Sunday, June 3, 2018

Corellian Spike Sabacc with Betting Rounds

First Things First

First things first: Someday I'll get back to updating this blog at least three times a week. I appreciate everyone who's stuck with it through the lean years, and I'd love to see some more comments and discussion rocking. Bear with me if it takes a day or two for your comment to get approved until I get back into the swing of things. Like a lot of old blogs there's a TON of spam comments that come through, so I'm curating them for that reason only.

Okay, now onto the topic of today's blog...

Official Sabacc Exists at Last


As you're aware unless you live under a rock, Solo: A Star Wars Story is in theaters, and you should absolutely go see it. It's probably my second favorite of the new canon films, after The Force Awakens. It's galaxies better than Rogue One, and I won't mention Last Jedi because quite frankly, the butthurt over that one is too controversial to bring it into this discussion.

In any case, Solo gave us a few things we've all been waiting to see: The Kessell Run, Han and Chewie first meeting, and, of course, the famous Sabacc game wherein Han wins the Falcon from Lando. To follow that up, something else we've all been waiting for: Hasbro and Disney have released the very first mass-market official Sabacc game.

There are, however, a few things you'll need to know, so let's look at an overview before we get into the mechanics.

Not Pure Sabacc

If you read the Amazon Reviews, you'll see a bunch of fanboys whining that it's not "real" Sabacc. I'll be blunt: these people are idiots who call themselves fans but haven't bothered to actually follow the background of the very thing about which they claim to be expert. This is indeed a version of Sabacc. It's not, however, "pure" Sabacc. It's the Corellian Spike Sabacc variant

In the old EU novels (and in the game we saw in Solo, this is, in fact, the version of Sabacc in which Han won the Falcon from Lando. It's also the reason for the dice--they're not just an easy substitute for a random computer alteration. The Corellian Spike version does use dice as a randomizing element. 

Overview of the Game

Corellian Spike Sabacc is a sort of cross between poker and blackjack. You start with a hand of two cards, and a hand progresses in three rounds. Over those three rounds, you discard and draw cards in an effort to end up with a hand that's as close to zero as possible.

Hierarchy of Winning Hands: The best possible hand is three cards--a zero and an equal positive and negative card (so, for example, 5, 0, -5) resulting in zero.

In this version of Sabacc this would be the equivalent of a Pure Sabacc hand. The best version of Pure Sabaac would be 10, 0 and -10.

Additions from the Film: In the film, however, Lando throws what he calls a "Full" Sabacc with five cards of 2, 2, 0, -2, -2. Arguably, this would be much harder to pull off than a "pure" Sabacc, so we could re-jigger the Pure Sabacc to be any hand that equates to exactly 0, with matching positive and negative cards, AND which includes a sylop (0).

Lando's "Full" Sabacc. Excuse the screen glare.

Going by the film, it appears that lower face values beat higher, and more cards beat fewer. Thus, Lando's Full Sabaac would beat a 10, 0 and -10 hand because it's got more cards. Lando's hand would also beat a -2, -2, +4, as while the latter equals zero, it doesn't have matching positives and negatives, and it doesn't include a sylop.

Another hand, thrown by Han, is "Straight Staves." This hand is 4 cards: -1, -2, +1 and +2. We could insert this as just before a pure, or full, sabaac, and define it as a total of 0, with a straight total. Naturally, adding a zero creates a trump card, and as with the full sabaac, more cards trump fewer cards (which in the end comes out to be the same thing, as Han's hand, adding a sylop, creates a 5-card run instead of a 4).

Han's Straight Staves. Again, excuse the screen glare. 


One could also score any straight as Straight Staves, with positive beating negative and higher beating lower, just as with any other hand (see below), though I am inclined to believe that a hand that equals 0 should be the goal.* **

The Idiot's Array: While the rules in the box don't include the Idiot's Array, the cards are there to include it in the game, and I am guessing that many players who are familiar with the game in universe and play this variant will want to include it. 

The Idiot's Array, then, would be a score of 5 or -5 with cards being 0, 2, and 3 (or 0, -2 and -3). Alternately, in order to match the odds of other cards, an idiot's array in Corellian Spike could be a 5-card full stakes result including a sylop. This means Han's full stakes hand was one card away from an Idiot's Array, which creates an interesting twist. I'm not sure how that works out with the odds, though.

Higher or Lower? After these top hands, a hand that approaches zero with a higher number of cards beats one with a lower number of cards (so a hand with 5 cards beats a hand with 4 cards, or a hand with 4 cards that doesn't actually hit zero beats a hand of 3 cards with the same total). The question then remains, if two hands beat zero, does a higher total beat a lower, or vice-versa?

The answer again lies in the film. At the end, during their rematch, both Lando and Han throw hands that total 0, but Lando's is 6, 2, -6 and -2 (or a total of 8 and -8), while Han's is 3, 1, -3 and -1 (or a total of 4 and -4). It's unclear whether Han is playing the Sylop he stole from Lando or just gloating. This seems to clarify, however, that lower totals beat higher totals.

It's important to note that this is the opposite of what it says in the instructions of the Hasbro game, which says higher beats lower. However, if Han is playing the sylop, his hand both includes a trump card and includes five cards to Lando's four, which is a win in that sense.

It's my sense that since Han didn't throw the sylop down with his hand, he's simply gloating over stealing it from Lando, stopping the latter from cheating, and thus "winning fair and square," so a lower plus/minus total should be the winning hand. 

