Lost Cities by Reiner Knizia – Standard Notation proposal

Just as with standard notation for Tatsu, I couldn’t find a pre-existing standard for move or board notation for Lost Cities.

If you’re not familiar with BlueLine Games, we’re best known for making digital versions of board games, and Lost Cities by Reiner Knizia is the next game we’re working on. Below is my draft at a potential notation that I think would work well.

LOST CITIES STANDARD NOTATION SPEC v1.0 – Sean Colombo 20161007

Placement Notation

In Lost Cities, there are two types of placements that a player can make on their turn. They can either place a card from their hand onto one of the five expeditions, or they can discard a card to one of the five expedition spaces. Placements shall take the format:

[CARD COLOR LETTER][CARD NUMBER OR “H” FOR HANDSHAKE]<[D FOR DISCARD]>

Where [CARD COLOR LETTER] will be a letter representing the color of the card. Typically this will be the first letter of the color in English, but there will be special cases if additional colors get added which collide with the letters from earlier expeditions. For example, the base pack has Blue represented by “B”, but there is a promo pack that will have Black cards in it, which will be represented by “k”. The letter is NOT case-sensitive, so “k” and “K” are treated the same.

Color Letter
Red R
Green G
White W
Blue B
Yellow Y
Black K

Note: No color will be assigned “D” because that is reserved for representing the “Draw Pile” in other contexts.

[CARD NUMBER OR “H” FOR HANDSHAKE] is fairly self-explanatory. This is the value on the card that is being placed. The cards have numbers 2 through 10 or a picture of a handshake. The “H” is not case-sensitive so both “h” and “H” should be accepted.

<[D FOR DISCARD]> is an optional suffix, meaning that the placement will discard the card onto the expedition color provided, rather than playing the card onto the track.

Examples:

  • R3 – Will place a Red “3” from the player’s hand onto the track for the Red expedition.
  • BHD – Will discard a Blue Handshake card onto the Blue Expedition’s discard-pile.

Draw Notation

The format is simple:
[COLOR LETTER TO DRAW FROM OR “D” FOR DRAW-PILE]
This uses the same letters for the colors that were used in Placement notation, except that “D” is reserved for the Draw-Pile.

Game Notation

Each move is numbered, and the move consists of 2 parts, separated by a Hyphen in this format:
[PLACEMENT NOTATION]-[DRAW NOTATION]

For example:

  1. R3-D
  2. BHD-D
  3. R4-B

That is a game where Player 1 plays Red 3, then draws from the draw pile. Player 2 discards a Blue Handshake card, then draws from the draw-pile. Then Player 1 plays Red 4, then draws from the Blue Discard Pile.

Conclusion

This notation seems like a good first candidate & should cover all needed cases. There are two things I don’t love about it:

  1. The “D” suffix for discard and “D” for draw-pile both exist. There is no way for them to be confused by a machine since they’re on opposite sides of a hyphen, but very new users to the notation could potentially get confused. Another option could be “X” for discard, but that might not be as intuitive as “D”. I think that an English speaker is likely to be able to look at the notation an existing game using this v1.0 draft I’ve proposed, and infer the entire standard without reading the documentation at all.
  2. It leans heavily on English language for color names and letters from “Discard” and “Draw” even though the game originates from Germany. If “Black” and “Schwartz” shared a letter that made sense to represent the color in both languages (“a” isn’t very representative of either word, but it’s the only letter they share) then I would have chosen that instead of “K”.

Compressed Version

For a quick reminder or pasting into code, here is a compressed version of the standard:
[CARD COLOR LETTER][CARD NUMBER OR “H” FOR HANDSHAKE]<[D FOR DISCARD]>-[COLOR LETTER TO DRAW FROM OR “D” FOR DRAW-PILE] (“K” for “Black” expedition)

Let me know in the comments if you have any thoughts about this notation and also feel free to link to your project if you’ve implemented this notation in a product of your own!