Ace of Hearts Preview/Example of Play

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Ace of Hearts – Example of Play
Ace of Hearts is a GMless story-game that uses cards and tokens and is reliant on descriptive skill, rather than randomness.

Ace of Hearts describes the struggle of determined whores and saloon girls in the Old West to inherit Rose’s House (a brothel) from the dying madam. In order to do so they have to make themselves look good and make the other girls look bad. This is shown by tokens or chips. Each girl starts with five and has to gain 5 per player to win (in a short game), some are also attached to locations and if you use that location, you get a token from it.

Girls are described by three secret ‘Angel’ traits and three public ‘Demon’ traits. If you play to your strengths, you climb up in Rose’s estimations. If your bad traits come into play, you lose esteem – and tokens. Tokens are gotten by dealing with the problems, playing to your ‘Angels’ involving a location that has traits to give and stealing them off each other by playing to the other girl’s ‘Demons’ to make them look bad.

In londer games tokens can also be used to buy new Angels, banish demons, give girls new demons and introduce new story elements to the various crises as they occur.

Angels and Demons can be made up, or determined randomly. These sample girls have random traits from the book.

The characters in this sample game are:

Wilhemina ‘Willy’ VanDamm
Her player describes her as a timid little thing, until you get her into the bedroom when she transforms into an alley cat.
Angels: Writhes like an eel, Beautiful, Raunchy.
Demons: Poor as a church mouse, Scaredy cat, Impatient.

Josie Cooper
Her player describes her as a country girl who’s been in plenty of trouble.
Angels: Knows how to hogtie, Save Me, Packs a derringer.
Demons: Granny Pants, That Deputy don’t cotton to me, Consumptive.

Billy-Jean Williams

Her player describes her as secretive and a bad liar, perhaps she’s hiding from something?
Angels: From Europe, Fallen Dove, Classy.
Demons: Winds Easily, Frigid, Diseased.

Each player is given five tokens to start with and more are dealt out to the various locations around Jezebel – the town the game is set in.

These start out as:
Rose’s House 0
The White Horse Saloon and Zeke 3
The General Store Margaret Armitage 2
The Chapel and Reverend Salmond 1
Flux Creek 0

They draw cards to see who goes first and, as luck would have it, it’s Willy, so they draw their first situation from a pack of cards:

‘Between pregnancies, female troubles and the galloping crotch-rot, a doc is a good person to know if’n you’re in the whoring business but the doc has hisself some airs and graces an’ he’s a hard man to keep on-side. If’n you can butter him up or act like a lady it’ll be a good way of keepin’ the fella on side.’

It’s Willy’s turn, she doesn’t really have any strengths to play to here so she improvises.

“I want to make sure I have a good understanding with the doc so I meet him over at the White Horse saloon, on my best behaviour, and have a nice long talk with him over a couple of drink – though I only have water – to make sure he’s on side with us.”

This gives her a token for dealing with the problem and an extra one for using the saloon. She decides she needs to get ahead a bit further – since she doesn’t have a strength to play to and digs her nails into Billy-Jean.

“I also let him know, confidentially of course, that Billy-Jean has a bad dose of the French Pox. He’s disgusted to hear it and he’s sure to warn the men around town that she’s not clean, so that should make her look less good to Rose and everyone.”

This lets her take a token from Billy-Jean and add it to her own, but it also means Billy-Jean now has a chance to retaliate.

Billy-Jean seizes her opportunity with gusto.

“The doc comes to see me about my disease and I soon figure out who’s been bad-mouthing me. Fortunately my European heritage and my inherent class come through and he believes my story about how I got the disease from an awful ex husband who used to go out whoring, he’s got sympathy for me as a fallen dove who’s fallen on hard times.”

A triple whammy! Perhaps unwisely Billy-Jean reveals and uses all her strengths at once – everyone now knows what they are-  giving her six tokens! As if that wasn’t enough she decides to get a dig back at Willy.

“At your meeting in the saloon you didn’t impress the doc half as much as you thought you did, your impatience had your toes tapping and your hands fidgeting and he wasn’t impressed at all.”

She gets another token for using the Saloon and steals another one off Willy.

Play passes back to Willy.

“Sure I might not impress him that much but I’m the only one of us that isn’t diseased, what with Josie’s consumption, so at least he knows I’m clean and healthy, that’s got to count for something.”

She gets to steal a token off Josie and play passes to her.

“Well.” She says. “He may want to look after Billy-Jean, but she’s a fallen woman out of her own choices. She only looks innocent while the doc knows he wants to save me from this life. It might be patronising and foolish, but it sure gives him a soft spot for me.”

She gets two tokens for invoking her ‘Angel’ and decides to call it quits there. The first turn ends and the tokens stand thus:

Rose’s House 0
The White Horse Saloon and Zeke 1
The General Store Margaret Armitage 2
The Chapel and Reverend Salmond 1
Flux Creek 0
Willy 8
Josie 6
Billy 12

Play passes to Josie, who’s behind at the moment. She draws a card to see what the problem is…

‘Rose has her ‘understandings’ with the local authorities that keep them off the back of the House and the girls. It’s time for these arrangements to be renegotiated and the Mayor’s sent his personal secretary to wrassle over the new deal. He and the Sherrif want an extra 10% this year, which is a bit too much of a stretch. Maybe they can be convinced otherwise.’

