Challenge Reflections: It’s Getting Better all the Time…

49

I’m writing this post while flying home from the latest annual Frequent Miler team challenge, Flying by the Seat of our Points, where Tim, Nick, and I were challenged to travel from one mystery destination to another with no more than 48 hours notice each time. Stephen and Carrie were the game masters and judges. And Carrie and her twin sister Annie were the wizards who cranked out Instagram video clips as we went along.

The Party of 5 Team. Clockwise from top-left: Greg, Tim, Nick, Carrie, Stephen
The Frequent Miler Team. Clockwise from top-left: Greg, Tim, Nick, Carrie, Stephen

A Challenge Gone Right

Many followers have told us that this was the best challenge yet. I agree. At least, I believe it was the most engaging challenge yet. On a scale from 1 to 10, Nick raised the excitement level to 11 with a nearly unending streak of bad luck that kept him racing (and barely sleeping) throughout the competition. Thanks Nick! Other highlights included Tim’s food tours; a fishmonger’s reason for avoiding black risotto; and a very (not so much) relaxing fish spa. The real stars that made this entertaining, though, were the wizards behind the curtain. Stephen and Carrie did a FANTASTIC job of designing the challenge destinations and mini-challenges along the way. And Carrie, with the help of her twin sister, did an INCREDIBLE job of curating our trip footage, keeping the videos flowing on Instagram, keeping the judge’s blogposts updated regularly, and basically keeping the lights on while the rest of us were racing from place to place.

Another key ingredient that made this challenge so successful was audience participation. We invited followers to help us along the way, and they did! In my case, several people gave me tips about Zagreb and one even connected me with a local who outlined a walking tour for me (unfortunately she had plans and couldn’t meet me in person). Also key was that the judges listened to audience feedback and changed scores multiple times in response. I thought that was fantastic. For the first time we had concrete ways in which our audience could play along and directly effect the outcome of the challenge.

I thought this submission to our Giant Mailbag from Kathy was a great:

Subject Line: Standing ovation!

Team,

I’m sure you’ve heard this 100 times by now, and I wanted to add my voice to the chorus. Your annual challenges are always awesome, but you really knocked it out of the park this year.

Among the things that really worked — it was so engaging. Between the Instagram stories & video recaps, invitations to comment on the blog posts, and the live streams, I felt like I was able to not only follow along, but participate. Huge kudos to Carrie and Annie on the social media content! It was exciting to see new stories pop up and watch them soon after they were posted, and also super fun to wake up in the morning on the west coast to see a whole bunch had built up so I could catch up like watching an episode of my favorite show. It also ended up being extra informative. I always learn at least a little tidbit or two from watching your challenges (I’ll be searching for Alaska awards via BA and adding my loyalty number on Finnair thanks to Tim’s tip), but this time it was next level because I found myself searching along with you guys to see what was available and then it was even more fun to see what you ended up booking.

Another thing I felt really worked was the divergence/convergence combo. It brought together the best parts of past challenges. It was cool to see the competitive solo parts and have 3 different examples of booking challenges, and then when you were all in the same spot, the videos and live streams were three times as fun — largely because it was obvious that you guys were having a blast together. I feel pretty confident Greg is still having random burst of spontaneous giggles when he catches himself thinking of the fish torture chamber spa.

The whole concept was so well-conceived and I loved all the elements that were part of the game so that it wasn’t just the flights and hotels. Now I’m wondering if it could be applied to the long game type of travel booking. Like could you assign each other itineraries way in advance and keep a diary post where you show how you can find something that’s good enough to start with then update it when you find better options and then we see how it all shakes out

For now, I hope you’re all enjoying some well deserved rest. Bonus points all round!

Thanks Kathy!

