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Subject: Text on cards vs. icons and explanation in the rule book rss

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Nikolaj Wendt
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Hi all

I have been looking for a limit to how many different cards I can have in a game where the effect of the card isnt written on the card, but rather symbolized by icons and written out in the rulebook,

Limit being that it is a game also meant for casual gaming, and I want people to be able to remember the effects without having to look it up more than once.

What is your experience with that?



The game Rising King (also mentioned in another thread) consists of 15 different cards, of three main types.

9 characters with blue background
5 buildings with green background
1 rebellion with grey/black background



This is an unfinished image of one of the cards (background not decided upon, but it will be light blue).

Now, in order to keep the look of the cards and to make it possible to easily publish in multible countries without having to run different versions of the cards, I have decided to try and have the effects listed in the rulebook and not on the cards.

The effect of this particular card is to "steal two cards from another players hand" and most of the effects are simple like that. For instance "destroy a card controlled by another player and draw a card" or "protect your character cards from being targeted".

The idea is to have a bubble in the lower right corner, or a bar across the lower part of the card, with icons symbolsizing that. Some of them are repeated on other cards, making it easier to remember them. They generally consist of for instance the back side of the cards shown with +3 listed in them, to indicate that you draw three cards from the Play Stack. Things like that.


Now, my big question is whether or not 15 different cards with effects like that, and with icons on each, will require more geeky minds to understand and remember quickly, or if it could still be considered "casual".

have you had any good/bad experiences with gaming cards with icons where the icons were crap or where there were just too many?


Appreciate any feedback you guys might have.



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Steven Metzger
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puslemus wrote:
Hi all

I have been looking for a limit to how many different cards I can have in a game where the effect of the card isnt written on the card, but rather symbolized by icons and written out in the rulebook,

Limit being that it is a game also meant for casual gaming, and I want people to be able to remember the effects without having to look it up more than once.

What is your experience with that?



The game Rising King (also mentioned in another thread) consists of 15 different cards, of three main types.

9 characters with blue background
5 buildings with green background
1 rebellion with grey/black background



This is an unfinished image of one of the cards (background not decided upon, but it will be light blue).

Now, in order to keep the look of the cards and to make it possible to easily publish in multible countries without having to run different versions of the cards, I have decided to try and have the effects listed in the rulebook and not on the cards.

The effect of this particular card is to "steal two cards from another players hand" and most of the effects are simple like that. For instance "destroy a card controlled by another player and draw a card" or "protect your character cards from being targeted".

The idea is to have a bubble in the lower right corner, or a bar across the lower part of the card, with icons symbolsizing that. Some of them are repeated on other cards, making it easier to remember them. They generally consist of for instance the back side of the cards shown with +3 listed in them, to indicate that you draw three cards from the Play Stack. Things like that.


Now, my big question is whether or not 15 different cards with effects like that, and with icons on each, will require more geeky minds to understand and remember quickly, or if it could still be considered "casual".

have you had any good/bad experiences with gaming cards with icons where the icons were crap or where there were just too many?


Appreciate any feedback you guys might have.



Text, please.
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Chevee Dodd
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The original design for Scallywags only has 8 cards and has only 2 icons and even a few words with a full explanation in the rules. Even with 8 cards I had to constantly answer questions about what a card does. The number 1 complaint I have received about the game is that the cards are confusing...

Chevee
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Andy Van Zandt
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explanatory text for abilities is almost universally better for gameflow (with very few exceptions). the trend towards iconization is primarily to make things easier/cheaper to translate (or even language independent). look at, say, Dungeon Lords- huge amounts of components with iconized abilities on them, means they can produce those components for every language edition of the game in the same print run, saving them tons of money in printing/translation costs.

so if your goal is that- language independence, then the icons are reasonable. if your goal is usability, then explanatory text in the relevant language is best.
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Nikolaj Wendt
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[/q]Text, please.[/q]

Damn, is that the general consensus amongst everyone here? (not doubting you) I couldnt remember any games myself where I had come across this. Well, only games where the cards where only one part of a bigger game, not where the cards themselves was all there was.


