
Mystery MachineA puzzle card game for 1 player.

 2024

 Type:
 Puzzle / Solitaire
 Players:
 Difficulty:
 Ext. Diff.:

 Version
 1.0
 Updated on
 18 Apr 2024
 In Finnish:
 Mysteerimasiina
 Sibling games:
 Suit Nations, Suit Taboo
 Table of contents
 Optional rules:
(extension) Puzzle Mods


BASICS
REQUIREMENTS
 1 player.
 Normal deck of 52 cards. (Optionally a couple of jokers with extensions.)
 Some coins (or other tokens) in a few categories (about 3 or 4 categories, each with about 4  6 tokens).
BASIC IDEA
Mystery Machine is a puzzle game but also serves as a playground for creating puzzles (like a mix of sudoku and solitaire). The game has 3 steps:
 The initial dealing transforms the face cards and aces into a grid where columns are suits and rows numbers, but which is which is unknown.
 A puzzle grid is picked and the shuffled grid cards are dealt into the respective question piles. The goal is to figure out the mystery card (in the A1 slot).
 The tokens next to the question pile reflect the token locations in the grid. Usually there's many, and so you don't know which is which.
 Each pile has its own price (eg. 1 pair, 3 same suit, 3 same number), which is paid using the collected low cards and results in a revealed question card.
 The game is played by collecting cards from the low deck (2  10): always picking 1 out of 2, and then asking questions to gradually solve the puzzle.

SETUP
PUZZLE GRID
You can sketch out a puzzle in place or use one of the examples here  see Puzzles below.
 PUZZLE GRID: The puzzle is laid out on a grid (drawn on a piece of paper) using a few different looking coins (or other tokens) to fill the cells.
 Each cell should only have 1 coin, and some are usually left empty. (If you run out of coin categories, you can also combine 2 different coins as a new symbol.)
 Create one reusable 4x4 grid on an A5 paper, where each cell is about 1 x 1 inch. Next to the grid, draw a rectangle large enough to fit a playing card.
 QUESTION PRICE: Part of the puzzle design is to define the price for each question type, which is indicated by tokens placed behind each pile.
 SAME NUMBER: Same number prices are marked by placing 24 tokens in a row  the count implies how many required. (4 same is very expensive, 1 pair cheap.)
 2 x SAME NUMBER: 2 pairs or a full house (= 1 pair + 3 same number) are marked by two rows respectively. (These are very expensive.)
 SAME SUIT: Same suit prices are marked by placing 24 tokens in a column. (Most often 3 same suit  middle priced.)
 STRAIGHT FLUSH: Price for same suit with subsequent numbers is marked by 24 tokens overlapping each other in a column. (These are very expensive.)
DEALING MECHANISM
This mechanism shuffles the ordered cards (= 4 x J, Q, K, A) by columns and rows and finally deals them into question piles.
 INITIAL GRID: The included cards (= at least 4 numbers with all 4 suits) are placed face up into piles by their suit in the same order (usually from ace down).
 SHUFFLING SUITS: The player turns the piles face side down and starts moving them around on the table until no longer knows which is which.
 With a rotating tray, place cards on it, rotate, swap some, rotate again, and swap until satisfied. Or with someone, both can quickly shuffle (= neither knows).
 REGROUPING: The first suit pile is laid as a row (face down from left to right), and then the other suit piles are laid above in the same order (into new piles).
 SHUFFLING NUMBERS: The new number piles are then shuffled just like was done in step 2 above. (There are as many piles as numbers included in the setup.)
 QUESTION PILES: Finally, the number piles are (piled into one and) dealt row by row into the question piles according to the picked puzzle.
 Each card is moved to the pile with the same token in the grid (going left to right, row by row). The empty slots have their own pile, a stone is put on top after.
 Finally, after dealing the number piles into question piles, each question pile is shuffled  except the stone pile which remains inaccessible.
 PUZZLE GRID: The puzzle is laid out on a grid (drawn on a piece of paper) using a few different looking coins (or other tokens) to fill the cells.

PLAYING
ON A TURN
The game proceeds by collecting cards from the low deck (numbers 2  10). The deck is shuffled and 2 cards are turned face up.
 PICK A CARD: The player takes one of the two cards (face up in front of him) and dumps the other (face down aside), and then draws 2 new cards (when ready).
 The player can collect up to 6 cards. Upon collecting the 7th card, one of the earlier collected cards is dumped.
 ASK QUESTIONS: You can use the collected cards to pay question prices. You can ask as many in a turn as you can (before and/or after picking).
 After paying the price, the used cards are dumped and the topmost face down card in the targeted question pile is turned face up (and put on top).
 SOLVE / GUESS: Finally, when the player thinks he's figured it all out (or the low deck runs out), he can declare the suit and number of the mystery card.
 The card is turned around and if correct, the player wins  otherwise he loses and the game is over. (You can also redo the puzzle without reshuffling the grid cards.)
 The success of each try is measured by how many cards were left in the low deck after a correct answer. (You don't have to turn the next 2 cards immediately.)
 PICK A CARD: The player takes one of the two cards (face up in front of him) and dumps the other (face down aside), and then draws 2 new cards (when ready).


