Ace of Hearts: The Empty Throne – Crises

Following on from the previous article here are some ideas for standard card-draw crises for use when playing the Empty Throne version of Ace of Hearts.

Crises

Jokers

Red

The Great Festival in celebration of The First Emperor has brought citizens, merchants and nobles from across the land to the Imperial Isle. The city swarms with people and opportunities, a ripe moment for appearing in public and winning the hearts and minds of the people.

Add one token to every location.

Black

The political infighting over the throne has the people spooked while they wait for revolution or civil war to break out. Many of the great and the good have decided to leave the city, reducing the ability of the warring factions to turn people to their cause. The public needs to be reassured and calmed.

Take one token away from every location.

Spades – Political Manoeuvring

2

The palace staff and those who hold ceremonial positions can also wield a certain amount of power. They hear things and the approval of the Master of Chambers – for example, can carry a decent amount of weight with regard to tradition. Winning over the police staff is a worthy goal.

Add one token to the palace location.

3

Rumour has it that there are secret passages that riddle the palace, constructed when it was built and used by the Emperor’s family and his bodyguards. If you could find some of these passages you – and your agents – might be able to move, unobserved, throughout the palace and listen in on conversations, giving you an advantage.

4

Even without The Emperor the forum still meets, a gathering of nobles – and those who have bought influence – as well as the more powerful figures from the church. Without the Emperor to have a final say on matters things tend to go on and on without conclusion but if you could show that the forum can still be effective, through your leadership, it would win many to your side.

Add two tokens to the palace location.

5

Madam Lily, owner and mistress of The Golden Lily, requests an audience with you to discuss certain, delicate, matters. Much of what goes on in Lily’s is illegal, but a blind eye is turned due to the attentions of the nobility. Without the Emperor the guards have grown a little more zealous in their pursuit, knowing she is unprotected. She would like you to pass a law through the forum, legalising any such pernicious activity, within her abode only and only in private. In return she will throw much of her fortune and political weight behind you.

Add one token to the palace and one to The Golden Lily.

6

A delegation of nervous looking nobles approaches you. Of the various factions vying for the throne they have decided that you could represent their best bet for fair treatment. They will put their money, their influence, their families and their retainers behind you if you will sign a contract, undertaking to grant them titles once you come to power. The level of the title and how much support they’ll give you is a matter of negotiation.

Add one token to the palace and one to the merchant quarter.

7

A delegation sent from the Hierophant wishes to meet you in your palace rooms. The Hierophant is concerned about the lax morals and decreasing faith to be found within The Imperial Isle and wants to know where you will stand on such matters should you become Emperor. They don’t offer any support as such, but there is something of an understanding…

Add one token to the palace and one to the cathedral.

8

A messenger brings a letter, crudely written in a scrawling hand from Black Jason, the ‘prince’ of one of the thieve’s isles. His guild of thieves, cut-throats and pirates sees an opportunity – given the change in power – to gain legitimacy. He wishes his isle, one of the larger ones, to become an official district of the Imperial Isle and for him to be granted amnesty and a title. Should you be so willing, the title can wait, but perhaps you can convince the forum to bring them into the fold.

Add one  token to the palace and one to the thieve’s isles.

9

The ambassadors from the Empire’s neighbours are a strange lot indeed from the perfumed and masked women of Targir to the dark, scarred warriors of Shenk, and many more. Foreign powers cannot be seen to interfere in the affairs of the Empire but a prospective Emperor should have good relations with friends and allies abroad, or at least not start a war.

10

Nobles do not normally mingle with the people, but the support of the mob could be the tipping point. Perhaps a day in the market kissing babies, pressing flesh and empathising with the common man will earn the support of the people. ‘The people’ tend to make other nobles nervous, so if you can woo them to your side, or at least not inspire them to revolt, you should be doing well.

J

Tomorrow you have an opportunity during the ceremony of offering to the sea to make a grand public speech, to impress the people and the other nobles with your oratory, your wisdom and your charisma. You had best make it a good speech…

Q

Sometimes you need to make short term losses for long term gains. Several members of the forum might be swayed if you give them something of yours. Lands, money, patronage, favour. You just need to work out who needs what and what you can give them.

