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zxoParleyParley is a two-player strategy card game designed by Matt Slaybaugh and Joe Versoza for our 3rd game design competition. Similar to Rochambeau, the base deck is made up of three suits (Water, Fire, and Wood), each of which trumps one other suit and is in turn trumped by the remaining suit of the three. As you progress through the levels, two additional suits may come into play: Air, which trumps all other suits, and Earth, which is trumped by all other suits. In addition, each suit is broken up into a number of different ranks: Queen, Duke, Knight, Spy, and Page (from strongest to weakest). However, spies are capable of defeating queens. In the hierarchy of suits and ranks, rank takes priority, thus the Fire Queen will beat the Water Knight, despite the fact that Water defeats Fire.

Parley is loosely based on the card "game" War, although the rules are changed enough to allow for a good amount of strategy. First of all, you have a choice of two cards from your hand to play. Secondly, both your active hand and your opponent's are visible when deciding which card to play, so you can maximize your chances of success. If you win the battle, you gain one Clout point as well as the card you captured, which replaces your just-played card in your active hand. Replaying this card will earn you triple Clout points if you win again, a neat way to incorporate the competition theme as well as extend the strategy beyond simply choosing the highest card in your hand. Win a match by running your opponent out of cards.

Since so much information is out in the open, strategy becomes very subtle. You will know what cards will be in your hand and your opponent's hand for at least the next two turns, so there are situations where it might be suitable to sacrifice a card in the short-term for a better overall situation. Matt and Joe have crafted a game environment rich with possibilities.

Analysis: For this single-player implementation of Parley, the AI is not all that it could be. In the earlier levels, it seems as if there is no AI at all, like the computer is choosing cards at random. Even worse, at the later levels, the computer seems to choose its card based on the card that you already played — in effect, the computer gets a sneak preview and can then select the best card based on this extra information. To offset this advantage a bit, you can spend up to three bribes in a match to steal one of your opponent's cards, at the expense of clout.

Except that clout points are, for all intents and purposes, worthless. Whether you have positive or negative clout doesn't appear to have any effect on the game whatsoever. There's no minimum clout requirement to advance to the next level; in fact there's no requirement at all. You can start out at the top castle if you want.

Since first rolling out the game during the competition, Matt has made a couple of changes to the version that is now online that addresses some of the criticisms expressed here and in the comments. In this latest version, the AI increases gradually each level (as opposed to starting strong at level 5), and at its toughest it's only half as difficult as it was before. Also, he removed the "Earth Page" card that a number of players complained about since there is nothing that it can beat and is therefore worthless. Even with these changes, however, the AI still feels like it needs to be improved.

Parley is a great card game in theory, but the single-player implementation here fails to live up to the potential of the game. If the authors can improve the AI even more, or work out a head-to-head mode, it could very well be on the verge of habit-forming. Or maybe they could sell physical Parley decks on the Web. Hmmm... Oh well. Until then, play Parley right here.

Play Parley

Parley is also available to play on Matt's Skeptictank website.


sweet! i love online card games. this one looks cool.


I like it. Very reminiscent (sp?) of Stratego... except in slick card format


Very cool card game. I hate most of them, but this one is really addictive. Love the way story is described.


A neat idea, but the higher levels just get too unfair. Starting (I think) at level 5, the computer picks its card intelligently after it knows what you picked, so the only way you can beat it is to have a card that beats both of the computer's options. It's possible to set up individual instances where this is true, but only by strategically losing a few rounds first. I don't think it's possible to get past the higher levels without a really good starting deck.

I really like the concept, but a good game should be winnable. After a bit of testing, I don't think this one is. Hopefully I'm wrong.


Impressed with the computer's AI on this game. It seems to have a very good grasp of the strategy. At least, good enough to embarass me a few times!


Hmm... I got a bug? I won over the 3rd card of my opponent, and the opponent did not use the card from the pile but instead it became "undefined of undefined over Spy of Water".

Does this happen to anyone else?

Other than that, quite an interesting take on the "replay" theme. It also incorporates the JIG logo, but not as creatively as JIGorbit.


Ryan: I got the undefined bug as well, I could see that my opponent had no cards, yet the round didn't complete.

I thought it was very fun, loved that the ranking board is present during gameplay, made it easier to play and enjoy, while still being challenging.


Love how Parley is an anagram of Replay!