Missing Ingredient

Yes, the latest challenge was, in many ways, our best yet. But upon reflection, I think we fell a bit short in one important way… enhancing the game. Past challenges, especially 40K to Far Away, and 3 Cards 3 Continents, forced us to find new miles & points opportunities and to push the envelope on old ones. Thanks to 40K to Far Away, Nick discovered how incredibly valuable Turkish miles can be for flying United Airlines cross country — including from the east coast to Hawaii. In that same challenge, while I didn’t discover this technique, my trip illustrated how valuable United’s Excursionist Perk can be if you really push it to the limit. For the 3 Cards 3 Continents challenge, Nick pushed the envelope showing what can be done with Air Canada Aeroplan awards when he used a single award to fly to Africa, southern Europe, the Philippines, and then all the way to the Artic Circle where he met Santa Claus and viewed the Northern lights. Meanwhile, I was able to stretch the bounds of what was thought possible with ANA’s Star Alliance Round the World awards. And, all of us demonstrated how far it’s possible to go with just three credit card welcome bonuses. Both Stephen and I literally flew around the world.

a map of the world with red lines
This image illustrates how two cheap round-trip domestic awards made it possible to fly across Africa for free, twice during the 40K to Far Away challenge. Read details here.

Past challenges were instrumental not just in teaching the world how to stretch their points farther, but also in educating the Frequent Miler team. These challenges have honed our award booking techniques and forced us to go outside of our comfort zones. All of this is great for keeping our team at the cutting edge so that we can continue to make our blog and podcast as good and as informative as it can be.

There is no doubt that the latest challenge forced some important learnings. For example, I think that Nick and Tim would now agree that LifeMiles is a poor choice for last minute travel. That’s good to know! Meanwhile, I was thrilled to use Turkish miles for the first time (I flew cross-country in United first class for 15,000 miles one-way), but I’d hesitate to do so last-minute again. I was lucky that I was able to book online, but if I had to call or email, there’s no way I could have gotten the award booked in time. On the other hand, with this challenge, there simply wasn’t time to get too creative and to discover new possibilities. For example, when I was in Croatia and learned that our next destination was Kuala Lumpur, it only took me a few minutes to find that I could book business class flights to Kuala Lumpur for a total of 75,000 Qatar Avios. But could it be done cheaper? I only checked a couple of alternatives before deciding to go ahead and book it. My choice was between doing more research or getting some sleep. I chose sleep. If I had more time I would have thoroughly investigated options and maybe I would have found a much better deal. We may never know.

I think that these considerations may be what drove Kathy (who wrote the giant mailbag submission quoted above) to suggest that we “assign each other itineraries way in advance and keep a diary post where you show how you can find something that’s good enough to start with then update it when you find better options and then we see how it all shakes out.”

Future Challenges

For next year’s challenge, I’d love to find a way to combine the entertainment value and audience participation of the Flying by the Seat of our Points challenge with the investigation and learning that is only possible when given time to plan travel. Additionally, in our 3 Cards 3 Continents challenge we did a live draft to decide which card bonuses each contestant had to work with. I think that was fantastic and I’d love to incorporate something like that again. And, finally, with our Party of 5 Challenge, there was something magical about having the entire team together. Is it possible to somehow do it all?

How about something like this…

  1. We have 3 contestants and 2 judges (i.e. same as Flying by the Seat of our Points)
  2. We hold a draft to pick card bonuses as our travel budget (same idea as 3 Cards, 3 Continents)
  3. Each contestant plans a one-way trip to go as far as possible on one card bonus (similar to 40K to Far Away), but in this case we have limited time to complete the journey (maybe 72 hours?).
  4. Judges will be secretly informed in advance where we’ll be going so they can plan Exploration Challenges for our destination (and perhaps for any layovers we have as well!)
  5. At the end of the 72 hours, we meet on livestream with the judges. The judges give us scores based on distance travelled (primary score), quality of travel, and ability (if any) to have meaningful experiences along the way. Importantly, they also then give us a last-minute challenge. They tell us where in the world they already are (i.e. the judges secretly went to this place in advance) and we have 48 hours to get there. We can only use one card welcome bonus to do so (based on cards we got in the draft). This step will force us into a difficult strategy for step 3, above. If we go too far out of the way in order to win step 3, it may be impossible to get to where we need to go for step 5.
  6. Once we’re all together, the judges would assign us each an Exploration Challenge to take our Party of 5 on local adventures.
  7. If we could also somehow weave a live get-together into this, that would be awesome. Maybe we all fly back to the U.S. from the final destination and hold a celebration party open to all?