K

Lady Elisan Vo Galnar and her twin Sirhan Vo Galnar have come of age and thier family are seeking suitable candidates to wed them. While the Galnar estate has no vested interest in who will be Emperor, as yet, a political marriage and match would bring them into the fold and such a respected family connection would definitely increase your standing and chances of grabbing the throne.

A

While the forum cannot select a new Emperor themselves they can throw their collective weight behind a candidate, which will help them considerably. This is the voice of the forum as a whole, not its individual members. They are moving to a vote to back one of the many factions and this is your chance to persuade them to select you.

Clubs – Shady Dealing

2

Many of the great Emperors of the past have cultivated strong relationships with the thieve’s isles. The thieves and pirates supplement the navy and the army in times of danger and make excellent spies, thieves and assassins. With the throne in contention, the pirate ‘princes’ may be receptive to meetings and deals.

Add one token to the thieve’s isles.

3

The Raventongue is a guild of assassins that operates throughout the Empire. Their patronage will go to whomever gets to them first and offers them the most. A cadre of hired killers, skilled at remaining invisible, will make a good bodyguard and a useful tool for the removal of those who threaten your position. If you can convince them to back you.

Add one token to the thieve’s isles.

4

The upheaval has allowed the Red Sails pirate fleet to return, en masse, to the thieve’s isles. The almost rival the imperial fleet in size, although their ships are smaller, fleeter and less well armed. Nonetheless their depredations upon merchant traffic are a concern and their presence is destabilising. Someone who could deal with them – one way or another – would gain a good deal of favour.

Add two tokens to the thieve’s isles and take one away from the merchant district.

5

The courtesans at The Golden Lily are known as much for the way they don’t wag their tongues as much as the ways that they do. Still, everyone has their price, everyone has a way they can be corrupted, everyone can be turned somehow. If you can turn one of the courtesans to your side you will have a channel for blackmail, gossip and whispers unparalleled in any other spy organisation.

Add one token to The Golden Lily.

6

While no contender would be so gauche as to directly assassinate one of their competitors, supporters, agents, adjutants and lieutenants are fair game. First you must convince the Raventongue, The Walking Death or one of the other assassin guilds to take the contract, no mean undertaking.

7

Money is an excellent substitute for raw political power and authority, when you can get it. Merchants are fundamentally aware of their own political inadequacy and are obsessed with money – two qualities that make them relatively easily manipulated. Perhaps you can spread a rumour that your rivals will increase taxes or otherwise curtail the power of the merchants and the guilds…

8

It is whispered that The Hierophant is considering making a bid for the throne himself, to turn the Empire into a theocracy with the church at its head. With the Empire divided against itself and with their own force of temple knights as well as the support of many of the people, they could well accomplish it. Unless they can be dissuaded.

9

It is suspected, though not yet proven, that the chairman of the forum has an illegitimate daughter, born to a maid that he discharged from his service. It’s possible that he still sees her, or his daughter, or that there is some evidence to show the relation. He could be removed or blackmailed, with such information.

10

The agent of one of the thieve’s guilds contacts you claiming hat his gang have some juicy blackmail material on you. If it were to get out your chances of taking the throne would be severely diminished. If you can deal with this threat, one way or another, you’ll show your strength and word will spread amongst the criminal classes.

J

It seems someone has decided that you need to be removed from the race, permanently. A group of assassins assault your home and you had best hope you can escape or that your bodyguards are up to the task!

Q

There are indulgences, vices, that many partake of. Wine and women cannot really be controlled effectively but scarlet weed… that’s another matter. Only two smuggling operations bring the weed into the Imperial Isle and the weed is horrendously addictive and very expensive. Given that combination you just know that the influential must be addicted to it and if you can eradicate or control those smuggling operations you’ll have a tool of control.

K

There are those amongst the educated yeomanry who would see an end to nobility and the existing social order. These dangerous revolutionaries are not especially organised as of yet but they do represent a danger. They might be turned, directed or eliminated, as you see fit. Fanatics do have their uses.

A

The Eye is the masked and unknown spymaster to the Emperors. Nobody knows who he is or who his agents are. He is rarely seen and then only at court, limiting the opportunities to find out who he is or to turn him to your cause. Still, perhaps something can be arranged or you can persuade them.

