It all began with a simple idea. I wanted to know what a game about “losing” would look like. I thought a long time about what it feels like to “lose” in a board game, and how you could replicate that feeling as the intent of the game. I thought it would be really fun if in order to win, you have to lose.
At first the closest I could come up with is games like golf, where winning just meant a lower score. Unfortunately, for my thought exercise going for a lower score still feels like winning. It doesn’t change the feeling of what the player is specifically doing in the game.
I thought a lot about my favorite mechanics in games, and what inverting those mechanics would look like. Eventually I stumbled on the idea of losing in my favorite type of card game: the trick taking game. The inversion of a trick taking game is fairly obvious: a trick giving game. A game where you’re trying to give tricks to other players. In most trick taking games you’re intending to shed bad cards to other players, but what if you had a game where the intent was to shed good cards to other players, and trying to get them to win tricks that they don’t want to win?
Of course Hearts sort of has this mechanic, where you’re trying to not win tricks with Hearts or the Queen of Spades in them and the lowest score wins. Unfortunately this still wasn’t what I was looking for in a game. The main goal of Hearts is to not take hearts. Therefore, winning meant not taking hearts. Which still feels like winning to me.
Then, one day while driving a long commute to work an idea came to me. What if players couldn’t see the cards in their hand, similar to the game Hanabi, and the clues given to players were intended to be bad clues? What if those bad clues were intended to lead players to playing a trick taking game in a suboptimal way?
That day the first prototype for Heckin Hounds was made.