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.


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:


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.


  • 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:
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:

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.


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:

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!

Proposal for “Tatsu” standard notation

Tatsu logo
The tabletop designer of Hive, has just begun releasing his newest game, Tatsu. It’s out in the UK and getting great critical acclaim, and is currently rolling out in mainland Europe and the United States during the summer of 2016.

Since it’s such a new game, there isn’t a standardized notation for moves yet… so in this post I’m proposing the one that we used to make a Steam version of Tatsu.

If anyone has a chance to use this notation for anything, I’d appreciate feedback so that I know if there are any major problems with it.

TATSU STANDARD NOTATION SPEC v1.0 – Sean Colombo 20160131

Space Numbering

The spaces on the board are numbered such that each pair is a single space with a capacity of two pieces.

The notation for spaces is that they are each assigned a single number around the circle. The spaces start with number “1” as the space by the Black mat with the number “1” on it. The other spaces will be numbered increasing clockwise all the way to space “24” which will be to the left of space “1”.

This has the side-effect that all of the spaces near the Black mat will have a number drawn on them which match their actual Space Number, but no other spaces on the board will.

Dragon Notation

The different types of board pieces will be represented by a single letter. The letters will be “V” for Vine Dragons, “W” for Water Dragons, and “F” for Fire Dragons.

Move Notation (Ply Notation)

There are two types of moves in Tatsu: Entering the Arena from the Mat, and moving a Dragon from one Space to another.

All moves have a hyphen separating them. The notation is as follows:

  • Entrance into the Arena: [Dragon Letter]-[Number of space where it will enter]. Examples: “V-2” when Black moves a Vine Dragon into its middle space. “F-14” when White moves a Fire Dragon into its middle space.
  • Movement on the Arena: [Source space number]-[destination space number]. Examples “2-5” to move the aforementioned Vine Dragon 3 spaces clockwise, or “14-11” to move the aforementioned Fire Dragon 3 spaces counter-clockwise (anti-clockwise). Due to the rules that the outer piece must be moved if you have two Dragons on the same space, there are no ambiguities that require more information than just the source-space and destination space.

Turn Notation

When a player rolls the dice, they have anywhere from 0 to 2 moves to make. If they are able to Enter the Arena or to Move on the Arena, they must do so. However, they are not always able to move given the configuration of the board and the results of the dice. When a turn cannot be made, the move will be represented as “0-0”. Each turn will consist of two plies next to each other. For example, an entire turn by black could be:

V-2 2-5

While it is impossible to have a pass, then a move, in certain configurations the player may run out of abilities to take their second turn and a pass would show up like this:

V-2 0-0

In rare cases, a player may be completely unable to move:

0-0 0-0

Game Notation

It’s not really necessary to define this at this point, but I envision that it could be numbered pairs, like this:

  • 1. 2-5 5-7
  • 2. 14-11 11-9

Unlike many Chess notations where each pair represents both players taking their turns, in the Tatsu notation each number would represent one player taking a turn. As the game is an eternal cycle rather than a back-and-forth game, this seems appropriate.