Hearts – Personal Relationships

2

Madame Lily of The Golden Lily is one of those powerful, influential people that nobody should claim to know too well. She grants favours to her lovers and friends and knows a great deal though. Cultivating her can give you an edge on power.

Add two tokens to The Golden Lily.

3

Every courtesan has her favourite client and your rivals have their favourite courtesans. If you can get your hands on one, without being found out, without the subterfuge being known, you can get information from her.

Add one token to The Golden Lily.

4

Sex, drugs, alcohol and a reputation for discretion make tongues loose at The Golden Lily. This makes it an excellent place to meet your rivals or those you want to twist to your cause. Indulging a person’s vices not only makes them loose lipped but if you pick up the bill it will also make them more well disposed to you. An evening of debauchery and indulgence would seem to be in order.

Add one token to The Golden Lily.

5

Baroness Thaler/Baron Hast has been alone some years since he death of their spouse. Convention demands that they cannot remarry or engage in any affairs but they wield the power and resources of two houses joined as one and they must be lonely, provided you can be discrete.

6

Your brother, whom you have never truly gotten on with, has been publicly speaking out against you, greatly weakening your position and your chances of gaining the throne. If you cannot rely on your own family, how can anyone else be relied upon to follow you? They need dealing with, or bringing back into the fold.

7

Duke Gann is the head of the Imperial Isle army and a known and noted carouser. He doesn’t trust anyone who can’t hold their liquor and if you want to win him to your side you’ll have to show you can keep up with him in the taverns, brothels and bars of the Imperial City.

8

Erasmus, the Imperial Astrologer, might be convinced to cast an auspicious horoscope for you if you can put up with his infernal and sacrilegious twittering. He is popular at court, especially with the female courtiers and if he says you are destined or fated many of the weak-minded fools will follow suit.

Add one token to the palace.

9

The way to a merchant’s heart is through his wallet but professional and personal relationships often intertwine. Guildmaster Voruman handles a great deal of shipping and can supply a great many needs but he likes that ‘personal touch’ especially with his noble clients. In order to strike a deal you must offer both money and friendship – convincingly – but then you will have a true and loyal friend.

Add one token to the merchant’s district.

10

The Hierophant and the priesthood will not lend support to anyone that they do not believe is devout. For you to convince the priesthood that you are devout you will have to endure many sermons, display knowledge of religious concepts and agree with their dubious and hidebound moral judgements. Still, they’re popular with the people and a personal relationship with a powerful priest will serve you well.

Add one token to the cathedral.

J

There are only a few things that the pirate ‘princes’ of the thieve’s isles respect. Mostly strength, but also a rascal and a rogue that is their equal. An expedition into the thieve’s isles to prove either of these things will earn you respect or camaraderie from the ‘princes’ and either cow them not to interfere with you, or make the fast friends.

Add one token to the thieve’s isles.

Q

A political match has been suggested by your family. It would bring power and wealth and solidify your position but you would have to part with your existing partner or partners and the spouse that they are suggesting is a foul tempered and disagreeable cuss. You’d rather mate with a boar. If you’re not going to marry them you need to find a way to let your family – and them – down gently. If you are willing to marry them then their family will still need a little convincing.

K

You need a confidante you can trust, someone to share your plans and schemes with just to get them off your chest, to relieve the tension, to have someone else’s opinion but they must be someone you can trust absolutely. Where to find such a person?

A

The Emperor’s diaries have been interred along with him. Many tomes of his secrets, his understandings, his experiences. To get your hands on those would give you an insight into his nature and the politics that exists behind the scenes but only a member of the imperial family can access the tomes and only his barren Empress remains. Old, tired and grieving she will be hard to befriend.

Diamonds – Money Talks

2

The merchant district is crowded, building on top of itself and desperately needs to expand into other areas. Where can it expand though? Into cathedral grounds? Into the pirate isles? Into the noble quarter? You can intercede with your influence but it may cost you support in other areas.

Add two tokens to the merchant district.

3

Atrigan is a merchant ‘venturer, heading out to find new trade routes and new goods. He seeks a noble sponsor to aid in his latest expedition and thus far all that he has approached have dismissed his mission as foolish. He plans to sail further than ever before, questing for new lands, new spices, but he needs your help – provided its not a fool’s errand he could bring you glory.

Add one token to the merchant district.

