It’s out today
In case you missed it, Riot Games dove into the world of tabletop gaming several years back with Mechs vs. Minions, and it kind of ruled. It wasn’t just that it had a pretty decent strategic foundation: it was also cleverly designed to provide all sorts of RPG-like progression mechanics, as well as fun envelopes and boxes to open along the way.
Although Tellstones isn’t nearly as ambitious, it’s a reminder of how the tabletop division of Riot is always ready to rock.
Here’s the elevator pitch: it’s a 15-ish minute-per-session bluffing game for two players with a set of ornate, high quality stones as its only major component. Each stone has an icon on it, and it’s your job to memorize their order while playing a bluffing style meta-game along the way.
Each turn, a player will take one of six actions, which range from place a stone on the line, to hiding a stone, to swapping a stone, to peeking at one, to challenging your opponent to name a stone, to naming the entire line (known as a “boast”). Your job is to earn three points incrementally through various scoring methods, or correctly identify all of the stones to win instantly. It’s that simple. At least, it seems that way.
It’s very, very tough game to master. Not only do you need to have a keen sense of short term memorization, but you also need to brush up on your bluffing skills. Your opponent, in turn, is going to be swapping stones just as you are, visualizing them in their mind’s eye in a different manner. The meta-game of bluffing via your best poker face is important, but it also requires an understanding of how much your foe actually knows too.
A big wrinkle is that when boasting, your opponent can either state that they believe you have the right answer (granting one point of the required three to win), call your bluff (forcing you to go for broke and name every stone, with is an instant win if you succeed or lose condition if you fail) or steal your boast by saying they know them too. If that happens, the boast resets, with the option to believe them or call their bluff. There’s also a small catchup mechanic that allows players to peek at three stones (instead of one) if their opponent just scored a point.
Because most of it is mind games, it’s very easy to get to the table. Riot dresses Tellstones up a bit with some lore, citing that it’s a popular game in the Demacia region. It’s a little thing, but when combined with the pristine presentation and the fantastic design of the slim box (which holds everything comfortably), it counts for a lot.