Above are just my initial thoughts of how we might design the next challenge. In leading up to the current challenge, the FM team considered and rejected many ideas that started out sounding great, but would have been difficult to pull off once we dug further. The most common killer of a challenge idea is when the challenge would necessarily take much more than a week to complete. Finding just one week where the whole team is available is hard enough. Additionally, we need to get back to our day jobs. Unfortunately the points & miles world doesn’t sit still while we’re traipsing around the globe, and now that this year’s challenge is over, we have a lot of catching up to do. That problem becomes much worse with longer challenges.

Many of the ideas of this challenge and previous challenges have come from readers. If you have ideas for future challenges, we want to hear them! Please comment below.

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DaveS

Well just add three more and you could call it the Decathlon! Maybe, but personally I’d rather not lose the focus of having a central idea – too complicated may be hard to relate to.

John

OK. I haven’t read everyone’s other ideas, so there might be some redundancy, but I think I have a good plan:

You need three groups of two, since booking for two people is more realistic than a Party of Five or even solo travel. For your sixth contestant you take either Annie the Twin, Maisie the Culinary Concierge or… a lucky listener who wins a contest!

You go around the world in two segments. You start in Equador. Groups get assigned East or West and then a lane — North, South or Equatorial. This would give more emphasis to South America, Africa and Oceania which are not as often discussed as Europe and Asia. Clearly the Equatorial path is the longest and most difficult.

For the first segment teams get time to prepare and are judged on style — traveling on the Orient Express gets you more points than an economy flight. There is a Planes, Trains and Automobiles theme with the two travelers thrust together taking various modes of transport.

You then have a meet up in Singapore, which is exactly the other side of the world from Equador (as per antipodesmap.com). Here first round scoring takes place, and the teams are either shuffled or have to change lanes. (They should ideally continue in the same direction.) This time they are judged on speed and ingenuity; first one back to Equador in the best mode of transport wins that segment.

Judging should take place by public polling. Or maybe like the Eurovision Song Contest you score half with industry insiders (other travel podcasters?) and half with audience voting.

What do you think?

Kirsten

Great job to the team for another fantastic challenge! Loved all the interaction & that the audience had a say in the scoring. Would love for a future challenge to include flying in or out of midsize airports (CLE, CVG, MCI, etc). While I’m comfortable with a positioning flight, the rest of my family will not be swayed & insist on one PNR.

Ipod

I vote for a RTW challenge, excluding ANA. BA, CX, SQ, and others have multi-carrier/RTW-esque awards that could offer significant flexibility for the creatively minded. I don’t think I’ve met a soul that’s ever booked an Aeromexico RTW, if it still exists.

Andrew

Echoing what was mentioned in a few other comments, I think it would be interesting to have a draft of specific loyalty programs or alliances instead of cards for the next challenge. This could extend to both airlines and hotels and would be a constraint for the whole challenge.

With 3 players each gets to draft one airline alliance. This would be for miles only – you can fly a non-alliance airline as long as you use miles from a carrier in that alliance to book.
– One World
– Star Alliance
– Sky Team

Then each player gets to draft two hotel programs. This would go in reverse order so the person stuck with the last remaining airline alliance gets their first choice of hotel program. Run through each player once and then a second time to draft two programs (so hotel picks would go 3-2-1-3-2-1).
– Choice
– Wyndham
– IHG
– Hyatt
– Hilton
– Marriott
– Or other programs if someone has ideas for an interesting play (Accor, Omni, Leading Hotels of the World, Best Western, the Sonesta challenge…)

As with airlines you can book outside your hotel programs if there is a partnership to do it with points – Vacasa from Wyndham or Preferred Hotels from Choice as examples. Y’all would have to determine if using Marriott points for other airlines is cheating. Each player must make at least one redemption from each hotel program they drafted during the challenge so that the second pick isn’t just a throw away (and it approximates the times you need to find a good use for an expiring FNC or points).

