Other than spending way too much time thinking or transacting for True Dungeon, my focus recently has been on creating a card game. At some point, I assume I’ll talk about it here, but it’s an actual business venture unlike the solitaire games I’ve written about.
The draw, i.e. the charm.
I’ve written about what I’ve enjoyed about various CCGs. Maybe I just cover the same ground, maybe not. The intent is to not get into what makes the game good but what made it charming to me.
The flow of the game. I have never cared particularly about the techniques. I often try to avoid playing with Speed and Strength even though I’m a monstrous fan of how advantages work in the game. There’s just something about how the cards play out in many a game where the math becomes enjoyable. You don’t need to think too deeply or track a bunch of text. Hmmm … you … don’t … need … to … track … a … bunch … of … text. I hadn’t thought about how different that is, before. Welp, guess there was value in writing this post, after all.
Aesthetics. Not just card art. Use of components in mechanics. Color pie. Multicolor. Non-basic lands. Creature types. I just like looking at Magic cards even for sets that I never want to play with (Innistrad).
That, and potential. Magic is far more complex than UC!, which isn’t necessarily better, but it does mean that there’s so much more potential for things you can do. You can build more meaningful theme decks. You can build all sorts of Johnny decks. With Magic, much more than other games, you can take one card and consider how you might use it.
Vampire: The Eternal Struggle
What attracted me early on, the Vampire: The Masquerade stuff of clans and disciplines, isn’t what attracts me to playing these days. Yet, this post is what charms games have, not how much I can revel in silliness.
Disciplines are all about transient effects. I like how UC! is mostly about transient effects, latched on to events in Babylon 5, etc., so I’m a transientophile. But, I knew what the disciplines were about in the RPG. I had my preferences, sometimes carried over, sometimes didn’t. Hate Dominate in the RPG to where my Tremere and Ventrue characters had zero dots between them. I keep saying it because it’s so weird for me to like things that are powerful (well, that’s just reputation and not really true but sorta, kinda), but I like playing Dominate in the CCG.
I was far more into clans back when the cardpool was smaller and there were fewer and before I got fixated on how unbalanced the clans were or how tedious it could be to see people play the same stuff over and over.
I like the five-player game for how I can develop slowly and still be relevant, for how there are no clear ways to play against your opponents until things become distorted. Three-player can be playable, but I never look forward to it. Four player really only has going for it that it’s faster than five-player, when you want to get games finished.
Theme. I do a lot of mechanical themes, so I’m not talking just about Narn Shadow Intrigue or whatever (even though that’s somewhat of a mechanical theme).
I built virtually no decks that used Refa as my starting character. I actually don’t really remember one such deck, so it’s possible that I didn’t build any, even while playtesting. Londo promoting Babylon 5, Londo watching the Centauri Fleets murder everyone (well, not really, my military decks were almost always about racing to victory as fast as possible, so it was more like Fleet Week even before Show the Colors got printed), Chosen of Gaim/Drazi/whatever wasn’t Chosen of Squid cheese – these were things that entertained me.
I’ve mentioned before how I like fleet enhancements. For some reason, I just really like military decks and fleets, even though the show isn’t that much about such things (and Vorlon/Shadow fleets are dumb in the game). But, why fleet enhancements, which generally sucked? I also enjoyed putting stuff on characters, like guns on any character. There’s something about building up things in B5 that I don’t often enjoy in other CCGs. I think it’s because I feel more of a connection to cards on a narrative level.
Wheel of Time
Card representation of book elements. While I argued about stats for B5 cards, I was never as into B5 as other people were. I wasn’t even particularly into B5 until I got heavily into the card game. I played B5 because it was put out by Precedence Publishing, which put out my favorite RPG (at the time).
I didn’t know anything about WoT when Precedence decided it was going to publish the CCG. I got caught up. Fast. I had the advantage that the series was some five books in or whatever when I started reading them, which meant I wasn’t waiting years to find out what happened next.
I didn’t just design cards, I designed cards. I did art requests. I hunted up flavor text. Birgitte was awesome at the time before she got relegated to boring background stuff. I had submitted multiple versions of her card. I used one or two of her lines from the books as email sigs. Much like B5, there was a connection between source material and cards, but there was a difference. With B5, I enjoyed more spoofing on the source material. With WoT, I was more fanboyish, looking to highlight those things I liked out of the books. When we were testing Illian decks after Dark Prophecies, I eschewed them, as I just didn’t care anything about the Council of Nine or what sort of military they had.
Precedence may not have been perfect when it came to CCGs, but there was something done right when it came to translating source material into cards, even decks.
I don’t know that Tomb Raider, Netrunner, Tempest of the Gods, or the likes held my interest enough to point out charms. Shadowfist I picked up very late because it had negative elements to me.
I’m not a crossgenre fan, in general. I don’t like games that seem random. A lot of card effects, like Mole Network, Bite of the Jellyfish, Imprisoned, Nerve Gas, Neutron Bomb, etc. just weren’t fun to me. Mass destruction was particularly unappealing to me for a long time because of also comparing with Wrath of God and Armageddon in Magic.
I’ve mentioned some of the appeal to me, nowadays. The RPG made me care about the world, so the crossgenre issue was defeated.
Oddly, V:TES helped defeat my issue with mass destruction. V:TES is a game where permanents can get overly permanenty. While plenty of games see things that stick in Shadowfist, plenty of games see nothing safe.
Does UC! appeal to my interest in martial arts? Maybe? Once upon a time. I don’t really consider the martial arts aspects of the game these days. Shadowfist does a better job of connecting to the sorts of things that cause me to take interest in seeing martial arts shows, presently.
With every CCG, there’s something to dislike. For some reason, I enjoy characters far more in Shadowfist than the equivalent in other games. Usually, I’m about events in CCGs, whether they are instants, advantages/actions, reactions, or whatever. Some of the reason I lowball events in Shadowfist has nothing to do with not wanting decks full of stoppage but just because I find characters more charming than events. Weird.
I think more than anything else that allowed me to embrace Shadowfist was the contrast with other CCGs. I wasn’t invested emotionally. I didn’t care if it was balanced. I didn’t have any favorites (well, I do like some factions better than others, but didn’t come in with having favorite cards). I didn’t need to be able to build every deck. And, so forth. It was something novel for me as a CCG experience.
So, the card game I’m doing design/development for. Will it charm people? Will it draw upon the source material enough to create a connection, have a good dynamic, flow well, produce satisfying results? I think one of the partners sent the playtest materials out, so might be soon to see how other people buy into something rather than my write about what I buy into.