Get updates via e-mail:

« Meanings, Pictures, and Words | Main | Puzzle Strike Boxes »

Puzzle Strike Rules

As we get closer to Puzzle Strike being done, I can now show you the rulebook. For some reason, rulebooks for a lot of board games are ridiculously long and poorly formatted, so I did my very best on this one to make it look nice and be as short as possible. It's 8 pages total (longer than the 1-page rules for Yomi and Flash Duel), but only 4 of those pages are actually how to play. The other 4 are just a chip-by-chip FAQ for various rules issues you might encounter later. And the first four pages are only as long as they are because of all the graphics and visual aids.

The rulebook is not 100% finished, but it's pretty close. As of this writing, the link leads to version 4.7, but it will updated a bit more before release. Oh, and if you're having trouble viewing it in your web browser, then right click the link and download it, and view the pdf in Adobe Acrobat Reader, or better yet, in Apple Preview.

You can see the latest chip files, too. They are also at version 4.7 as of this writing, but these links will lead to whatever the latest version is at the time: 

I'm targeting a summer release here, and unlike with Flash Duel, I think I'll be able to take pre-orders this time. That is going to be pretty critical on my end actually, to even be able to afford to manufacture it, and kind of critical on your end too if you want to actually get a copy, considering the run is pretty small. More details on pre-ordering (both the regular and all-wood deluxe version) to follow in the next few weeks. Oh, and just maybe it will launch in Canada too. Still working on it, and have made some progress!

If you'd like to playtest a (not yet great) online version, stop by and ask around for some help. For questions or comments, try the page. Don't forget to become a "fan" there, too. ;)

Reader Comments (33)

Rulebook clarification: Action phase, last paragraph; e.g.: You need to draw three chips and have only one left. It seems mechanically sound (since you may not know how many chips are left in the first place) that you would draw that chip first before refilling your bag and drawing two more, but the RAW imply that you refill your bag before you start drawing. It could be the intended rule, but the loopholes this would create don't strike me as something that would evade your attention - or play-testing.

April 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterArchon Shiva

Reading over the rules it looks like this will be another game of yours that I will pick up, depending upon price. I admit your description of it being a 'puzzle' in the style of casual video games turned me off until I read the rules. I am a fan of old style puzzles where pieces fit together to form a bigger thing, which your game does seem to have with the "deck building" mechanic.

In regards to the rules, I found myself confused in one or two areas. Namely that you don't have a components list which nicely identifies any keyword components that you use to explain the rules. By that I mean that you refer to gem chips, and crash chips, and the like. While this doesn't make the game unplayable because I was able to determine from the context and some of the pictures which game piece you were referring to, having a visual guide/glossary is a helpful way making the rules significantly easier to learn. I'll understand if you don't add this section however as it is not absolutely necessary.

Also there was a term used in the rules 'Gem pile' which confused me for awhile until I assumed that it was apart of a game board of some kind. For a small while I thought perhaps it was the same thing as your chip bag but that did not make sense. As I've come to understand it now, the gems in your gem bag, and the gems in your gem pile, are two distinct sets of gems that have no real interaction. The gems in your gem pile determine if you lose, and can be weapons to make the other players lose. The gems in your gem bag can be used to buy action chips, which help you effect your gem pile. I also assume that gems in your gem pile can't be used as money in the buy phase like gems you have in your hand, although that is a rule my brain kind of jumped on as a possibility. I think the confusion comes from using gems in both major mechanics.

But overall it looks fun. :)

April 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNojh

Archon: if a chip tells you to draw 3, and you draw 2 then run out, you'd then have 0 left to draw, but would still have to draw 1 more. In that case you'd refill your bag with the chips in your discard pile. I thought that the regular English interpretation of the rules was that, not that you would refill the bag early, before it's even empty. That really needs to be said? Hmm.

Nojh: all your interpretations are correct. Page 2 already shows all the kinds of chips, and labels them as puzzle chips, purple chips, gem chips, and would chips. It also tells you exactly how many of each chips go in the bank for a particular game. Isn't that enough?

About the gem pile, not sure what to do there. The very first paragraph talks about the gem pile, so what else should it say beyond what it already says? There is no board, btw, the gem pile is just a zone on the table where you put your ante, and so on. Are you saying it should say "the gem pile is a zone on the table, separate from your hand, discard pile, and bag"?

April 23, 2010 | Registered CommenterSirlin

I updated the link to version 4.7b. Adds some clarification at the start about the gem pile zone, a couple extra sentences in the buy section about how money works, changed wording for drawing with an empty bag so that you can't possibly play it wrong, and fixed a couple typos.

April 23, 2010 | Registered CommenterSirlin

Updated to 4.7c. Fixed typo in Self-Improvement, added notes to Chromatic Orb and Really Annoying.

Is it done now maybe?

April 25, 2010 | Registered CommenterSirlin

Hey. I really adore Kongai, and this game you made seemed pretty cool at first. I'm an avid boardgamer and couldn't help to notice that you have more or less taken almost all of your game mechanics directly from the game Dominion. This is not very good design ethics. I would almost call it a ripoff. The dominion idea is still novel and it seems to work better in this context actually (im not a fan of the original game), but you really could have made more tweaks to it than you did.