Game Play: Each round in a hand, a player can take any or all of several actions: they can discard a card from their hand, they can draw from the draw pile, or they can take the top card from the discard pile. 

At the end of the round, the Sabacc dice are rolled. If they come up matching, every player must discard their entire hand and then draw a new hand of exactly the same number of cards. This is where the risk element of the game comes in: you've got a 1:6, or just under 17%, chance of losing your whole hand and having to continue on with new cards next round. 

Awards: In the Hasbro version, there are "tokens" with values (the most valuable of which, of course, is the Millennium Falcon). There's no betting involved; the winner of each hand takes a face-up token of their choice from the pot. Each other player, in descending order of hand hierarchy, then takes another token. The tokens are then refreshed. You play until these "bounty tokens" are exhausted, so the more players, the shorter the game. 

There's also an element where if you collect four tokens of a specific color, you can take the Falcon from someone who has it.

It's a perfectly fine modification to turn a gambling game into a family game. But what if you want to play it with actual betting?

Sabacc with Betting

It's super easy to add a betting element into Sabacc. First, don't use the tokens included with the game. Instead, substitute poker chips (or any other kind of "Credits Counter" you want to include). Going by the typical value of poker chips (and assuming that you're going to be betting for imaginary credits and not illegally gambling), here's the value of your chips:

Red = 5 Credits
Blue = 10 Credits
Green = 25 Credits
Black = 100 Credits

If you want to actually use the tokens from the game, simply have them be worth 500 or 1,000 credits each. The back of the tokens looks like a gold bar or cred stick, making it a great option for this use. 

For higher stakes games, simply increase the value of each chip for a factor of 5, so they range from 25 credits to 500 credits, or by 10 so they range from 50 to 1,000 credits each. Divide the chips up equally or however you see fit. Again, I'm going ont he assumption you're not illegally gambling (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). 

The process goes as follows:

1. Everyone antes in. Set whatever "buy in" you like. 
2. Each round, every player takes their turn drawing, discarding, etc. 
3. A round of betting proceeds, beginning with the first player and proceeding clockwise. Betting continues until everyone has called or folded. Bets go into a pot called the "hand pot." 
4. Folding carries a "penalty payout," requiring you to pay a chip (again, of a value you set at the beginning of the game) into a separate pot, the "Sabacc Pot." If you can't pay the full penalty, everything you have goes into the Sabacc Pot and you're out of the game. If you can't call a bet, you're forced to fold.  
5. Repeat the process over the three rounds of a hand. 
6. Reveal hands. The winner gets the hand pot. 
7. A win with an Idiot's Array gets the hand pot and the Sabacc pot. 
8. A tie requires each player to turn over a single card from the draw pile. High card wins. 

The game progresses until everyone decides to quit or is out of chips. 

There you have it! Idiot's Array Sabacc with betting. Enjoy!

But I want Pure Sabacc!

If you were really hoping for a Pure Sabacc game, you're out of luck with this one, since it doesn't include the face cards. If you want a pure Sabacc deck, there are a few options available to you. An enterprising individual online has created a full printable Sabacc deck based on the cards seen in the Star Wars: Rebels animated series. It's a very nice deck, and you can easily print it off yourself on card stock and run int through an inexpensive laminator (which you can get on Amazon for about 20 bucks). 



Another option is to use two tarot decks. Originally, the Sabacc deck was loosely based on tarot cards anyway, and the old EU novels intimated that it was used as a fortune-telling deck on some worlds. To do this, you'll need two identical tarot decks (to date I've had trouble finding a sci-fi tarot deck. Some enterprising artist needs to remedy that). 

There are a few folks over on DeviantArt who have done Star Wars decks with varying degrees of success. These would be easy enough to modify, but getting them to a point where they could print in a uniform fashion might take some work. There is also an official Shadowrun Tarot Deck, which would work quite well, but again, you'd have to invest in two of them, which could get pricey. 

Then, check out the old Star Wars MUD site for information on how to translate suits and major arcana to Sabacc suits and face cards.

What are your thoughts about the new Corellian Spike Sabacc from Hasbro? Let's hear your comments below!

*It's worth noting that in the Star Wars universe there are supposedly over eighty variants of Sabaac played across the galaxy. As such, any of the "one could assume" statements above can be adopted (or none of them) and the game still counts as a Sabaac variant. 

** The problem with full stakes is that statistically it's harder to pull this than it is to score an Idiot's Array. I have no answer for this. 


5 comments:

  1. I don't think Lando won with an idiot's array, so much as he won with what would have been Strait Staves, but was upgraded to a Full Sabacc due to the Sylop.

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  2. Or, more to the point, I would imagine that the Idiot's Array wouldn't play in CS

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    1. Come to think of it, since everything is a variant, one could call a Corellian Spike Idiot's Array -1, 0, 1. A perfect sequential zero.

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  3. Honestly, I don't think either of them actually had a legit winning hand. Han said he had "Full Stakes," and Lando said he had Full Sabacc, then showed the Sylop. It's hard to say, because the visual presentation of Sabacc in media hasn't always been consistent. It's not really, even in the episodes of Rebels where it's seen played.

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    1. Now, admittedly, "full stakes" very well could've been a mis-terming of strait staves. In fact, that would make a lot of sense!

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