Sam

Maybe have one reader be able to come in and join the challenge next year.

Have readers apply to compete and select the most fitting one.

Jan W

If it was set up far in advance, the last meeting place would be a great opportunity for a community meet up! That way many of use could celebrate in person with you!

Jesse

Further twists: Each player is only allowed one use per challenge of hotel/ airline brand. For example, Nick flies United on a leg—he can’t use United again on any other leg or portion of challenge. Nick uses a Waldorf his first night, he can’t use another Hilton hotel the rest of the challenge. So each player gets ONE usage of a brand for the challenge.

Jonathan

You may be saying the same thing, but one airline alliance per challenge. If someone flew United from US to Europe, then you’re not allowed to use any other Star Alliance partners. Or give everyone an unpopular programs and see how they can stretch them (i.e Aeromexico?)

Jan W

I like this idea and would extend it to other tricks as well. For instance, FHR can be well used in almost any big city, so it should only be allowed once per player.

Jesse

Maybe have a twist where one person can only use Chase echo system, one person is only able to do Amex, and the 3rd person can only use non-Chase, non-Amex. In essence there will be team Chase, team Amex, team Citi/Bilt/ Capital one etc. Would be interesting to see who can get most value/ best experiences only using that model

Tarik

Congratulations on the challenge! I turned on all the instagram notifications (I had never done that with any profile) and was constantly checking my phone for updates! Great job!

I really like the outline above for the next challenge. My suggestion is that you start the challenge with a common international destination that is revealed months in advance like Kathy suggested. Because everyone’s starting point is different, each will come up with a different route to get there and it will allow you to find new ways to enhance the game. From there you can diverge and converge again to last-minute locations. That would also give us opportunities to contribute in both long planned travel and last-minute.

LSP

For a slightly different “last minute” approach next time:
-all competitors have to start in the same city, likely announced in the advance, ideally a mid-major market (IE Raleigh or Indianapolis, not NYC).
-competitors then have 48 hours to book the best trip to a destination in a list of ~6-10 reader-submitted favorites; or you could hold a live draft for competitors to pick a destination.
-repeat the process 48 hours later – competitors pick a second location and plan an awesome trip there either from a live-draft or reader-submitted list (you could alternate with the first destination picked via draft and the second from a reader list or vice-versa)
-all competitors and judges meet in the final location, likely announced before the competition; this advance knowledge would play into the strategy of which 1st and 2nd destinations the competitors pick and would allow some advance planning and finding of potential sweet spots (IE final destination is Toronto, so Tim might research the best/cheapest/fanciest ways to get from N Europe, East Asia and S America to Toronto for a few weeks then share a blog post with the research after the challenge)
-as a bonus, you could draft or draw straws for airline or alliance each person must use to get home from the final meet-up location (could choose this in advance so competitors have time to plan, and their plan could be part of the final score since they announce it in advance)
-as another bonus, you could give competitors greater location flexibility if they accepted less flexibility with transferrable currency. IE you can take first pick in the draft/first pick from reader list if you agree to book only w airlines that are Chase transfer partners.
-alternatively, you could make competitors pick (live draft or reader list) their destinations 1-6ish months in advance, maybe meeting in-person (annual meeting?) at the starting city and having an FM To Go Reader meetup (draft w live studio audience)?

