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Card games

March 12, 2008

I have designed three card games in my life time (well three saw release). My first, Kitchen Kombat, was actually the third one to be released; Goodman Games published Geek Wars and World Championship Dodgeball.

Card game design brings me the most enjoyment, in that it allows me to see the creation of a game from start to finish. Unlike roleplaying games, where much of the action takes place in the mind, card games has the action taking place on the table. Designing card games also gives me a sense of accomplishment because I actually produce something. With card games I have to create prototypes, and use these prototypes in actual play. For roleplaying games, the only prototype that exists are notes and various rule portions that have been quickly written. Often these notes and rule bits find themselves changes so much, that the finished project always looks different from the initial design.

When asked which of the three card games is my favorite, I always with the answer.

Geek Wars, for me, is a cool game with a neat hook. It is also a game that I had big plans for and did a lot of work on. This game never was given a chance by the publisher, and its’ success was undercut by the refusal to release the second deck in a timely matter. When I designed the game it was designed to be played with two decks representing two different geek armies. The structure and balance of the game was very sound, but when the game was forced to stand on its’ own as a one deck game, it failed. When the second deck was released (and only in PDF) it was too late. It saddens me, because there was a lot of potential in this game, and I had decks designed for other geek armies that would have expanded play and options. It also had a nice little deck building mechanic allowing a player to custom make their own geek army deck if they bought other decks.

World Championship Dodgeball, mechanically, is my favorite game. It plays really fast, emulates real life dodgeball, and the mechanic is easy to grasp. This game is a touchy subject for me, and I really do not like talking about it. I will say that if this game was given a chance, it would have done better. Yet, I was just the “designer” and I had no clue.

Kitchen Kombat is probably the game that has been played by more people, in one form or another. Those who’ve played it, like it, and they like the strange mix of sabotage and competitive cooking. The “look” of the game stinks, and I think the look hurts the game. Looking back on the process I wish I stuck to my gut feelings instead of being led down a path I should have never tread upon. One of my goals is to go back to the drawing board and retool this.

There are other card games in my notebooks, and files that one day will see work, but as of now, are just ideas. They have nothing concrete to work with, and lack the right hook. There is one card game that has been nagging at me for about five years, but was only until last August that the nagging turned into a constant kick in the pants. That game is :16.

A few days ago, I posted a image. That image is the title and rough logo for a new card game. The title of the card game is :16.

I use the word “rough” on purpose, because I am going to do something different with this game. I am going to design it over the next few weeks, write about it here, and release the prototype to the world and have them play it. All of this will be free. As the game is played, the design will be tweaked and refined.

“Then what?” I hear you ask.

Then maybe I will do a full print version of the game.

I admit that this makes little sense. Why do all of this work if it does create a printed product?

Simply put, I am not sure about this game.

Those who I have told about it, love the idea, and think that it is not only different, but fun. I also think :16 has a lot to offer when it comes to fun, but I am not sure of it. Card games are funny things, and since my first three attempts have had their downs and ups, I am a little hesitant about designing a card game and having it sit there with no one playing it. To put it another way, I can polish a turd till it looks like a diamond, but in the end I still have a turd.

True this is gross, but it gets right to the heart of the matter. I do not want to design a game, and create a shinny turd for Rogue Games.

To combat this, I am going to do a transparent design process for :16. I am going to blog about it, design it on my blog, create a garage style prototype, have an open alpha and beta test, and when all is said and done, see what happens. I am excited about this, because this is the first time I have done something like this. Not design a card game, but design a card game so publicly.

However this is my hobby. I love to design and craft games. It is time to have fun, and the way to have fun is to design.

Now it is time to get to work.

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