The sixth episode of a short series on games I discovered at EGX Rezzed 2015.

one one one two three - sample hand

So this game wasn’t actually on display at Rezzed.

I had just deserted the Arcadian Rhythms crowd for the toilets when I spotted Aubrey Hesselgren lurking in the Rezzed boardgames room. I went in to say HELLO as we’d been nattering over Twitter about work/life balance whilst I was travelling in by train. Hesselgren then offered to show me a game he’d been working on but I felt bad about ditching Team Arcadian, so said sorry I have to go, that’s it, wave wave, ta-ta. But, really, this is the kind of random encounter that exhibitions are good for and anchoring myself to one group of people for the whole day was just cutting off my social nose to spite my social face. I changed my mind and went back.

Hesselgren introduced me to Dr. David King who’d been working on the game with him. As I am a PhD myself, I knew instinctively that King was a PhD when I met him; we did a secret handshake to confirm and Hesselgren was none the wiser. The three of us gathered on a patch of artificial turf outside and Hesselgren explained their game, One One One Two Three, to me.

It’s quick to play yet the ramifications of its simple rules are not initially obvious. Two players are handed the same set of five cards, and a pair of Othello counters are piled between them. Each card represents an action and the players choose one card to play each turn. If your colour is facing up after both actions have been played out, then you win that round.

At first, the game seems random but then you realise that both players have the same five cards. Remembering what your opponent has played, thus what they have left in hand, becomes a vital ingredient in winning. As a result, the scoring for each round varies: the first three rounds are worth one point, the next is two and the final round is three. Hence, the name One One One Two Three.

The structure of the game reminded me of the infamous Monty Hall problem. Behind three doors is a big prize, but behind the other two is a pile of crap. You choose one door. The gameshow host then opens one of the other two doors, revealing a pile of crap. He now gives you the option to stick with the same door or switch to the other unopened door. What blows people’s minds is that you have a higher chance of winning if you switch.

one one one two three - game over

The key to the Monty Hall problem is that it’s all about utilising new information that has been made available. One One One Two Three appears to be a game of random choices, but each round supplies more data; you have to figure out at what point the game pivots from random chance into something you can win. I only played a couple of rounds but I could see the game being a mental workout. Hesselgren was always deep in thought during the latter rounds.

I think there are two things that hold the game up. First, I could not understand the game at all when Hesselgren explained it and had to go through a “tutorial game” to see how it worked. Even though the rules are simple, their purpose is not clear until you really get into it. The rule-whole is much more than the sum of the rule-parts.

Second, the cards need a redesign. The cards for “flip the bottom counter” and “flip the top counter” look almost identical. Colour coding might help and possibly adding words in (I note the first prototypes were handwritten phrases like “flip bottom”). I couldn’t “read” the cards quickly and it made the game more awkward to pick up than it could have been.

Hesselgren is also working on a mobile version where the cards rotate as you flip the phone over for your opponent’s turn. Take a look at the following Vine.

Hesselgren and King are still testing out changes to the rules (the latest is a potential sixth card for bluffing power in the final round) so the current set of rules is not final. However, you can play right now if you’re willing to make the cards yourself from templates. Just hop over to the One One One Two Three website and go to the Print & Play page.

I printed out my set just yesterday.

All Episodes

  • TRI – a first-person puzzler
  • The Marvellous Miss Take – polished 2D heist/stealth game
  • DEEP – deep breathing meditation in VR
  • Her Story – explore video footage of police interviews to solve a mystery
  • CAVE! CAVE! DEUS VIDET – art-fi visual novel in which I understood nothing that was going on
  • One One One Two Three – minimalist card game that plays out in minutes
  • Aerobat – incredible 2D shooter, I can’t rate it highly enough
  • Screencheat – wonderful local multiplayer FPS
  • Planet of the Eyes – a puzzle platformer that didn’t hold my hand


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2 thoughts on “Dabbling with… One One One Two Three

  1. So fickle, Joel. I am disappointed.

    Except I’m not! This sounds really interesting. I think I might wait until I can play it with someone who already knows how to play, rather than downloading and printing my own copy… although I may just be saying that because I don’t own a printer.

  2. I think it’s the kind of game you have to play to get a feel for. As I said, hearing the explanation didn’t work, I had to see the cards in motion.

    Of course, you have to have a printer too 🙂

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