Our preview post below was published on July 30.
Bug Council of Backyardia is a 1-5 players trick-taking game in which five bug factions (mosquitoes, flies, cockroaches, bees, and ants) are vying for influence and domination over the realm of Backyardia. You, as the player, will try to win the favor of the most powerful of these factions. The campaign for this game will launch on Kickstarter on August 3.
There are five suits in the game, each corresponding to a different bug faction. Cards for each suit are numbered 1 to 12, but some cards are removed at lower player counts. One of the key points of Bug Council is that the strength of the different factions is ever-shifting, with a mancala-based mechanism. At the beginning of the game, you must draw the five Faction cards one after another and put 4 strength cubes on the faction space of the mancala matching the first card, 3 on the second etc., and none on the last.
The game is played over three “ages”, each split in 10 rounds. At the start of each age, you are dealt 11 cards. You must then choose whether you pledge allegiance to a faction (which faction it is will be decided by your last, eleventh card in hand), or pledge no allegiance at all, in which case you must discard a card. This will determine how you score at the end of the age.
In each round, the leading player first plays a card whose suit must be followed by all players if able. If not, players are free to play any card. Once all players have played a card, the winner of the trick is the one who played the highest value card of the strongest suit, the strength of the suits being determined by the number of cubes on its faction space on the mancala. The trick winner becomes the leading player of the next round. Then, the player who played the lowest card of the leading suit must “visit the council”, that is, pick a faction of their choice, take all the cubes on that faction space of the mancala, and then drop these, one at a time, on all successive spaces, moving clockwise (after a full cycle, all excess cubes go to the “neutral”, middle space, and stay there until the end of the game).
Once all ten rounds have been played, a scoring phase follows. All players score one point per trick they won. Then, if you pledged allegiance to one of the factions, as determined by your last card in hand, you score as many points as that faction’s strength. If you pledged no allegiance, you don’t score any more points, unless you won no trick at all, in which case you earn 10 points, plus as many points as there are cubes in the neutral middle space.
In solo, you play against the Emissary. At the beginning of the age, you draw two cards from the deck for the Emissary. When the Emissary’s turn comes, you must choose one of these two cards to be played, while obeying the rule that they must follow the leading suit if able. If the Emissary gets to “visit the council”, they pick the faction matching the card they played, except during the last round. Then, you draw a new card to replace the one that got played.
The Emissary’s strategy adapts to the situation by dynamically tracking the course of the game on the Emissary board, focusing their efforts on increasing their allegiance bonus, maximizing the number of tricks they win, or trying to ensure a “No allegiance” win condition with no trick won. On top of that, the Emissary has specific scoring conditions that give them buffs and bonuses. The details of this dynamic adaptation have not been released yet, but should hopefully be revealed during the Kickstarter campaign.