4

It’s boom time for the merchants. Of late the guilds and the trading houses have been gaining more and more power and influence as their trading empire and wealth increases. Truth is, if this carries on they won’t need the nobles. Now is the time to invest, control or curtail in order to retain power.

Add two tokens to the merchant district.

5

Madame Lily of The Golden Lily pays you a rare visit and, over tea, in more gentle words, threatens to expose your secrets and little ‘kinks’ unless you pay her and her house a certain amount of protection. After all, they can’t be too careful in all this upheaval.

6

The palace costs a great deal to maintain and upkeep and with the Imperial house in disarray it has not been receiving its usual care. A suitable donation, or perhaps some other investment, should see the palace kept in the manner it is required to be and earn you some serious respect.

Add one token to the palace.

7

The priesthood is rich but they never say no to more money. Offerings to the church are offerings to the gods and the gods favour – and that of the church – follows if you give greatly to their coffers, or can offer them something else of equal interest to them. The church also likes land, retainers and oh so many other material comforts while they wait for the bliss of the immaterial.

Add two tokens to the cathedral.

8

The best way to convince the thieve’s isles not to interfere with you is to be one of their customers. Provided you don’t care about where goods come from and nobody finds out you can get good deals from them and as a valued customer they won’t interfere. Trade flows two ways though… you might have other ways to convince them.

Add one token to the thieve’s isles.

9

The power of most nobles is built on agricultural land and you are no exception. If you can get more work and more goods out of your lands, or sell them at a cheaper price, you can either persuade the merchants that you’re a good person to know for trade or get a good store of money by working your lands harder.

10

Without an Emperor on the throne the imperial tariff has not been collected. The traders are having a field day but all that money is going to waste. Perhaps the tariff could be struck back up by agreement or you could raise taxes through your holdings, or perhaps the mere threat of doing so will bring some merchants into line.

J

A party of foreign merchants has come to the city, seeking to sell goods and set up trade routes and relationships. There’s stiff competition to win their trade but riches to be earned by doing so. All you need to do is to convince them.

Q

A campaign requires money and you have a few treasures you could offload but you had best be sure to get a decent price. From whom?

K

Kalgorin mercenaries have heard of the troubles and have arrived in the city to offer their services. While a mercenary likes to get paid they also like to be on the winning side and it will take more than a heavy coin purse by itself to persuade them to side with you.

A

Granting a letter of marque, legitimising a pirate operation and giving them the cover of your name and title is an excellent way to make money and friends from the thieve’s isles. Knowing who is the right person to trust, the right person to lend your support to is important though. A butcher, however profitable, will reflect poorly on you and it must be a man of honour.

Ace of Hearts: The Empty Throne

Concept art for The Golden Lion Throne in Dune.

OK, so whores of the Old West isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but in rattling out Ace of Hearts I also figured that it would be a good way of representing a number of other conflicts where social skills and political capital are the currency of choice rather than violence. An obvious choice for this sort of thing is the scheming and conniving that goes on in the courts of the great and powerful. Everyone’s all politeness to each other’s faces while, at the same time, planning to stab each other in the back and manoeuvring for power.

This is a very short version of what will probably become a more full-blown article in Autopsy. These are guidelines, not a complete game substitute/replacement.

Setting
For the purposes of this example The Empty Throne, seat of power for the Imperial Dominion, rests in the capital city of Praxia, atop the Isle of Kings in the storm-tossed coast of Galdran. The Empire’s power is unmatched and unquestioned but the last emperor has died without a clear heir. The players take the place of those who are vying for the position of Emperor and seeking to gain the vacant throne for themselves. Players could take the role of spymasters, nobles, generals, court magicians, anyone who might have a shot – in some fashion – of ascending to the throne.

Victory Points & Game Length

The standard in Ace of Hearts is to play for Players x5 victory points. This is great for the short, sharp, vicious rivalry of the girls in the old west but for The Empty Throne you probably want a longer, more strategic game so I’d say at least Player x10 would be a better way to go.