Starting from a mid-major market and giving competitors some limited flexibility in picking their destinations is closer to most readers’ experience and in line with the frequent advice to be flexible on destination (with limited points/miles/time off). Even though the destinations might be return visits for competitors, I can see more passion and knowledge in their challenges and a possible “do something you’ve never done before” challenge. IE if Nick picks Ecuador, he can earn points for convincing readers why they should visit (why he loves it) and also challenge himself to do something new there. And if competitors don’t choose a destination they’ve already visited, it might be one they’ve wanted to visit for a while.

LSP

PS – You could announce the draftable list of destinations (submitted by readers) far in advance (3-6 months) then hold the draft closer to the start of the competition. This would allow competitors to do advance research without knowing for sure what their destinations would be. I would hope the destinations would be chosen based on where readers actually want to visit using points and miles (not just destinations that would pose booking challenges to competitors). This might make the challenge “easier” on its face with readers choosing Italy, Dublin or the Caribbean vs. Morocco and Kuala Lumpur, but it would challenge competitors to find the very best and easily bookable options. And I’d much rather get real-world tips on visiting Italy than Kuala Lumpur personally 🙂 .

Last edited 1 month ago by LSP
LarryInNYC

I made the mistake of reading this just before bed and wasn’t able to get to sleep because of all the thoughts swirling in my head. I present the

The Fine Citis of the World Express Card Chase
The Great Card Chase

Introduction

In this game, a hundred or so credit cards are placed (virtually) at specifc locations around the world. Players compete by traveling to those locations and adding (and removing) credit cards from their “wallet” following gamified versions of the real card rules, all while earning game points for their flight, hotel, and travel challenge experiences. At the end, all players converge on a pre-arranged location for several days where challenges are also available while they use their remaining stocks of points to (pretend) book a future fantasy trip for the family of another FM team member, chosen at random at the beginning of the challenge, and points are awarded for this trip. The overall winner is the person with the most points accrued.

Wallets

Each player starts with a wallet that contains one credit card chosen by the player, the points from that card’s SUB, that card’s benefits, and $500 cash. During the game the player must account for everything spent using points or cash. The player will get more points, benefits, and cash by traveling to locations with credit cards and adding those cards to their wallet.

Each wallet can hold five cards (or maybe a smaller number?) at one time. If you have five cards and want to pick up a sixth, you must drop one.

Game Time

For the purpose of evaluating credit card rules, one month of “real” time is considered one hour of game time, and one year of real time is considered 24 hours of game time (and yes, that means a game year is 24 months).

For instance, 5/24 in the game means you cannot pick up a Chase credit card if you have picked up any five consumer cards in the previous 24 hours, whereas “annual” fees are due at card pick-up (unless the fee is waived for the first “year”) and every 24 hours thereafter.

Credit Cards

Each credit card has a SUB (the current FM best offer sub at the time it’s picked up), approval rules (the actual ones in effect for the credit card, as modified by “game time”) an annual (in the game, daily) fee which is possibly waived the first day and which is expresesd in game points, not dollars (eg zero points for no-fee cards, one point for $95 cards, two points for $250 cards, and 4 points for $600 cards), certificates (earned according to the actual card rules as modified into game time), multipliers (for which special rules apply), and miscellaneous rules. Some cards also have referral bonuses, see below.

When a credit card is picked up by a player, that particular card at that location is no longer available for other players. When a player removes a card from their wallet, that card becomes available for other players to pick up with a referral bonus that will be paid to the player who dropped it.

Earning Points

Points can be earned in various ways:

  • By visiting locations. Each continent (or perhaps award chart region) has a fixed number of points (with more for South America and Africa) which can be claimed by each player who visits it. “Visit” means going landside, connections don’t count. Each city earns a fixed number of points.
  • By collecting cards. Each card is worth one point (or maybe premium cards are worth more).
  • By traveling. Each intercity trip will be judged and awarded some number of points, with economy trips awarded lower points, business more, and three-cabin first the most.
  • By staying. Each overnight stay will be judged and awarded points based on some value / experience rubric.
  • By completing challenges. Challenges are written in such a way that they can be done at all (or most) locations.
  • By using multipliers (see below).
  • By booking the final fantasy trip.

