As one of the most popular card games under the Manifold Sky, the game of Vyozha has many variants for many different styles and speeds of play. Here are a few examples of these variants.
Card Restriction VariantsIn card-restricted variants of Vyozha, certain cards are removed from play. Card-restricted variants typically exist to either accelerate play or change the degree of intellectual challenge involved in the game. These variants tend to de-emphasize the numerical aspect of the game relative to the color-matching aspect.
EvensIn an Evens game, all odd-valued cards are removed from the deck and domain cards can only take on even values. Because this variant reduces the number of cards (from 105 to 69), number of possible combinations to consider after branches (all even values are multiples of 2), and the overall difficulty of the math required, an Evens game might be considered easier overall than the base game.
OddsIn an Odds game, all even-valued cards are removed from the deck and domain cards can only take on odd values. Though the number of cards overall is reduced (from 105 to 69), the fact that almost all remaining cards are primes (with only 9 having factors other than itself and 1) makes capitalizing on branches much more difficult. As a result, Odds games are sometimes played as timed events between individuals looking for a snappy intellectual challenge rather than a drawn-out, strategic affair.
High FloorIn a High Floor game, the four cards with the lowest values and the lesser domain cards are removed from all suits. Like in Odds games, this creates difficulties for the utilization of branches, as three major primes (1, 2, and 3) are removed from play. High floor seldom sees play in modern Vyozha parlours, as the gains in speed of play are partially ameliorated by the loss of these important interactions.
Low Ceiling (Vyozha Junior)In a Low Ceiling game, also known as a game of Vyozha Junior, the four cards with the highest values and the greater domain cards are removed from all suits. This greatly accelerates play and makes the game more accessible to youngsters and people with limited table space, hence the name.
Proportional vs. Disproportional RestrictionIn most restricted variants, the number of branch cards is left unchanged despite the deletion of other cards from the deck. These variants are said to be 'Disproportional' variants. For example, a Disproportional Low Ceiling game only has 10 cards in each suit, but still has 15 branch cards. Disproportional games give the players more options, but can sometimes be slower than Proportional games due to the need to consider additional complexities and positioning. In contrast, 'Proportional' variants remove a number of branch cards from the deck equal to the number of cards removed from other suits. For example, a Proportional Evens game would remove all odd-valued cards from each suit as well as six branch cards. Proportional variants are faster to play, but, since domain cards might still be in play, can sometimes leave players wanting for more options.
Alternative Branch VariantsIn some Vyozha variants, the mechanics surrounding branch cards are changed. This is most often done to provide a degree of spatial compactness. A standard game of Vyozha can become wide-reaching; indeed, a common stock character in Vyozha-related fiction is the grizzled gambler smoking a cigar with one hand while holding a pair of opera binoculars to his eyes with the other so that he can see the far end of the play surface.
BranchlessIn a Branchless game, all branch cards are removed from the deck and their functions are not implemented in play. This makes the game much more deterministic in nature, with most players of the Branchless variant chosing to stack their cards at one of three sides of the flop card instead of creating long runs. Lacking in much of the exciting variety that a full-sized deck of Vyozha offers, the Branchless variant is most often seen in early education settings. Branchless counts as both a restriction and alternative branch variant.
Short BranchIn a Short Branch game, the deck is unaltered. However, when a player would normally place a branch after a card, that player instead plays the branch on top of that card. This is variant is most common when playing in confined spaces, as the overall mechanics of the game remain relatively unchanged.
Easy BranchIn an Easy Branch game, all branch cards are removed from the deck. However, unlike a Branchless game, players can treat any card as a branch for non-mathematical purposes (color and number) so long as all placement rules (i.e space between cards placed around another card) are observed. Instead of needing a branch, players can treat any card as a flop card for the purpose of placing cards around it. For example, a 2 of Lyvianne could have any Lyvianne or 2 card placed around it. Similarly, if two cards are close enough, a card can be placed between them which meets the requirements of being placed after both. For example, if a 5 of Cosmeon and 7 of Zevtwill were close enough together, a player could place a 5 of Zevtwill or 7 of Cosmeon in the gap because these cards satisfy the requirement of one and the number requirement of the other. Easy branch has the benefit of compactness relative to other variants. Easy Branch counts as both a restriction and alternative branch variant.
Sum BranchIn a Sum Branch game, the branch cards lose their multiplicative and factoring functions, though the other functions of these cards still apply. A synthetic branch can instead be followed with a card which is the sum of the cards leading into it. An analytic branch can instead be followed by any two cards which have values which add up to the value of the card which came before the branch. The usual restriction on multiple cards with the same value following an analytic branch is lifted, but this can prevent more cards being added in other ways (i.e. following a 12 of Zevtwill with a 12 of Cosmeon prevents any other card from being played, as 12 plus any other value is higher than the card which came before). Sum Branch games are popular with younger players, though some adults also enjoy the faster play and more obvious opportunities to 'block' opponents with analytic branches.
