Game: Flow to the Heart (Fluss zum Herz)

The game "Flow to the Heart" is based on the popular german board game "Mensch ärgere Dich nicht", which in turn is based on original Indian game "Pachisi". The plan was to keep proven game-play elements and modify them. This should immediately simplify explanation, prototyping and testing.


Backwards: One or more aspects of the game works the opposite as would normally be expected: maybe the controller is reversed (left is right, right is left), maybe you win lives every time you die, maybe it scrolls to the left and your character moonwalks.
I’m Board: Make a game that is inspired by, but not a simulation of, a popular board game.
Approved for All Audiences: The game must not show any violence, not even cartoonish. Stepping on living mushrooms is off the list, as is killing any type of enemies, not even undead, though we know they’re already dead…


non-digital game (board game, card game, physical game, etc.)


Sunday, January 27, 2013 - 21:28

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The game "Flow to the Heart" is based on the popular german board game "Mensch ärgere Dich nicht", which in turn is based on original Indian game "Pachisi". The plan was to keep proven game-play elements and modify them. This should immediately simplify explanation, prototyping and testing.


This year's game jam theme of "beating heart" created a perception of blood flowing through veins.
First experiment with a simplfied model of hearts connected to organs with veins seemed to indicate that a common speed of flow seems to place the element of player action outside the actual motion of pieces: Creating a more sophisticated chart of veins seemed both too abstract from actual biology and too hard to make interesting.
"Pachisi" seemed to have certain elements already considered, e. g. a unified direction of movement and four major points of interest. Adding action cards for each color allowed removing the more random movement controlled by dice with a unified flow. The challenge became creating action cards to allow players interesting game play. Some inspiration was taken from other games already based on "Pachisi", e. g. "Hexentanz" tactical ability to move pieces backwards.


The following game elements are required to play "Flow to the Heart":

From "Mensch Ärgere Dich Nicht", "Pachisi" or "Ludo"

  • 1x die as heart speed indicator.
  • 4x pieces in the same color for each player.
  • 1x board with a game plan that has a mininum of 4 starting positions connected to each other with about 10 position fields and room for each player for 3 starting pieces and 4 pieces finished in the heart.

A deck of Cards

  • A larger number of cards for each color. The ranks are not used, but the total number should not be too low so they don't run out when players bunker them.


  • 4x a way to mark one piece of each player as master piece, for instance by standing them on a coin or using a different piece of the same color from another game or marking them with a pen or some sticky tape
  • 1x a single heart entrance indicator to show which position field leads to the heart, e. g. a larger coin.


The deck of card is split into suit. The stack for each suit is placed face up next to an associated color start position. These action cards should be placed in the following traveling order:

  • Diamonds associated to yellow: Action card "throw", causes heart to slow down by 1
  • Hearts associated to red: Action card "enter", causes heart to speed up by 1
  • Clubs associated to blue: Action card "swap own master piece with any other own piece in play", causes placing the hart entrance indicator to be placed under the master piece in the new position (unless heart speed is maximum or minimum).
  • Spades associated with green: Action card "move any own piece in either direction by 1 or 2 positions" (no additional action)

Mark one piece for each player as master piece and place it on the start position of the player's color, place the other 3 nearby where they wait to enter the board. Each player receives one of each action card.
Place the heart speed indicator with the maximum speed of 4 shown in the middle of the board on top of the heart entrance indicator.

Rules of the game

  • Each player selects a color and only player with pieces of this color
  • No master piece may ever leave the game, unless it is the last one of this player going to the heart. This player then wins. This rule also means no master piece can be ever thrown.
  • No own or other pieces can be passed. If a piece moves behind another piece and has moves left, it must stop or, if the action card "throw" has been played, throw the blocking piece.
  • Own or other pieces can only be thrown after playing the action card "throw". There is no limit on the number of pieces that can be thrown, and a moving piece must throw all other pieces blocking its path. Each thrown piece slows down the heart speed indicator by 1, but not below the minimum speed of 1. If the minimum speed is reached the heart entrance indicator is removed and placed under the heart speed indidicator, making it impossible to go to the heart until the heart speed is sped up again and the action card "swap" is played.
  • For each action card "enter" that has been played one own marker can be placed on the respective start position. This is only possible if the start position is not blocked, or if the action card "throw" has been played and the blocking piece gets thrown. Each successfully entering piece increases the heart speed by 1 up to the maximum speed of 4, at which point once again the heart entrance indicator is removed and placed under the heart speed indicator, making it impossible to go to the heart until the heart speed is slowed down again and the action card "swap" is played.
  • To win, a player must move all the own pieces into the heart through the heart entrance indicator. The master piece can only be brought into the heart last.
  • Players take turns one after the other. A player turn has two phases: First, he can play any owned action cards in any chosen order. Any immediate effects will processed in this order. Secondly, he must move each own piece in clockwise direction by the number of positions shown by the heart speed indicator, unless blocked. If a piece reaches a heart entrance indicator, it moves immediately to the heart. More than once piece can reach the heart in the same turn.
  • If a piece steps onto a start position, the owning player receives one associated action card. This also happens when a piece enters the game. There is no limit on the number of action cards a player can own or play at the same time.
  • Any two action cards can be used to act as any other action card.
  • Played action cards should be discarded on their respective action card stack.
  • The action card "swap" can only be played when another piece is in the game. Therefore, it cannot be played to win the game. It is possible to play it when the heart speed indicator is showing maximum or minimum speed, but the heart entrance marker cannot be placed in that case.


Because a player choses a color and some action cards are easier to access for certain colors, some players can to have an advantage over other colors. This creates an imbalance that can be used for extra challenges, e. g. winning the game with a weak color. This is intentional, but can be fixed by chosing the "Better balance" variation:

  • Better balance: Action cards are drawn randomly instead of from the associated start position stack.

A clever player may be able to win the game by moving all 4 pieces into the heart in the same turn. In fact that would be quite awesome to see, but if this creates frustration a slower end game variation can be played:

  • Slower end game: Pieces cannot move into the heart during the second phase of a player's turn. Instead, in a third phase any piece standing on the heart entrance position is placed into the heart.
  • Multiplayer mode: If more than four players want to play, the board can be easily extended by more start fields. It is suggested to use the "Better balance" variation instead of associating any of the action card colors to the newly created start positions.

Maybe some players rather want to play by their known rules. If you can convince them that it's no problem that your pieces behave oddly, it becomes possible to play two different games at the same time on the same board. This probably works best with very young or very old or very weird people.

  • Hybrid mode: Try to play regular "Pachisi" or "Ludo" or "Mensch Ärgere Dich Nicht" at the same time as "Flow to the Heart" by assigning different rule sets to each player. Some rules may have to be changed, e. g. if a "Ludo" player throws a master piece, an automatic "swap" may have to be done first.


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