Splitters is a steampunk-themed card game for two players.  In the game, players take on the role of talented mechanics who compete to hack complex steam-powered machine computers known as Difference Engines.  They hack these incredibly complicated constructions by splitting the flow of steam, earning themselves the name, “Splitters”.  The goal is to be the first Splitter to light 10 lights (earn 10 points) on the top of the Difference Engine.
Splitters is played using the Off-Set Card (OSC) System.  The OSC System uses cards printed with off-set imagery.  Actions are taken in OSC games by placing two cards onto the table adjacent to each other, connecting the images of the two different cards together to make one whole card.  For example:


On this turn Player 1 has two cards to play.  The first card is worth 3 points, or has an effect allowing him to draw one additional card.  The second card is worth 2 points, or has an effect of forcing Player 2 to discard one card.  There are two basic ways to combine these cards as shown.  Player 1 can place the first card on the left, and the second card on the right.  That will make a complete image, earning him 3 points while forcing Player 2 to discard one card.  Or Player 1 could swap the cards around, earning him 2 points and allowing him to draw one extra card.
In more advanced play, Player 1 might choose to turn one card around 180 degrees to connect the two points sides to each other, earning him 5 points total.  Or he might connect the two effect sides to each other, allowing him to draw one card and forcing Player 2 to discard one card.  No matter which combination Player 1 chooses, the unconnected sides of the card are not used.
Game components:
Deck of OSC cards
Game board with Point Track and Engine Status track
2 soft point tracking tokens
2 hard point tracking tokens
1 Engine Status tracking token
At the start of a game of Splitters, both players draw 10 cards from the deck and place their point tracking tokens at zero.  On each turn players have two actions available:  Play a card or Discard a card.
Play a card:
Each card laid on the table requires one action.  A card can only be played if it is connected to another card.  Two cards connected are called a “Split”.  Therefore in order to play a Split at the start of the game, a player must use two actions to play two cards.  Later in the game it may be possible to add a card to an existing Split, creating a Split-Chain.  In that event only one action would be needed to play that one card.
Discard a card:
A player is only allowed to have a total of 10 cards available to them at a time during the game (unless a card effect or Engine Status states otherwise).  This limit applies to both cards in the player’s hand as well as cards that have been played on the table.  If the player wishes, they may spend 1 action to discard 1 card from their hand and draw a new one from the deck.  If the player has a Split in play on the table, they may choose to spend 1 action to discard one of those cards and draw a new card to their hand.  If discarding one card from the table breaks a Split and leaves another card orphaned on the table, that card must also be immediately discarded and a new card drawn from the deck and into the hand.  This does not require an extra action to perform.
Players must use both actions on their turn.
After a player has taken their actions, they can immediately move their Soft point token on the game board to account for any points they have gained on their turn.  Soft points are temporary, and are only counted as long as the Splits that earned them are in play.
Some cards allow players to earn Hard points.  Hard points are tracked with the Hard point token.  Hard points are earned when their Splits are played, but are not lost when those Splits are broken.  The Hard point token will shift the Soft point token on the game board.  For example:
Player 2 has a Split worth 3 Soft points in play, and has placed the Soft point token on the game board at 3.  On his next turn he plays a second Split worth 2 Hard points.  He now places his Hard point token on the game board at 2.  The soft point token then moves from 3 to 5, reflecting the total number of points in play.  Next Player 1 plays a Split which forces Player 2 to discard all Splits in play.  Player 2 removes his Soft token from the point tracker, but leaves his Hard token in place at 2.
Engine Status:
As play progresses the status of the Difference Engine will change to reflect the modifications that have been made to it by the players.  These status changes may occur when both players have passed a certain point threshhold, or when a cumulative point total is reached.  Some potential Engine Status effects:
All players have 1 additional action per turn
Players may only have 1 Split or Split-Chain in play
Max hand size increases by 1 card
Max hand size decreases by 1 card
Card Effects:
Some cards have an effect that occurs only the first time it is played in a Split (such as discarding a card, or discarding a Split).  Other cards have ongoing effects that last until their Split is removed from the table (player can use 1 extra action, player can increase their hand size by 1).  All card effects are to be determined.
Point values:
Cards range in value from 0 to 3 points.  The deck size and quantity of each point value is to be determined.
After a player has used both of their actions and points are tallied, their turn ends and play moves to the other player.  Play continues to alternate until one player accumulates a total of 10 points.



All ideas presented here are the property of the Building the Game Podcast.


/Splitters/ — 2 Comments

  1. Discounting the hard/soft point separation, a steam pressure inspired score track might be fun to run like this:

    The starting score track, 10 spaces long:

    Player 1 scores 2 points, putting him on the track here:

    Player 2 scores 3 points. Everyone above him on the track (player 1 so far) slides up 3 points and player 2 starts his marker at 3:

    Player 1 scores 1 point:

    Player 2 scores 3 again:

    Basically, both players scores are stacked on top of each other, and when the first player’s token hits the top, the game is over. This would probably be easier to mess up, if players neglect to slide everyone ahead of them when they adjust their own score. However, it definitely gives that feeling of everyone consuming the same limited steam pressure resource.

  2. Here’s an interesting application for the OSC system:
    Have either of you guys played Memoir ’44 (or similar war game?)

    There’s a pile of Command Cards that get drawn to direct various forces in a WWII setting. The battle is broken up into a left flank, center, and right flank. Many of the Command Cards drawn by the Commander have two pieces of data on them: which section(s) to activate units in (usually left, center, right, left and right, or all), and how many units to activate (usually 1, 2, 3, or all).

    Not owning a copy of such a war game like Memoir ’44 myself, I can’t really experiment. I do think that this could give the Commander another layer of something interesting to do. Sometimes the random draws of inefficient cards can leave an otherwise capable army with little intelligent choices to do.

    I’m sure a system of combining pairs of cards to make individual orders (a section plus an amount) could give the Commander the feeling of making lemonade out of a lemony card draw, or a feeling of great power when they can pair excellent cards into excellent combinations. One could even argue that the decision-making over how to combine cards could be seen as war-room deliberation simulation.

    The only drawback – there’s already a lot going on in the game.