I also got a bug. The computer was down to one last card. Then I used a bribe to steal the last card. The computer didn't have any cards left and yet I was not declared the victor. Instead, I chose one card from my deck and the computer chose nothing. The computer won the hand because its "undefined of undefined" beat my card.


i do not particularly like this game. i have played it a couple of times at random and i always won! for me this should not be the case, if it is about strategy than you shouldn't always be rewarded for just fooling around.


tjibbe - you won all 9 levels?!

Because if it's just the first level you won, that's no great feat. As mentioned in the post above, there are "9 levels of increasing difficulty and complexity."


Jay, just a heads up, its "Rochambeau", or "Reaux Sham Beaux." Just thought you'd want to know.


Thanks, Rich. Fixed.


Great! I love card games, and I love medieval history.

The best of both worlds (and great gameplay to boot)!

Blue_Blazer July 19, 2007 1:16 PM

I got the same bug that pokey did, other than that, good game.


Yeah, it's very hard to beat level 5. After realizing this, i tried level 6. Won 4 turns out of 20. So, yeah, it gets nearly impossible to beat 5-9 due to the AI's kick-ass cards. But you can always play level 4 over and over again untill you're tired of this cool game.


Yeah, I got stuck around level five too. It seems that, when you can beat one of your opponents cards with one card, and the other with the other, the computer will always pick the card that beats the one you chose. It's pretty frustrating, because you have no hope of winning that hand even though when playing against a human, you could probably win about half the time. Really, the computer ought to choose its card without knowledge of what the player chose. It's a shame, as I was enjoying this game until that point.


I absolutely cannot beat Level 5, no matter how many times I try.

I really like the game though. It just seems a little strange that it becomes nearly impossible before you're even half way through the game...


I did some testing with level 5. In the experiment, I had two cards, say A and B, and the computer had two cards, say C and D. A beats C but loses to D, and B beats D but loses to C. I choose my card randomly, so in theory the computer should beat me about 50% of the time. It won 15 out of 15 attempts, which clearly indicates that it decides on its choice after it knows what I picked. There's a fine line between a smart AI and a cheating AI.


Love the graphics and the minimalist sound effects. The game itself is fun and well-conceived, but I really dislike the way the AI "cheats" in the higher levels. After L4 I felt I was just beating my head against a wall and the fun was gone.


The cards are face up on the table, why shouldn't the computer "look" at its cards before playing one of them?

From what I understand, the computer picks more or less randomly in the early levels, and increases its "awareness" of the cards played as the levels increase.


Perhaps, Jay, but what we're seeing is that "awareness" is not "choosing based on which of the computer's cards can beat which of the player's cards", but instead is "choosing based on the card the player has already played".

We can only do the first, while the AI appears to be able to do both. That's unfair; the result renders the game impossible at higher levels.


I'm fine with the computer looking at its cards. I'm fine with the computer looking at *my* cards. (After all, why shouldn't it? I'm looking at his.) The contention is that starting at level 5, the computer bases its choices on the card that you just played, which is no fun. There's a reason that when most people play rock-paper-scissor, they declare their choices at the same time.


I understand now. Thanks for the clarification. =)


"The cards are face up on the table, why shouldn't the computer "look" at its cards before playing one of them?"

Well, yeah, but that's not the problem. The problem is that the AI generates deck cards that are always able to beat yours. Either that, or it picks one of the cards in the deck that best suits it's next move. It shouldn't be able to, since we aren't.


Ok, I'm sorry but I have to be honest here. I don't like this game. The concept is ok but trying to use made up cards with differnt suites and such than what one is used to is just not effective as far as I am concerned. Too much stuff to have to think about when playing the game. I just want to get on there and play w/o all that other stuff to get in the way. It would be fine if it was just regular cards I guess but still nothing that I would get all that excited about. I don't know, maybe I am just impatient and didn't give it much of a chance but that's how I play. I am doing this for fun and if I'm not having fun from the start or get frustrated it's game over. Just my take on it.

Tony Evans July 19, 2007 3:07 PM

I managed to break the game by buying the opponent's last card. Then he had a deck full of "undefined" that automatically beat anything I had.


fwissy - I can appreciate where you're coming from, as I had the same trouble my first time playing.

However, using ordinary playing cards wouldn't really help because there would be no logical ranking of the suits. The suit ranking in Parley is very logical: Fire burns Wood, Wood floats on Water, Water douses Fire. Air is above all cards, Ground is beneath them.