April 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSam

Actually Sam, the game plays very differently than Dominion. The victory condition alone completely changes the game. Instead of collecting basically blank cards that get added up at the end, the whole game is about filling and emptying your gem pile and having enough combines and crashes to handle the constant rising pressure. Starting with four chips that do things (three character chips and a crash gem) instead of blank chips changes things too, and makes it much more fast paced. Having characters at all is a huge deal. Instead of 0 characters and 0 matchups to learn, there are 10, which leads to 45 matchups in 2p (not counting mirror matches), and 210 matchups in 4p.

There's also a lot more player interaction. Instead of "multiplayer solitaire," as I've heard people say about that game, attacks and reactions are common, and the crash / counter-crash mechanic is inherently interactive. Your play strategy depends *a lot* on what your opponents are doing.

What's even left from Dominion? Drawing 5 chips per turn (well, unless you have the height bonus, then you draw 6, 7, or 8), starting with a bank that has a subset of all the chips (though bank stacks have fewer chips in each, so they are an intentionally limited resource), and I guess the concept of actions? And discarding your hand? (Except that you can keep chips between turns using the piggy bank).

There is nothing wrong with taking the good parts of another game and fixing many problems, making many changes, adding tons of abilities and characters, and completely changing the play dynamic. That's how we advance a field. I find your stance of "this reminds me of a game I like, therefore I call bad design ethics" to be an unreasonable one. Perhaps you only glanced at the rules and don't realize how dramatically different the game is, I don't know. But I'd think you'd be in favor of a game that was inspired by another game, but seeks to greatly extend and improve it. I could list like 100 such video games, but surely you get the idea. If you like the idea of drawing 5 chips per turn and having a bank that's a subset of all the chips, I'd think you'd want to see that idea done in other ways, instead of never touched by anyone ever.

And anyway, I think you really overstate the similarity, as actually playing the two games is not a similar experience.

April 26, 2010 | Registered CommenterSirlin

I also noticed the parallels to Dominion, but my gut response was "Awesome! Another game with a deckbuilding mechanic like Dominion!" There's no reason Dominion-like games shouldn't spawn a whole mini-genre of their own, because it's a compelling mechanic.

I kind of see where Nojh is coming from regarding the gem pile... I had a few uncertainties but I think I understand. The things I found confusing:

- "Pile" kind of implies an order (not as strongly as "stack" but a little bit, enhanced by the pictures showing gems stacked on one another) but those (up to) 10 chips don't have any order to them, right?
- It was immediately clear to me (as a Dominion player) how you add chips to your bag but not immediately obvious how gems get to your gem pile. The fact that you have some gems in your deck/hand (functioning as currency), but those don't really end up in your gem pile, is a little confusing. That said, I think I get it now.

April 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMark

Order does not matter within a player's gem pile.

The two main ways that gems enter your gem pile are when you ante a 1-gem from the bank each turn (it goes from bank to your gem pile) and when other players crash gems in their gem piles. If the player before you in the turn-order plays a crash gem on a 3-gem in his own gem pile, for example, that 3-gem goes to the bank, and 3 1-gems from the bank go to your gem pile. There are also several chips that can put something directly into the gem pile, such as Risky Move or Jaina's Playing with Fire

For a brief moment, we considered making the objects that go in the gem pile not the same as the objects that go in your deck as money. It turns out that was just less interesting though, and it also adds even more components to the game than you'd think, making it more expensive, when it already is expensive. It turns out that it's pretty fun to have the various chips that allow you to put money from your hand into your gem pile. You're sad to see money go, and you're sadder to see your gem pile get closer to the lose condition...but you're also happy have a big gem in your gem pile to crash because it might just win the game for you.

April 26, 2010 | Registered CommenterSirlin

@Sirlin: Your fix works for drawing. The original said something close to "If you need to draw more than you have left, refill then draw" - which supposed you already knew you'd run out and had you refill right away.

Differentiating the Table from the Gem Pile seems a really important issue. Page 8 does a pretty good job - but the rules tell people NOT to read that far ahead. It's also not too obvious that money is not played to your gem pile - it looks like "table" is a typo rather than an important distinction.

I strongly push for a short play example. Maybe a single turn in mid-game.

Also, I'd probably be sorely disappointed if the box didn't contain the gorgeous game board displayed on the back - although I'd settle for downloading and printing them from the website. (Obviously it's not real because there's too much stuff on it, but it can still be misleading...)

April 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterArchonShiva

Archon: the very start of the rules say that gem pile is not discard pile, hand, or table. now. Maybe you didn't read the latest version. It also has more sentences about buying, now saying for extra clarity that all your money for that turn--whether spent or unspent--will go to the discard pile.

Also, what's this about a board? There is no board. It would not really serve any purpose to have one really, and the cost of the game is already high to manufacture. In fact, I fear financial disaster as it is, so adding more expense for a board that has no purpose sounds like a bad idea. Maybe a playmat could be a separate product, but not sure if there's demand to sell even 10 of those, heh.

