Saturday, June 02, 2007

Game Design Awesomeness

So I've always wanted to develop and publish my own game, be it a role-playing game, CCG, normal card game, strategy game or whatever else I manage to come up with. I was brainstorming with Jason Scott a while ago, and we came up with a great idea to use CCG cards as pieces in a wargame. The card would include statistics for power, toughness, cost, movement across the board, etc. It was basically Magic: The Gathering plus Chess.

I believe it was Steve Jackson who wrote "Combat = Movement + Force" or something similar, and most CCGs seem to lack the Movement quotient. I wanted to fix that and add another dimension to the CCG dimension.

The problems we kept running into were: 1) The board would have to be fucking huge. So huge that profanity is required to measure its hugeness. When each card is four inches long, if you're making an 8x8-unit field, and you want as many as four players to be able to play, you need a 32x32 inch field. That's roughly three feet square. Plus you'd want boarders of some sort to showcase some mat art or rules summaries or something. A 32 x 32 inch playing surface is simply too cumbersome for casual play. 2) Jason and I had violently different ideas about what the game should be like. I was looking at Magic Chess. He was looking at Settlers-of-Catan-meets-Axis-and-Allies. Which is a great idea for a game, don't get me wrong, but it's not really the game I want to play. So I had to go back to the drawing board.

Let's start with deck design. The 4-of/60-card deck model never made as much sense to me as a 5-of/100-card deck model. If you run a maximum amount of each of your cards, each card is 5% of your deck. Because resources are handled in a different way from any other collectible card game I've ever seen, you don't need to fill any of these slots with resource cards.

Each player begins the game with a Stronghold card in play. Strongholds determine that player's starting hand size, maximum hand size, draw amount, life total and resources per turn. A perfectly average Stronghold would provide the following:
Hand Size: 5
Draw: 1
Life Total: 15
Resources: 3
Obviously, none of the Stronghold cards available in the game would be perfectly average. If your Hand Size is higher than 5, the rest of the card would reflect that by being lower than average. If you draw 2 cards per turn, you might start the game with 10 life rather than fifteen. If you start the game with 20 life, you may only get 1 resource per turn. I stole this basic idea, part and parcel, from The Spoils, which uses faction cards to determine the way a player draws cards and plays resources. In my game, resources stay pretty static. If you were running an aggro deck with nothing but 1drop weenies, 3 resources per turn is more than enough. If you prefer control, you'll need a Stronghold with more resources per turn, but expect to have that reflected by a lower hand size or life total. Some Strongholds may have two attributes higher than others... Blah. You get the idea.

There are six areas of play: the Deck, the Discard, your hand, your Stronghold Row, your Home Row and your Field Row. The deck is self-explanitory to anyone who has ever played a CCG, and ditto the discard pile. The three rows are unique to this game model.

The Stronghold Row represents your resources and holdings. Sometimes creature/character cards will be played in the Stronghold Row, and some creatures/characters provide you special bonuses when played in the Stronghold Row. Most of the cards played in this row made improvements to your stats. Some will give you +1 Resources. Some will give you +1 life per turn. Some will increase your hand size or your draw capability. Because the stronghold row is the last row to be affected in combat, some creatures are played in the Stronghold Row to keep them safe. This is especially true of any creature that provides a universal effect.

The Home Row represents your standing army. Only creature cards and cards that equip creature cards can be played in your Home Row. The Home Row is the default play zone for creature cards. Creatures in the Home Row cannot attack, but gain a +1 bonus to their defense for being there.

The Field Row represents a deployed army, ready to attack. You may only attack with creatures in your Field Row. Creatures gain no special bonus for being in the Field Row. When attacking another player, that player may decide to face you in the Field or at Home, and then declares blockers from the chosen row. If that player has no creatures on the Field, then Home is defaulted. If there are no creatures in the Home Row, then any creatures in the Stronghold Row can be declared as blockers. If no creatures block, the damage is dealt to the player and is taken off of the life total. If there is even one creature in the opposing player's field, they may declare that row to block, and though that creature would likely die, no damage would be done to any other row. It costs 1 resource to move a creature from the Home Row to the Field Row. It costs nothing to return a creature to the Home Row from the Field Row. In very rare instances, a card can be played directly to the Field Row.


I fucking hate getting mana screwed. Hate it hate it hate it hate it. I could be rocking the world's best magic deck at my side, and still lose to mana screw. So to that sort of resource management, I said "No!" All of the resources in this game are the same. If I'm playing an aggro deck and you're playing a control deck, our 1-drops could be the same creatures. I love the color wheel, I think it adds a lot of great flavor to the Magic world, but it doesn't work for me. It works against me. I'm not down with that.

All Strongholds produce the same sort of resources. Always.
Card Types:

The more types of cards I have to play with, the happier a player I am. As such, I've decided to use six supertypes for my game: Strongholds, Heroes, Peons, Events, Situations and Attachments.

(Huh. I just went looking for extra card types because I felt my list was lacking a bit. I took a look at the Vs. System and realized... Hey! My game kinda-sorta looks like the Vs. System on a fantasy bender, plus easier resource management... Shit... Guess it's back to the drawing board for a bit...)