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How I created Two Stacks

The Origin

I grew up loving card games. It really fascinated me how my friends and family members with different personalities could come together and enjoy spending time over a simple game of cards.

As a professional counselor, I spend a lot of time thinking about how to help people build healthy relationships. I work with a lot of adolescent males who’s families say they have a hard time spending time together. I often like to recommend card games as a way to get them to the same table. I sometimes even play card games with my clients in session. But there’s one problem: most card games are zero-sum, which means you win by making the other player lose. I felt that was a significant draw back when the whole point was to enjoy spending time together.

I started to wonder if there were any basic card games that were cooperative. I did some research and I was surprised to learn that, even though playing cards have been around for hundreds of years, there were no cooperative games for a regular playing deck.

Then, one day in the Spring of 2016, it dawned on me. I should create a cooperative card game.  

 

Foundational Concepts

I had recently been playing Pandemic and Forbidden Island by Matt Leacock and I enjoyed the cooperative gaming experience.

Around that time I also had a client teach me the card game Kings on the Corner. It uses regular playing cards and allows players to stack consecutive cards on four piles so long as they play alternating colors.

Playing those games led to two realizations that jump started Two Stacks:

  • Assigning roles to players would make the game intellectually stimulating and collaboration more fun. One role would limit you to playing alternating colors and the other to matching colors.

  • Playing cards on multiple stacks would invite players to strategize together on the order of their card play.

 

Formulating Multi Stacks

Early on, I decided to start by developing a game with regular playing cards (what eventually became Multi Stacks). Then, I’d build on that to design a totally unique game (Two Stacks).  So I sat down with an ordinary deck of cards and started to experiment with some game rules.

Once Multi Stacks had a little bit of structure, I started playing it with clients and with friends. After each game, I would refine the rules. I did that over and over again until I felt like the rules were clear and encouraged fun, collaborative play.

The next step was to add special cards and create a truly unique game.

 

Prototyping

To experiment, I bought a couple of generic playing card decks from a dollar store and I used a marker to create the special cards and extra numbers. That let me make one playable deck.
I tried pulling certain cards out and putting others in until I had marked so many different cards that I needed to go out and buy two new decks. Eventually, those got so marked up I had to buy a third set.

 

Finalizing the Game

The prototyping process spanned over a year. I would often get discouraged because the earlier versions of Two Stacks were actually less fun to play than Multi Stacks. I doubted I would ever create a stand-alone game.

Thankfully, my wife and a few of my clients kept asking me about it. Their encouragement kept me from giving up. By the Fall of 2017, I had the final version of the game put together. I was testing it to figure out how best to market it, explain the rules, and establish difficulty levels.

 

Final Words

As you can imagine, playing board and card games isn’t just a hobby for me. It’s a passion. It reminds me of all the happy childhood memories I have of playing games with family. And while I enjoy games of all kinds, collaborative games have a special way of building and strengthening relationships. I hope that proves to be the case for you as you play.

I want to extend a special thanks to all the family, friends, and clients that helped and encouraged me in creating Two Stacks. I would never have been able to do this alone. It was, after all, a cooperative process.

-Ed Doreau

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