Material VariantsBecause cards are not always practical (i.e. in windy conditions), a few non-card variants of Vyozha have been created. It should be noted that non-card variants of Vyozha are not considered valid for divinatory purposes among orthodox Servants of Lyvianne. On the other hand, non-card variants are seeing increasing popularity in places where the resources required to make cards are scarce (i.e. Eastern desert locations with few trees for paper card stock). Sets with embedded magnets are often installed in airship and skystation recreation areas, as these are sometimes subject to micro-gravity conditions.
TilesVyozha tiles are small hexagons of ceramic, wood, or polymer stamped with simplistic representations of the various cards and painted with the appropriate colors in the resulting depressions. Many sets of Vyozha tiles feature rough velvet backing to help the tiles adhere to surfaces. Some also possess small notches and protrusions to create a puzzle-like interlocking effect; this helps to keep tiles aligned despite circumstances like a tablecloth being upset. In casinos, tiles can instead be held in alignment with one another by depressions in the play surface arrayed in a hexagonal lattice. Tiles have the benefit of being extremely compact and easy to shuffle; players need merely turn all tiles face-down and stir them about the play surface with their hands for a while to achieve sufficient randomization. Unfortunately, tiles can also be heavier and more ungainly to carry than decks of cards owing to their thickness. Many tile sets come with decorative boxes or bags for use in travel, with bags being much more common owing to ease of manufacture.
BallsLess common outside of casinos, Vyozha card faces can be painted onto hollow plastic balls and placed into sockets on a board studded with holes or pockets in a hexagonal lattice. These Vyozha balls have the benefit of always being in a hexagonal alignment with one another, but they do require a specialized game table to be used and can be difficult to read without an overhead mirror (depending on orientation). Small, high-backed racks are used to hold a player's balls in secret from their opponents, while randomization can be handled by a large sack or, in casinos, a spinning cage.
ViceVyozha has been used as a drinking game and gambling game since shortly after its religious inception.
Mesa MistakeTechnically a form of gambling where the stakes are one's own liver health instead of chips, Mesa Mistake is a drinking game based on Vyozha. A participant in Mesa Mistake takes a drink every time they successfully empty their hand before the end of their turn. A common tactic is to substitute swigs of beer or mead in the place of hard liquor to allow the participants to engage in more than one game in a night. Mesa Mistake, as the name implies, is the national sport of bars throughout Free Faces League territory, especially Triple Mesa.
Once-InOnce-In Vyozha is a straightforward gambling variant whereby players do a round of betting to determine buy-in only. This is typically done after the cards are dealt and each player has a chance to look at their own first hand; a player may choose to back out at this time, but they forfeit any stake in the pot by doing so. The winner of the game gets the pot as a reward. Once-In tables were popularized by The Dodge Room, though the practice is widespread for its simplicity.
Bid-Per-RoundBid-Per-Round Vyozha is a progressive gambling variant. Each participant puts a small buy-in into the pot at the beginning of the game. When it becomes a participant's turn, after they draw, that participant can chose to either 'stay' or 'raise;' raising means to increase the number of chips in the pot. In order to remain in contention for the pot, each participant must 'match' the contribution of the person who raised (and possibly add their own raises to the mix) until everyone has equally contributed to the pot. A participant who choses not to match may chose to leave the table or continue to play, but they are not eligible for the pot; should someone who 'folded' in this manner empty their deck, the game simply continues without them until someone else empties their deck (becoming the winner of the pot) or a stalemate is reached (see rules for details). Bid-Per-Round was popularized by Club 105 in the Commonwealth of C. At Club 105, a number of tragedies (medical and financial) involving the combination of Bid-Per-Round and Mesa Mistake have forced the managment to employ more observant pit bosses.
Tournament Purse Vyozha is nominally similar to the Once-In variant, but the pot is held over between games so that the proceeds can be distributed to the winner(s) of a tournament. Buy-ins can occur at the beginning of the tournament or at the beginning of each game, straddling the line between Once-In and Bid-Per-Round variants. Both subvariants have been popular for a long time, especially at large parties where not everyone gets to play at the same time, but the Ironies' Grand Prix has perfected it in the eyes of most afficionados.
A print-and-play prototype of Vyozha is now available on the official Manifold Sky Discord server. You can find the PDF in the #art-corner channel. There is also a Tabletop Simulator version available through the Steam Workshop. Try it out and let me know what you think!