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Subject: [WIP] Divine: The card game rss

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Nikolay Popov
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Hello fellas,

Let me steal some of your time and let me present to you a game that me and a friend of mine are working on for quite some time.

(Please, accept my apologies for any mistakes in the text as English is not my native language.)

Divine: The card game

An example (draft version) of the player’s board



Rumors of War are filling the streets of cities. Fear grips peoples’ minds and souls. In their hearts they feel their lord has abandoned them and they are losing faith …

Divine: The card game is a card/board game for 2-4 players set in an ancient fantasy world. In the game you play an immortal lord, who is followed by a group of mortal worshipers. To win the game you clash against other immortal lords to destroy their followers’ faith and to gain divine power.

Winning condition: Destroy opponents' faith (Faith is represented by followers/faith units)

Defeat condition: Once a player loses all his followers he must leave the game immediately

Startup conditions: Every player starts with 67 followers (there is no upper limit, so player can have more throughout the course of the game) and 6 cards in hand.

Game
• Players: 2-4 Players
• Playing Time: 60-150 Min
• Age: 14 +
• Weight: to be defined (expected between: 2,5 - 3,0)

Type
• Strategic
• Thematic

Category
• Card game
• Fantasy
• Fighting
• Mythology

Mechanisms
• Hand management
• Action Point Allowance System
• Card Drafting (optional, not implemented for now)
• Deck building
• Dice rolling
• Player Elimination
• Secret unit deployment (partially)
• Take that (not the band )

Raise your skills to influence believers’ minds and hearts. Use your powers and different spells, artifacts, and relics to manipulate peoples’ thoughts and feelings. Control and dominate in the Realms of Influence. Induce Fear and Apathy in foes’ followers to Strike with Terror and destroy their Faith. Use their Ignorance to perform Chaos Strike. Protect your own worshipers by building places for monks and scholars and by raising their Literacy. Heal the faith of your own followers by inducing feelings of Love and Compassion. Raise your powers by moving up on the Spiral of Ascension.

Components:

A player’s board (1 per player). It is used to track visually:

• The level of the four Skills of control (Fear, Love, Magic and Shield of Faith). The higher the skill the better. Only the player can raise a given Skill by playing a Skill card.
• The level of the four so called Pillars of Faith (Every Pillar is divided in two halves - a negative and positive one). A pillar’s level can be increased (by the player controlling the board) or decreased (by an opponent) by using a Pillar card. There are four Pillars (Pillar of Conviction, Pillar of Wisdom, Pillar of Mercy & Pillar of Devotion)
• The five Realms of Influence (Terror, Chaos, Magic, Love and Protection). A Realm is represented by particular coloring and an Icon (symbol), which position determines the components (Skills & Pillars) it is affected of.
• Spiral of Ascension – a spiral of nine worlds. There are three major worlds (Altair, Shrine, Temple) and six intermediate. Every major world raises the player’s divine powers.

Faith tokens – tokens representing the current number of followers controlled by the player

Time tokens – Time is the resource used by the players to pay for playing the cards

Divine power upgrade tokens – tokens used to move up on the Spiral of Ascension

A Player’s deck (1 per player) that features the following 33 cards:

• Skill cards (for raising the Skills)
• Pillar cards (for modifying the Pillars)
• Shard of Eternity cards (for performing a set of Actions)
• Divine Power cards (for moving up on the Spiral of Ascension and gaining Time)
• Protection cards (for protecting player’s own followers)

Special cards – There are five additional decks of cards. Player draws from these decks to add additional cards to his personal deck (through deck-upgrade mechanism)

Main aspects of the gameplay

Strikes & Realms:

This is a Fighting game, so the main way for a player to decrease the number of opponents’ followers is to perform a Strike action on opponents’ Faith. Strike action is performed by playing a Shard of Eternity card, Special Strike card or using a Relic card. There are three types of Strikes (corresponding to three of the Realms of Influence - Terror, Chaos and Magic) and so the Shard of Eternity cards allow player to perform on his choice one of 4 actions: Terror Strike, Chaos Strike, Magic Strike and Heal. The damage of a Strike is the sum of the values of the corresponding Skills/Pillars in a given Realm (plus card bonuses). Player has a limited number of Strike cards so he must carefully plan when to use them and in which Realm. Opponent can use protective cards to reduce or fully block the damage in a given Realm, but it is difficult to protect all Realms equally.

