Game Design Blog 03: Bye, Design

By: Kirk Buckendorf

Last blog I told you a little bit about how I make prototype cards using a google spreadsheet, Adobe Illustrator and In-Design. I also talked about how I had some decent restraint with that first set of cards, and kept it to a nice and manageable 22 cards to play test the game with. Also in that process I was inspired to make a comic about game design:

When you’re writing up your game rules and components, it all seems amazing in your mind and on paper but it never fails that the moment you play the first card you see all it’s flaws and wonder what the heck you were thinking. I keep some white out and a red pen handy to change and make notes on the cards themselves while playing:

(Why yes, I did make top 4 in a Continental WoW TCG Championship, thanks for noticing!)

This is good, but I got some good advice from a friend while playing, just to leave the cards alone for a few plays at least to get a feel for the rules and nail those down first before editing too much. I’ll give you a brief outline of how Pack Warriors was played and how that has evolved:

First Iteration:
1) Players each brought 1 pack of 10 cards with a Champion that had 12 Health.
…a) Goal of the game was to deal 12 damage to the opposing Champion.
2) The two packs were shuffled together as a community deck.
…a) Randomly chosen first player would start with 2 damage (to counter the advantage of going first).
3) Each player would take turns, and on their turn would do the following:
…a) Unwind all your cards 90 degrees.
…b) Draw one card.
…c) Main Phase:
……..i) Make any number of individual attacks with one character at a time.
……..ii) Play one Kid, and only one kid per turn, from your hand any time during your Main Phase (This could be before or after any of your attacks).
……..iii) You could also play any Bases, Attachments or Actions anytime during your turn.
…d) End Step – All non-Champion characters would heal any damage they took during this turn (similar to creatures in Magic).
4) Attacking/Combat:
…a) One character at a time could make an attack on any other character, by winding it’s number of degrees on its attack dial.
…b) Any opposing character that was Ready and had a Defender dial, could wind that much to block and become the new defender, other wise you could move to damage dealing.
…c) Each character would deal the other an amount of damage equal to its attack, and if it took enough damage during the turn to equal its defense, it would go to the discard pile.
…d) Damage on Warriors and other non-Champion characters would stay on until the end of turn and then heal. Thus you could attack one character multiple times until it took enough damage to be discarded.
…e) The damage on your Champion would not heal and was tracked with a die.

These were the basics that i designed cards around, and here is an example of the different card types that were used:

(General Von Sitter! It’s a play on him being a Babysitter General!)

Human Knight and Shield Bearer are “Kids” or what would become “Warriors” after i dropped the fantasy characters as kids theme and Champions as Baby Sitters. Here’s a bit of a break down on the cards you see:

1) Human Knight came into play at 90 degrees, so couldn’t attack that same turn. He was a 2/3 that could wind 90 to attack, but couldn’t be a blocker.

2) Shield Bearer came into play Ready, which I used an “!” to highlight that fact, but that symbol would change later. He was a 0/4 that couldn’t attack but could wind 180 to block. While he was wound 1/4 (or 90 degrees, I tightened up my wording later) he’d give your other Kids +1 DEF.

3) Shield & Armor Smith – Attachments and bases were something I tried in the first run, just to try a variety on cards. The shield would attach to one of your kids and a Base was just a card that stayed in play to give you an effect. More on these later.

4) Bolster was an Action that you could play for an Instant (!) effect during a combat.

5) Shield wall was an Action that came into play Wound 180 degrees. While it was in play, you’d get its effect and when it became ready it would expire for another effect. This was my favorite idea for actions and effects using the unwinding over time mechanic.

6) General VonSitter & Dwarf Sitter – These were your Champions and your goal was to do 12 damage to the opposing one. When they had 7 or more damage on them, they’d get a power to use in the game.

First few play throughs

I made just these two colors, Blue Humans and Purple Dwarves. 10 Cards each pack with a champion. It played surprisingly well and inspired me to work on more cards. I made two more color/factions with Orcs and Trolls giving them their own flavor using the same structure as the Humans and Dwarves. After a few plays, I learned that the very small deck size and only drawing one card per turn made the Bases and Attachments very boring. Also, if I ever wanted to have cards to “counter” or interact them, it would further water down the packs with more non-character cards making the game even more boring and slow. I kept Actions and Timed Actions that would stay in play for a time giving some effect.

The next set, I went ahead and utilized all colors from my Color and Flavor wheel. Here’s what the Some of the Red Orcs and Purple Dark Elves looked like in the Spreadsheet. Beast was a card type to replace Bases. They would be characters that were a little more powerful, but would at least bring a little more “action” to what I wanted to be a fast paced game:

(More boring Spreadsheet stuff, but with a little Merge Data magic…)

Here’s what those cards looked like after assembled in adobe In-Design:

(Don’t mess with Devlin Deathstrike. He. Will. Cut. You.)


I added little arrows to the Dials to make it more clear how the cards came into play and how far to wind them to make the attack or defend. Every iteration, I’d add a bit of artwork to make iconography a little more clear. I also upped the life on the Champions to 12. After playing this a few times, I really liked the Beasts. I also learned that the Actions and Timed Actions were just as boring and slow in what should be a fast battle game as the Attachments and Bases. I just ended up dropping them altogether and figured their effects would be better on a Body with an ATK/DEF. This way, I again wouldn’t need to water down the packs with future cards that would interact or counter them. They’d just be Warriors or Beasts that any other character could attack normally to remove.

At this point, I reached a fever pitch of Inspiration and expanded my color and flavor wheel from 6 factions to 8, divvying up keywords and flavors among them. 8 Is also a magic number for drafting if you ever drafted Magic. I envisioned 8 friends opening or bringing 8 packs to draft around a table and then play against each other between rounds. I would want there to be 8 colors in this case, so each pack was different with no repeats. Here’s what that crazy wheel looked like now:


I added Black and White to it and tried to make the powers for each faction a little more flavorful. This was just a guide to design by. I frantically filled another Spreadsheet with characters to flesh out these 8 colors. I also punished myself further by making each pack have 12 cards instead of 10. This is where it got a little crazy, I’ll talk about this snowball effect I had, what I learned from it and how I pulled back on the reigns a bit in response next week. Until then, here’s a another character I drew to figure out how I want the Elves to look:

Until next time!

P.S. Check out a cute little Trick Taking game I made on the Game Crafter with a Paper, Rock, Scissors theme for trumping:

I’ll do a write up about that game later, if you want to wait and learn more 🙂