This Game is S.T.U.P.I.D is a 2 to 6 player card game designed to promote positive, amusing, and ridiculous interactions between players with it’s surreal comedy. The premise is that time has collapsed on itself causing the past, present, and future to exist simultaneously. Players take the role of a detective for the Space Time Universal Police Investigations Department (S.T.U.P.I.D.) working to solve the humorous and ridiculous cases presented to you.
Inspired by games like Cards Against Humanity and Ninja Burger, we tried to focus our attention on what we felt those games lacked while figuring out what it was that made people enjoy them. In particular, we felt that they weren’t pushing player interaction as much as they could have, deciding they’re almost more of a social tool than game. With this in mind, we built mechanics around solving, bargaining, and disrupting players keeping in mind a structure that was light enough for players to lose track of what was happening while they talked, joked, drank and sang.
The match begins with each player placing a player token on the bottom of the board (seen at the bottom of this page) which they'll move along by gaining Rep through solving cases or using Paradox Cards.
● Phase 1 Drawing Phase - Players draw one Case Card to be used during the round, two Evidence Cards, and fifty Time Bucks. Once every player has done so, they move on to the bartering phase.
● Phase 2 Bartering Phase - This is where most of the player interaction happens. Players are able to barter, bribe, blackmail and use basically any means they deem acceptable outside of theft in order to solve their case, and can take as long as needed to do so. At a base level, it plays kind of like Go Fish. Players are usually offering evidence pieces they have in order to get the evidence they need, but as stated, can expand upon this as they see fit. This often leads to amusing interactions, for example Player A needs two vehicle cards to solve their case, and has offered to trade someone either a tool or a weapon in order to get the vehicle Player A needs. Player B has two vehicles, and needs the weapon in order to solve their case. Player C doesn’t need a weapon or a tool, but knows that Player B will solve their case if they receive those cards. Player C might decide to -
Player A now has some tough choices to make. Time bucks are useful as you can buy Evidence and Paradox Cards with them, and the extra evidence offered is a better value in this case, but let’s talk about option 4 for a moment before we move on because this exemplifies the kind of interactions we pushed for with S.T.U.P.I.D.’s design.
When looking at what we enjoyed about board games, and the dynamics around what it took to play one, we were taking note of the fact that you are generally getting together with a group of people you enjoy to have a good time with in order to play them. We felt that, as fun as any game might be, when it came to board games it wasn’t necessarily the game that made it so worthwhile, so much as the interactions the game mechanics and systems spurred between players. Sure, I might have killed an orc with a critical roll, but the joke you made after the dungeon master said the orc’s head flung blood across the room was priceless. This banter, these interactions and dialogues were at the core of S.T.U.P.I.D.’s design.
● Phase 3 Mission Phase - Once everyone has stopped bartering, players will take turn in a clockwise direction reading their case and taking the rewards or repercussions of solving or failing the case. If the player has managed to gather the evidence necessary to win, they're in a good position, but not completely safe yet. It is possible that even if a player has not completed their mission, they could turn it around during this phase with a Paradox Card.
This is also where most of the comedy of the cards shows through, and I’ll explain how.
Case cards are written similarly to Mad Libs, using evidence categories instead of nouns, verbs, etc., and the scenarios they present are often an extremely ridiculous situation. Tim Curry robbing your home, giant robots fighting, stolen rock and roll amplification devices, things like that. The Evidence cards you use to solve them are usually as equally ridiculous. These scenarios and items lead to amusing visuals for the players to either imagine or expand upon with jokes and banter. That said, not all the cards are over the top. We made some very mundane cards because if everything was absurd, there would be no contrast to the absurdities to point out the absurdity of it!
During this phase we didn’t want players to just read off case after case until they could play again, so we allowed players to continue using Paradox Cards to try to ruin somebodies case at the last minute. While Paradox Cards can be used during every phase of the game, during the mission phase they're particularly amusing because players feel a little more secure in solving their case. Like everything else, we came to the Paradox Cards with humor in mind, so when you use a card, it has an short passage about the effects, and generally have the ability to completely ruin another player’s case quite abruptly, causing both players to have a fairly emotional response. The finish line was right there, and the player just gets to stick their metaphorical foot out and trip them as hard and fast as they want. The development name for Paradox Cards were “Fuckery”, which should give you some idea of the intent behind the design. Normally, the idea of having the ability to suddenly ruin a player’s intentions without much forewarning isn’t a design I’m entirely for. However, it work S.T.U.P.I.D because -
The game is not particularly complex mechanically, so players are not going to be losing hours of planning, get taken out of the game, or put in a terrible position. It’s just, as the metaphor above suggest, tripping them up a bit.
We didn’t want to completely shut down the player, so we tried to make sure that every card that directly affects another player left them open for recovery, sometimes immediately. So you might lose your case, but there aren't any lasting effects for the next rounds. Granted, the game is also so obtuse that we felt it would be a disservice to not have a couple Paradox Cards that were completely over the top, like one that makes every single player lose their cards from their hand and pick a new case and two new evidence cards.
After a player reads their card, they must act on the terms written at the bottom of the card based on whether they solved or failed it. We used this as a final opportunity to drive home the interactions between players outside of the game system, and push the opportunity to keep players acting goofy. You’ll have anything as simple as winning time bucks or reputation, reputation being what moves you along the board to victory, to making you act out in various ways like screaming odd things, using an accent for the entire round, or jumping furniture.
After everyone has completed reading off their case, place your Case and Evidence Cards in the designated piles and return to phase 1!
Illustration - I made a decision not to do a drawing for every card based around what we were trying to promote with the game itself, that being surreal ridiculous scenarios for players to imagine and joke about. I felt that saying something like “Furious showcase of nunchaku training” causes you to imagine something. Whatever it is you imagined is now yours, and in general, imagined in a format that you enjoy. You might have imagined a ninja flipping nunchaku around, you might have imagined a redneck doing back flips and kicking around while awkwardly flailing, but if I draw a ninja whirling nunchaku around and you take note of the illustration, now you’re just thinking of ninjas, and that might not be as funny to you.
We used a lot of celebrity and historical figures, since people often know what they look like already, I felt it was a good opportunity to inject some humor so I’d draw goofy caricatures or representations. We also used a lot of abstract concepts like “charming wit”, and these could be accentuated by an illustration since players might not quite understand what we meant, which in itself was fine with us as we felt, and experienced, that not understanding a card was an opportunity to ask, comment or misinterpret an idea, usually leading to more interaction between players.
Evidence Icons - We Created unique icons, each with specific colors so that we could coordinate not only a symbol, but a word and a color with a specific category to help players keep track of what tools they had to interact with the game system.
Card Design - The cards, instructions and box were designed to feel like tactile items you might find on a detective's desk. Notebooks, folders, time travel computers, etc. It helped drive the theme of the game home and added some texture to the game instead of purely abstract graphic design.
Package, Board & Pieces Design - The player pieces we printed were magnifying glasses to carry the detective theme, with clock hands on it to tie in the time travel theme. The box was made to look like a desk with time distortion effects. We tried to have some fun with the box by making the box itself the board, which worked well given the restraints we had, but were we to go into production, I would push for an actual board to simplify the layout as closing the box itself back up was mildly obnoxious.