Jorge Zhang

Personal website

Rulebook Preview (Mardi Gras, Cover Blown, Planetary Destruction, and Domains)

Recently I have started to preview rulebooks for free! I’m doing it since I enjoy reading rulebooks, but also to share some of these amazing games that haven’t yet made it to the market. The people making these games are other game designers just like me, and as someone who has tried to push my games online, I find that it can feel like I am shouting into the void. Often times, it’s not a problem with the game itself: it’s just that there are too many people creating new games and not enough people previewing them. My hope is that I can highlight some of these unpublished games by reviewing their rulebook. I hope that my feedback not only helps make these games better but also give them much needed attention. It is very important to note that I have not actually played any of these games. My impressions of these games are based solely on the quality of the rulebook.

Mardi Gras

Set up of Mardi Gras

I really enjoyed reading about Mardi Gras. The best way I can describe it is as Ticket to Ride meets worker placement. You are drawing Throw cards of 4 different colors and discarding them to claim actions on the route cards. Then, the parade marches through the topmost route, and if you claimed the entertain action on that route you have the opportunity to entertain people and claim them in your score pile. Your goal is basically to entertain as many people as you can.

There is so, so much more to this game, but the highlight for me was the push your luck mechanic behind the Throw cards. It’s just like blackjack: You can keep drawing Throw cards without bound. BUT, if you draw 3 of one type of card, you lose everything other than those 3 cards. That’s super cool. I find the same mechanic in Ticket to Ride bland because I feel like in that game I basically just draw 2 cards every single turn and it feels boring. I can see this creating a lot more tension, excitement, and strategy.

The rulebook itself was very well written. I had a few comments, which have already been corrected! So props to the designer Mark Goadrich. I really think this game has something really special!

See the rulebook:

Cover Blown!

Picture of the game from the rulebook

This game was one of the finalists for the Cardboard Edison competition, and I’m rooting for it to win the whole thing. Cover Blown! has every player use their smartphone to get secret information each round, which I think is incredibly smart. It is kind of like the Resistance or Avalon, but with a whole new host of possibilities due to the use of the app. In this game, there are good cops who are trying to determine the murderers, and corrupt or “bad” cops who are trying to keep the murderers from being found. There is also this really interesting mechanic where every player has a gun with one bullet and can shoot any player once, reducing their health by 1. If a good cop dies then the bad cops win, and if a bad cop dies then the good cops win. Since there are always fewer bad cops than good cops, this mechanic makes it important to conceal your own identity if you are a bad cop. Thus, you can’t constantly be screwing things up or else the good cops will literally shoot you.

The rulebook was pretty solid all things considered, though it was a bit tougher to figure out what was going on due to not having the app. It wasn’t very clear to me when players could examine or look for clues. There were also a few inconsistencies with how many bad cops there were in different player counts, and the amount of health the cops should have in a game. That being said, I think if they clear up those issues then the rulebook can be a lot stronger. See the rulebook:

Planetary Destruction

Picture of Planetary Destruction

This game is very simple, but I think it can be a great quick game! The idea is that you secretly pick 3 colonies on the board at the start of the game. You write these down on a piece of paper and hide it from the other players. Players take turns scanning a sector (a ring of planets around a planet, but not that planet itself), scanning 2 planets, or bombing 1 planet. Your goal is to be the last player standing. So in that sense, this game is very much like Battleship. What I like about this game though is that it plays more than 2 players. It also is likely going to be much, much faster than Battleship.

I talked with the designer, and right now the rules say that you don’t reveal your own colonies when you scan them. But I think it might make for a more interesting game if your scans revealed your own colonies. This would mean that you would have to be careful about where you scan: and it would give the opponents more information about where you don’t want them to be scanning. Obviously, since I have never played the game, I have no idea how this would affect balancing.

The rulebook was alright but lacked images in some areas that I think could make the game a lot clearer. Overall though, it was not bad. Bonus points as the game was inspired by Cixin Liu’s trilogy, the Three Body Problem, which is one of my favorite if not my favorite book series of all time! These aren’t the official rules, but you can read the text of them here:


This is a roleplaying game, and clocked in at over 100 pages. There also is a lack of any graphics. So I was a bit hesitant to dive into this one, but I found it interesting enough to skim through and pick out the good bits (in my opinion).

Domains takes the players into a world where they are just normal people. Except, each player has a Darkness. From the rulebook a Darkness could be:

“Cannibalism, Collecting something macabre, Corrupting someone, Cultural Alienation, Dabbling in the Occult, Drinking Blood, Eating live insects, Forming a cult, Kleptomania, Learning other’s secrets, Mental Abuse, Murder, Obsessively holding onto something, Physical Abuse, Ruin someone, Self- Mutilation, Sexual Depravity, Talking someone into a crime, Telling other’s secrets, Venerating an Old God”

So yeah. Your character is normal except for this one thing that makes them immoral, if not criminal. Over the course of the game, your character gains resources, which are described as follows:

“Resources is used as a term broader than merely money, which also denote various IOUs, favours, and other ways a character could acquire items and services. Buying items and services uses resources, while selling items and doing favours for others gains resources. ”

I think that’s really awesome from a storytelling perspective. It gives everyone so much storytelling room to talk about how they were able to buy their equipment and is even more versatile than gold.

There were a few other really cool ideas in there, and I think this has a lot of potential as a cool horror RPG. The issue with the rulebook though was it’s length and how it continually rambled on in some areas. The core mechanics of the game were buried underneath pages upon pages of status effects, mundane stuff like the consequences of players forgetting to eat or drink water, and even the different amounts of lighting that could be in a certain area and how that would affect how far you could see. I really appreciate how well thought out the game is, but at some point it just became way too much information to handle. I think this could be improved a lot once graphics are included within the rulebook, and if the rulebook is organized to put all of that extra stuff at the end for the hardcore people. Me? I just want to start playing and do stuff. Anyway, you can read the rulebook here:

What do you think of these 4 games? Would you play any of them based off of the rulebooks? Let me know what you think in the comments, and as always, thanks for reading!

© 2020 Jorge Zhang