An example (draft version) of a Shard of Eternity card:



Skills & Pillar Cards:

Skills and Pillars are a significant part of what defines the player and what level of Influence player can have in a Realm. Throughout the course of the game players should choose which Skills (and Pillars) to level up and which opponents’ Pillar to lower. Often player will have to choose between:
• Raising and maximizing 1 particular Skill (on the cost of neglecting the other Skills)
• Raising equally 2-3 Skills (but with lower values)
• Raising his own Pillar
• Lowering opponent’s Pillar

For example: If player wants to do a lot of direct damage on opponents’ Faith then he must boost his Fear skill or increase opponent’s Apathy (by lowering Pillar of Conviction); if he wants to improve his protection he must boost his Shield skill and/or raise his Literacy (the positive part of Pillar of Wisdom), and so on.

Important: Leveling up a Skill not only increases the power of the skill, but it also allows player to draw cards from a corresponding special deck (for example: raising the Shield skill allows player to draw from the Shield Special deck, boosting the protection further)

An example (draft version) of a Skill Card:



Special cards & Deck-upgrade:

Special cards are arranged in five additional decks available for the players since the very beginning of the game. Most of the special cards have 3 levels (this is like having 3 cards combined in 1) and these levels correspond to the 3 major worlds on Spiral of Ascension (Altair, Shrine, Temple). Once reached these levels boost the Divine power of the player and allow player to use the additional options on the Special cards. This means that by moving up on the Spiral player will boost his cards (and new opportunities will open – so he should plan in advance how and when to use them) and also he will gain new Special cards. Special cards are added to the player’s personal deck at the end of his turn.

Examples (draft version) of Special Cards:



Structure of the gameplay:

Player’s turn consists of the following phases

• Player announces the start of his turn.
• Player takes 1 {Time} token from the Well of Time (with the exception of the first turn)
• Players pays any penalties (If any, move X number of Weak units in Realm of Chaos; remove X number units affected by Indifference; etc..)
• Player plays 3 {Moves} – This is the allowed number of moves per 1 turn.
1 {Move} is one of the following listed actions:

o Play a card OR
o Gain 1 {Time} token OR
o Draw X Cards from personal deck (1st card is for free, for any additional card player pays +1 {Time} token. Additionally player should stick to the rule of not having more than 6 cards at the end of his turn) OR
o Pay 2 Divine Power upgrade tokens to move up on the Spiral of Ascension

• Player announces the end of his turn -> At this point opponent may start.
• Player draws up to 2 new cards from his personal deck
• (optional) If any Special card is gained at this turn player puts this card 6 cards from the top (performs deck-upgrade).

In addition on opponent’s turn player may perform on of the following actions:
• Play a Spell card or Relic (In general case this happens during opponent’s Strike)
• Activate a protective card (during opponent’s Strike)

Current progress:

General rules finalized at 80%. In addition we need to refine/tweak the text/abilities on some of the special cards (sometimes there are situations <combinations of cards> which we haven’t thought about – which is actually thrilling, because we manage to surprise ourselves )

Board – from functional point it is quite close to the final version (We need to progress on the ART)

Cards – Cards design completed at 20% (Most of the art should be replace with our own. At this stage it is used for visual improvement during testing)

Play-tests (with up to 3 players): ~10/15

Main priorities: Further playtesting (refining rules/cards). Progress with ART. Progress with Rulebook (in English)

##########

Design consideration
(This section is about what influence our design decision, so feel free to skip it if you had enough with this post )

L.I.E

During the design of the game we decided to use some concepts borrowed from real Life (and not directly related with the theme) upon which to build the gameplay.

