A SPROUTS™ GAME FOR 1 TO 8 KIDS AND ADULTS AGED 8 AND ABOVE
Vortex is a game played with a deck of 100 square cards called Sprouts, plus 8 compass squares, and a sand timer. (10 tilt cards can be added for extra-skilled play.)
SETUP FOR EACH GAME
Each player gets a personal compass, and seven Sprouts cards face up. Point your compass north up and away from you. (Different players can have different norths.)
Set up your own Sprouts cards in a “rack” of one or two horizontal rows close to your body, and point their dots north as well, as shown below.
GAMEPLAY: TURN YOUR CARDS CLOCKWISE, AND ATTACH ONE ANYWHERE TO THE BOARD
Your goal is to attach up to seven cards to your personal board, with your first seed card “pointing north,” that is, with its dot pointing up and away from you, and subsequent attachments pointing east, south, west, north, east, and south.
Important: Each card may be attached anywhere to the board, but must be pointed a quarter-turn clockwise to the previously laid card, with all attaching side values matching.
After attaching a few cards to the board, further attachments may not be possible. A player can “tear down” a board (partly or totally) and start a new board, with an old or new seed card, at any time.
All personal boards are “frozen” when the game ends. The game ends when a player attaches all seven cards and shouts out, “Seven up!” or else when the 5-minute timer runs dry.
The players verify the vortexes -- making sure that cards were laid down in clockwise order -- and record the scores from each frozen board. Add the matches (once for each matching pair of values) of the attached cards, and subtract the face values of the unattached cards, to get a positive, zero, or negative score. If all seven cards are attached, double the score.
EXAMPLE: SCORING A SOLITAIRE GAME
You can practice playing Vortex solitaire. Our seven cards occupy the rack shown above.
We randomly select the leftmost card on the top row of the rack as our seed card, pointing north, shown in gray. It has 7 as a face value, and 9, 4, 8, and 9 as attachment values.
We rotate the other cards a quarter-turn clockwise (to point east) and visualize where a new attachment can be made.
No new attachments can be made. If the game suddenly ended, we would be frozen with one attached card, with a score of -9 + -8 + -8 + -2 + -9 + -9 or -45.
Starting over, we select a different seed card pointing north, and make a first attachment, pointing east, as shown below.
But after we point the remaining cards south, we cannot attach another card, as shown in the rack below.
If this game ended immediately, we would be stuck again with an overall negative score. We would add a positive matching value of 9 (counted once), and subtract the face values -9 + -8 + -8 + -2 + -9 of the unattached cards in the rack. Taken all together, these values would equal -27.
A BETTER PLAY?
A new personal board of 16 points is shown below. Can you see one additional attachment that would add another 16 points to the overall score, making it a positive 32?
A WINNING PLAY
A winning permutation requires a precise ordering and combination of card attachments to maximize your score.
In the above board, we can verify the vortex: seven cards have been attached, in clockwise rotation, starting with the seed card pointing north, with the next cards pointing east, south, west, north, east, and south, using all seven cards.
Our score subtotal is the sum of the matching values, each counted once: 3 + 3 + 5 + 9 + 9 + 7, or 36. Because all seven cards were attached, our score has a grand total of 72!
This is a challenging permutation to find. If you are under time pressure during a multiplayer game, you may never have a chance to find this permutation and score so high.
Most seven-card combinations in Vortex have at least one seven-card clockwise permutation! Can you discover it in five minutes?
“LEVEL UP” AND RECEIVE AN EXTRA CARD
The player who attached every card to a personal board in the previous round must “level up” by receiving an extra hidden card in the next deal, while all of the other players receive the same number of cards.
For example, a player who legally called out “Seven up!” during the first round is dealt eight new cards in the next round, while the other players only get seven new cards.
For this “Level up” player, the first seven cards may be turned face up in the rack, but one card remains face down, “under the pillow.” The player cannot turn over the pillow card to join the rack until all of the other cards are properly attached. (The player also cannot call out “Seven up” when one card remains “under the pillow.”)
If the eighth card can be attached to the board immediately (pointing west, which is a quarter-turn clockwise from the previously laid card), then the player calls out “Eight up!” But if the eighth card cannot be so attached, the player may tear down the personal board (partially or totally), and try to build a new board from all eight cards now available in the rack (the pillow card stays uncovered).
HOW LEVELING UP WORKS
A “Seven up!” winner gets eight cards in later rounds: seven in the rack, one under the pillow, until achieving “Eight up” with the last attached card pointing west.
An “Eight up!” winner gets nine cards in later rounds: seven in the rack, two under the pillow, with only one turned face up at a time, until achieving “Nine up,” with the last attached card pointing north.
And so on. You can build up as many pillow cards as you earn. Remember, when you get to your pillow cards, you can turn only one over at a time, and only uncover the next pillow card after you exhaust your existing rack of cards. When a pillow card joins the rack, it is always pointed a quarter-turn clockwise from the previously laid card.
