Games are endlessly entertaining due to their variable nature. From different players, to unique strategies, each game is utterly different from the last. But sometimes you need a bigger shake-up in order to keep things fresh. This is where gaming variants and alternative rule-sets can come in. Not only do they break with the mundane by presenting a novel challenge, but they can also contribute to making you a better player overall by developing your broader skill-set. Below are some compelling gameplay variants for you to try if you’re wanting to inject a bit of spice back into your gameplay sessions.
Let it Ride Poker
There’s a reason that popular poker variants are named after different locations, as this is one game that shapeshifts to match its environs. Flexible enough to constantly adapt in new ways without sacrificing the compelling core of its gameplay, this process has given rise to many novel and little known variants over the course of the past 50 years. One of the most intriguing versions, especially for those well versed in Texas Hold ‘Em and Omaha is Let it Ride. This is because this variant looks similar at first to these better established games, but below the surface there are significant differences. The goal of Let It Ride is to use the 5 available cards to make the highest ranking poker hand possible. Each round, players make 3 identical bets. They then receive 3 cards, face down, with the dealer drawing 2 faces down community cards afterwards. Players can then check their cards, and make an assessment on whether they want to re-roll their card choices ahead of the community card reveal, a move that requires sacrificing one of their bets. If they decide to hold off, they “let it ride” and keep all 3 bets on the table in the hope that the current cards they have will carry them to a winning hand with the inclusion of the revealed community cards.
Blitz Chess or Speed Chess is, as the names imply, refers to a sped up version of chess. You may be forgiven for wondering what’s so special about that, as speed alone surely doesn’t alter the gameplay experience markedly. But when it comes to strategic games like chess, timing plays a big role in how a game unfolds. When players are given free rein to contemplate their next move, adopting a posture reminiscent of Rodin’s famous statue, “The Thinker”, they can in theory survey all possible moves and weigh up the pros and cons of each. A time limit forces a player to prioritise and seek efficiency over perfection. Which is more important in your next move, setting up a sophisticated ploy, or defending from an imminent checkmate? Speed chess can teach you to focus on the fundamentals of the game, something that you can bring with you back into “slow” chess. This type of gameplay naturally benefits some players more than others, but it always brings new experiences to the table.
Billiards is a family of table and cue games that have their shared origins in renaissance lawn games, and are descended from the same source as golf and croquet. Obviously modern billiards games, like pool and snooker, make use of a table instead of a giant patch of grass, but the core focus on getting balls into holes remains. A novel variant for fans to try out is 10-2-4 Billiards. This game takes its name from the popular slogan of the soda Dr Pepper, familiar to those who grew up in the 1950s, that features the lyrics “drink a bite to eat at 10, 2 and 4”. This variant pits two players against one another in a novel reinvention of the standard 8-ball game. At the flip of a coin, players get allocated the role of either Blocker or Shooter. The shooter is tasked with attempting to pot the 10, 2 and 4 numbered balls within 25 shots total. The blocker, as the name suggests, must do everything they can to prevent the shooter from achieving their aim.