Similarly, the ranking of the cards is also logical as it is based loosely on a medieval court. So, while the game may take some getting used to before "fun" may be experienced, that is fairly common when learning any new game: even a new card game using ordinary cards.


Also, air blows out fire, air topples wood, air stirs up water, fire controls earth, wood grows on earth, water covers (about 70% of) earth, and, uh, air beats earth for some reason. The justifications get a bit harder when you try to do all 5-choose-2 of them. Meh.

Reservations about the bugginess and AI aside, it is a pretty neat card game, and one that I think could be pretty fun for two non-cheating human players. It just doesn't work that well as a computer game, at least in this incarnation.

Carl Foust July 19, 2007 3:42 PM

Nice game, however by castle 5 it's clear that the computer is able to see which card you are playing before it picks. If there's a way for it to beat you it will.

Birdseed July 19, 2007 3:54 PM

I really liked the game until the AI started cheating in level 5. Pity. What's also apparent is that the AI isn't really acting "correctly" below level 5 either.

Say you've got two queens and the other guy has a spy and a duke. The correct move for him would obviously be the spy, but below level 5 he'll just pick one of the two at apparent random.

At level 5 and above he'll make the correct choice but he'll also make "hypercorrect" choices by cheating. Say you've got a knight and a queen instead, with his cards the same. If he was a human player he'd factor in stuff like which card he'd least like to lose, what comes next in the pile, what will be worst for me if I replay it and so on, then chance it - if he picks the wrong card I will win, the chances are 50-50. Instead, in that situation he's always able to pick the right card, indicating he knows not just what cards are on the table but which one you've played out.

It's a pity. I don't think it would be so hard to program a proper AI, or at least one that picks the right card based on the opponent's two.


Two things- Pedantry over Roshambo is useless, especially when there're no dictionary entries and the predominant event spells Roshambo (Phil Gordon's).

Second, I wish you'd clarified in your description that the rank is the primary decider, then the suit.


I agree that the AI is simply impossible to beat further on in the game.

Another thing I noticed is that rank beats suit, so that a knight of water loses to a queen of fire. This is logical, yes, but I assumed that the suits were the most important when I started. Some sort of instruction mentioning that would be nice.

Then the story; I didn't even see it until after I had beaten level 3, I assumed it was just a regular-old card-game story, which means it's just a card game. if that came up immediately upon starting, it'd be nice, cause otherwise it's just wasted effort on your part, because some people just plain old won't see it.

The compass-thing on the world map is a little confusing. Also a little irritating as it's constantly in motion.

lastly the clout; It's confusing, because it only ever displays your overall clout, rather than your current level clout, and it should be visible on the world map, somewhere, because it's your score. Perhaps even a message attached to each level that you can see greatest clout-gain per level.


I updated the description.


I really like this game once I started playing, but just like everyone else, past level 5 is impossible! It's not only that it is unbeatable, I find that I can sometimes play forever with very little give and take. (This is especially true when I try the higher levels.)

Despite the flaws, I really think this was a great addition to the competition! Its a really neat concept and different from the typical shooters and point and clicks. With just a few tweaks this would be something I would return to.

My two suggestions - Have the computer alternate turns, or make it so that is two player. In fact, I want to buy a deck like that so I can play at home for real!

Birdseed July 19, 2007 4:38 PM

One more thing: Level 4 is actually a lot easier than level 1. Same with level 9 compared to level 5. More cards = less down to chance.


I think kate is onto something: If these were paper cards, packaged with a flyer of rules (slightly modified for face-to-face human play) I would buy them in a heartbeat. It really is an engaging game.

Brendan July 19, 2007 5:12 PM

I really enjoyed this game a great deal... until I (like everyone else, it seems) ran into the apparently cheating AI in level 5. Awareness is one thing... but basically forcing the user to use the bribe to beat the cheating AI is a major flaw. Such a shame, too...


Oh man, I really enjoyed this game, even if I constantly lost after the midway point.

I would love to see a head to head version of this, or, as someone suggested before, a real deck of cards made from this. It's quite clever and intrigued me to no end. I do agree about difficulty, but that didn't stop me playing it (and it doesn't seem to have stopped anyone else, either). Thanks for making it.


When I play the higher levels, I find that the 'Earth Page' just ends up in my hand, and I can't do anything with it. I give it away when I can't do anything else, but then I get it right back when I have the better card. Maybe I am just missing some key strategy, but I find this card impossible to work with. It just sits there. It needs to be able to beat something. Maybe some sort of wild card? I liked it better in the levels before the page, because everything could win somehow.


