Party-Based Open-Handed Fixed-Deck Grid-Based Competitive Card Game

#1
Hello.

i'm a young, new designer currently working on an unnamed game i thought i'd tell you all about; it has 2 main "gimmicks": 1: both of the 2 competing players control 5 characters each, and 2: each of those characters have their own hands of cards, but everyone can see all of them. (also, there's a hex grid, because positional stuff is cool and interesting)

the basic is turn structure is that on a character's turn they, in any order, play a card, use an ability and move hexes equal to their speed, then draw a new card at the end, after everything else. (starting hand size is 5)

when a character is reduced to 0 HP, they're incapacitated, meaning that on their turn they only get to activate one of their relatively weak incapacitated abilities rather than taking their normal turn. the goal of the game is to incapacitate all of your opponents characters.

also, at the end of each round there's an "environment turn", where the top card of the environment deck is played (the environment deck depends on the map, so a haunted mansion would have a bunch of ghosts everywhere for example). the top card of the environment deck is always face-up, so you have time to prepare for this (the environment deck isn't strictly necessary, but i think it will be good for variety)

after the environment turn, everyone takes "fatigue" damage equal to half the current round (rounding down), just to prevent games going on forever.

right now, i don't have enough characters made to prototype it (each character has a fixed deck of 40 cards + a character card with their stats, abilities and any special rules they might have, which is quite a bit to design), but i'm happy with the concept and system, and i have a couple characters done that i'm happy enough with to show off:

Adven is a damage dealer with a lot of interesting individual cards and not much of a central "gimmick", other than maybe his "level up" card letting him scale up a lot over the course of the game. (thematically, he's pretty messy, but i don't know how to remedy that at this stage) Google Doc | Downloadable .txt file (the .txt file should be more readable than the google doc)

The Game Master has a bit more going on, with a discarding gimmick and lots of ways to copy other characters cards, but should still be relatively simple. Google Doc
| Downloadable .txt file

something else i should probably mention is the overall theme, which is... well, whatever i want, really. there isn't really much of a "central theme" other than D&D boxing + occasional weird stuff, like a half-goddess movie director and stuff like that, but i can pretty much add whatever i want to it.

anyway, thoughts? (also, do the downloadable .txts work? and did i write this post well? i'm really new to all of this)
 

Attachments

#2
5 characters on a team each with their own hand sounds like a great way to increase the on-board complexity!

A lot of cards to design and learn as you said 😬 How many characters total are you going for?

What about if all characters shared the same deck? And/or does there need to be 40 cards each deck? With greater on-board complexity maybe the deckbuilding dimension of the complexity could come down. E.g. What about 10 cards per deck? 10’s a nice round number!
 

keithburgun

Administrator
Staff member
#3
I think on complexity this looks pretty good. I am a little concerned about the general lack of hidden information. I feel like even just with the 10 characters on a grid plus 2 hands of open cards, I feel like taking a single turn would be a lot of calculation. Fatigue damage is good, I like that it's moving toward a conclusion.

Also I think I am a little bit skeptical of the goal you have, of just killing each other's stuff. Like you mentioned D&D boxing, which I don't think is a problem really thematically speaking, but I do think that's kind of a problem if that's what the gameplay is. So I think this is a good place to work from, but from here I would advise starting to think about what a core mechanism could look like. I don't think it can just be a bunch of actors beating each other up in a box.
 
#4
@richy i can't tell if your first line is sarcastic or not? as to the rest of your post, i'm aiming for ~21 characters (may fluctuate), but each individual card should be pretty simple, some even identical (your basic "deal some damage" "regain some hp" "draw some cards" ect.), so i'm not really worried about designing and learning everything (besides, i'm most focused on making the best game i possibly can for people willing to dedicate themselves to it)

@keithburgun in case my original post wasn't clear enough, the cards characters draw at the end of their turn are from a face-down deck, meaning that new information is being revealed every turn. also, there are so many cards your opponent will have that i think it might create a sort of "soft" information horizon, where you can calculate for the worst possibilities (i wanna get my double leveled-up adven out of melee range of the game master so he doesn't ban hammer me, i want to get my squishy character out of adven's LOS so his charged shot doesn't hit them, ect.), but it's unreasonable and probably not super relevant to calculate all of the little, lower-impact cards and their consequences.

as to your second point, i don't know of a way to improve this? even then, i think that, with on-point content design, the idea could still work? (and i'm more confident in my content design than my systems design) also note that i'm only 14, so i have a bit over 3 years before i can even publish the game on my own, which is probably plenty of time to tune the content just right.