Picking Up Cards

When a player arrives at a credit card, they can pick up that card if they meet the rules and earn the bonus if eligible. If they are out of space in their wallet, they will have to drop a card to make space. Point retention works exactly the way it does in real life — any Membership Rewards card will keep MR points alive and Chase cards can transfer to other Chase cards, etc. Cards are considered added before any out-of-space card is dropped (so if you pick up an MR card it will preserve the points if you drop the only other MR card you had in your wallet).

If the card has a non-waived annual fee, they must pay those game points on pick-up. Thereafter, they must pay the annual fee every day at the 24-hour anniversary unless they’ve dropped the card.

For any card picked up the player will accrue benefits based on the actual card benefits as modified by game time. For instance, mulitpliers will be in effect while the player holds the card. Certificates will likewise be earned the same way they would in real life (for instance, if you pick up a Hyatt consumer card you’ll earn a Category 1 to 4 certificate 24 hours later, after paying the one point annual fee.

Challenges

Challenges should be expressed in a way that they can be done in all, or most places. Each challenge should be noted with a particular category, if applicable (for multipliers). For instance, a challenge might be “eat the national dish” in which the player must identify a national dish and eat it in a restaurant. This would be a dining challenge for multiplier purposes. Another challenge might be cook the national dish in which the player must purchase all the ingredients for the national dish and which would be a grocery challenge (for game purposes, perhaps they can pretend to purchase each item by visiting a store that sells it).

A travel challenge might be “visit three cities in one country” in which the player has to visit three of the ten largest cities in a single country.

Optionally, there could be local challenges as well in specific cities.

Multipliers

Multipliers award additional points for travel and challenges based on the cards you have in your wallet when you do the challenge. For instance, if you have a Chase Sapphire, you might earn triple game points for a flight, or for a challenge that’s tagged as “travel” — and for dining challenges as well.

Some thought is needed to determine how the multipliers are assigned — it might be too many points if they reflect the actual card multiplers. Perhaps the multiplier should be a certain fixed number of points, or perhaps a reduced multiple of what the card actually offers (2x would become 1.5x, 3x would become 2x, etc).

Also, multipliers will have a finite number of uses. For instance, the Chase travel multiplier might be good for one or two uses. The player can elect when to apply the multiplier as long as they do so before the event they’re multiplying.

Player Knowledge

Each player is required to share the following information with each other and the audience:

  • Each intercity travel booking that they make at the time they make it.
  • Their current city location.
  • Each card pick-up.
  • Each card drop.

This information will be tabulated by the Points Master.

Referral Bonuses

Every time a player drops a card (to make room in their wallet, or to avoid an annual fee) that card becomes available in the player’s location for another player to pick up. However, the card is now a referral with the SUB, fee, and rules of the best referral offer on FM. If another player picks up the card, the player who dropped it earns the referral bonus on the card.

Alternate idea: the initial drop of the cards is not done by the Points Master but rather each player has 40 cards to drop around the globe. Each card that’s picked up earns the referral bonus for the player who placed it originally.

Final Fantasy (trip)

At the end fo the competition all players converge on a pre-planned (or perhaps mystery) location for several days. They can continue doing challenges here (and there should be additional challenges involving the whole group — those are great) while they use their stock of miles, points, and cash to pretend-book a trip for the family of a different FM team member. And yes, this means that whoever draws Nick has to book for four. The person they’re booking for will specify what they’re interseted in. The trip can be for any time in the next (real) year, without regard to scheduling and must take place over ten to fourteen days. Each trip planner will present their trip in a Facebook live and the audience will vote on awarding points.

Each player will know who they’re booking for from the start of the competition.

