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Sharks Gameday: Turn-Based Hockey

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My attempt to put together some rules for a turn-based hockey card game.

Would you like to play a game?
Would you like to play a game?

My 50th-favorite video game is Frozen Synapse. It's a turn-based combat game with an amazing look and fantastic music. I gave Rudy a copy of this game back when I was playing it a lot so I would have someone to play with and he never played it. What a dick.

They're working on a sports-related sequel to Frozen Synapse called Frozen Endzone, and it looks even better than the first game. Frozen Endzone is obviously based on a football-type game, which translates better into turn-based strategy than something like hockey.

BUT since I loved turn-based strategy AND hockey, I'm going to try to make a game that combines the two. Let's see how this goes. Fair warning that this won't be particularly funny or anything, as this is a straightforward attempt to make a game.


Materials needed: a regular deck of playing cards (including the Jokers if you want, that's optional). Paper and pens and stuff will probably help too.

Players: 2

Setup: Shuffle the deck of cards and deal 21 to each player. Each player can look at their own cards but shouldn't show them to their opponent.

Play: A game of The Turn-Based Hockey Game By Megalodon consists of three rounds (or periods).

In each round each player will assign one of their cards to each of the following positions:

LW - C - RW



Each player will use six cards as "players" in front of them for each round, with the remaining cards set aside as their "bench."

To start each period there is a "face-off." Player select one card from their hand and reveal it, then discard it. The player who revealed the higher value wins, and the other player is forced to set up their cards face-up so the winning player can see them before making their own decisions about which cards to place where.

In the event of a tied face-off, both players put that period's cards face-down in the lineup spots and they are all flipped over and revealed at the same time.

Players lay out the cards in this arrangement in front of them (face-up with the player who lost the period's face-off setting up first, or all face-down if the face-off was tied):


Once the cards have been set up, the first period begins. Players reveal which cards they have assigned to the different positions. Players then score "goals" based on the following far-too-complicated breakdown:

Cards ("players") are worth a number of points equal to their value (a 7 is worth 7 points, for example). Face cards are all worth 10. Aces are worth 11.

Colors and suits represent "chemistry." Pairs of players that share a color but not a suit with one another get an extra 2 points added to their total. Pairs of players that share a suit get an extra 5 points added to their total.

Jokers, if they are included in the game, represent injured players. These players are worth 0 points.

Each time the offensive pair (the pair involving the wing and center) has a higher value than the defensive pair, the player controlling that offensive pair scores one "goal." Ties go in favor of the offensive player.

Compare the following pairs to determine scoring in each period:

Player One's LW + C vs. Player Two's RD + G

Player One's RW + C vs. Player Two's LD + G

Player Two's LW + C vs. Player One's RD + G

Player Two's RW + C vs. Player One's LD + G

After each period is scored, all the face-up cards are discard. Then there is a new face-off, and play continues as before with players making new lineups with their remaining cards.

At the end of three periods, the player with more goals wins. In case of a tie, deal six more cards to each player and play one more period (there should be exactly enough cards to do this if you included two Jokers. Otherwise shuffle all the cards and deal six more to each person that way). If the game is still tied after that, there is a shootout (shuffle all the cards and deal each player one more card and whoever gets the higher card wins the game. Repeat in case of a tie).

Does all that make sense? No? Okay great, let's look at a sample period:

Play begins with a face-off. Player one decided he really wanted to win the first face-off, so spent a Jack on it. Player two threw away a 3 on the face-off and lost, so player two is forced to set up all his cards face up before player two does the same.

The period begins, and the first pairs to compare are player one's LW + C vs. player two's RD + G


Player one's pair has a point value of 15, while player two's pair is worth 24 (19 + 5 for sharing a suit). No goal is scored.

On to the next pair:


Player one's pair is worth 25 (20 + 5 for sharing a suit) but so is player two's pair! Ties go to the offensive player, so player one scores one goal.

Now it's player two's turn on offense:


Player two's pair is worth 11 points (6 + 5 for sharing a suit) while player one's is worth 26, the highest possible point value in the game! No goal is scored.


Finally, player two's pair is worth 13 points, while player one's is worth 18. No goal is scored.

Player one is leading after the first period, 1 goal to 0! See? It's exactly like real hockey!

There is another face-off before the next period, and then play continues as before.

For easy reference, here's a breakdown of what happens in a game:

1. Deal 21 cards to each player.

2. First face-off. Losing player sets up their cards face-up first, then winning player sets up. All cards are face-down in case of a tied face-off.

3. First period. Compare pairs and award goals.

4. Second face-off.

5. Second period.

6. Third face-off.

7. Third period, using all of your remaining cards.

8. Overtime with 6 more cards for each player, if necessary.

9. Shuffle all cards and conduct a shootout, if necessary.

Donald and I played a few rounds of this on Friday to hash out these rules. It's far from perfect, but it was actually pretty fun. If you actually happen to try this out for yourself, please let me know how it goes or if you have any suggestions for rule changes of your own!

After playing through about a dozen games with Donald, here are the strategic notes we have figured out so far:

  • An ace plus a face card of the same suit is unbeatable on offense (since that's the best possible pair and the offense wins ties), so if you have an ace and two face cards of that same suit you can guarantee yourself two goals in a round.
  • The first face-off of the game is crucially important. If you win it you force your opponent to setup their cards and then can do your best to beat them in all four pairings using the weakest possible of your cards. This means you can save stronger cards for later rounds.
  • Shared suit chemistry is very important.
  • Having to use Jokers can be difficult, but it doesn't prevent you from winning. Watch for opportunities when you know you will lose a match-up regardless of what you play, and throw away the Joker there.
  • Saving strong cards for later rounds can be great, but watch out! If you're down by two goals going into the third, the best you can hope for is to force overtime. If you're down by more than two goals after two periods, you can't possibly win and the game is over.

Good luck!

Next Game

San Jose Sharks
@ Nashville Predators

Saturday, Dec 14, 2013, 5:00 PM PST
Bridgestone Arena

Complete Coverage >

Prediction: The Sharks win but it isn't really fair because they ended up with way more face cards than the Predators.