The game is in beta; I have placeholder art and now it’s time to describe how I designed it and generate some buzz behind it.
I’m going to start a series of articles to just go over my design thought processes that I will use to help others create their own cards, decks and sets for the game. I really want one of my three big draws for playing this game is that I’d want to build a community around it instead of just making a card game. I want theory-crafters and competitive gamers to gravitate towards the open-ended card design that my game offers. I’d also hope that I’d attract world-builders and artists the opportunity to view the world through the eyes of the arguably the most powerful, iconic characters fantasy has provided.
Imagine, a collectible card game that isn’t just a world that a company or even a single man creates. Imagine a game, either through errata, new sets or art, all comes from you!
Bear with me, as I do need to go through some of the dorky stuff. We’ll get to some cooler things as I write. So here we go!
How A Sample Game Plays
Both players start off laying down two realms and putting their dragons on them. Each player then usually takes alternate turns going to a town or challenge in play, then building up the map with their hand. The other turn is taken moving over to a Lair to recharge the stash pile to draw and play more cards. At some point, usually when the towns tend to open up the dragons start skipping the lairs and going straight for more challenges, or attacking opposing dragons to push them off of challenges they’re going to win. Late game, when a player has 20 cards or less, the players try to stash as much as they can to “draw out” so when they burn out their main decks and junk, they can just draw their stash and win.
Thankfully, most players do dragon challenges all the time if only to start burning cards. I love a game with constant player interaction. Fighting all the time without actually dying gives the feeling of constant rivalry instead of straight warfare like most other games.
Basic Resource Design
In short, the game functions similar to popular card construction games in reverse. In Ascension and Dominion, players build decks during play to strengthen their future plays. However, you’re penalized by having weak cards in your deck. In Stomping Grounds, you start with strong and weak cards in your deck and reduce it down so all you’re using is the powerful cards. Players do this first by burning or drawing cards, then putting the strongest cards back in during the Reclaim phase. Usually, this means having high-luck cards or auto-win gifts while leaving the situational or low luck cards out.
When building a deck or a cards, what keeps Constructed players from just filling their decks with 60 of the best cards? There are three good reasons: luck, the cornerstone cards and the challenge types.
Those familiar with Decipher’s line of Star Wars will be familiar with the way low-luck cards were either very powerful or locations (think realms) while situational cards were higher based on power level. This game takes the same tact. If you could play the 60 best cards, they should all have a luck 1 and 2 so you’d never burn anything unless an opponent lets you stash by moving and then playing some cards that let you burn directly. Clearly, good decks will need to burn without those cards. There is power in the situational cards with higher luck, too.
Each deck has 2 cards that function as the cornerstones in the game. There are the “auto-win” cards: Fire Breath, Transformation, Enchantment. Then there are the “win a challenge” cards: Savageness, Planning, and Charisma. With the exception of Fire Breath (which is a dragon’s iconic power), you’ll notice that all of these cards are single word names while other cards have more than one word names. This was done on purpose to easily identify the cards when creating your own. When you get your copy, you’ll notice that several of the more powerful cards have “Requires X” on them. I thought these cards both identify the flavors of each challenge and are powerful enough for other players to be excited to play them.
(To keep costs for Constructed players down, I include 8 Cornerstone cards in every starter. One of the pillars of the product is you don’t have to drop hundreds of dollars like other card games.)
Along the same lines, to limit a card’s use in other decks, I made it so that you have to win certain types of challenges to play them. For example, there are cards that let you burn down towns by completing only Red challenges. I was thinking this would keep power gamers on their toes while still promoting flexibility. If you need to win certain types of challenges, you need to play cards that have synergy with those challenges too. Synergy should hopefully trump raw power.
Come back next time as I discuss what everyone likes to do: WIN!