To elaborate a bit on the financial reason.

I am teaming up with 5-6 other new independent game developers and one existing game developer/publisher who has been publishing games in the nordics and germany for the last 4 years. This will be include everything from production, to storage, to marketing, webshop, conventions etc. etc.

To ensure low costs we get production done in China and shipped over together. The "challenge" is that the minimum ordered amount of games is 5000. I am fine with the amount and the costs, but that was with the initial idea that cards have no text and then there would be rule pamphlets in X different languages. If I then want to try and sell in different countries I would just have to add the translated rules pamphlet, or have it done in English, German, French, Spanish + all nordic languages from the beginning for instance.
I feel confident I would be able to sell 5000 and more like that.

I live in Denmark and my initial market will be the danish one as well. Getting 5000 copies made with danish text on the cards is quite a risk (not that many people speak danish, as you might have guessed.. :))


Any good suggestions for me in this situation? Design wise I mean.
I know the most obvious one is "dont get 5000 copies produced", but I dont like to do things half, and I have an ambitious approach to any project I involve myself in.


If everything goes to hell, at least I have birthday and christmas presents secured for the rest of my live :p


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Gary Simpson

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Just print it in English -- everyone understands english right?
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Steven Metzger
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It might be the general consensus (and I am FIRMLY in the text camp, as shown by my previous reply), but there are probably going to be those that swear by having icons and symbols.

Language-independent euros and Race for the Galaxy fans will want symbols, I assume.
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Tim Roediger
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Why not work really hard on the icons - make them as clear as you can - playtest them lots. By the way, I'd put the icons on the top left corner of the card, so they are easy to see when you fan the cards. Then make a player guide with all the icon explainations on it, and give one to each player during the game. Then if a player needs to check what an icon does, they can look at the guide in front of them.

Cheers,

Tim
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Nick Hayes
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Icons and no text is irrelevant. When players are first learning the game, they will need the text. Eventually they will have the cards memorized and not need to look at them anyways. A single line of text won't be any different than an icon, except that new players will be totally lost.
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Todd McCorkle
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Black Canyon wrote:
A single line of text won't be any different than an icon, except that new players will be totally lost.

I submit that new players will be lost regardless of whether text or icons are used.


I can only speak for myself, but it really depends on how the cards are used. If the cards are 'played once, perform their effect, then forget about them', text is okay. If the cards are put into play and stay there with an ongoing effect, I would prefer an icon. Admittedly, I'm one of the aforementioned R4tG fans. I have a standard rant in favor of the icons that boils down to "I can't read tiny upside text from across the table, but have a decent shot at recognizing an icon." The more intuitive the icons are the better though.
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James Hutchings
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puslemus wrote:
I know the most obvious one is "dont get 5000 copies produced", but I dont like to do things half, and I have an ambitious approach to any project I involve myself in.


From what I know of game sales, this is your best option. Ambition is no substitute for a good business plan.
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puslemus wrote:
The effect of this particular card is to "steal two cards from another players hand" and most of the effects are simple like that. For instance "destroy a card controlled by another player and draw a card" or "protect your character cards from being targeted".


Drakon has similar simple effects, so icons would be fine:

* Steal two cards: Two "steal a card" icons or a "steal a card" icon with a "x2" next to it.

* Steal a card: Picture of a hand drawing a card from a hand of cards.

* Protect from (effect): Circle with slash symbol on top of (effect) symbol.

* Destroy a card: Picture of card being destroyed.

See also FFG's Wreckage cards.

I'm not sure about the layout of the card, though. I'd expect to see the art on a window on the upper half of the card, and symbols on the lower half of the card.

Good luck!
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James Hébert
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Personally, I like both, and I think that short text, in keeping with the style of the game (using an appropriate-looking font to maintain the flavor of the art and theme, for example), is immensely helpful. As a new user, it helps, even if I don't know and understand the game yet. As an old hand, it does not hinder in any way, though I no longer lean on it so heavily. I see no drawback to both.

