I am pretty sure that today I summoned a demon. My apologies to the metro Denver area if the Dark Prince Stolas is about, that was totally my doing. But really the blame can be placed upon the shoulders of the creator of this infernal game, Jason Rohrer. I am getting ahead of myself, the demon summoning will be explained in a minute.
Cordial Minuet (cordialminuet.com) is a game that utilizes the magic square of order six. That is, a six by six square that contains in each square numbers (1-36) that are distinct (not repeated) and that equal 111 in each row, column and the two diagonals. The sum of all of the numbers equal, well, 666. You know, that mark of the beast thing. The occult theme, though intriguing, is not the heart of the game. The magic square however, is intimately related with the history of the occult and belief directly connected to divining names of demons through its use. Have the name of demon? Well now you’re playing with power. I digress again, you cannot summon demons with this game. I think.
Rohrer’s intent was to create a game that could played for real money. The only real demons summoned would be those steeped in greed that lies in the heart of the player. The game needed to be a game of skill versus chance to avoid being labeled as online gambling. Cordial Minuet is a game of making strategies while being aware and taking into the account the other players choices. In game theory this is Nash Equilibrium. Or to the layman it is best described using another game as an example; rock, paper, scissors. This is a game of skill, bluffing and mind reading between two people. No chat. Just playing. Having only two people, two anonymous players, the game avoids collusion and closes the gap on people gaming the system. While most game developers worry about memory leaks, Rohrer admits the he worries about “money leaks.” He keeps a complicated ledger that tracks the winnings of the players. There needs to be confidence that you will receive your payout. Rohrer is confident that this is the case.
You buy in with a minimum bank of just $2.00 USD, though if your credit limit was not an issue you could buy in at $999,999,999. This amount is used to wager for as little as $.01 (or your full buy in) on a match. There are fees that apply to the buy in to cover the costs of processing the credit card. This will be transparent to the player. Want to cash out? You can receive a check for your buy in, but minus a $3.00 USD fee, again for the processing. The amount wagered is now divided evenly into 100 chips for the initial and bets and the “house” (Rohrer) takes 10% of winnings. This is how the developer takes a cut of the game.
Now playing the game, is well, pretty intense. Even without the side-coaching from Jason I could feel the anxiety and excitement of progressing the match. Players have only one minute to bet and select their rows. The players moves are done simultaneously. If you follow images below you can gather how a typical game may go. Though it should be noted that Rohrer is in the process of adding the art to the game. Water colored parchment that invokes this demon’s game was being finished and scanned when I spoke with Rohrer.
Chatting about the nature and history of this game, it was clear that it was born out of ritual. Money being the sacrifice and key game mechanic leads us to the history of religion and supernal beliefs. Divining fate from tarot cards or dice was and is still common practice. Though those same sacred tools are used as devices in games of chance. This connection between the ritual of the soul and “throwing our money away,” intrigued Rohrer. He had been playing a lot of poker. For poker to have gravitas there needs to be stakes, something of value. Money, even fractions of cents has particular weight on the mind of the player.
Making the player make decisions with only partial information is thematic for Rohrer’s previous titles. The Castle Doctrine, Diamond Trust of London and now Cordial Minuet put some heavy decisions upon you. This is what made my stomach lurch while playing Cordial Minuet. It is why I wouldn’t play The Castle Doctrine. The call from that dark corner of the mind is very powerful. The unknown drives hope and fear. It makes for a fantastic, impulsive device in games.
While the core game and mechanics are ready, the finishing touches are being added. This still places the launch window for Cordial Minuet however in the “when it is ready” section. Summoning demons with strangers, betting and bluffing will be here soon enough though. Until then, I should really do something about Dark Lord Stolas. Excuse me.
At the start of a match each player selects a column. Notice that my rows are my opponents columns. Clicking your first column selects your choice, the second the one you choose for your opponent. It is important to note that players can only see their own board.
Once selected your column is highlighted in green, while your opponent is in red.
Now we see the results of the choices made. Where these rows and columns would intersect is the score received for this round. I scored a two. I gave my opponent a 22. My greed to get the 30 worked against me.
Next round of betting and row selection.
Okay, so I while I was able to grab the 29, I still gave up the 18. My current score is at the bottom right hand corner. The green lines on the right represent the potential score the opponent can assume I may have at this point. The green dots adjacent to the line are my actual potential score, seen only by me. The red lines, likewise are the scores I can assume opponent may have.
The last round of row selection.
This final round is a last chance to bet and bluff as you reveal one of your columns to the opponent. Do you strut? Do you bluff? Or in my case, just lose?