Locations

  • The Palace is the seat of power, to not be seen here is not to be taken serious (Place 10 chips on The Palace)
  • The Golden Lily is a place where the great and the powerful may go to indulge their vice, whatever it might be. Many back room deals are done here (Place 5 chips on The Golden Lily).
  • The Merchant Quarter houses the great trading houses of The Empire and their support, while distasteful, is vital to anyone seeking the throne. (Place 5 chips on The Merchant Quarter).
  • The Cathedral is the seat of the priestly orders. While officially above such petty things as politics, in reality they can swing things one way or another by making their approval or disapproval implicitly obvious. (Place 3 chips on The Cathedral).
  • The Thieves’ Isles form part of the rag-tag band of rocks that seems to follow in the imperial isle’s wake. The people here exercise little power but can be… useful. (The Thieves’ Isles starts with 1 chip).

Angels & Devils
Players can make these up themselves, though I’ll provide for random drawing in the expanded article. Some examples might include:

  • Angels: Beloved of the people, devout, skilled duellist, dripping with gold, honourable.
  • Devils: Keeps the old religion, bastard son, impoverished house, foreign, honourable (yes, that can be both).

Crises
Again, a full set of these would have to wait for a complete article in Autopsy. So instead I present an alternative to using the card draw.

Each player makes up five of their own crises, writes them down on a piece of paper and folds it, placing them in a pot. Obviously you’re going to create crises that can be solved with your Angels and backstory, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll draw one of your own crises to deal with or that it’ll bear any resemblance to the crisis you made up by the time it can get to you.

Some examples of crises might include:

1. The Emperor had a bastard son that nobody knew about and he is trying to make his own claim to the throne. If people believe him, if people follow him, then you will not be able to claim it for yourself.

2. The Emperor’s journal says damning things about all of you and has fallen into the hands of the Bard’s Guild. All your chances could be dashed to pieces if they start to sing songs or tell tales from the dead Emperor’s memoirs.

3. The Courtesan, Lady Amshaar, has the ear – and other body parts – of many of the most influential courtiers at court. She knows this puts her in a position of power and influence with regard to the succession and has been making overtures that she’s willing to put her weight behind the right candidate, if he can win her favour.

Ace of Hearts Review (Ian Warner)

Introduction
We’ll get the disclaimer out of the way first. My only involvement in this project was quick email from Grim saying “do you mind me doing this? It kind of clashes with your Courtesans game.” I politely responded that the Ladies of the Demi Monde would be a little insulted to be associated with the base strumpets of the Wild West.

That was it! I have no other contribution and get no money out of sales of this product.

Right now that’s out of the way, let’s start the review proper. Ace of Hearts is one of James “Grim” Desborough’s quickie productions. That is he gets a cool idea, commits it to paper and releases a small cheap and cheerful one shot game for public consumption.

That was the plan with Tough Justice; by the way, I think I got carried away…

Anyway even by the definitions of the sort of people RPG Pundit calls “Swine” and indeed the author himself this is not a Roleplaying Game.

He calls it a Story Game and indeed it is a game where you tell a story but personally I’d say it’s more like one of Postmortem’s Card Games than something like Dogs in the Vineyard or whatever else has annoyed Pundy this week!

I’ll give you my overview but really you should check it out for yourself before jumping to any conclusions.

It is a very strange little product but a very entertaining one. It may not be a Roleplaying Game but consider this my second look at a game with all female Characters.

Background
Jezebel is your archetypal gold rush town in the American West. It has a Saloon, a General Store and yes a Cathouse. Rose’s is pretty middle of the range with regard to class though with big ambitions.

One problem: Old Rose is dying of consumption and she has no heir. You are cast one of Rose’s girls with a chance of proving yourself worthy of taking on the house once that old bat finally kicks the bucket.

Now some of you may have reservations about playing a prostitute and Grim is a lot fairer than me in that he gives you the option of being some sort of admin staff member but really the game works a lot better if you’re all whores. Sorry!

The town is described in passing detail that while extensive enough to get you in the mood it is rather sketchy as you’d expect from a side project. Later expansions may be coming in Autopsy magazine or on the blog.

The background characters are all very well drawn for what is supposed to be a silly game.

Some are a leaning towards the cardboard cut out with the no-nonsense barkeep, the pious but greedy old store clerk Mrs Armitage and the bipolar pastor who swings between your worst enemy and best customer depending what state he’s in. However considering they are supposed to be funny and that not much space is given to explaining them they are very believable.