(P.S. am i making sense? i'm not much of a writer i feel)
 
#5
@richy i can't tell if your first line is sarcastic or not?
Haha no I meant it in a good way. I'm the one that should try to write more clearly! There was a bit of chat a while ago about whether 2 hands vs 2 hands could work and I liked the sound of that then. So 5 hands vs 5 hands would be even better!

The rest of what I said was kind of the counterpoint to the first line though. I.e. If the board has 5 times (at least) more scope for spatial relationships to create complexity than a typical CCG, then other dimensions of complexity might decrease by a factor of 5 and end up with a similarly-complex game overall. And for me one dimension of complexity where card games can be very bloated is the number of different cards - I know lots of players do like that though.

I guess one thing worth asking would be what parts of currently available, similar, games are you looking to improve on?
 
#6
I guess one thing worth asking would be what parts of currently available, similar, games are you looking to improve on?
the basis which the game was built off of was "sentinels of the multiverse" (particularly played solo), because 1: it was the one game that held my attention the longest by far (~6 months in comparison to the average of ~1-2 weeks), and 2: the game was horribly flawed in SO MANY ways! most of them relating to the content design rather than the systems design. (the biggest one is how "swingy" the game is; the villain could get a free 2 damage to all your heroes out of dumb luck, the hero "legacy" could draw either a huge, permanent damage increase to your entire team for the rest of the game (inspiring presence) or "deal 4 damage" (back-fist strike))

i always really liked the dynamics of being 1 player controlling 3-5 heroes, having to plan between them and make sure your plan works for as many possible villain plays as possible (replicated here by preparing for as many enemy cards as possible), and i also liked how fixed decks enabled lots of weird and fun gimmicks the heroes could have (ooh, this one is 4 heroes in one! oh, but this one can change sizes! oh, and this one has a number from 1-4 on all her cards!?) and, with having both fixed decks and a dedicated section on character cards for special rules, i could have even more weird gimmicks!

now, obviously, my game is very different from sentinels: it's competitive, it has a hex grid, you can generally see what will happen a full round ahead, ect. but it's still a basis which i can work off of.

(note: i feel like i have more to say on this, but i can't think of what it is right now. i might elaborate later)
 
#7
alright, so a lot of cool stuff related to this project happened around the same time, so time for a big update! feel free to take it one paragraph at a time if you need to!

first of all, some systemic stuff: fatigue damage now is equal to the current round, with the average character health bumped up by 25 to compensate. fatigue should be a much bigger deal now; before, after 10 rounds, fatigue would deal a third of an average character's health (25 damage vs. 75 avg. HP), but now it deals a bit over half! (55 damage vs. 100 avg. HP.) this change may be reverted to make sure fatigue doesn't take over the game, but right now i think it's probably maybe kinda fine... we'll see.

also, characters can have special rules after they're incapacitated now (and i'll be putting a lot more thought into incapacitated abilities in general, as to help mitigate actor removal problems, and since i realized that they're going to be a lot more relevant in this game than they were in sentinels), and also environments can have special rules. this will just open a lot of design space for me.

also, a couple smaller things: 1. "regain HP" effects are being reworded to "gain HP", meaning targets can gain HP past their maximum HP. with how it was before, max HP would probably be a very frustrating limitation that didn't add much strategically, so it made sense to remove that limitation. 2. the average speed for each character is now 5 rather than 4. with how the maps were panning out, 4 seemed like too little to let characters reposition in any decent amount of time, but with 5, characters should still be limited in where they can move and have their position matter, but they'll also be able to actually get around at a decent rate.