I think version 7.4d is pretty much done. Several uninitiated people I've shown it to were able to understand it, and I think it's time to start preparing for manufacturing.

April 27, 2010 | Registered CommenterSirlin

I love this game, it looks really fun. I hope I can order this to Brazil.

April 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJ. Pedro

Looks mostly done. I'd just suggest two tweaks:

1) Make the Sirlin Games URL more prominent instead of being buried in the middle of the last page.
2) A URL to a sample game.

April 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHessef

I was reading both versions at once - one of the computers I use still had the old version open. The new fixes are a lot clearer, although the p.8 clarifications on gem chips are maybe too helpful to be past the point of no reading.

The board is the gorgeous illustration on the back of the box. A quick study, by anyone who knows the rules, shows that it's not a physical board; but potential buyers may be misled by it.

I can easily see it as a series of printable PDF files: single characters in P1 and P2 colors, and the "gem boxes" that go on either side. 2 players can set up four boards just like the back of the box, and 3+ players just keep a gem box and a character in front of themselves. If you authorize it, it'd make a good community project.

Do you have some rough ideas on pricing for both editions? A number of us are just ready to pre-order!

April 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterArchon Shiva

Quick clarification on the 4.7e rulebook. When reading about crash gems and the crash/countercrash examples, it's unclear if you gain cash when you countercrash. My assumption is that you can only gain cash when you use a crash gem on your own turn but it's not explicit.

April 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAtma

Archon: I'm not following what you mean about why the note on page 8 is so important. If you read the first four pages, you'd already know that anyway. You'd know that money comes from your hand, is played to the table, does not come from the gem pile, is discarded at end of turn. So that note on page 8 adds nothing, it's just redundant. It's actually only there to fill space on the page.

I still think you overestimate the usefulness of a board compared to the price, especially considering the high cost of the game already. I mean sure it's cool, but it serves no purpose and the game is already expensive enough that maybe manufacturing it could bankrupt my company. If the game sells well and there can be MUCH larger print runs, then it maybe I can include extras like a board that does nothing. ;) I think the game is pretty super awesome as it is right now though, and I'm proud to offer it as-is. We should focus on selling version 1 before add-ons. If resources were no limit, then yeah I'd do it though.

Atma: the rules say that you get the money if you crash ON YOUR TURN. Then a later paragraph describes the tradeoffs of crashing on your turn vs theirs, saying that you get money if you do it on yours. That should more than cover it.

April 28, 2010 | Registered CommenterSirlin

Just curious, when you say "if the game sells well" what does that mean to you? What number of online sales are you hoping for in order to break even, and is there any chance of resale through physical stores at any point?

April 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAtma

Because page 8 is the only place where you state outright that gems in your gem pile and gems in your bag/hand/discard are effectively different chips, and that no attempt should be made to equate one with the other. As if $1 in Monopoly could be used for a re-roll when acquired in a different manner, but were then not worth a dollar.

*I* get the difference, and probably would have figured it out by attempting to play, but I fear it may be nebulous to people unfamiliar with your trains of thought.

As for the board, I'm not saying you need to include a board - I'm saying that the back of the box makes it look like there is one, which isn't the case. The parts list makes that clear, but how many people read that, really?

The PDF suggestion was for a web bonus that would come at no production cost to you (or no cost whatsoever if it's community driven and all you need to do is authorize the use of artwork). It does not affect the contents of the box.

In other words, I'll want the cool board to draw people in (and practice my InkScape skills), so I might as well share it - or use someone else's if they do a better job.

Is either version (wood or plastic) likely to make blank chips easy to obtain, through you or otherwise?

April 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterArchon Shiva

Archon: What do you mean it doesn't say that gems in your hand are different? Page 1 says the gem pile is separate from your hand, discard pile, and bag. Later, the section about buying says you play gems chips from your hand to the table (and says "not the gem pile!") to get money. So that answers it right there. Chips from hand are money. It's already explained in the first four pages and the redundant note on page 8 is just for the hell of it, for people who didn't read the first four pages, I guess. I don't see how a person could read the section on buying and think that gems in the gem pile are money, because it says that you play chips from your hand to the table to get money. So I'm not understanding the problem. Also, rules should be final now so we can actually ship.

Also, I have to disagree that the back of the box implies there is a board. It's just graphics on a box. You're the only one who has even mentioned this out of the many who saw the box. Not sure why you think the nice picture *is* a board. It's an abstract representation of the gameplay. You are actually the only person who has encountered the game who has even mentioned a board at all. ;)

There might be blank chips, I requested this from the manufacturer, but again, cost is already very high.

EDIT: damn, someone pointed out a correction in the faq section, which means I have to re-export everything anyway, so while I'm at it, maybe you will get another sentence about "GEM PILE CHIPS ARE NOT FOR MONEY." :)

April 29, 2010 | Registered CommenterSirlin

Version 4.8 has extra faq info for Risky Move and Rook's Big Rocks. Also extra sentences about things that don't give you money, and excruciating detail about what combining means.

April 29, 2010 | Registered CommenterSirlin
Comment in the forums
You can post about this article at