A bit of Grim’s hostility to religion is evident but, although as a dirty liberal CofE chap, I’m not the one to ask for advice about offence, if this is a sensitive issue for you, you may want to do a bit of airbrushing.

Overall the background while brief is very evocative, in keeping with genre clichés and surprisingly believable as a historic setting.

Background: 8/10

Mechanics
As I said it’s called a Story Game and indeed it does involve playing through a story of a group of backstabbing Wild West hookers but it is more like a card or a board game than a story game despite its reliance on a little narrative creativity.

There is a very simple Character Creation process whereby you have 3 “Devils” or flaws that you write on a provided card and display and 3 “Angels” which you write on a provided card which you conceal.

If you’re stuck for ideas you can randomise these traits with card draws but I personally think its more fun to choose.

Do make sure that two girls don’t have the same trait though. That can get boring fast.

Actual game play itself involves drawing an “event” from a pack of playing cards. The girl whose round comes up with a way she can resolve the action and thus gain points. If she involves specific locations she can take points from them if any are available. She can also attack the other girls by playing to their Devils. However if she does this the target gets a chance to react in a typically bitchy fashion.

You keep track of these points with counters or beads.

At the time of your choosing you can reveal your Angel and gain +2 bonus points. However the risk is that once your Angel is revealed your opponents all know what you are good at and thus how to avoid you using them.

It is a sound enough system but I have my problems with it.

Firstly though it has narrative elements I’d say it’s an unusual kind of board/card game with Storytelling elements. It isn’t a Story Game as both supporters and critics of that form of game would describe such a thing.

However by equal measure Tough Justice isn’t quite a Roleplaying Game or a Story Game as most people would understand it and I’m not sure Courtesans is either for that matter.

Maybe it’s time we stopped trying to categorise things and just take each product as it comes? May be messy but there is a lot of middle ground. The other issue I have is to do with Devils. Everyone knowing all your dirty secrets at the start is both unrealistic and boring. However a lot of the game relies on you being able to play on each other’s Devils.

How do I suggest resolving this? Well here’s my house rule. It makes things a bit more complicated but it’s quite a lot of fun.

All Angels and Devils start concealed. Devils can be used aggressively for 1 extra point. For example let’s say we have a Character named Daisy with the Devils Prefers the Ladies, Foul Mouthed and French Pox. Now if some varmint is trying to get a freebie she can reveal French Pox for an extra point as she infects the bastard, if someone needs to be driven off she can reveal Foul Mouthed as she drives him off with expletives finally if Mrs Armitage starts causing trouble… actually let’s not go there.

Anyway once the Devils are revealed they can be attacked as normal.

I’ll have to play a few more games before I find out how well this works. Maybe I’ll have one random Devil revealed at the start for good measure.

Anyway the mechanics are sound and reasonably well explained though with my spatial awareness I did struggle a bit.

Mechanics: 7/10

Atmosphere
Mildly black humour focused on hypocrisy around prostitution, genre archetypes and of course the general atmosphere of bitchiness you get with such a group of ambitious eccentrics crammed into one setting in which they are trapped. These will be themes in Courtesans too only I think I blow them out of proportion whereas Grim keeps them real. Well almost.

As I said there is some stuff that could be interpreted as God bashing but seriously folks relax. People have been taking the piss out of Christianity for years, even Christians themselves. If we can’t take a joke then we’re just as bad as those in other faiths we condemn for their over protectiveness and blind Zealotry. Besides from my Bible studies I have discovered that Jesus himself had a somewhat quirky sense of humour!

Atmosphere: 9/10

Artwork
Once again the old cliché about indie game art being poor is blown out of the water.

The cover by Rowena Aitken (the designer of the Tough Justice cover) is fantastic. Easily on a par with the more “photo realistic” stuff you get in nWoD. Aitken is a rare talent and I’d recommend her wholeheartedly to other authors and publishers.

It seems however the cover took up most of the art budget as interior art is limited to what appears to be Cosplay stock photos. An odd choice for a game without LARP elements but there you go.

Overall I think the Art is very fitting to the tone of the book and really sells the game for what it is.

Cover: 10/10
Interior Photos: 7/10
Overall Art: 8/10

Conclusion
This is a fun little board/card game with an element of Storytelling and Roleplay that is great for a quick, relaxing and cathartic experience.

