Game Design Blog 00: Inspiration

By: Kirk Buckendorf

Inspiration for a game can come from anywhere. Recently my friends, Tim & Rob, came back from a Magic the Gathering Grand Prix in Florida. In between rounds they were playing a game called Hanabi, but they were frustrated because they couldn’t finish it in the 10-15 minutes they had before pairings were called for the next round. Tim said we need to come up with some games that play in 5-10 minutes that card players would like and could play between rounds at tournaments. We’d always played games between rounds, Hanabi was just their latest.

Sometimes we’d even play quick games that bored (or resourceful) Magic players made up with spare magic cards like DC10, where you just take a pile of cards with no lands, shuffle it up and you and another player would draw 1 card at a time off the top and play them without needing Mana or resources to pay for the card (…Um, OK so disregard my “resourceful” remark earlier- who needs resources?). It’s very quick and luck based, but for Magic players it’s an amusing way to pass the time between rounds.

That’s the game I thought of when Tim mentioned a quick game to play between rounds. What if we made a game that didn’t need any resources, played just off the top of a deck and let you do what you already liked doing, which was Bashing your friends face in with cards as fast as possible.

I was inspired, so first I drew a random Orc on a plane ride to Seattle and then I started writing out card ideas:

(He doesn’t like you, and his belt buckle doesn’t like you either)

I thought of a game that could be sold in pre-made packs. Each pack would be made up of one Team or Color of characters, so I could bring a green pack and my brother Eric would have a Blue pack and we’d shuffle them together to make a 20 card deck that we’d both draw from. Next I needed some colors with flavor… luckily I wracked up tens of thousands of dollars in Art School debt to learn about a thing called the Color Wheel! I made a quick one with the 3 primary a 3 secondary colors and started putting a few flavor mechanics and fantasy races into them:

Magic has a similar approach with 5 colors, but I always wanted to use the color wheel as it gives equal enemies to split up the flavor mechanics into.

From there, I needed a way to make cards different from each other with varying degrees of power level, without a resource system. Since we’re playing cards off the top and dropping them into play for free, there has to be some other cost. I also, always wanted to use time as a cost, so I figured I’d add it to a character’s in 3 places.

  1. When they come into play.
  2. When they attack.
  3. when they block.

The way I wanted to track time for each of these is to go beyond just a 90 degree “tap” or “exhaust” of the card. When a card is face up in front of you, it’s “Ready” and can be used to attack, block or activate for some other power. From there, I wanted to be able to wind cards 90, 180 or 270 degrees and then at the start of your turn, you would “unwind” all your cards 90 degrees. This gives you a time element for cards to become ready again. A basic character card would end up looking like this:

The top left “clock” shows how this Warrior enters play; in this case, he’s “Ready” and can attack or activate if he had any powers. The bottom two clocks are for attacking and blocking. His red attack clock shows you that he can be wound* 90 degrees to make an attack. (*wound as in the past tense of wind, as in, “he wound the clock…”) He is a 2/2 so can deal 2 damage in combat, and only take 2 damage before he’s destroyed. His green “Block” clock means that he can never be activated to become a blocker. Here is another character with a little more going on:

This Warrior enters play at 90 degrees, so isn’t ready on the first turn she comes into play. When she does become ready, you would need to wind her 180 degrees to attack or only 90 degrees to block an attack.

A note for where I have “Defender” on the card: I was going to call the ability to block an attack, “Defender,” as the card becomes the new defender in an attack, but after writing out some cards and rules and teaching it to friends, it became confusing, as any card that’s being attacked it also called a “defender”. So for future cards, I’ll call the ability to block and become a new defender “Blocker.”

This gave me a way to add a “cost” to card without having to use any kind of Resources, and also speeds up play to hit the 5-10 minute mark. So if I want a character to have a bigger ATK/DEF stats, I can balance that by making them come into play wound 90, 180 or 270, or make them wind more to attack or block. It will also be a cost to balance out different powers we give to the cards. If a card has a really good power, you can also make their ATK/DEF stats a bit smaller.

To keep track of a player’s “life” and give a target for your opponent to attack, I used generic character cards that had 12 health. They would get a power that turn on when they had 7 damage, that would act as a kind of catch up mechanic to keep the game interesting and also from one player blowing the other completely out with a good draw.

The basic game play I started with looked like this:

  1. Take two 10 card “packs” and shuffle them together to make a 20 card community deck.
    1. The packs can belong to one person, or each person brings their own favorite pack to mix with their opponent’s.
    2. The packs will be pre-made and ready to play.
    3. The packs will be customizable when more sets come out.
    4. Packs will contain all cards of one color so they are easily separated for new games.
  2. Each player has a Champion card of the color of the pack they brought, with 12 life.
    1. These champions have a power that turns on when they take 7 damage.
    2. These start the game in play, and damage on them is tracked with dice.
  3. Randomly determine who goes first, the starting player starts with 2 damage on their Champion.
    1. Neither player starts with cards in hand.
  4. Turn Sequence:
    1. Unwind all your cards 90 degrees.
    2. Draw 1 card.
      1. You can “ditch” this first card drawn to the bottom of the deck to take the next card instead.
    3. Main Phase:
      1. You can play cards anytime in your main phase.
      2. You can make attacks anytime in your main phase.
        1. (You can do the above in any order, mixed up any way you choose)
    4. End of turn.
      1. Damage dealt to Warriors not killed is healed.
        1. (Damage does not heal from your Champion)
  5. Attacks:
    1. Characters make attacks one at a time, individually.
    2. A Character may attack any character on the enemy’s side (Champions or Warriors)
    3. Damage dealt to Warriors heals at the end of turn, so you can accumulate damage on one enemy Warrior from multiple attacks.
    4. Any character with Defender (Blocker) can wind to become the new defender.

And that’s where I started to design the first cards to test out. Next time, I will show you some of those cards and talk about what I learned from trying them out and where I went from there.

I also started thinking about what theme to use for the game. Since it is a Mini or Tiny game, I wanted to go with Skottie Young style “baby” fantasy characters. The Champions would be their Baby Sitters who battled their kids against each other… so the first round of cards had that theme in mind. When I started to draw the characters, it was a little harder to do that than I thought… Dwarves don’t look like dwarves without Beards, so I went with just “tiny” looking characters instead. Earlier there was an Orc and here’s a Dwarf:

(Best part of drawing “Tiny” dwarves? You don’t have to draw their body, or design any clothing)

While I still love the hook of having them be babies with baby sitters battling them, It’s just easier to write them as normal characters, and draw them in a tiny, bobble head character style. The style is still being worked out, so you’ll see it progress with more artwork that I’ll share as the blog goes on.

Until next time!

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