I do know this: If I have to refer to the rules over and over before I begin to find the game enjoyable, it can defeat my interest enough that the game goes into the "For Trade" category pretty quickly.

Oh! And if the cards are hand-held, you may wish to consider how the most important information can be visible along the top and in the corners or on the edges when fanned in the hand... if it matters to the gameplay.
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Leo Zappa
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Text, or icons and text. Whatever you do, don't do just icons. I will not buy any more card games that do not have the necessary text on each card.
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Andrés Santiago Pérez-Bergquist
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If the icons are really, really, really clear, then you can get away with it. Bang! almost works, in that once you know what the cards do, you can easily remind yourself of that by the icons on them, but if you have any rules question at all, you still need to consult the rulebook. Simply expecting the players to remember what cards do does not work; Lunch Money is completely unplayable because of this, whereas if they'd actually written what the cards do on the cards instead of in the rulebook it might be a half-decent game.
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Jonathan Warren
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The design we used on The Gaston Game is a simple line of text in an appropriate font. If more information is needed while learning players can then check the rules.

 


For this example the "Add 1 aphid to an opponent's leaf" gives a no nonsense action. It does not go into in depth rules. When learning the game players would check the rules to see exactly how this is done.

Incidentally, the rules say: "A player may play an attacking Aphid card on any player he chooses. He does this by placing the Aphid card face up onto the Played Action Card space and announces which player he will attack. The attacking player (who played the Aphid card) adds 1 new Aphid (from the Insect Pool) to the attacked player’s flower. The new Aphid may be placed onto any leaf, unless the leaf is occupied by the player’s Ladybug."

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Andreas Pelikan
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The added value of clear and concise icons must not be underestimated! Text is great during the learning phase, but good, nicely distinct icons are so much easier to recognize quickly than a string of text, especially when lying upside down across the table in front of player. Would Power Grid be such a success with a card design shown on the right? How long would it take you to figure out how much demand there is for oil?



My personally preferred choice are icon-only cards (big clear icons), and a reference card explaining the icons in brief, clear words. However, I recommend such a setup if there's only some 7-8 substantially different icons (draw 1/2/3 cards are substantially the same, draw/steal a card are substantially different). Creating good and concise icons is an art in itself.

It seems that your game has too many distinct functions to be cast in icons alone. So I'd vote for text plus icon. Good luck with designing the icon for "protect your character cards from being targeted". Not an easy one, but worth the effort.

Second thought: icons on cards with one-time effect are not so important, but I for one greatly appreciate icons on cards that stay face up on the table.

As for BANG!: almost a great job, but there's two mishap cards abusing/bending the otherwise brilliant icon language. The big plus: almost everything is icons only, but the more complex functions (dynamite, barrel, ...) are given in text. Fortunately they are rare.
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James Hutchings
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Puschl wrote:
It seems that your game has too many distinct functions to be cast in icons alone. So I'd vote for text plus icon. Good luck with designing the icon for "protect your character cards from being targeted". Not an easy one, but worth the effort.


A shield?
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Eugene van der Pijll
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Text!

It sounds like the game is not too heavy, and partially targeted at casual gamers. The same audience as e.g. Bang. The reason why Bang is no longer played in our group is that the card effects are confusing, and it's no fun playing with non-experienced gamers.

Compare this with Dominion, which is more complex mechanically than Bang, and has more complex strategies, but is easy to explain to new players, and therefore gets played.
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Todd McCorkle
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desertfox2004 wrote:
Text, or icons and text. Whatever you do, don't do just icons. I will not buy any more card games that do not have the necessary text on each card.

How do you define "necessary text"? I dare say the amount of text needed is different for each individual person.

To use the example above:
JoffW wrote:
For this example the "Add 1 aphid to an opponent's leaf" gives a no nonsense action. It does not go into in depth rules. When learning the game players would check the rules to see exactly how this is done.