I'd say the problem with the earth page is exacerbated by the AI. In a two-player game where players revealed their cards simultaneously, it could be a neat maneuver. For instance, I have the duke and page of earth, you have the queen and knight of fire. I suspect you'll play the queen to beat me regardless, so I play the page. Now you've got the page, and you wasted a high-powered card when you could have used the knight instead. See? Fun mechanic. It's a bit quirky that it can't beat anything (perhaps earth should beat air?), but I think it's only "broken" in the hands of an omniscient computer.


Ah, I love card games, and this is one of the best new ones I've seen. It's so engaging and still so simple.

I find that a good strategy is to revisit some of the earlier, easier castles and build up your clout for more difficult matches.


Ok this is a bug, plain and simple: I'm in Castle 4 and his Duke of Water just beat my Duke of Wood. That shouldn't happen!
Fun concept, but the AI is unfair, like the others said, and it needs some bugs flattened out. I like the art, and I think with some work this could be really fun.

Karin M Designs July 19, 2007 7:25 PM

I haven't reached level 5 as I type this, so don't know about the cheating AI, but it wouldn't be the first one I've come across :)

A very nice variation on the card game War.

I don't have a problem with the suits or ranks, as the listing of what beats what is just to the left of the playing screen.

Kudos to the designers.

With improved graphics and sounds, this game would be even more awesome!


No one has mentioned it, but the strength of the rank and suit with respect to the hierarchy in the game is represented on each card by small colored triangles: the rank on the right, and the suit on the left of the card.

The higher the triangle on the card, the more powerful it is.


I really wanted to like this game, because it sounded like a really neat idea. But it just doesn't do it for me. I suppose it didn't help that I ran into the undefined bug mentioned above--I bribed the enemy's last card and the round still didn't end. Then when I played a card the enemy won, even though it didn't have any cards left. So that kind of soured me on the experience as well.

Wesley Shephard July 19, 2007 8:13 PM

As pointed out, the Earth Page becomes a serious flaw in the design once the AI starts to play well. I agree with the suggestion that perhaps Earth should beat AIR, since air is so powerful as it is. However, for the Page that only solves the problem when the Air Page shows up... which could take a while or even be in your own deck.

I think the page rank provides little value in the game anyway: they are effectively "throw away" cards as they can't win in most situations. Removal of the page rank leaves the spy as the lowest/highest rank, and interesting situation.

Additionally, I agree that a simultaneous reveal seems a much better way for this to be played: the possibility for fakes would be powerful. However, it would have to be combined with a fix for the Earth Page because there would remain no way to remove it from the currently circulating hands.

One idea that did strike me is the idea that two pages could be played as a "peasant revolt" as a pair, and they would win over Queen, Duke and Knight (the spy would be too slippery to catch). This would give the page a way to win out, without becoming over powering... however, testing would have to be done to see if it could happen often enough to matter.


Bug: If you steal the computer's last card, the round will never end.


I really like this game, and I like that I can visit any level without having to beat the previous level.

However, like others, I can't figure out how to beat the entire game either :( I tried bribery. I tried loading the computer's deck with sucky cards. I'm out of ideas. I'm just not smart enough :( And level 4 is too easy for me now, and I can't beat any level higher than that.

Also, the story is a great idea, but it does a confusing job of explaining the game instructions. I wouldn't have gotten all the rules straight without reading Jay's review. I think the story and the game instructions need to be separated.

The spy card is my favorite card :) I also actually like the page card, unlike everyone else. It turns the game into something like Old Maid, because once it comes into play, the page just bounces between the two players, unless there's a way to bury it in a deck that I haven't figured out yet.

[Edit: The introduction to the game provided above was written by Matt and included with the game when it was submitted. I included it here because I felt it was important information to have before beginning to play. -Jay]


Also is it just me or is it a tad sexist that the Queen is more powerful then everyone yet "gives in to the spy every time"? I understand that it's supposed to be humorous.


Above it was mentioned that it was a good idea to go back to earlier ones to build up clout, but as far as I can tell, this isn't really necessary - the clout can go into the negatives, and you can even still bribe when you have negative clout. It seems it doesn't really have an effect on the gameplay, it just keeps track of score. I don't know if that's the way it should be, but...

Also, did anyone else have trouble reading the story? For me, the lines of text were a bit too long for the box, so the last words in each line were cut off.