We have called (Immodestly) the whole bundle of concepts – the L.I.E engine

L.I.E stands for Life Imitation Engine and it has the following principles (as in real Life):

1. We can think of long term plans, but as the environment around us constantly changes we should act (and modify our plans) according to the current (local) situation.
2. We develop our personalities based on chunks local of situations and not based on a predefined master plan
3. People around us constantly change the conditions of our environment and we have to adapt (being Intelligent)
4. We cannot boost all our skills equally, so we must intelligently choose which ones we need (and set priority)
5. In our life Time is the most valuable resource, so we should decide wisely what to spend it for
6. Luck is an integral part of life
7. To progress in Life we constantly have to solve Dilemmas (a problem offering two possibilities)

In the game itself we applied these principles like that:

1. There is strategic planning, but the at the end winning of the game depends on tactical decisions
2. All players start with the same “blank” personalities (tabula rasa; all Skills & Pillars are = 0) and throughout the course of the game their personality is developed base on their choices (played Skill, Pillars or Special cards)
3. Opponents must have the opportunity to modify player’s environment (Decrease Pillars, use special cards)
4. Players should choose which skill(s) to develop with a priority as they will not be able to raise all of them equally (depending on the cards in hand and the situations)
5. Time is used as a resource in the game
6. Dice-rolling is an important mechanism in the game
7. All Skill and Pillar cards are two-colored forcing player to choose between two possibilities

In addition we set the following design requirements:

• We want a fighting (heads-up) game, which supports more than 2 players
• Game should have a fantasy theme (manipulation of humans’ minds is quite suitable for a political game, but we decided not to step in this direction).
• We want a game which is long enough to provide turning points for players (and where the luck component is averaged by providing enough opportunities for everyone)
• A game where luck adds a real thrill to the situations, without making the game too random
• A fun game with a tight and epic ending
• A constantly escalating game
• A game, with high replay-ability value, where different tactics are applicable
• Easy setup

###########

Thank you for reading this huge post! I owe you respect!
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Nikolay Popov
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Let's talk more about the Realms and the Strikes as this is the hearth of the Game.

Realms of Influence & Strikes

There are five Realms of Influence in the game. Every single one is defined by 1 Skill of Control and 1 Pillar of Faith. Three of the Realms (Realm of Terror, Realm of Chaos and Realm of Magic) are used by the players to perform Strikes on opponent’s Faith. One (Realm of Protection) is used to increase protection against opponent’s Strikes and one (Realm of Life) is used to restore Faith units.

Realm of Terror – It is formed by a Fear Skill and a Pillar of Conviction. By raising Fear (the ability to induce Fear in the hearts of opponent’s followers) and Zealotry (the positive half of the Pillar) values and raising opponent’s Apathy value (negative half of the Pillar) player may perform an effective Terror Strike on opponent’s Faith. This is the Realm where player’s Strike may cause most damage.



Example of a Terror Strike:

Player’s Fear and Zealotry values are: Fear = 3 & Zealotry =2
Opponent’s Apathy value is = -4 (the “minus” is used only to show that the player will benefit from this value)




In addition player uses the following Strike card:



This card gives “+2” damage as the player is performing a Terror Strike
The total damage value (TDV) is a sum of the four numbers = 3 + 2 + 4 +2 = 11
In addition when performing a Terror Strike player may roll a dice. Let’s take the value of 4. Then TDV = 11+4=15

The opponent has a “Shield of Faith” protective card in this Realm. Shield level of the protective card is defined by the values of Shield Skill and Literacy on the board. In this case the values are: Shield=2 and Literacy=2 -> So in total the Shield level is 2+2=4 -> 2nd Shield Level (4-6)-> Protection = +4




The effective damage value (EDV) is calculated in the following way:
EDV= TDVProtection = 15 – 4 =11 -> Opponent’s removes 11 faith units from his own (by putting them in Pool of Faith in the middle of the table)


Realm of Chaos – It is formed by Fear Skill and Ignorance (negative half of Pillar of Wisdom). By raising Fear (the ability to induce Fear in the hearts of opponent’s followers) value and raising opponent’s Ignorance value player may perform an effective Chaos Strike on opponent’s faith.



Realm of Magic – It is formed by Magic Skill and Pillar of Devotion. By raising Magic and Worship (the positive half of Pillar) values and raising opponent’s Idolatry value (negative half of Pillar) player may perform an effective Magic Strike on opponent’s faith.