Alternatively, instead of booking for another FM team member, you could choose readers who would answer a questionairre and the players could book fantasy trips for them.

LarryInNYC

Is there a Frequent Miler’s Anonymous group somewhere? I made need one. . .

Jan W

Larry, I think you’ll need to lead it!

LarryInNYC

“Brilliant” brilliant, or “Bonvoy” brilliant?

Just want to know if I should buy breakfast.

LarryInNYC

Also, a serious question: Have you looked at the cost / benefit of these challenges? Can you tell if they bring in signficant new audience / income?

I fell that this kind of content (gamified travel) is on the cusp of having it’s “moment” (see Jet Lag the Game) and I hope Frequent Miler is getting value from your investment.

A couple of ideas:

  • Sponsorships. Get companies in the area to help pay the costs (eg, one of the award search engines might want to pony up a few thousand dollars to be associated with one of your challenges).
  • An “all star” version where players from other blogs would compete (individually or as teams) in a challenge you designed.
LarryInNYC

I would have hoped these challenges would have an immediate positive bottom line effect on the business commensurate with the effort you put into them. Hopefully the interest will build over time.

Jesse

Greg copy this text above, take it to ChatGPT, and ask it to come up with 3 more variations of travel games like this

Tarik

Wow, Larry for Gamemaster! This is awesome. Having more people in the challenge would only make this even more interesting. Would be nice to find a way so all 5 would be players.

Since they have a short duration, I wouldn’t make the cards unavailable after the first picks up. Instead, just make the first one receive the referral bonus. That should create an interesting race to see who gets to a location first and will also affect their decision of getting a card someone already picked up because that would help the competitor. Each location should have a list of 3-5 cards available, so if you get there second, it might make sense to go with your second pick. That also helps reduce a bit the number of locations in the game, which would create more unplanned encounters between players.

LarryInNYC

I like treating the cards as if they were a physical thing. If one person picks it up, it’s gone — until they drop it somewhere else in order to free up wallet space or avoid a fee.

I think you could affect the gameplay a lot by how the cards are distrbuted. If you distribute them densely in a smaller number of cities you’ll increase the odds of two or more players running around the city competing for cards. If you scatter them around smaller cities you’ll increase the number of available strategies. I think some of both would be interesting.

I like the idea that the players are competing against each other, so having one player’s picking up a card affect another player seems like a plus to me. When they drafted cards for 3 Cards, 3 Continents I think it added interest — you were not only choosing a card for yourself, but denying it to other players.

When distibuting cards, multiple cards could be put in one location and / or scattered around nearby locations So, if player X beats player Y to the Chase Sapphire at the Eiffel Tower, there might be another card available there, or several others around Paris, within walking or Metro distance. And player Y may even find a new card at the Eiffel Tower if player X had to discard one — and player X might use the knowledge that player Y is in Paris to decide what card to discard.

I also don’t know whether each card should be present in the game only once, or whether there can be (for instance) multiple Chase Sapphires in different locations.

Tarik

I agree that affects a lot the other players and it was a nice feature of 3 cards 3 continents. The difference to me is that in 3C3C if your card got picked first, you could quickly move to your option B. When you add the locations and mystery itineraries to the challenge, it means you may only find out that a card was picked by the time you get there. Because they have very limited time, they can’t come out of a location empty handed. Assuming there are a few more cards in that location, they might need to jump from Option A to option E because B-D might be at distant locations. So the disadvantage of loosing the ‘race’ to the card here gets steep. I’d design the advantage of winning one step smaller to make sure everyone is still in the race to win the whole game.

Last edited 1 month ago by Tarik
LarryInNYC

The design above requires players to reveal:

  • All intercity transit at the time it’s booked.
  • Their current city.
  • Any cards they pick up or drop.

Also, all card locations are known to all players at the start (it’s not a surprise what cards are at what locations — although addding some mystery cards would be additional fun).