Neat concept and very good game design, guys keep this coming


lol... I somehow got into a neverending loop on level 7. I used up all my bribes, and there were 3 page cards in play, and we just kept trading them back and forth. I think it went on for about 20 minutes before I got bored and tried to lose. But my last card was always a high card against two pages, lol. I had like -300 clout, got back up to -10 clout against the AI's 365 clout, and then I hit the restart button :P


Level 9 sucks, there wound up being 2 pages in play, and one of us would have one each say, and we'd just play it when we couldn't win by playing anything else, and the pages would just go back and forth, with nobody winning anything


Hi, Matt here, one of the authors/designers of the game.

Firstly, I really appreciate all the feedback, both positive and negative - making games like this often feels like a shot in the dark, and we game developers rely on the community to tell us what elements succeed and which fail.

In terms of the 'undefined' bug, there should be a revised version up shortly that prohibits bribing when the opponent is down to just a single card or two.

In terms of the difference in AI at level 5, yes the AI becomes much more difficult at that point. It's definitely not impossible to win however, even with lousy deals, but the higher levels require a little more thought and strategy than the first 4.

Regarding the 'cheating' AI, yes at the higher levels the AI is selecting its card based on what you pick. The reason is that the AI needs to be given an advantage since it can never be as smart as a human being, which can take a holistic view of all the cards on the table and come up with a strategy that requires planning two or three moves ahead. If the computer just plays randomly, it's way too easy to win.

It may be interesting to some players to know what this game looked like just a couple of weeks before the deadline:
- 18 levels, 9 with effectively random play by the computer and 9 with AI
- Many more 'special' cards such as Bribe, including: Putsch, Slander, Assassinate, and several others
- All the cards in all 4 decks were visible, not just the top cards and the 'batters box' cards
- No 'Page' rank
- No 'Air' or 'Earth' suits

It's been interesting to see how people have played the game. I'm sure a version 2 (or even a paper version) will be out at some point

mtheminja July 20, 2007 11:50 AM

No one said anything about making the computer play randomly! Just making it understand basic strategy would be fine. Right now it goes straight from guessing stupidly to invincible (yes, it IS impossible to beat the computer once it gets it god-like knowledge of your choice). Try at least making an in between stage for levels 5-8 where it plays strategically without cheating, and then on level 9, it would be fair to let it cheat just on that level. You could even come up with a reason, like the city was bribed or something.


I did win level 5 by bribing off 3 of opponents cards from his right deck at the start of fight. Then you just have to win first hand and after that the enemy only has 1 card on table. Took me 20 tries and I had about -1500 clouts, but in theory its possible to win.

mtheminja July 20, 2007 1:49 PM

Well, at least this is false:

"It's definitely not impossible to win however, even with lousy deals"

If it took 20 tries to get the right 'lousy deal', then it's not really a lousy deal.

Throbkin July 20, 2007 4:18 PM

I agree with the 'AI-too-tough' above. How about switching who goes first? Last trick leads or something. Or how about spend clout for other things like force AI to play first etc...
I kept getting clocked on lvl 5 then went back to 1-4 to get my clout positive again. Just liked it better that way I guess...


Through the words of Jack Sparrow:

Ehehe... parley?

Chrysanthemum July 21, 2007 3:40 AM

Seconding (hundredthing? ;) ) everyone else on the "cheating" AI. CowboyRobot, I appreciate that the AI can't pick randomly all the time, but with computer game-playing the choice isn't just between a random AI or an all-knowing one. Someone else asked for a more strategic AI in the higher levels; I think this'd be a good idea. Honestly, although I love the game as concept and nearly got very addicted, the first four levels are way too easy and the fifth is just impossible, and neither of those extremes are fun. Allowing the AI to use some strategy without just seeing what we pick and responding would be a great solution.

Thirath July 21, 2007 6:51 PM

In levels 5-9 you just have to plan more carefully. Since you know what the computer will pick every time, just create scenarios where it loses cards. Like switching pages back and forth waiting for a good scenario to steal cards. Getting the computer down to 1 stck also works well. That and make good use of the steals. I ended up beating the game with like -1300 clout. Level 9 was the hardest since there were so many cards to get, took quite a long time to do, and quite a few tries.


