I’ve always been interested in the idea of competitive card games. Building a massive collection, poring over and testing card and deck synergies, attending local tournaments, finding a powerful combo… The issue I’ve always found is in the execution and entry barrier of these games. There are several things I’ve found that consistently drive me away from competitive card games, not the least of which is the financial barrier. I simply don’t want to constantly spend fifteen dollars a week on the chance at getting a card I really want amidst a sea of common and uncommon garbage cards. Another major hurdle for me is the “keeping up” dilemma. I always felt that, if I didn’t own every card available, I was falling behind because I didn’t have access to every possible combination. I feared that, if someone found a powerful combination or synergy that I didn’t have access to, I would fall behind and languish in competition because I simply couldn’t use that option. The third is the lingo barrier. This applies less to some card games than others, as games like Pokemon or Yu-gi-oh make a strong effort to keep explanations as simple as possible, but attempting to get into Final Fantasy TCG or Magic: The Gathering was always a chore because I constantly had to say, “wait, what does that mean again?” because of those games’ strange obsession with oblique shorthand.

Thus, my idea began to form off of not what I wanted to see from a card game, but from what I didn’t want to see. I want to create a competitive card game that feels as free-form and personalized as something like Magic or Pokemon while retaining utmost consistency: no more chance-based card packs, no ridiculous shorthand guides, and (hopefully) no power creep. The question is how I can accomplish something like this. Using pre-made decks is an obvious but creatively bankrupt answer. I don’t want to force every match to come down to dueling structure decks. At the same time, I want every player to have access to every card in the game at any time when deck-building so no one feels left behind due to not having the luck (or finances) to get certain cards.

An answer that may work, that stems from games like Fate/Grand Order, is a “cost” system. Rather than limiting every deck to a certain number of cards, every player has a cost limit to their deck. Each card costs a certain number – intentionally powerful cards will cost more than intentionally modest cards. Thus, if you fill your deck with only the strongest cards, you may have only 15 cards to your name. This adds a layer of diversity to the game that many card games don’t have. Identical “on-meta” decks are common at tournaments for popular TCGs, and I want to encourage people to experiment and play “off-meta” by limiting the ability to play “on-meta”. Thus, instead of trying to design every card at the same level, I can intentionally make certain cards strong and other cards weak, but mitigate the damage of playing weak through the cost system.

I still don’t have a solid idea for a topic to base this game around, though. I’ve milled through a couple in my head, including wild animals (justifying the cost system through the Square-Cube Energy Law) and famed mythological beings (justifying the cost system through a flavor-text rule involving divine laws of fairness). These two ideas are the ones that stick out to me the most, as they lend themselves quite well to splitting creatures/figures into categories. For example, with the animal theme, creatures can be split into mammal/reptile/arthropod/ichthyoid categories; with the myth theme, figures can be split into power/magic/speed categories. This categorization lends itself to balance through strength/weakness systems such as those seen in the Pokemon TCG. I’m leaning toward the mythological theme, as more diverse attacks, spells, and effects can be made of the wide world of worth myth than animals biting or clawing at each other.

One thought on “Tabletop Brainstorm #1

  1. This is super interesting, and I’m basically sold. I’ve never played a card-collecting game like that, but it seems like you’ve got a really solid basis for at least what you don’t want to see, and I agree with all of it. I think one of the reasons I’ve never gotten into card games of this nature is because it seems so daunting to have to buy tons and tons of cards just to eventually get bored with them, so I’d even consider that an online version with “play” money could be a cool expansion. I like the idea of every person having a money cap, and if it was low investment in the sense that the money is fake, I’d certainly play, and you’d reach an audience that doesn’t typically go for these sorts of games. Not sure if that’s your goal at all, but just a thought.

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