Michael Ptak
United States
Livermore
California
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After many months of no game design (and getting into a new job, yay!), and thinking about Glory to Rome's minimalist game style, I was suddenly struck by the idea of a card-driven space empire game. The primary mechanic is discarding cards from your hand as currency to enable cards in your play area.

The engine is pretty well defined at this point. Several piles of cards, each with their own attributes depending on how they are drawn.

However I am having a problem (as I've had with previous card-driven prototoypes) of determining what special powers to give to the cards in these decks!

An example of what I'm confused over are say the store cards in dominion. Each one has a special function and ability, but how was this determined?

So I wanted to ask if anyone had tips, ideas, or previous experiences when trying to come up with special abilities for these cards that players will be getting and using.
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Dallas Tucker
Indonesia
Jakarta
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Well, what do you want the game to feel like? What do you want your players to think about and do on an average turn? How are they going to win - destroy opponents, amass resources, gain VP, etc.? How long do you want the game? How heavy?

These are all thing I think about when designing a game, and they help to determine what abilities get put on cards. Currently, I am trying to design an educational game to help with language learning, and I have had to work really hard to make it a game for non-gamers, because I like heavier games. There are card abilities which would make it a deeper game, and there are rules which would add good complexity, which I am forgoing because of the target audience.

A list of some things you can do with cards:

Move a card from the hand to the table.
Move a card from the hand to the discard pile.
Move a card from the hand to the deck.
Move a card from the table to discard pile.
Move a card from the table to a hand.
Move a card from the table to a deck.
Move a card from the deck to the table.
Move a card from the deck to the hand.
Etc.

Basically, figure out what zones are going to be in your game, then have cards that manipulate each zone, and card movement to and from one zone to another. The card being moved in my list of examples could be your card or an opponent's, or every player has to do the same thing, or just X number of players.

In addition to cards that affect zones, and move cards from one zone to another, each ability you have on a card can have other cards that modify it (from a simple 'Attack +1 to your cards', to very complex, depending on the game).
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Byron Campbell
United States
Santa Clarita
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I'm with Dallas. First decide what the basic, boring rules of play are. Then come up with cards that break those rules incrementally and creatively.
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Christopher Dearlove
United Kingdom
Chelmsford
Essex
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SoRCon 11 23-25 Feb 2018 Basildon UK http://www.sorcon.co.uk
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Things work best if you rigorously define your phase structure and what can be done in each phase, including which phase(s) - singular is best - each card can be used in. Also have some meta-rules which your cards don't break. (For example in Magic there's a meta-rule that my cards never end up in your deck.) These can help you try to minimise inter-card interaction problems, which are the potential bane of your life.
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Steven Metzger
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Knoxville
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Your game concept doesn't sound too different from a long-term work-in-progress for me. My problem is the same, as well - I have a great "core" game, but not a lot of rule-benders in mind.

Can you give us (or me) a little more info on how the game works? I've stagnated on my own design so I might have some ideas to lend out (or trade)
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Michael Ptak
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Hmm.... I think I'm going to launch my own thread about this game design. I started hammering out a description but it was getting a little more involved than just a typical response. I floated this thread to ask for general tips and advice about populating action cards; going into my mechanics would be a little too specific.

Thanks for the pointers Dallas! Trying to compartmentalize play areas does help to better frame what I want to do in my game through action cards. Moreover, I wonder if some actions players can choose on their turn can be served better by moving them to action card abilities. Perhaps I'll have more specifics in my thread. Thanks again!
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