alright, now for content stuff! i'm going to try and be a lot more in-depth with this stuff now. first of all, damage types: all damage has a type which does nothing on it's own, but can be relevant due to other cards. currently, i have 4 damage types: melee, projectile, psychic, and miscellaneous (generally abbreviated to "misc."). i'm happy with projectile and psychic, but melee feels a bit too... game-play related, i guess? like, you know you're most often going to see melee damage on effects that require adjacency between the user and the target, that's like the definition of melee, which makes it weird as a damage type. the other one i'm unhappy with is misc., since it's too inclusive. if i don't know what damage type something should be, i can just throw it into misc.! sadly, i'm pretty sure there aren't really any good alternatives for these damage types, but suggestions would be welcome! also, currently i'm categorizing "light" damage (like, blinding your opponent with a bright light) in psychic, which i'm not entirely sure on. maybe it should be in misc.?

alright, time for content! i'm going to start with environments, specifically the one environment i have finished, which is Hell's Core! ... it's a bit HARDCORE, and also the one environment i have with a map that uses each type of space, so let me explain those:

White hexs = ground. you walk on it.
Brown = walls. impassable, blocks line of sight (which is calculated with a basic "draw a line" method, and stops any interaction).
Orange = hazards. whenever a target ends their turn on or leaves a hazard, they take 3 damage, otherwise just ground.
Purple = pits. whenever a target enters a pit, they take 3 damage and are returned to their starting position.
Blue/Red = spawn points. blue is for the first moving team, red is for the second moving team. you choose which spawn point each of your characters go to. (e.g. 1 player could choose for X to go to spawn point 1, while another player could choose to instead put X on spawn point 2.)
Green = where environment targets spawn. whenever a target is on top of the environment deck, a random green hex will be highlighted, and when the target is played, it will start there.


and that's all of them! speaking of environment targets though, let me explain how those work: after the environment card play, there will be a movement phase where each environment target in play moves towards the nearest character based on their speed stat. for ties, i'm not quite sure what i'll do yet, but i'm thinking that they'll go after whoever is later in turn order. (the system for environment targets is a bit clunky and weird, but i think it's good enough.)

anyways, here's the stuff for Hell's Core: Google Doc (i have slightly better formatting for the google docs this time!) i'm not sure about the special rule here (everyone takes 1 each round), and the first playtests will probably not use it.
Hell's Core (Use Version).png
(thematically, the wall in the center is supposed to be a lava-fall going into a pool of lava.) mechanically, i'm slightly worried about this map not having enough walls. (which would mean that getting line of sight is too easy, and hiding from a specific enemy is too hard.)

now for some characters, starting with updates to Adven and the Game Master (the 2 i showed off last time). Adven is now MUCH more thematically coherent, and also more mechanically coherent! Google Doc my biggest concerns with Adven are: 1. maybe he's too simple? 2. maybe he's too damage-oriented? i'm not too concerned with either of these things, testing will reveal if they're actually problems, but i thought i might as well mention them.

then there's the Game Master: Google Doc (i was able to make the formatting better here, but didn't have time to do that for the other characters.) he was found to have a gimmick that didn't work (copying other character's cards), sadly, so he's been changed around a bit, to focus more on discarding cards instead. he still has some copying stuff, but it's toned down a lot. he's intended to be a sort of rush/econ character. my biggest concern with him right now is that he's not focused enough, he's just a combination of a bunch of stuff right now i think. maybe that's fine, but i'm not sure. (also, GM still isn't completely thematically coherent, but i can figure that out later.)

now for new characters: first of all, Zinogree Google Doc (i actually had this character done when i last posted, i just wasn't happy enough with her to show her off... also, the names only get weirder). her gimmick is that she has a bunch of cards that let her play more cards, as well as a very high speed (AKA movement) stat, but most of her damage requires adjacency to the target. she's primarily a rush-down character, with a few ongoings to give her some other options. my big concern with her is that "some cards that are weaker but let you play more cards" seems like a potentially problematic approach to "plays lots of cards", when the approach of a special rule that reads something like: "zinogree may play and draw an extra card per turn" might be a better approach, since the approach i'm using right now can be high variance where when you have very few cards in hand, an "ender" (card that doesn't let you play more) is pretty just better than a "linker" (card that lets you play more cards), but when you have a lot of enders, it's the other way around. the cost is that if i change my approach, i'll pretty much have to rebuild her from the ground up, but that might be necessary eventually.

