In Cambridge every term there is a  rowing competition called ‘Bumps‘. It is a relatively unusual rowing race, in that instead of all teams starting side by side and racing to be the first over the finish line, they line up sequentially along the river and attempt to catch up to, or bump, the crews in front of them before they themselves are bumped. When you bump an opposing team, you essentially swap places with them for the next race, with the overall aim of being head of the river by the end of the races.

When you are bumped, you must immediately move to the side of the river, and the team that bumped you continues on (and might bump the team ahead!). In this way, you can get very interesting cases where sometimes a crew can leap frog several opponents simply by those teams being previously bumped, and then catching the boat that bumped them.

Could this race be turned into a card game?

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Day 4: Bumps

The game is played over several races, where you attempt to manoeuvre your crews to the top place by the end of each of the rounds.

The race is a line of boats, each represented by a card of a different colour. Each player controls one of these boats, but keeps their identity secret. There are also a number of boats that are controlled by none of the players, but the players don’t know which colours are player-controlled, and which ones are neutral. Each colour has an identical deck of rowing cards (in their colour) – each player receives their deck, and the remaining decks are shuffled and placed to the side (becoming the neutral decks).

Each deck has 20 cards. Most cards have a number on them, and some have a special ability (such as saying you cannot be bumped this turn, or targeting a particular boat to switch with immediately). Many numbers appear multiple times in the decks, so the range would probably be quite limited, say 1-5.

Each race is played over five rounds, with four races in total. At the start of the game, each player draws 10 cards from their deck. Each round, they choose one card to play secretly, placing it in a pile in the centre of the table. One card from the top of each of the neutral decks is added to this pile, and then the pile is shuffled. Then all the cards are revealed and resolved, starting with the boat at the back and moving towards the front. If the number played for a boat is higher than the boat ahead of it, it bumps that boat, and switches places with it. If the numbers are tied, the boats stay where they are. These contests are resolved all the way up the river, reordering the boats as you go.

This play continues until five cards have been played, at which point the race has ended. Each boat receives points based on its position in the race, and these points will vary depending on which race it is – Race 1 awards the fewest points and Race 4, the most. Before the beginning of the next race, each player draws five new cards, bringing their hand back up to ten cards (except for the final race, which is played with just the remaining five cards). At the end of the game, the controller of the boat with the highest score wins!

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There definitely would have to some texture and ‘take that’ elements to some of the cards that were played to make the card play a bit more tactical, rather than just the highest number always wins. There is also the possibility that all cards are always resolved in pairs simultaneously up the river, with cards that ‘bump’ continuing to be reckoned pairwise, so that it becomes a little less predictable. It would also be interesting to see how easy it is to determine who the dummy players are, and how much that influences a player’s strategy!