An occult-themed game of skill where players use magic squares to try to generate real cash all rooted in the developer's own experiences with Texas hold 'em poker? Why yes, Jason Rohrer does have a new game in the works, thanks for asking. It's called Cordial Minuet because an occult-themed game without an anagram would be even sadder than a gaming news article without a pun.
The website for the game itself reads like a cross between a self-help seminar and a grimoire but Kotaku had a play and what they describe is far less demonic ritual and far more numerical mind games for money.
The idea is that you want end up with a higher score than your opponent by making choices about how you use a numbered grid. You and an anonymous opponent are presented with a 6x6 magic square where every column and row adds up to 111. You both have the same magic square but your opponent's will have been rotated 90 degrees so your rows are their columns and vice versa.
Each round you will pick a column of numbers for yourself. You will also pick a column for the other person. Because of the 90 degree rotation that column will show up as a row on their board and will intersect with the column they picked for themselves. It's the squares where these intersections fall which are of interest and they're what you're trying to manipulate.
Say there's a column with a few super high numbers – a 34 and a 35, perhaps – you might want to pick that because you could end up with a good score, but you'll also risk your opponent guessing what you're up to and them picking a row which actually intersects you on a 3 or a 6. Instead you could pick a safer column with less of a spread of numbers and try to guard against and catastrophic losses by sacrificing the potential highs. But maybe that's what your opponent will THINK you're doing and you should go back to the original plan. Or will they expect this crafty double bluff so maybe you should actually go for an even riskier column because they'll never expect that at all! After decision paralysis has set in you'll probably go for the one with the most 4s in. 4 is a great number. 4 won't let you down.
After all the columns on your board are used, either as picks for yourself or as rows for your opponent the winner is the necromancer (or player, whatever – I have no idea how far Rohrer's going to go with the occult trappings) whose intersection squares add up to the highest number.
The point of all this agonised decision making is a) because it could be fascinating and b) because it would theoretically make all aspects of the game subject to player skill rather than random chance which is a key factor in deciding whether a game contravenes or is subject to particular gambling legislation.
Which brings us on to the sordid topic of coin. The ability to safely skirt gambling laws is important because you can only play Cordial Minuet if you put up real money. "The drama and emotional anguish is magnified tremendously when there's something real at stake," is how Rohrer explained the decision to Kotaku. Should you prove good at necromancy/picking columns you can cash out and be sent your winnings via cheque after paying a $1.50 admin fee (I assume one of the circles of Hell has a cheque-routing business on the side – probably the fourth). Rohrer himself takes a 10 percent cut of the winner's earnings for each game.
I find the maths-meets-mindgames aspect intriguing. Alice doesn't, by the way. She's all "Pip, just sign up for Gala Bingo." WHATEVER, ALICE. But no-one seems to be discussing the most important aspect: Would you watch a show called Late Night Cordial Minuet?