Having now read the thing I can see where Courtesans and Ace of Hearts touch the same nerves but they are very different games with a whole different tactical outlook and unlike Courtesans Ace of Hearts has a relatively happy endgame rather than just die or marry an idiot. A bit naive and optimistic for some but I quite like it personally.

Style: 10/10 with no hesitation
Substance: Could do with some tweaking so 7/10
Overall: A respectable 8/10

(NB, we normally review 1-5, but you can divide by two, can’t you? 😉 )

Ace of Hearts released!

Ol’ Rose is dyin’ of the consumption.

Rose’s House, the finest – and only – cathouse in the town of Jezebel is up for grabs.

It’s every girl for herself and only one can earn the deed to the house and Rose’s stash of gold all to herself.

A rootin’, tootin’, moochin’, adversarial story game for 2+ players.

  • No GM.
  • Pack of cards needed.
  • Poker chips or beads needed.

Buy the PDF HERE
Buy hardcopy HERE
Coming to other PDF download sites imminently.

Ace of Hearts Preview/Example of Play


Source: MJRanum Stock Photography on Deviantart 


Click to Read

Ace of Hearts Preview

Here’s just a quick intro and a few bits of example text from my forthcoming GMless story game, Ace of Hearts.

Ace of Hearts
In the latter half of the 19th Century in the Old West the town of Jezebel has been passed over in the Gold Rush. Until very recently an important town the mines have run dry and the people have begun to move on. What was once a place of rich pickings is now not so wealthy as all that. Those who remain have their reasons to stay and there’s just enough business to keep the place ticking over for the time being, it may even have – yet another – change in its fortunes.

Jezebel is, perhaps, most famous amongst travellers for the presence of Rose’s House, a den of ill-repute, home to some of the finest whores to be found this side of the United States. Now that business has moved on, so have a lot of the girls but those that remain have good reason to stick around. Rose isn’t well, she’s got a terrible case of consumption and while she tries to put on a brave face everybody knows she doesn’t have much time left and with no family and no children she’s looking for an ‘heir’.

Scuttlebutt around the girls is that Rose also has a small fortune set aside, gold and other finery given to her in her prime by the prospectors and miners that used to make Jezebel so profitable. If a girl wants a piece of the fortune and to inherit Rose’s House – and everything that goes along with it – she’s going to have to prove herself capable of taking over from Rose in the time she has left.

It’s never dull in a town like Jezebel and there’s plenty of ways for a girl to prove that she’s got the sand to run a bordello. She’s just got to exploit her opportunities as they come along and work just as hard to make the other girls look bad.

The Aim of the Game
Each player takes the part of one of the girls competing to become Rose’s heir. Dealing with problems as they come up each girl exploits her strengths and the other girl’s weaknesses in a game of social one-upmanship until a clear winner emerges and the game ends. It’s competitive, but the main thrust of the game is to create an interesting story of bitchy politics, gossip, cruelty and double-crossing.

The Town of Jezebel
Story goes Jezebel was founded where two herds of cattle met to ‘take a shit’ and it seemed as good a place as any for cattle traders to swap stories, found a trading post and – eventually – a little town. When gold was struck in the hills Jezebel became the centre of a flutter of activity and rapid growth but when the mines – rapidly – ran dry, that was pretty much it. The only permanent fixtures now are the old folk, those too stubborn to leave and the whores.

The White Horse Saloon
Ol’ Zeke runs The White Horse saloon and he’s been here a dog’s age handing out whiskey to ranchers, miners and anyone else who pitches up to drown their sorrows. He’s an ornery old cuss and while he lets people get away with a lot on his propery if he sets his jaw and gets his hog-leg out, you know you’ve overstepped the mark. A veteran with a bloody past he’s as keen on his own drink as anyone is.

Pastor Salmond of the Chapel
The Pastor is a real fire-and-brimstone bible thumper, desperate to get his message of salvation from terrible damnation to the people. This is as much to convince himself as anyone else as the Pastor has many of his own demons to deal with. The good Pastor is a prevert, though he struggles against it, a man of a fierce temper – especially when he’s got a skin-full – with a set of perverse and nasty desires that he pretends he doesn’t have. He hates himself and takes that out on everyone else, rather than blame himself.