Double Trouble is a simple card game follows rules generated by "exquisite corpse"
Double Trouble is a card game which aims to be played by all age groups. Based on the five initial rules arbitrarily generated by the rule "Exquisite Corpse", a famous art game among surrealists in the 20th century, additional rules were added and usability testings were run to make sense of the game.
My Role
UX Design
User Research
Game Design
Duration
1 month
Deliverables
Physical Cards
Game Rules
Design Process
The challenge
Design a playable card game upon arbitrary rules and try to integrate the theory of game design as much as possible.
Initial rules:the "Exquisite Corpse"
Exquisite Corpse is a popular drawing game among artists in the 1920s where artists take turns to draw on a same piece of paper without knowing what's on the paper except the one just had been drawn.
Following the same idea, each member of our team took turns to write one rule for the card game. Paper was folded so that each person could only see the last rule written by the person before him or her. The first person was asked to write a starting condition and the fifth person wrote the winning condition.
Here are the initial rules written by our team:

Starting condition: Deal the entire deck evenly to all players

Rule 1: Each player can only have max 10 cards in their hands and visible at all times

Rule 2: There can only be 4 players and total 2 decks of cards for the whole game

Rule 3: At each round, one player can select another player and swap 2 cards with them blindly if the other player agrees

Rule 4: If somebody refuses to swap the cards the one who proposes would take a new card from the deck

Winning condition: Once the deck runs out, the player with no matching cards wins 10 points. Any player with a pair of matching cards subtract the value of each pair. Play until a player reaches 30 points.
These are the rules that must be used in our final card game and can't be altered. Given the winning condition, it is clear that to get the most points, pairs are unwanted. Distinctiveness is further awarded by deducting the value of each pair or triplet (each number is a point).
1st Iteration: Adding new rules
I spent time with my other three teammates digesting the rules we have and brainstorming ideas to make the game playable and fun. We simply wrote numbers on sheets of paper and cut them off as cards to play. Cards of same numbers are pairs in this case.
Findings

The game is descriptive (each action leads to an outcome) but not evaluative (people can strategise their play according to their preferred result both in the short run and in the long run).

There are no rules to get rid of cards or get a new card besides the swap action.

It is now a chaotic system. Players had no ideas what they would receive from the swap, what they would get rid of, and what they would get from the deck on the table. It is all random and barely any strategies involved.
Rules added

Each player will take one card from the deck on the table and discard one at each round.

Numbers are allocated unevenly.

Each deck has one of each 14, two of each 58, and three of each 912. This was intended to make number 12 less favourable than number 1 as there were more #12 cards in the deck. Players can strategise accordingly.

Card Design
To distinguish from other card games, the card was designed in the opposite colour palettes of modern poker. Bright orange and green were chosen as they contrast well with either black or white. Vector patterns were designed in congruence with the minimalist, "dark" theme.
We assigned numbers to cards and decided that a matching pair meant two cards of the same number. Having numbers also made the pointing system easier.
The game is named "Double Trouble" which implies the fact that double brings trouble in this game and also alludes to the Double Trouble ice cream.
Front of the cards
Back of the cards
Cards are designed in Travel Pack
Test the logic of the game

1st round
The first test was played among the game designers and their friends, all around 23 years old. Players were asked to play the game according to their understanding of the written rules and instructions. Participants were allowed to ask questions and game designers would answer them. Feelings and suggestions were asked after the test.
Findings after the first iteration

After the first round, each player retained a distinctive set of cards which led to no winners.

The design of the card made cards #6 and #9 hard to differentiate.

The front and the back of the card didn't line up.

The player had little incentive to accept the swap.

If the player already had a set of distinct cards at hand, there is no way he or she would lose.
But how to improve?
With the results from the first playtest, rules were modified and cards were redesigned accordingly.
1. The number allocation were changed from

1st deck: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 5, 6, 6, 7, 7, 8, 8, 9, 9, 9, 10, 10, 10, 11, 11, 11, 12, 12, 12

2nd deck: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 5, 6, 6, 7, 7, 8, 8, 9, 9, 9, 10, 10, 10, 11, 11, 11, 12, 12, 12
to

1st deck: 1, 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5, 5

2nd deck: 1, 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5, 5
2. Rules were added: One cannot keep refusing the swap for 3 times
3. The swap rule was made explicit that it is a doubleside blind swap.
So that players can not have all distinct cards as easy as before.
This is to prevent players from keeping the same distinct cards all the time.

2nd round
With the refined version of Double Trouble, the game was played by two groups of 6 and below is the feedback:

Both two groups thought the "deal the entire deck evenly to all players" instruction misleading.

Both groups thought it's important to have numbers indicated on the upper right side.

Both groups didn't get the swap rule: one group didn't know when can a player propose a swap, the other didn't understand how the blind swap works.

Both groups were not sure about how the point system works, one group pointed out that there were reluctant to do the calculation.

One group didn't know what to do with the discarded cards.
My reflection
Games are complex and emergent systems. Double Trouble is both descriptive and evaluative in a way that each action leads to an outcome and people can strategise their play according to their preferred result both in the short run and in the long run. When the taking card and discarding rules are added, "randomness" is introduced and the swap rule becomes a chance that generates unpredictable patterns of complexity. The "feeling of randomness" generates excitement and the imperfect information inspires distrust among players (i.e. if a player refuses to swap, this may imply the player has only one or fewer pairs at hands).
1. Each design element needs to be meaningful. Design isn't just about making things look appealing, but bringing usability, and even delivering deep meaning to users through the experience. Design without concrete meaning can be confusing. For example, people find the blackandwhite design of cards misleading, as they don't know if different patterns on the cards mean anything.
2. Intuitive and assumptive design. A good design should be easy to understand and use without users consciously thinking about how to do it. People assume things to work in certain ways, and counterintuitive designs can lead to confusion. For example in this project, people naturally expect game scores to add up from zero, having a point system with negative scores is very misleading.
Developing Further

State the rules more clearly and explicitly, including the starting condition, the point system, the swap choice, and what to do with the cards that are discarded.

It is important to display what one deck of cards is constituted of.

The overall concept (rules & design) should be improved to make it more attractive.

The point system. Let players add up all the numbers they left after one round and deduct the sum of all pairs they have. In this way, the game would be more complex and allow the losing player a greater chance of reaching 30 points.

Cards can be redesigned to have numbers indicated on the upper right side of the card. It is also helpful to add more elements of design to make sense of the black and white pattern design and make the card more attractive (maybe having a blackandwhite theme of ghosts or magic?)

It could be useful to use black and white colours to differentiate deck 1 and deck 2.

It would be interesting to keep the uneven allocation of numbers to complicate the game (i.e. one 1, two 2s etc.)