Realm of Life – It is formed by Love Skill and Pillar of Mercy. By raising Love and Compassion (the positive half of Pillar) values player may perform Heal action(restoring a given number of his own followers).



Realm of Protection – It is formed by Shield Skill and Literacy (positive half of Pillar of Wisdom). By raising Shield and Literacy values player increases the Protection provided by the protection cards.

 
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Nikolay Popov
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Continue working on the Rules definition and translation...

Striking an opponent


Striking an opponent is broken up into the following steps:


(Player) Declare Strike:
o Player declares the type of Strike he is willing to perform (corresponding to one of the three opponent’s Realms - Realm of Terror, Realm of Chaos and Realm of Magic)
(Opponent) Proclaim Protection:
o (Optional) If able, the opponent may pay 1 Time token for every face-down protective card in the Realm where the Strike is performed.
o (Optional) If able, the opponent may play some additional cards from his hand (Spell or Special card) by paying the corresponding cost
o All activated (face-up) protective cards in the Realm, where the Strike is performed, are announced
(Player) Perform Strike:
o Declare Strike card(s)
 Player puts down - near the opponent’s Realm of the Strike and with a face up – the card that will be used to perform the Strike (Shard of Eternity or Special Strike card).
 (Optional) Player may play a Strike advancement card or Spell card to boost the effect of the Strike card.
o (Optional) Block
If the opponent has a blocking card in Realm of Strike (Wall of Kin) player has to bypass the blocking. This is achieved by one of the following ways:
 Pay 1 Time token for 1 Block value AND/OR
 Roll a dice. If the dice value is greater than the Block value then the opponent’s blocking is bypassed

Important: Any blocking value marked with * is considered unremovable – it cannot be removed by paying Time tokens and player has to roll a dice with a value greater than the * blocking value.

Example: Opponent has an activated Wall of Kin protective card in the Realm of Strike and he has 2nd Shield level -> Block =4 (1*)



In order to bypass the card Player has three options:
1. Player pays 3 time tokens to lower the Block value from 4 to 1. He is not allowed to pay 4 time tokens as there is an unremovable block value of (1*). Once the 3 Time tokens are paid Player rolls a dice. If dice value is greater than 1 then Player bypasses the block. If dice value is = 1, then Player’s Strike is ended immediately.
2. Player decides not to pay any Time tokens. He rolls a dice. If dice value is greater than 4 then block is bypassed. If not Player’s strike is ended immediately.
3. Player pays 2 Time tokens lowering the Block value from 4 to 2 and rolls a dice. If dice value is greater than 2 Player bypasses the block.
Once block is bypassed Player performs next step


o Assign Effective Damage
• Player calculates Total Damage Value (TDV) of his Strike
• Opponent calculates Total Protection value (TPV) in the Realm where the Strike is perfromed.
• The effective damage value (EDV) is calculated using the following formula:
EDV = TDV – TPV
Once EDV is calculated opponent removes that number of his own faith tokens (They are moved to Pool of Faith - this is a pile of faith tokens in the middle of the playfield, not controlled by any player)



 
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Nikolay Popov
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We did play-tests recently and received some negative feedback about the gameplay (Although in my mind the game is just perfect ). Complains are mainly about:

Complexity… (Complex calculations, complex rules, difficult to read cards, some things are too abstract)

So after a game a week ago in which one of our main beta testers won, but nevertheless complained (I have found that usually people are quite positive about a game you are designing when they win) we had to face the fact that the game is not that perfect and we need to do/change something. The problem with changing the game is (at least for me) that once you stabilize the game in your own mind you don’t want to do any more major modifications. You are afraid that you may break something “perfect” and that this could lead to an endless spiral of fixes and retests.
But…
If someone - who is a close friend - complains about the game you are working on, despite the fact that he knows how many efforts you throw on designing this game and despite the fact that he has just won it… hmm, obviously there is something wrong and it’s time to wake up and roll your sleeves up.

So…

We started working on removing some of the components, simplifying things, simplifying the calculations, improving visualization and reducing the text on the special cards. We will redesign whatever is possible with the main goal to simplify the gameplay and the rules. This seems the most challenging part – making things as simple as possible, yet this is probably the most interesting and rewarding. Let’s see where this road leads…
 
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