Incidentally, the rules say: "A player may play an attacking Aphid card on any player he chooses. He does this by placing the Aphid card face up onto the Played Action Card space and announces which player he will attack. The attacking player (who played the Aphid card) adds 1 new Aphid (from the Insect Pool) to the attacked player’s flower. The new Aphid may be placed onto any leaf, unless the leaf is occupied by the player’s Ladybug."

Add 1 aphid to an opponent's leaf - is this enough? Or does the card need to say everything that was printed in the rule book.

For another example, look at dominion. +1 action. +1 buy. How many rule questions have there been about those because the card did not say "add 1 to the total number of actions you may play this turn". If the cards did that though, they would be rather unwieldy.


re: bang.
I consider bang an example of icon fail. Mostly because of the "this card is complicated, check the rules" icon. It's like they didn't even try. Those cards basically have to be memorized. Why bother with text or icons if I'm forced to memorize it anyway? Take that to an extreme and you have the lunch money problem someone mentioned earlier.

It's all a balancing act that depends on how many different cards your game has and how differing the action concepts are.
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Stephen Stewart
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Quote:
I have been looking for a limit to how many different cards I can have in a game where the effect of the card isnt written on the card, but rather symbolized by icons and written out in the rulebook,


Hmm, what about a little cheat sheet, the size of a playing card or larger if needed.

Players will use the cards for a few games and then will be familiar with them.

NO ONE likes thumbing through a rulebook REGARDLESS how easy the location of the rule section is. (Some Gamers are insecure and DON'T want to look inferior or stupid)
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Jonathan Warren
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kusinohki wrote:
Add 1 aphid to an opponent's leaf - is this enough? Or does the card need to say everything that was printed in the rule book.


It also depends on who the game is intended for. The Gaston Game is aimed at children and so the use of icons has been abandoned in favour of the text approach. However, the text is not a complicated rule description, it is simply the basic action. After a game, players will remember that you cannot add the Aphid to a leaf occupied by the player's Ladybug!

I have trouble with Race for the Galaxy. The icon system is just too complicated for me! But, in this case, neither would text be a good solution on the cards.
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Nikolaj Wendt
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Random_Person wrote:
The original design for Scallywags only has 8 cards and has only 2 icons and even a few words with a full explanation in the rules. Even with 8 cards I had to constantly answer questions about what a card does. The number 1 complaint I have received about the game is that the cards are confusing...

Chevee


That is a bit discomforting, yes. :D
As mentioned my game has 15 different cards in them. But as opposed to this game and also some of the others mentioned here. It contains nothing but the cards. No coins, or tokens, or boards or figures. I believe that with that in mind it will be easier to remember the effects.
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Nikolaj Wendt
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gsimpson wrote:
Just print it in English -- everyone understands english right?


I noticed that almost everyone (except for 2 I think?) posting in the threads are from english speaking countries. You probably do not have to think about languages in relation to games as much as non-english speaking developers.

Yes, everyone understands English. At least the ones I would assume would have an interest in buying my game in the first place. But launching a game in Denmark only in English does put a limit on people somehow. For geeks like me, it doesnt. But I am also trying to reach a wider target group (guys my age with kids who are 10+ and who wants to play a game with them). Those will be more easily triggered into buying, if there is a clear Danish ruleset.
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Nikolaj Wendt
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superdweebie wrote:
Why not work really hard on the icons - make them as clear as you can - playtest them lots. By the way, I'd put the icons on the top left corner of the card, so they are easy to see when you fan the cards. Then make a player guide with all the icon explainations on it, and give one to each player during the game. Then if a player needs to check what an icon does, they can look at the guide in front of them.

Cheers,

Tim


Yep, that is what we are doing at the moment. Checking icons.
After the initial replies to this thread, we are working with having a small icon in the top left corner indicating which card this is (for the thief its a diamond, for the assassin its a dagger with poison, etc. etc.). Should be easy to see when panned out.

Then in the bottom right corner, there would be the icons describing the effect of the card. For instance the Astrologist lets you draw 3 cards, so the icon will show the back of the cards (to illustrate the Play Deck) with a "+3" inside.


I believe that the human mind "reads" from the top left corner to the bottom right corner, so this would try to follow that theory.
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