Critical Play (Competitive Analysis): Psycho BS

Psycho BS is a bluffing card game played with a standard 52-card playing deck. You can read the rules here, but the main rule is that players go around placing cards from their hand face-down and stating that it is of the same number as the starting card for the round. Players can bluff when doing so, placing down cards that don’t actually fall under said number. At any point in time, a player can call out another player’s bluff; if the player lied, they add the entire deck to their hand. If the player did not lie, the player who called out the bluff adds the cards in the middle to their hand. The first player to run out of cards in their hands wins. 

Analysis on the themes/marketing aspects of this game is quite limit, as this game does not have clear origins, nor does it have explicit aesthetics as it’s built on a standard playing card deck (one could argue that by doing so, it inherits the medieval themes of playing cards, but that aside ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ).

The main reason why I wanted to analyze this game is due to the fun it conveys through the main bluffing mechanism. The backbone of this game really is the plethora of lying in each round, combined with the limited and known amount of card counts that is feasibly possible (there are 4 cards for each card number). The two simple concepts of lying and probability create two core aesthetics that drive the “fun” of this game.

  1. Fellowship: With very rapid rounds, players quickly form a sense of bluffing patterns, and even inside jokes based on absurd bluffing calls in previous rounds. While this game is a multilateral game, it is not uncommon to see players unite to try to derail the leading player who is nearing the end of their hand. Each round quickly devolves into giggles and side-eyes as players claim to have put down the same number card in the middle deck and the deck grows to become impossibly large (much more than four) — the shared sense of a common secret / lie creates bonds among the players.
  2. Competition: This game manages to become incredibly competitive between players, as players race to the finish to get rid of their hands. Bluffing itself is a form of dominance, especially when the pile of cards in the middle stacks higher and higher (it’s almost like a game of chicken, to see how long you’re willing to hold out). Calling out someone’s bluff is also a form of dominance — challenging the other player to reveal their cards and taking the risk of increasing the size of your own hand if you’re wrong.

Regardless, the consequences to calling a bluff incorrectly or getting caught bluffing are minor: if anything, increasing your hand gives you an advantage as you have a better idea of the distribution of cards (most will be in your own hand). By making the game always up-in-the-air, with quick turnarounds between the leading player and underdog, the game manages to keep everyone competitive (thinking they have a winning chance) and thus engaged.

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