A token is added to Rose’s house because of this card and Josie thinks what she can do… She’s a rough-tough girl who knows how to handle herself, something she doesn’t think the other girls can do, so she decides to turn this event into something that suits her.

“When the gentlemen come to negotiate I offer them my ‘hospitality’ in order to get them alone. Once they’re alone with my I take out my derringer and corral them, tying them up and making sure they understand that we girls are no easy pushover. They’ll take the same deal as last time or we’ll find them and cut their peckers off.”

She’s used her ‘Knows how to Hogtie’ and ‘Packs a Derringer’ Angels, and she’s used Rose’s house, so that’s a nice five tokens, even if she’s revealed two of her Angels. That almost brings her even with Billy-Jean. Looking over the ‘Devils’ of the other girls she sees a chance to get ahead, not against Billy-Jean who’s still in the lead, but against Willy.

“You’re so poor because you’re already behind on what you owe the Sherrif. While he agrees to let us off the increase you’re going to have to make good on what you owe.”

That takes a token off Willy and adds it to Josie, play then passes to Willy.

Willy says:
“I’m never going to be able to afford to pay him off with money, but I’m a raunchy girl who writhes like an eel between the sheets, that’s worth more than money to a strong man like the sherrif.”

Nicely played, she’d brought out her hidden strength to pay for the debt ‘in kind’ and that nets her four tokens. The girls are almost all neck and neck.

“Billy-Jean on the other hand? She doesn’t have any money AND she’s frigid, she’s got absolutely nothing to offer the Sherrif so he’s never going to look after her.”

She steals a token from Billy-Jean, putting herself ahead a little bit more and passing play to Billy-Jean.

Billy-Jean can’t think of anything she can do in this situation as it has spun out and so passes, knowing it’s her turn next anyway.

The second turn ends and the tokens stand thus:

Rose’s House 0
The White Horse Saloon and Zeke 1
The General Store Margaret Armitage 2
The Chapel and Reverend Salmond 1
Flux Creek 0
Willy 12
Josie 12
Billy-Jean 11

Billy-Jean draws the new event:
‘That Flora woman is taking business away from the house. She might be a whiskey-soaked bitch with more disease than an Indian blanket but she’ll let any man between her legs for a mouthful of rotgut or a plug of opium. Bitch needs larnin’.’

Crap. This sort of thing really isn’t Billy-Jeans’s forte, but it is Josie’s. Hopefully Willy will have enough sense not to pass play to Josie if she digs into her.

“I hitch up my skirts and do my best to deal with the problem by meeting her for a drink at The White Horse. She likes her booze so that’s a way to talk to her. Then I calmly suggest that we take her in, help her deal with her problems and make her a part of the house.”

Not bad, dealt with the problem and earned an extra token from the saloon for using it. That gives her two tokens. She decides to push it a little further.

“This impresses Rose greatly, in particular because Willy’s too much of a scaredy cat to even confront the nasty bitch.”

Another token and a dig to Willy puts Billy-Jean on the verge of victory, but now it’s Willy’s turn.

Willy can’t think of anything though, so lets it go, knowing it’s her turn next and she might be able to win.

The third turn ends and the tokens stand thus:

Rose’s House 0
The White Horse Saloon and Zeke 0
The General Store Margaret Armitage 2
The Chapel and Reverend Salmond 1
Flux Creek 0
Willy 12
Josie 12
Billy-Jean 14

Back to Willy’s go and she draws the next crisis:
‘The folks of Jezebel are a beaten down but proud people who raised this town out of the dirt. They don’t like the way things have gone and they’re lookin’ for someone to blame most of the time. Rose’s takes the brunt of that, fair or not. There’s got to be some way to pull everyone together and stop them bitin’ at each other’s throats. Ain’t there?’

This isn’t too good for her either, not the sort of problem her Angels can deal with. Her only real hope is to come up with a good, descriptive way of dealing with things and then pass the buck to Billy-Jean, hoping to knock her down.

“I try to sort out meeting them at the General Store, since Mrs Armitage is usually at the centre of any moral outrage. Neutral ground where we’ll be a little safer and then I try to talk it out with them, after all, we’ve all got to live here.”

That’s one token for dealing with it and another for using the store. One more and she wins, so, triumphantly she turns on Billy-Jean.

“You say something during the meeting that old Mrs Armitage takes umbrage to and you end up in a cat fight, you’re easily winded and she gets the best of you, giving you a terribly embarassing public beating and putting me over the top in Rose’s estimations!”

Willy’s snuck a win in right at the end! Damn her!

The game ends with the tokens thus:

Rose’s House 0
The White Horse Saloon and Zeke 0
The General Store Margaret Armitage 1
The Chapel and Reverend Salmond 1
Flux Creek 0
Willy 15
Josie 12
Billy-Jean 13

27 responses to “Ace of Hearts Preview/Example of Play

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