extension: PUZZLE MODS
This extension features a few extra tools for the puzzle designer. With all included, the puzzle process is:
 Initial grid face up. Cards are turned face down into suit piles.
 Shuffling suit piles.
 Regrouping (XY flip for suits and numbers).
 Shuffling number piles.
 Perform Grid Twists.
 Form question piles (and shuffle them).
 Perform Random Removals and finally Random Adds. (The puzzle design decides which first.)
puzzle mod: EXTENDED GRID
You can also extend the grid by including some low numbers (eg. 10, 9, ...), but the player will have fewer cards to draw.
puzzle mod: EXTENDED MYSTERY
There can alternatively be multiple mystery cards (eg. A1 and A2). The mystery slots can be picked freely, but are typically A1 and near it.
puzzle mod: RANDOM REMOVALS
The puzzle designs can include discarding some cards from certain question piles.
 After shuffling the question pile, the removed card(s) are simply moved (face down) under the stone pile.
 Alternatively, the removed card(s) can become the mystery card(s), so the mystery slots are not fully known. (You can add back empty answers with jokers.)
puzzle mod: RANDOM ADDS (joker)
The puzzle designs can include adding empty answers into question piles using jokers.
 1 or 2 jokers are included into a question pile (face down) before shuffling it. (Or it's shuffled again, if uses Random Removals in between.)
puzzle mod: GRID TWISTS
This extension introduces grid twists (marked with matches on the grid) that are performed right before forming the question piles.
 Note. To help visualize the swaps, you can optionally lay the number piles into a grid (row by row), do the swaps, and then form question piles.
 JOKER SWAP: Cards can be replaced by jokers (face down), taking the replaced card(s) as the mystery. (Can also do this with Random Removal + Add in one pile.)
 SWAPPING: Two cards of the same suit / number can be swapped. Marked with two matches side by side but opposite ways.
 SHIFTING: Three or more cards of the same suit / number can be shifted one step (the last one becomes first one). Marked with two or more matches placed longitudinally across two cells each (matchheads pointing the same way).
 SHUFFLING: Two or more cards (from anywhere in the grid) can be shuffled and placed back. Marked by a broken match placed as an X on the cell.


PUZZLES
PAR PUZZLES
These are example puzzles that feature a par for optimum number of questions asked. The below legend visualizes the question pile prices.
puzzle (par 4.5): WELCOME MUSHY HEADS
 Uses normal 4x4 grid. The A1 slot is the mystery card. Can get it with about 4 or 5 questions.
 Q1 pile has 4 cards and price is 1 pair. Uses cells: A2, B1, C3, D4.
 Q2 pile has 3 cards and price is 3 same suit. Uses cells: A4, C2, D1.
 Q3 pile has 3 cards and price is 3 same number. Uses cells: B4, B2, D2.
puzzle (par 4.5): THE THREE TWO'S
 Uses normal 4x4 grid. One card is replaced with a joker. Uses cells: A1 (the topmost card of the first number pile). The goal is to find which (par 4.5).
 Q1 pile has 3 cards and price is 3 same suit. Uses cells: B2, C2  one joker is added as an empty answer.
 Q2 pile has 2 cards and price is 3 same number. Uses cells: A4, B3, D1  one is discarded with Random Removal.
 Q3 pile has 2 cards and price is 3 straight flush. Uses cells: C1, C3.
puzzle (par 4): ONE, TWO, THREE
 Uses normal 4x4 grid. The A1A2 slots are the mystery cards. Figure out with about 4 questions.
 Q1 pile has 1 card and price is 3 straight flush. Uses cells: B1, C4.
 Q2 pile has 2 cards and price is 2 pairs. Uses cells: A4, B3, D1  one is discarded with Random Removal.
 Q3 pile has 3 cards and price is 3 same suit. Uses cells: B4, C3, D2.


STRATEGY
PUZZLE DESIGN
 Any question piles that have only fully nonmatching cards should be very expensive: as every answer is very revealing and can ruin things easily.
 This is even more so if you pick, say 3 cards, and each are different suit and number from each other and from the mystery card. However, with extensions, by discarding 2 of these cards, and/or moving them around, things can get more interesting (> cheaper price), though more complex.
 On the other hand, any single question piles can be very revealing as well, especially if the same suit or number with the mystery.
 To finalize your puzzle design, figure out the few best strategical paths to solve it, and try playing the game. Adjust the puzzle difficulty by adjusting the prices, or sometimes by adjusting the puzzle grid. Feel free to share good puzzle designs by emailing them to:
infokoodikulmafi
.
 Any question piles that have only fully nonmatching cards should be very expensive: as every answer is very revealing and can ruin things easily.


HISTORY
v1  Mystery Machine (20240331  20240418)
 v1.0 (20240418): Added the low card deck part to complete the gameplay and make sense of it all (and removed Post Mixing from Puzzle Mods).
 v0.1 (20240331): While exploring solitaire mechanisms, the vision of question piles and dealing mechanisms came up and evolved into this.

THANKS
INSPIRATION
The original inspiration comes from the inherent puzzliness of the universe.
FOR IDEAS, HELP WITH DEVELOPMENT & PLAYING
Johannes Aho, Ville Viitala