Never know what's next.
This is the second part of a series by John D Clair.
Part 1, Why Sleeve?
I took the best twenty-percent or so of my old design and started work on a new design. And it was here that I had the idea to use transparent cards to modify existing cards. These would simply be modifiers that overlaid in the sleeve and improved the stats of the underlying card. Also, rather than the draw decks essentially rotating around the table, now all players simply played out of a central deck; the cards in that deck being owned by different players, again, as indicated by the sleeves. In this new design, players were demon hunters, bent on destroying as many demons as possible. The backside of each card was a generic demon, and on your turn you would attempt to kill as many of the top demons on the draw deck, which would then allow you to draw those cards. In this game you could buy new cards from a tableau and put them in your personal sleeves, or card upgrades from an upgrade tableau and sleeve them into your cards. Cards once played ended up in a common discard pile, and like a deck-builder, when the draw deck ran out the discard pile would shuffle and become the new draw deck.
This design went through multiple iterations, but was ultimately thrown on the scrap heap. It was, however, the origin of several key concepts that ended up in the final design of Edge of Darkness, including the concept of shared-deckbuilding, the double-sided cards with threats on the back, and of course the use of transparent card advancements. However, the transparent cards were used purely as modifiers players could occasionally add to otherwise complete cards. Somewhere along in iterating this game I realized actually building the cards should be the core of the game, rather than just a nifty side mechanic.
I changed the theme from players being Demon hunters and instead set the game in a western homestead village on the outskirts of civilization, beset by demons and haunts. This was the first game that could reasonably be described as a “Card-Crafting” game. I still had the double-sided cards, the shared-deckbuilding, however, now rather than adding cards to the deck, players were adding advancements to the cards. My definition of “card” now had to change to “a card sleeve and everything in it”. Each “card” represented a plot of land, owned by one player, and the advancements represented buildings you could construct onto your lands. The deck represented all the land and the buildings in the town. The backside of the cards were the monsters threatening the town. I went through a few quick iterations of this. Some playtests it seemed to really work, other times it crashed and burned. One big issue was that I didn’t have an elegant way to level up the monsters to keep up with the players, so it was either too hard at the start or too easy at the end.
Then I had another idea to solve the monster leveling issue. This idea resulted in a game which I still get comments about from friends asking whether I’ll ever go back to it, which I might. Essentially it was an asymmetric, semi-cooperative game where one player was the “Demon Lord” and the other players were powerful guilds vying for power while trying to stop the Demon Lord from winning. Either the Demon Lord would win or, if he was stopped, the player with the most victory points would win. Again, all cards were double-sided, but this time all the good players were leveling up the front “good” side of the cards while the Demon Lord was leveling up the back “bad” side of the cards. Many players told me they greatly enjoyed the game, and we did have a lot of great playtests with this design, but it was far from perfect and there were many issues with the balance of power between the Demon Lord and the other players. So when I had a new idea for how the monsters could level up without the need for a “bad-guy” player I knew the direction I wanted to go.
The key idea that I had realized was something particularly cool I could do with card-crafting. If I made all the cards transparent, including the starting effects in the sleeves, then newly sleeved effects could be double-sided, with a good side and a bad side. This made for a natural progression where the players would add new effects to the cards to help themselves, but would, by consequence also be adding a new bad effect to the cards, thereby naturally scaling the bad with the good as the game progressed. I decided to take this idea and rewind to the prior concept of players trying to manage a town on the edge of a dark evil land with no one player playing as the bad-guy.
Part three coming tomorrow! Edge of Darkness is coming to Kickstarter February 20th!