I just came back to say that I really liked this game and I hope that a fixed-up version comes out. I was disappointed to read the maker's comment. CowboyRobot, I really think you should listen to the gamers when it comes to how hard the AI is. Essentially telling us that we need to suck it up and be more strategic is not very diplomatic. ;) JIG is full of extremely good gamers, and the complaining about the AI is practically unanimous. It isn't that we're stupid.

Even the few people who claim to have beaten the higher levels admit that it took them a very long time to do it! This is supposed to be a casual game. The majority of casual gamers would give up after playing level 5 three or four times--if their patience lasted that long.

I'm guessing it will be difficult to make the AI smart enough to play fairly. I think maybe the best thing you could do would be to make this a two-player online game. We could have tournaments!

I really, really, really liked this game. So much so that I'm thinking about making up my own set of cards so I can play it. My solution to AI problem in real life, would be for the two possible cards to be face up, and both players can look, but then the players pick up the two cards and hide them behind their hands and do a mini-shuffle, then play one of them face down in the center, and put the non-chosen card face down but sideways. When both cards have been played, turn them face up to see who wins. The winner takes the two played cards, and both players return the non-played card to where it was.


Even simpler way to play this in real life:

Each player has a coin. You put the coin in either your left or your right hand secretly, probably behind your back. Then you present your hands to each other and reveal which hand the coin is in simultaneously.

I agree this would make an excellent real-life game. A combination of Stratego and War.


I think I'll wait to do a full post-mortem until after the competition judging is over; I want to see what the JiG folks have to say before I put my foot in my mouth.

But, just to respond to a few of the comments: I certainly wasn't trying to imply, as joye suggested, that players were too stupid or lazy to beat the AI on the higher levels. Really, the 1st 4 levels are simply a different kind of game than the latter 5. The first part is about calculating the probability that you'll win a particular trick, while the latter part is about playing a few moves ahead and stacking the other player's decks. Also, while the Bribe cards shouldn't be necessary for most hands in the first part of the game, they are necessary for the latter part. And knowing exactly when to use a Bribe card can determine the outcome of the level.

I agree that a 2-player online version would be interesting, and a real-card version would be fun as well. The issue of simultaneous card-selection is reasonably easily solved in an online version, and with real cards the players just need some way of indicating left or right, possibly by using a coin or some other token, shielded with your hand or an upturned card or something.

Many users are correct in that the AI is the hardest part of this kind of game. In some ways, all AIs 'cheat' in that they follow pre-set formulas for decision-making. Improving that will be the big challenge.

I think we nailed the 'Replay' theme. Most card games have cards sit on the table once they're played. War, however, has the cards recirculate, and we kept that aspect as much as possible. However, I have no idea how we did aesthetically. I suppose it just comes down to a mater of taste, but I don't know whether the baroque look works, or whether we would have been better off with a very clean, sparse look.

There's been enough interest in this that I can pretty much guarantee that there will be a version 2.0 out someday. And I welcome all feedback (do you think the Page rank is too annoying, or does it add an interesting challenge? Is the Earth suit superfluous? etc.)
Thanks for all the feedback so far


This game reminds me to an extent of the fictional game Azad (from Iain M. Bank's superlative novel "The Player of Games") - perhaps it's the power-struggle theme, or the way you move from "castle" to "castle" and the game gets more complex every time.

If the makers of this game don't mind, I would like to use the rules they have created to make a new version of this with actual cards, along with some of the features missing (Assassinations and so on) from the online version.

Despite its problems (and this is much harder to screw yourself over in than Arcomage or Ring Pass Not) this game is a strong contender for the prize. Good luck!

Batamtig July 26, 2007 4:13 AM

I've tried every way I can think of to "stack the other player's deck", but to no avail. I think it's impossible to win, except in very rare lucky deals.


Ray, I love that book :)

Azad, as I remember it, is mostly the game about knowing your opponent, understanding the way he thinks and in 4-players games making sure everyone else does not gang up on you. Same could be said of course about Poker too, but unlike most popular games I always imagined Azad had very little to do with luck and very much about psychology.

Interesting that you thought about Azad, a most complicated game ever created, representing whole human society, taking years to learn and lifetime to master, when playing Parley...


