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I have a trick taking card game in which case there are occasions when the high card wins and occasions when the low card wins. Usually this is based on who lead the trick but some cards can change this mid hand.

I had an arrow icon to indicate this with it pointing up while a high card will win and low while a low card would win and a sound when this was changed mid-round.

This does not appear to be consistently conveying the desired message. What would be a better non-textual way to do so? I don't want to just put a bunch of text on screen because people would skip it and then get confused anyway or get annoyed by being made to read a bunch of text before playing.

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Sounds pretty good to me. The only enhancement I can think is to also change the colour at a change, and reset to the start colour each new round. That wold help people who are more video than audio oriented and also serve as a longer-lasting indication of the change. – Pieter Geerkens May 6 '13 at 1:47
How are you displaying the played cards? Perhaps they could have a simple variation in height to display the winning card (high or low), and an obvious transition animation when the winning rule is toggled. – Seth Battin May 6 '13 at 2:03
Highlight and shade. – Shadows In Rain May 6 '13 at 14:21
ask on the UX stack exchange – GameDev-er May 6 '13 at 17:03
@SethBattin in a basic diamond layout corresponding to who played which card North, east, south, or west. – lathomas64 May 8 '13 at 16:18

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