The In Crowd

Players 2
Length 40 minutes
Equipment Required one standard piecepack
Designer JebHavens and IanSchreiber
Version 1.0
Version Date2004-05-21
License GNU FDL , dual-licensed CC BY-SA 4.0


You and your opponent each control members of opposing posses, both vying to control the all- important In Crowd. You must strategically dispatch your posse members in an attempt to out- cool your opponent at each step along the way to ultimate popularity.

How does one get ahead in life? Obviously, at the expense of other, less important people. The "In" Crowd is a ruthless popularity contest where social promotion occurs when alpha personalities emerge from cliques of three or five people (coins). Once an elite clique is formed, the player who managed to somehow promote the highest number and/or the least popular people into that highest-tier social group wins.

Here's how it works: Two players take turns placing posse members (face down coins in their two suits) on the lowest rank of a pyramid structure formed out of 14 tiles. Every so often, instead of placing a new posse member, one player will call for a popularity vote among a small group. The values of all the posse members are revealed, and the highest-valued coin among those controlled by the player whose posse members have the highest total advances to the next step on the social pyramid. All the other posse members, now leaderless, slink back to the players' hands. This continues until four posse members reach the top of the pyramid. Then the game ends and the players score based on the values of those inner circle members. More points are awarded for getting lower-valued coins (less popular posse members) to the top.

Game setup is to build a pyramid:


Reviews & Comments

Overall winner of the GroupProjects competition. ClarkRodeffer's comments from the competition report:

The rules, aside from one question about what to do in tie votes (everyone slinks away), are otherwise well-written, concise and well-diagramed. Just reading through them gave a good sense of how this game might play out, and that clarity speaks well of the ruleset as a whole. Setup and play was a breeze. Our games typically finished a bit short of the estimated time, but the players in my group are generally faster than most, so this was to be expected. We played such that looking at already placed posse members was not allowed, because we felt that could slow down the game. The authors did address this in the rules. Kudos! The appendix was nicely written, and indicated that the authors, while working together on many aspects of the design, also did a good job of keeping track of their individual contributions.

Essentially, The "In" Crowd is a trick-taking card game played on a board having a built-in scoring mechanism. Mechanically, the method of calling for votes costing the opportunity to place another posse member is ingenious and obviously well play-tested. Our only niggle on the mechanics was that the default resolution of tie votes could lead to repetition, which could then stall the game. This seemed not-quite satisfying. We would recommend the authors do further play-testing with an alternative mechanic: if the totals of the posse member values involved in a coolness vote are tied, the player who controlled the least number of posse members wins the vote. Or, if a wilder, more radical game is your taste, try it the opposite way: if the totals of the posse member values involved in a coolness vote are tied, the player who controlled the highest number of posse members wins the vote. We played a few times using this latter mechanism, and it made for some very interesting games with lower-valued pieces advancing by virtue of having more supporters.

Another thing we noted about The "In" Crowd was that it's very well suited for expansion as a four player partnership game with opposite players each controlling one suit of coins. Of course, table talk should not be allowed in such a game. For optimum ergonomics, we recommend either using one of the alternative two-color piecepacks or two suits of coins from two identical piecepacks. One of the playing card piecepacks with only two colors is ideal for both the two-player and four-player partnership versions.

Thematically, The "In" Crowd is somewhat dry, but remembering the social climate of youthful school days was fun enough to keep us interested. To use a cliche, the theme seems painted on. Fortunately, the "In" Crowd could easily be rethemed. For example, if it were about a hierarchy of Mayan priests vying for supremacy, that would have been an interesting tie-in to the pyramidal board structure. Now there's a game that could sell!

Conclusion: The "In" Crowd clearly stands out as the best game in the Group Projects contest. It's very well-written, suitable for play by two or four players having a wide range of gaming experiences and preferences, and it's well-suited for either two players as individuals or for four players as partners. Whether you like games with bidding, trick taking, some memory elements, dramatic psychology, or simultaneous tests of both tactical and strategic skill, The "In" Crowd has it all, and is highly recommended. Score: 29.97

The theme is of a playground popularity contest, and the mechanics remind me of Quo Vadis. The board is a pyramid of piecepack tiles. Each player takes two suits of coins representing kids. The cooler the kid, the higher the value of the coin and the more voting power the coin has. Kids (coins) vote other kids up the popularity pyramid.