Oh come on. After playing for a while I started suspecting that the game was cheating, but I thought no, certainly any self-respecting game designer wouldn't sink to that. Then finally I come and read the comments here and discover that sure enough, the game is cheating and the designer(s) admit it.
There are some creative ideas in this game, but there are other very creative games in this competition. If you can't figure out a way to make the AI play interesting without having it cheat that indicates a lack of imagination. It may not be easy to build a good AI, but that's not a valid excuse for making the game unplayable. Either suck it up and fix the game or remind me to never, ever play a game that you design again.
This game MUST NOT even rank well in this competition unless it is fixed. A cheating AI is a _fatal_ flaw for a game. On the other hand a few small issues with game mechanics such as the earth page are fixable and can be overlooked for the value of the concept.
Bottom line, fix the cheating AI or get out of the way for designers who care enough to commit to something worth playing.


Ermmm... Jeremy... even many triple AAA titles (multi-million dollar games major games that are really hyped and such) have some form of cheating AI... AI isn't that good yet in the majority of games, both because its very difficult, and because games often sell with bad AI so the publishers push graphics and physics while neglecting AI.

Batamtig August 2, 2007 5:10 AM

Ryan V,

The difference is that for the commercial titles you mention, the cheating AI doesn't make it almost impossible to win. Would anyone buy a game they were guaranteed of losing without substantial progress, except in very rare cases.

Come to think of it, it would be relatively easy to implement a less formidable cheating AI in this game - simply introduce a "random" probability of cheating during any play.

Avi Appel August 8, 2007 2:56 AM

This game is easy. Here is an image of my process after 30 minutes of playing one game: http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v480/krypta/Parleyone.jpg?t=1186556146


I spent another half hour and beat the game. Images of a won game here:
and here:

85% of the time you should play from whichever of your piles has more cards.
15% of the time you should play the card that you think will win this round.

If the other player only has one or two cards in one of his piles, bribing one/both of them resulting in him only being able to play one card (because one of his piles now has zero cards) will usually win you the game.


Has this been changed since the above comments?
I completed all the levels on the first go.
I don't think that the computer picking the best card to beat you is cheating, just sensible tactics. In fact it often picked the wrong card anyway. It doesn't seem to plan ahead at all, and makes terrible blunders by winning with it's most powerful card when it could beat you with a page.
You have such a huge advantage with the bribe feature that having to go first doesn't matter.

Batamtig August 9, 2007 6:12 PM

The AI has definitely been changed. I played the game a lot before, and it was almost impossible to beat on most levels above 5. I just played it again and beat all of the levels.

Now one can virtually ensure victory by simple odds reckoning. The problem is that now I'd say the game is too easy.


Yes, a new version was put up a few days ago, and Matt just delivered still another version that he says has a smoother progression in difficulty for the AI.

Let us know what you think of this latest version. :)


Hi all, Matt here.
There were a number of complaints about the AI being too hard, so I sent Jay a revised version that essentially removed the 'cheating' aspect of it. But it was too easy, so version 3, which is now up includes a new AI that gets progressively more difficult. So now, level 8 and 9 are pretty hard but not as hard as level 5 was before.
Also, I got rid of the 'Earth Page' card. Since it couldn't beat any other card it would always remain in play, becoming more of a nuisance than a strategic element.

At some point I might try a real revision (2.0 not 1.4) with new cards and different elements. I'll check the comments here for people's thoughts.

Bugreporter September 20, 2007 10:54 AM

Hey CowboyRobot...

Major Bug!!
Anytime I'm in the higher levels, I get the "undefined error" I never used the bribe feature, so it's all just a matter of exchanging cards... then one of the sides gets unused and eventually I go through some weird process to eliminate all sides and then the AI starts amassing a list of undefined cards that I can never get to. So... although I could probably beat all the levels, I never can because of the bug!

some additional thoughts:
the page cards are actually useful even when they can't win: they can played when you don't want to lose one of your good cards and want to give a chance for the AI to exchange out one of the cards that would take your good card. If you play according to this strategy, the last half of the game is actually quite fun and even easy. If you don't know about this strategy, then the page cards are a nuisance; so you could keep the page earth card in there; it would fit in just fine.



If both players played like you suggested, most of the game would consist of passing the Earth Page back and forth. Once it appears in someone's stack, there is NO possible way for it to leave the stacks in play.

The other pages can at least all beat each other.


This game was a lot of fun and I thoroughly enjoyed it, though I found games with dukes but no pages to be fairly difficult. It felt kinda unbalanced at that point but once pages got included in the game things played much more smoothly and seemed more balanced. Just my 2 cents.