next we have Lilrek: Google Doc (she'll probably get a 4th incapacitated ability at some point, but the 3 she has now are good enough for testing, and i can't think of a good 4th one right now.) she's probably the most HARDCORE character i have. her gimmick is that she deals a bunch of damage to her teammates each turn (because they're scared of her ABSOLUTE BRUTALITY!), but is extremely powerful in exchange. thematically, she's a GODDESS OF DESTRUCTION who's more interested in causing carnage than actually winning the fight, and she takes the reaper approach of "so edgy and over-the-top that it loops around and becomes silly". her "self-restraint" ability is meant to give her tools in more defensively oriented situations, but it is still limited by line of sight (everything is unless explicitly said otherwise, even stuff that's like "deal each target damage" or something), so with good positioning, you can avoid giving your enemies free healing. my only concerns with her are 1. the special rule that her cards can't be copied (i mean, they technically can, but you won't be able to play them afterwards) is very clunky, but i think it's necessary. 2. she might have too many ways to ignore line of sight.

the last finished character i have is Irelula who's a 10 year old knight/tactician/mercenary who wields a sword slightly bigger than her body... Google Doc she's intended to be an area control type character, with only 2 speed, but an ability to deal massive damage to an adjacent target (as well as some cards that do the same). problem is, having such a different character breaks everything! i think i've worked out most of the problematic interactions, but i've had to do so very... blatantly and clunkily. like just "you cannot do this because it would be broken".

and that's all the finished content i have! (well, "finished" as in complete enough for initial testing.) you'll notice i have 5 characters and 1 environment, which is exactly enough to start testing the game in tabletop simulator! i've already done quite a bit of the busywork in getting the game ported in, so i should be able to get it ready by next week. i'll also be talking about my game on the discord server regularly from now on. (also, feel free to ask questions! explaining things has never been my strong suit i think.)
 

keithburgun

Administrator
Staff member
#9
Yeah, it is difficult in this format to know exactly how stuff would work. But it sounds like you're putting a lot of thought and energy into everything, so it sounds good!

My main question is, what is the primary source of hidden information, if there is any?
 
#10
@keithburgun there is no local hidden information (i.e. information one player knows but the other doesn't), but the decks characters draw from at the end of their turn is face-down, so a new piece of information is revealed every turn (the new card they draw) unless the character is incapacitated.
(and for the environment deck, only the top card (the one that gets played on the environment turn) is face-up, so you'll also get new information on environment turns) (note: i'm emphasizing card balance, where generally drawing one card would be equally as good as drawing any other card in hopes of not being as random as most card games.)

i can understand it being sort of hard to process in this format. reading the google docs might help slightly, but hopefully a proper, condensed rule-book and actual cards and everything will help when the prototype is ready. if you've ever played sentinels of the multiverse (particularly the 1P variant), i think it's easiest to think of it kinda-sorta-maybe-a-little like that.

also, i may as well throw in my concerns with the game and the downsides to my approach:
1. the big one is that you have to read ~50 cards(!) (5 card starting hands X 10 characters per match) plus 10 (or 5 in a mirror match) big and complicated character cards at the start of your first game, which is probably pretty demanding!
2. game length, especially for the first game: i could see the average length of this game being about an hour for the speed that i play at, which i know is slower than most people here, but still! now, i also don't think length is a huge deal unless it "drags on", like, if you can keep the player(s) engaged and having fun for the entire span of the game, then it's fine for it to be long, if that makes sense, so hopefully i can do that.
3. calculation could become an issue, especially for the prototype. hopefully in the final game, i can have the game do calculations like line of sight and a character's maximum damage intake for a round, and then tell you that clearly and quickly so that you don't have to calculate it out, but until then, there will be a lot of stuff going on, so the prototype could end up as a calculation mess if i'm not careful. (honestly, there's a decent chance this project just totally crashes and burns from a bunch of core problems, but hopefully not!)