It was OK, but I do not think I will play it again. It is strategic and has a nice memory element, but at 40 minutes it takes too long for what it is and Quo Vadis does the same job better. I think Clark Rodeffer, the Group Projects judge, gave it bonus points as it can be converted into a four player game using two piecepack sets or the FourSeasonsExpansion. One little annoyance is that the v1.0 rules do not explain what happens in the case of ties - everyone slinks away. It is a pity this could not be fixed before publication.

Although I sound negative about The "In" Crowd, it was an enjoyable experience and I would recommend at least trying it out. One unexpected pleasure from the piecepack is in just trying lots of games out. I never thought it would be so enjoyable to play a game and then discard it so quickly. My brother enjoyed himself and we will be doing more of this in future.



Actually, there were no bonus points given in the judging at all. All of the players scored all of the games they played on a scale from one to ten in five different categories. Each category was curved across all of the games to fit a parabola through 1, 5.5 and 10 to eliminate bias that may make one player rate the games s/he played higher or lower than another player, on the whole. Then the curved scores for each game were averaged across all five (or four if there was no theme) categories and a final score was computed. Assuming they scored honestly, it was the opinion of my judging team (not all of whom played this game) that The "In" Crowd was the winner.

That said, I do prefer using the PlayingCardsExpansion to play, since two color play is much more ergonomic. Our games seldom last more than 20 minutes these days, and The "In" Crowd is one of the few games from this contest that I still get excited about playing. To each his/her own; your tastes may vary. The four player partnership variant was my own idea, but while I prefer the original two player game, I see that I didn't properly reflect that in my original report. In practice, the question of what to do in ties does not come up that often (perhaps once per game), so lately I'm also coming around to liking the original mechanic of everyone slinking away in ties because it doesn't significantly add to the game length. (./) (./) (./) -- ClarkRodeffer

Actually, I like the tie rules too. I just wish they were in the rules uploaded to [1].

If we were all agreed on what made good games, there would be no discussion about games and we'd already only be playing the perfect games - Chess, Bridge and Monopoly. :o)


Well, you're right about Monopoly, but those other two? You're clearly wrong about what constitutes a good game! How could Chess or Bridge ever compare to the likes of Candy Land and LCR? :-P -- ClarkRodeffer

As a four-player game (in two partnerships) with a group that tends not to like complex games, this game was a hit! The theme is fun without being in the way, and the rules are understandable within a few turns without being transparent. It definitely has enough replay value for another game or two, but we're worried that optimal strategies might make it less fun after that. That said, we had to make a few judgment calls about allies and ties when votes are taken; the rules could use clarification in that area. -- Eric

As a three-player game, the whole thing basically hinged on the ability to get a 4-coin to the inner circle. That led to some (incoherent) grumbling by one player that the game was "inevitable", so I doubt we'll be playing again. We did run into a couple of ties, which were ruled as not letting anybody move up, while all involved coins slink away. -- Eric

I never thought of trying The "In" Crowd as a three-player game, but I've enjoyed it with both two and four. As for ties, the official word from the authors during the contest judging was that everyone slinks away in ties. We also tried that the minority suits (single larger coin) wins ties, but that led to quicker and less satisfying finishes. We also experimented that the majority suits (possibly a relatively small coin) win ties. That was exciting, but a bit unstable because it was now possible to get a 2 to the top. Then again, maybe that could be a feature and not a bug. One of the tactics we found after a couple of plays is that it really pays to be able to choose which set of 3 or 5 will be turned up to determine social advancement. If a player puts a medium sized coin in a corner that is already full on the top level, placing a null coin around the corner from it can sometimes force that player to advance a coin into a useless position. Sneaky, and devious. We liked it! -- ClarkRodeffer

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