian Morgan and first tested against another player on 31 January 2006.

Requirements:

Two players and a standard 52 card pack. The cards should be well shuffled.

Instructions:

Deal six cards to each player, then turn the next two cards face up to begin the two "permanent discard piles". The remaining 38 cards become the stock.

Play alternates as in most games.

On a turn, a player can either "place a couple" or begin a new "temporary discard pile", both of which are defined below. In some circumstances, the player may then be allowed to collect one or more of their temporary discard piles. Each player seeks to win the game by getting rid of both their temporary discard piles and the cards in their hand.

  • Placing a Couple

    To place a couple, you place two cards from your hand on different discard piles, meeting one of the following two conditions.

    1. EITHER both cards must be of the same rank as the cards they are respectively placed on (for example you can place a Queen on top of a Queen and a Four on top of a Four),

    2. OR both cards must be of the same suit as the cards they are respectively placed on, and one of the cards must be of higher rank while the other must be of lower rank (for example you can place a Spade on top of a higher Spade and a Heart on top of a lower Heart). Aces are low.

    When placing a couple, you can use any two discard piles, including the two permanent discard piles or the temporary discard piles belonging to you or your opponent. If you place a card on one or more of your own temporary discard piles, see "collecting a pile", below.

    If you only have only one card in your hand, then whenever the rules call for you to place a couple, you may place your sole remaining card on a discard pile where the top card is either the same rank or the same suit. But if it's the same suit, you must then pick up the top card from the stock to replenish your hand.

  • Beginning a New Pile

    If you can't place a couple, you must begin a new temporary discard pile. To do this, take any card from your hand and place it face up on the table to begin the new pile. Then pick up a card from the stock to replenish your hand.

    Each player should have a region of the table where their temporary discard piles belong, so that there is no confusion about which piles are whose.

  • Collecting a Pile

    When a temporary discard pile is collected, it immediately ceases to be a discard pile and becomes part of your hand at the beginning of your next turn. Piles can be collected in two circumstances:

    1. If you place a card on one of your own temporary discard piles, you may then collect that pile (but you are not obliged to do so).

    2. If your hand is empty after your move (i.e. you have no cards left in it), then you must collect all of your temporary discard piles, which constitute your new hand as of the beginning of your next turn.

    Only your own temporary discard piles can be collected.

End of Game:

Play ends either when one player has an empty hand and no temporary discard piles, or when the stock has been emptied and a player is unable to place a couple.

The winner is whoever has the lowest number of penalty points. To calculate your penalty points, multiply the total number of cards in your temporary discard piles by the number of temporary discard piles you have, and add it to the number of cards in your hand.


AMENDMENT

I have identified a serious weakness in the game; here I explain that weakness and suggest ways to overcome it.

A person might play Counterweight either aggressively or defensively. It boils down to what a player does when there is a choice between playing a card on a permanent discard pile or on an opponent's temporary discard pile. A defensive player will generally choose the permanent discard pile, whereas an aggressive player will generally choose the opponent's temporary discard pile. Both strategies present a problem.

  • If both players play defensively, then there will be very little interaction in the game. It might almost feel as though the two players are playing independent games of solitaire.

  • But if both players play aggressively, then the game will tend to become repetitive and players will accumulate an inordinate number of cards.

The game works best when players are not too defensive and not too aggressive. But how to force people to play that way?

I suggest the following ammendment.

  • Immediately after your opponent places a couple, if they've placed a card on one of your temporary discard piles that they could have placed on a permanent discard pile (while leaving the other where it is), you may move that card to the applicable permanent discard pile.
  • If they've placed both cards on your temporary discard piles but could have placed them both on the permanent discard piles, you may immediately move them to the permanent discard piles.