Thursday, 20 September 2012

The 15 Card Challenge

(Note: All cards shown in this post are to be considered WIP. This is the first stable(-ish) version of the game, so things are bound to change, and with them so will card design)

A few friends of mine and I decided to do a little game-making challenge. I had 15 blank pieces of cardboard in sleeves (I usually use those as tokens during Magic games) lying around, and was wandering what to do with them, until a friend of mine suggested to make a game out of them. So I did. And so did another of my acquaintances.

This is what the original 15 Card Challenge stated:
Design a board game in which a key component are fifteen cards (They must be exactly fifteen. No more, no less). It's unimportant if all the cards have the same function, or even if all fifteen of them are in play at the same time, but all fifteen must be considered during the design.

Now, my original idea at the time was to do something similar to the game called Summoner Wars, with each card being character or creature or whatever with different skills and statistics, but limitation on the number quickly made this next to impossible. Instead I decided on a more traditional card game, with players drawing cards, playing cards and so on.

The game's working title is DUAL also known as Mathereal: The Game. Yes, the name needs work. Whatever.

The basic set up is this - The game is played with either 2 or 3 players. Each player starts with 20 Will Points and 20 Wound Points, with the person who's Wound Points drop to 0 being taken out of the game. In a 2 player game, each player is handed a hand of 5 randomly dealt cards, with the rest being shuffled and placed face-down as the Void. In a 3 player game, there are 3 cards given to each player instead. At the beginning of his turn each player draws the top card from the Void into his hand. When a card is played it is put on the bottom of the Void, which means that eventually it will be drawn by a player again.

The game itself consists of 14 cards with various effects and a Plane card, which has two sides - Material and Ethereal.
Material Plane and Ethereal Plane
There are cards in the game which allow you (or force you) to switch the plane card from one side to the other. Each card is split into a Material and Ethereal half, with Material effects being usable only in the Material Plane and Ethereal ones only in the Ethereal one. (Makes sense, doesn't it?)
Each player has two actions during his turn. One of those actions must be to play a card from his hand. The second action has some more freedom. It can either be to play a second card from his hand, or use the Invoke ability on card that is Influencing the Plane.

Effects that have Influence on them, are put into play in front of the player, with the side that's influencing being put facing the Plane. Invoking an Influence means paying the invoke cost, which causes the listed effect to occur. What this means is that a player can place an Influence with his first action and the Invoke it with his second action.

When the Plane is switched, all cards that Influence it are turned 180 degrees. If the card has an Influence effect on it's other half, that effect is now active. If it doesn't, the card is still considered to be influencing the Plane, but it's effects are not active until the Plane is switched to the proper side. Some influences are fragile (or too powerful) and as such get put into the Void if they ever stop influencing the Plane. (Note: This is a major design problem that I am still not sure how to handle. I do like the fact that you can have a card with two Influences that changes it's effect depending on the Plane's status, but the cards that only have an Influence on one side are kind of tricky rules wise. Are they still considered influences? A player can only have one card influencing the plane, so do they still count towards that player's limit, even if their effects are not active?)

Each card has a number right under the Plane symbol. That number is the cost required to play the card in Will Points. When a player (Not If. When.) runs out of Will, the cost is directly taken from their Wound Points. So if you try to play that card up there and you only have 1 Will Point left, that would mean you will pay 1 Will and 2 Wounds to play it. This system is made to ensure that no player will be able to just keep the game going on forever, and creates tension. The game's dynamic becomes less of trying to screw over your opponent, and more of trying to hold off the inevitable end so he'll die before you do. There are of course some cards that restore Will and Wounds, but they are few and far between, and can only be used as a momentary delay rather than a push forward.

The game still needs massive amounts of testing, because while the core mechanic (The Plane, the two effects on each card, the Void and so on) is solid, the trick is in actually making the cards themselves balanced so as to create an interesting gaming experience. I will be posting more on this as it progresses.

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