In the spoiler tag I've described some details about the Undefined Error for the game author if they read the comments:

The Undefined of Undefined wins over __ of __ error happened to me at level 9, which is what I presume to be the last castle, though I'd have to double check.
At first only one card was blank so the AI was playing as if it had all its cards in a single stack with only one out - even if it won the matchup and should have had two in play.
Eventually it had no cards out except for the one card it kept winning from me with the Undefined error. In my case it was a page so I kept getting it back but whenever it had nothing out it automatically won whatever I put out so I was unable to get at its remaining cards to end the game. I've made a screenshot of it for you here:
You'll note that there are around 50 cards in play according to the numbers - level 9 starts out with about 29 cards normal - 4 in play, the other 25 in the stacks.
Hope this information will help you find what causes this. Castle 9 is I think the only castle to include all ranks and suites in full, so that part of the implementation might be the best part to start looking.



Level 9 is bugged as sin. I expect the undefined error may be a consequence of forgotten code when Earth Page was removed.

Also, the undefined error happened on *my* side, and I was no longer allowed to play after beating 1-8.


Hi, sorry everyone - there was a bug that lead to empty, 'undefined' cards appearing in the deck (for those interested, it appeared whenever a deck size was not a multiple of 4). The bug is fixed and Jay has uploaded the new version.
Apologies to everyone who got frustrated at the last level

[Note: you may have to empty your browser cache to get the new version of Parley. -Jay]


I am getting a flash gametap ad at the top of the popup window that pushes the game outside of the static, unresizble window, making the game unplayable. I'm using Firefox in Windows.


Ariock - That's rather difficult to believe without a screenshot since there are no Flash ads on these competition entries whatsoever. Do you have a screenshot?

Perhaps you have visited through another site that has put its own frame along the top of your browser window?

Here is the correct URL for this game...



I have the same problem with the ad at the top of the screen. I get the ad in both Firefox and IE7.

The game is unplayable due to the ad pushing the game out of the window if I open the game by clicking the picture at the top of this review. (Screenshot: http://img102.imageshack.us/img102/836/parley1zb0.jpg)

The ad also appears if I open the game from the link Jay posted in his last comment. However, in this case the game appears in a bigger window and is playable. (http://img210.imageshack.us/img210/1732/parley2kb0.jpg)


dkm, when the competition flash loads and starts, you are selecting Parley, but they clicking the link to skeptictank.net. Instead of doing that, try just clicking on the picture of the game or the green highlighted button to start the game in the same window you are already in.


Fixed? BS. I tried level 9 and, after spending a bribe to get the enemy's cards in circulation again by bribing the undefined (who doesn't join me in truth, being an error) only to be pinned by having one pile locked in by my own, unplayable undefined. After expiring my other pile, I had about 11 cards stuck in a useless pile. A game that destroys your progress like this is fail.


That was my fault, PandaKnight. I was looking into the reports of the ad obstructing the game window, and so I had reverted back to the previous version.

The issue should be fixed now, however. My apologies for the confusion.

Empty your browser cache to get the latest version.


at first i thought this was gibberish. If you just take a minute to think about the rank first and then suits, and play safe, its not difficult. After a few rounds on 1 (yeah I was sucking pretty hard) I went through every level with only 1 hiccup at 7. If you don't go for the hopeful/luck move to get a better card and play defensive you'll win.. eventually. 9 took 20min.... now dinner


Laenir, I WAS clicking the green highlighted button to start the game, not the link to skeptictank.net.

The game seems to be working now, though


I've been meaning to try this out for a while now, but today was my first chance.

I like the game, but didn't like the way that the bribe card is burnt (and the points are deducted) as soon as you click the bribe card, whether you use it or not. I would have thought that a second click on an unused bribe card would deselect it and not subtract the points. I'm not sure whether that's a bug, an oversight or intentional but I think it detracts from an otherwise enjoyable game.


Good game. I beat all the levels. I never used the bribes, though.

While I like the idea of having the -second- lowest ranking card taking the highest one, this leaves the problem that with pages, as soon as one is in play there's always a page in play. All the other cards can rotate out, but with a page -always- being a losing card (whether to another page or something better) it becomes a game of passing the bad card back and forth.

Maybe change it so the page beats a knight or duke or something? That way you'd be able to get the page off the table.

android sam November 21, 2009 9:42 PM

two things:
First, I realized that the letters in "parley" can be rearranged to form the word "replay" to fit the theme,

plus, I actually have played this game with a regular deck of cards against my pal and it worked pretty well. With a few slight modifications of suit, it works nicely.


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