So, I don’t think there will be any situations in which someone will show up at, say, the Frankfurt Haptbahnhof to learn that the cards there are gone. There might be some very limited situations in which players could be racing for the same card, but they’d know that in advance (and I think that would be a lot of fun).

For instance, if player X is in Tokyo and decides to make a play for one or more cards in Bangkok, they would know exactly what cards were located in Bangkok (and where they are), whether any other players have bookings to Bangkok (or nearby) and whether any other players are close enough to Bangkok to quickly make a booking to get there.

If there’s going to be a lot of close play, with players in the same city, the requirement could be that players have to live-share their location with the other players.

Tarik

That makes sense. I thought they would keep their plans to themselves until they actually checked in a location to claim the card. That would create more encounters (which would be a plus to me) but I like your design too. Good job!

MFK

Dude… wow 🙂

Last edited 1 month ago by MFK
Bob

Wow Larry! This is level 20 D&D. A lot for the average points/miles enthusiast to follow. Perhaps a dumbed down/less convoluted version would keep more folks engaged. Some creative and imaginative ideas here though no doubt. Greg, put this man on the payroll and Larry, get some sleep!

LarryInNYC

I think the basic idea would be pretty easy to understand — players are traveling around opening credit cards in order to use the points to book a big trip at the end of the competition. Just knowing that you could follow the game.

The additional complexity is intended to replicate, in miniature, the real challenges of a long term credit card strategy (if they played for seven days it would kind of be like seven years of “playing the long game”). As always, deciding how many rules to have, and how much complexity, should be decided in the context of making the game a useful generator of material for Frequent Miler, and to attract as many “viewers” as possible.

Fuzzy

From the POV of a regular lurker to FM comments, LarryInNYC has always been the thinking man’s internet rando — and if there’s a Peanut Gallery hall of fame, he’s in it.

LarryInNYC

I was describing this to one of my (adult) kids and she reminded me that I left out minimum spend requirements, so here’s an attempt to factor that into the game:

Minimum Spend

When a player picks up a credit card they are responsible for meeting a minimum spend amount to earn the sign up bonus. The mimum spend amount is set at 1/50th (2 percent) of the real card’s mimum, is based on their actual cash expenditures while playing, and is subject to the same number of months, converted into game hours.

For example, if the player picks up a card that has a $6,000 minimum spend in 3 months, they would have to spend $120 within three hours to earn the MS. It therefore behooves the player to coordinate their travel, hotel, and meal purchases with the mimum spend periods for cards they intend to pick up.

The minimum spend ratio could be adjusted (maybe 1 or 1.5 percent is better than 2 percent) to improve the game.

Steve

How about two drafts? First do a card/award program draft. Then a week later, do a destination draft.

For the destination draft, each participant drafts 3-6 destinations with each destination on a different continent. This would add another element of strategy. Once you know the points currencies, will you pick hubs of your transfer partners (e.g., Sydney for Qantas), go for airports with major flexibility (LHR, JFK, etc.), or take a city one of your competitors might want?

For additional fun, judges could give a difficulty score. Sure you could get to Tokyo or Amsterdam pretty easily, but would you rather go to Kathmandu if it meant you could score more points?

To make it more challenging, you could add a constraint that each competitor has to pick at least one destination in the northern hemisphere and one in the southern hemisphere (or above 30N and below 30S).

Mike

I think you should do a true last minute challenge. Pick the best cities in the US to fly internationally from on points – JFK, IAD, ORD, DFW, LAX… Everyone participating gets assigned an airport at random, shows up at a set time and has to book and fly somewhere that day. No advance planning allowed. Judges would be challenged to find unique experiences while contestants are en route. Spend one or two nights at that first destination. Then go to the airport and do it again. And again.

Frank

Do the 40k challenge again. I think more people can relate to that. This latest challenge had some ‘amazing race’ moments which were fun, no doubt. I think a more limited miles budget would be more exciting. Having the ability to so many points/miles I think most of us can’t relate to.