SCORING “LEVEL UP,” WITH ROSES
Scoring is the same as in Vortex, but any card hidden under the pillow does not count against a player as an unattached card until after it is turned face up, on the rack.
Attached sides with “kissing roses” (roses touching the same corner) are always doubled in value. Attached sides with “crossing roses” (roses sitting on opposite corners) are always reduced to zero value.
The face value of a card that is doubly, triply, or quadruply attached when laid down is multiplied twice, three times, or four times, and then added to the sum of attachments.
Scores are not doubled for grand totals unless all dealt cards (in the rack and under the pillow) are properly attached to the personal board.
Play continues until one player gets 250 points to win the “Level up” tournament!
TIPS ON IMPROVING YOUR SCORE
Speed and cunning are top skills in Vortex. You must attach cards quickly, and at the same time maximize your score. Different boards built from the same cards can produce different scoring outcomes. Look at the rack below.
SEVEN UP, BUT IS IT THE BEST SCORE?
There are different ways to get “Seven up” with these cards. Look at the personal board below.
Starting with the seed card (here colored gray), we can verify that the cards have been laid down in clockwise order: pointing north, east, south, west, north, east, south.
Counting from top to bottom, left to right, the matches are 5 + 4 + 5 + 7 + 1 + 0, which sums up to 22. Because all of the dealt cards have been attached, the score is doubled to a grand total of 44.
But is 44 the best score possible with these cards? In fact, different personal boards can be built with these very same cards whose grand totals are 58, 66, and even 72!
The trick is to find high scoring sides that can be paired together, and attaching them at the right time. For example, in the board shown above, the 9s on two separate cards are not matched. And the bottommost attachment is made with 0s. Can this board be improved?
Yes! After tearing down the old board, another board with a different seed card can be built, as shown below.
Counting from top to bottom, left to right, the matches are 5 + 9 + 8 + 7 + 7 + 0, which sums up to 36. Because all of the dealt cards have been attached, the score is doubled to a grand total of 72!
Notice that the first matching values were 0s! But the 9s were successfully attached near the very end!
TILT CARDS FOR NEW ATTACHMENT VALUES
There are 10 tilt cards that are included for extra-skilled players. Tilt cards are kept in a pile separate from the other Sprouts cards, and are not dealt to the players.
For example, the dealer has selected the two tilt cards for 4 and 9, as shown below, and lays them joined together face up in the middle of the table for everyone to see.
The dealer then announces, “During this game, 4s cannot be attached to 4, 9s cannot be attached to 9s. But 4s can be attached to 9s, and 9s to 4s, and their attachment score together is always 13.”
PLAYING WITH YOUNGER CHILDREN
Some younger children will want to be dealt cards and will then attach the same number values without regard to the direction of the cards. Encouraging them to play this way alongside older players will enable some of them to get the knack of pointing cards quickly. Let them be co-winners with the regular winner, until they understand the compass and turning their cards a quarter-turn clockwise.
TOURNAMENT RULES FOR HARDCORE GAMERS
These additional rules serve as an aid for hardcore gamers, who employ level up scoring with tilt cards in a roundtable environment that is ruthless and unforgiving. Local rules can be used to supplement these rules.
Scoring a frozen board for all players in every valid round is as outlined above, with the following penalty adjustments for players committing misplays:
Re-touching a frozen board with a late card attachment: PENALTY all face values of all cards (including pillow cards) added up and then doubled before being subtracted from the player score as a negative number. The proper course for a player when holding a card midstream in between the rack and the board is to place the card back to the rack where it belongs. (Other players are scored normally.)
Innocently (or guiltily) garbling or declaring the wrong number of cards up, or declaring cards up prematurely, when rack or pillow cards remain in the hand: PENALTY all face values of all cards (including pillow cards) added up and then doubled before being subtracted from the player score as a negative number. Quoting the right number of cards “up” at the right time is an essential skill of the game. (Other players are scored normally.)
Constructing a bad board, with either mismatched attachments or with an unreconstructable vortex: PENALTY all face values of all cards (including pillow cards) added up and then doubled before being subtracted from the player score as a negative number. Displaying a good vortex is an essential skill of the game. You need to be able to show a valid lay down of the cards, starting from a seed card pointing north, all the way to your last pillow, as a reconstruction of your good play. (Other players are scored normally.)
EXTRA RUTHLESS AND UNFORGIVING TOURNAMENT RULES
Coming in second place in a normal counting of the scores among players for a round: PENALTY if the second-place score was originally positive, the sign is always flipped and you are now scored with the negative value of that number. This rule prevents “stalling” by players who have constructed incomplete vortexes and choose to wait out the round with a positive score, rather than risk tearing down a board to start again from scratch. (Other players are scored normally.)
Super-ruthless players go further and penalize the otherwise-positive score of a second-place finisher by subtracting all of the face values of all cards in the hand, including those on the board, in the rack, and under the pillow, thereby removing every incentive to delay tearing down an incomplete board and starting again from scratch. (Other players are scored normally.)
If you have any questions or suggestions, please reach out to the designer adam <at> sprouts-deck.com.