Welcome to the November Design Challenge! This month we'll be looking to a more traditional genre of gaming: card games. Card games aren't just about collecting and battling if not for kids; there are single deck versus games like Exploding Kittens and Munchkins, deck building versus games like Magic the Gathering and the base game for Red Tavern Inn, and even cooperative games like Dresden Files and Mysterium. There's even more that can be done when this genre is translated to the medium of videogames; Slay the Spire and Dicey Dungeon are great examples of games that aren't entirely impossible on the tabletop, but, with the aid of AI and algorithms, enable easy ways of placing cards into rogue-like and mission based structures. Also, making an up-to-date digital version of a tabletop game allows people to come together to experience it both face-to-face, state-to-state, and nation-to-nation. There's plenty of potential with this genre, so go out there and realize it!
For this challenge, design a card game, tabletop and/or digital. Sounds like a pretty simple base objective, but the game can be as complex as necessary. A major difference from between this challenge and most others planned is that this primarily a sandbox design challenge rather than a level design one . One can take approaches to certain aspects of a game and turn it around, forcing the player to think differently. Don't be afraid to change the game significantly if either emergent elements that aren't too prevalent are more interesting to the core loop or if that core loop isn't entirely that interesting in practice. Look up the variety of games to be inspired by or even deep dive into the building blocks of card games to create something truly unique! Be open to submitting early, even when the game is just a concept, that way other forum members can provide feedback from the start. Who knows, this new concept may develop into a feasible product.
Only three guidelines apply to this challenge:
- The game or concept must be designed around cards and how they manifest in gaming
- The game or concept must be posted on the November Challenge: Building a Gathering Submission Thread
- The post must include at least one picture/sketch of the game or concept
If you're not registered on the site, it's an easy process. Here's a link to where you can do so: (link)
The submission thread will remain open until November 30th. There is no limit to the number of levels you can submit. Submit one and go into as much detail about it as possible, or submit many with the bare minimum of detail. Take Whichever route you feel will be the most beneficial to your own development.
A couple of details that could be included in the post as a way to better convey the design process are:
- The kind of sandbox that is being designed
- Multiple Pictures, and/or video footage of the game
- An overview of how to set up the game
- A flow diagram of an example playthrough
- An explanation of the source of inspiration for the game
- Anything that helps convey the thought process behind the game
Here's a link to the Submission and Discussion thread for this Challenge:(link)
These challenges have helped me understand more about myself: I don't know how players will react to or interact with my environments because I don't play them enough. I'm always theorizing and trying new things without actually bringing them into fruition. This challenge is where I decided to improve myself not only as a designer but also as a person: I will not only think and plan, but I will also do.
But first I had to the usual: plan, which was thankfully quick. In only a few days I had come up with the idea of an elimination card game centered around having two health pools: a hand to play from and a stash. The stash is sort of a personal, self-curated deck that certain cards pulled from, meaning that the player was responsible for determining their arsenal. Unfortunately only one card this ability, and it only took the cards that it placed there in the first place. Well, that's problematic. Only two other cards referenced the stash: one placed itself and an additional card from the graveyard into the player's stash while the other dealt the same amount of damaged to another player as sacrificed by the player using said card. This whole conundrum went under my radar until the first playtest.
Here's a look at one of the cards:
I bought blank playing cards online and some fine tip sharpies to make a physical game to physically playtest, a process a lot more direct than building it on my computer. The cards are crudely drawn, yet still playable. Scratch that, the wording on many of the cards were convoluted; I had written it the night before after a double shift at work, so I hadn't taken the time to simplify and establish a nomenclature. Because of this, the first playtest had everyone barely understand what each card meant. I decided that that could be fixed at another time, changed one of the cards to a base rule, and established some rules:
- players draw the top two cards of their stash each turn
- players can only play one card per turn
- players can place any cards from their hand into the graveyard to draw an equal amount from the deck
- eliminating a player allows you to add half of that player's stash to one's hand or to damage another player for the same amount (this was the card changed to a rule)
With these rule changes and the knowledge of what each card does at least at a base level, the next game had deeper strategy and more interesting gameplay. Now the cards that added to the player's stash, especially those of which allowed the player to choose which cards to add, had a ton more value in the game due to the draw two rule involving the stash. This is what mad the gameplay's intended identity possible. Now I have a unique game that I want to finish, so there's much more work to do.
The next step was to create a nomenclature and symbol for each type of action (e.g. attack, deflect, sacrifice, etc.) so that the game is quicker to play and to improve both understanding and the pace of the game. In addition, the frustation of having a few cards and their duplicates take up most of the deck made more powerful cards essentially game enders due to their effective counters also having a lower frequency. This caused me to make the frequency of each card the same: 5 of each card, 18 different cards in total.
Here's the finalized rules:
- 3-6 player count
- 10 cards in hand + 5 cards in stash
- players can draw up to 2 cards from their stash on their turn starting after the first round
- all halving effects round up
And a look at the new version of the cards:
The first two playtests that I had with the new deck were successful, but a third playtest gave light to one issue: defensive cards are oppressive and slow down the game when attack cards are infrequent. One game I played just today ended up being a boring dwindling match where any attack that was present was either completely negated with a single card then picked right back up with another. No damage was going through with how easily the stash replenished a player's hand, so something had to be done to prevent this unending tankiness in the endgame. It doesn't help that eliminating players in the early game allowed one to tank up with half of that player's stash. A few ideas came to mind when brainstorming:
- limit stash size to 10 cards - any carryover instead damages that player
- reduce any damage negating effects (block -> 1/4 dmg rounded up) (1/2 dmg to stash -> 2x dmg to stash)
This should help give attacks more value and impact on the flow of the game.
Another aspect of the game that slows it down is the remaining redundancy, even seen in the card demonstrated. The card should be less 'wordy,' and a good rewrite would be "deal 2 damage to another player's hand" rather than it's current wording, "pick a target, take 2 cards from their hand and place them in the graveyard". The word 'damage' already implies discarding to the graveyard under the recently established nomenclature. It's pretty silly that this went over my head.
I'm not done with this game as I want to see this to fruition. There's wording, nomenclature, further defining the rules, and establishing a unified aesthetic. I'll be posting updates to this in the submission thread.
If you'd like to suggest some changes and/or improvements for subsequent challenges, feel free to do so in our Challenge Feedback thread here: (link)