Trying My Hand At Designing A Card Game

I have had an itch to make a board or card game for a couple months now. It is not something I have any experience in... but I certainly enjoy playing several different games such as Settlers Of Catan, Pandemic, Tsuro, etc, and trying my hand at designing my own seemed like a nice side project. Though I would end up experimenting on the computer, if would be something I could often do "offline", and occasionally run past friends.

The original idea was to make a game around freelance web/design development, but that stalled a bit. Though I am still curious about pursuing that idea, I need a clearer focus as to what the game's goals would be; I've never had to be a freelancer before, so I was kind of fishing in the dark on that one. Maybe something I can brainstorm at an upcoming Secret Handshake.

An alternative idea that I have running with is fiction writing. Being a multi-player game, it would specifically be semi-humorous semi-competitive collaborative writing. Each player would be a writer working with other players to complete their "great novel", but they are all trying to wedge in their own favourite plots and subplots. They would interweave their elements, trying to work in their own ideas while sabotaging their "collaborators".

To simplify my work, especially in deference to my ignorance to game design, I was going to lift some mechanics from existing games I enjoyed. The exact goals each player would have would be randomly selected like the city-to-city goals in Ticket To Ride. In fact, the I was hoping the resulting gameplay would resemble Ticket To Ride's twisting branching railways, with people trying to claim and block "plots". But I preferred the result be not restricted by a board, instead growing like the palace tiles in Alhambra.

book game draggable html

I started with a simple HTML page with draggable cards I could quickly customize and label. I didn't worry about cross-platform compatibility or anything. I just wanted something I could easily scale up, adding multiple copies of cards and move about on a flat plane to get a "feel" for how the game would play. I used jQuery UI to drag the individual cards, and some dingbat fonts from Font Squirrel for the icons.

book game mechanics whiteboard

After dragging some of these around and spending some time trying to visualize game mechanics on a whiteboard, I found the it was difficult to encourage the sort of twisting branching mechanic I was going for. It either became overly bunched up and blocky, or spread out so much that having the branches reconnect was unlikely. It seemed more likely that individual players would spread out on their own branches in a "race" to complete their objectives, rather than risk (or bother) entangling with anybody else.

book game hexagon layout

An alternative seemed to come in the way of a different card shape. By using hexagons, I might be able to help "spread out" the gameplay thanks to the 120 degree angles and the extra sides each card would have. I might also be able to get players to stay close together by awarding points based on the number of sides a placed card touches. It doesn't solve all my problems, but it seemed to be heading in the right direction.

I'm hoping, once I am a little further along, that I can rope in a couple friends to brainstorm with me on how it works and plays. In the meantime, watch for future braindumps like this as I fiddle around... :)

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