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Monster Keep: Version 10.0

Amazingly, I have made great design development with my "Monster Keep" idea and/or design. I have put together an interesting set of mechanics for the game that are inspired from the original game idea (all the way back to version 1.0).

Now we are on Version 10.0 of the game. That means that I've gone through ten (10) design cycles, trying to improve the game. I finally feel like I am "somewhere" with the design idea.

This "core" product follows the XTG3 licensing and allows for Single Pack Expansions to the "core" set of cards.

Aside from sales model, I have also introduced an "interesting" premise in the game itself. The game is called "Monster Keep"... And at some point I got the "idea" that player would KEEP their opponent's Monsters if they win a battle. Well that "idea" has re-surfaced and I'm planning to design the game as a TCG (Trading Card Game) - that actually embeds the "trading" aspect into the game itself...

There are three (3) different "battle modes" and each player represents one of nine (9) "Lords of the Keep".

Anyways I'm really excited about this "design"... because it shows great promise. Obviously I'm still at a very "embryonic" stage ... because nothing except some general ideas that have been "glued" together which seem to work fine so far.

I am going to work on the actual CARDS for the two (2) "cores":

1. The Humans (Order)
2. The Orcs (Fire)

If you want to make Trade deals for some of your cards (after a match)... That also is in the spirit of the game. But you can obviously BUY Single Packs since they are NOT Random ... but PRE-DESIGNED with specific content and replace your cards.

Very excited about this new "direction"... Let's hope the prototype actually proves this collection of ideas can work together.


Note: Just as an FYI, "Monster Keep" has been in "design" for almost five (5) years. The original concept dates all the way back to 10 September 2013... I've been working hard on finding the right combination of mechanics and cards to provide an interesting game experience.


Some of my inspiration comes from...

1. The card game of "War" (simplified combat system)

2. The tile laying game "Metro" (how the tile inter-connect with each other - I actually had another designer give me some ideas about this too, here on BGDF. Sadly I can't find the image he uploaded and gave me ideas with)

3. The TCG "Pokemon" (for several reasons including the concept of having Monsters, an RPS-3 and "trading" aspect of the game)

4. The piece moving game "Stratego" (still in-development on this aspect... Basically the card powers go from one (1) to nine (9). But I was hoping to include some kind of ability like the "Spy" to defeat Monsters that are TOO POWERFUL or the Miner who can defuse mines ... something in that realm would work nicely)

All of those games are "well-known" designs that I have borrow mechanics from - in order to provide a "cohesive" unit. Still very much a Work-In-Progress.


I finally found that combinatorics image

Here is what I have been thinking about for "Monster Keep" (v10.0):

This is just an example of what I was looking for in terms of "card connectivity". A way that cards could connect with each other given basic rules that are rather easy to understand.

This is the connection with "Metro", an older game about connecting railroads and trying to score the most points with a route. I finally located the image on my computer and uploaded it -- because this idea is what is driving the whole "new" version of the game.


Completed 100% of the "Order" Class

So I've designed the cards for the "Order" (Humans Race).

Right now I have designed a deck of thirty (30) cards and one (1) "Lord of the Keep". It's "Lord Duncan" a Forsaken Knight. That's five (5) "Single Packs" (#001 to #005).

That's going to be the "core" product and my hopes is to make and ship this in a Small One-Player Box. There are also parts and a game pouch for holding them too. The game is a two (2) Player Duel, so this means each player needs their own "core" + whatever "Packs" they wish to enhance their "core" with...

Completed 50% of the "Fire" Class

So I'm currently working on designing the "Fire" (Orcs Race).

Again it's a deck of thirty (30) cards and one (1) "Lord of the Keep". In this case it's "Lord Kane" a Master Thief. That's five (5) "Single Packs" (#006 - #010).

You'll have the option to choose either the "Order" (Humans Race) or "Fire" (Orcs Race) or both. Each one is a "core" box which gives you everything needed for one (1) player to play the game.

Obviously if you decide to buy both, well then you have two (2) "core" boxes which allow you to play a two (2) player duel.

I've made the decision to go with 2.5" x 2.5" SQUARE cards to allow for up to four (4) players to play a multiplayer game. Obviously this needs to be playtested -- but in principle it should work identically to the two (2) player duel.

It's just one of those "design-restrictions" that I need to keep the smaller cards simpler with "less information". That means:

  • A Card Title
  • A Class
  • A Role (Nine roles per Race)
  • A Type (Melee->Ranged->Flight->Melee)
  • 3 Stats (Hunger, Bloodlust and Greed)
  • A Special Ability
  • Id Number
  • Card Information

Right now that's what I got. And it seems like the card will be "jam-packed" with content. So it's very much a Work-In-Progress... I'll update this blog when I complete 100% of this second (2nd) class.

And then it'll be time to design some cards and playtest the game... Plenty of work to do before getting to that point (just designing cards and prototype layouts will be time well spent)...

Not actually keep the

Not actually keep the opponent's cards as in bring them home with you after the game? I believe MTG had that style of game originally but it was removed because it was almost universally hated, but someone more into the history of TCGs might be able to correct me on that?

Other than that it sounds more like a LCG, with not much reason to trade since you can just buy the exact cards you want to use?

XTG3 not LCG...

pelle wrote:
Not actually keep the opponent's cards as in bring them home with you after the game?

Keeping cards is an "intrinsic" mechanic to one of the battle types. All battles for "Bloodlust" result in the losing party to become prisoners of the opponent. As there is more "balancing" to do... I can just explain my thoughts as of now. Basically the idea is that "5" battles are because of "Bloodlust". The end result of those "5" battles is that one player loses a card (or Monster).

pelle wrote:
Other than that it sounds more like a LCG, with not much reason to trade since you can just buy the exact cards you want to use?

Yes it will be an XTG3 product ( and players can buy decks knowing what cards they can replace. BUT as I mentioned there is the possibility of "negotiation" after the game is done. This is another place where the "Trading" mechanic shines too. Sometimes deals can be struck and the POWs can return home! (LOL)

Other times no. This would be very interesting in a "tournament" where people would NOT be able to "negotiate" or "refresh" their decks... You play with the Monsters that you have... Interesting paradigm...

At least to me it seems interesting. Cheers!

Completed 60% of the "Fire" Class

Haven't had too much time to finish off the remainder of the Orcs Clan. But the spreadsheet is almost completed, all that is missing is seven (7) cards that will be a part of the "Orcish" core deck. Included are the stats used by these seven cards too.

I already have a "card template" which I used for other "small square cards" in an earlier incarnation of "Crystal Heroes". I will use that template or another one to create the "card samples" for this game's prototype.

It should work out to five (5) pages worth of cards and I'll probably cut my own "sleeves" to fit the size of those cards. And I'll probably BUY from The Game Crafter (TGC) 60 blank "small square cards" to use as filler in the sleeves (for greater prototype durability).

One thing that needs "playtesting" are the "Lords" win conditions. What I have know is that each Lord has 15 points distributed across the three (3) "Monster" needs. Each Lord has a 3 point "bonus" which means that it is only 12 points for a victory. I need to see if this is at all plausible considering that each player has a 30 card deck.

Keep you all posted on my advancement...!

Sample "Lord"


Lord Kane - Master Thief - Lord of the Orcs (Fire Clan).

Food = 3
Battle = 5
Treasure = 7 - 3 Bonus = 4

This means that a player may battle for Food 3 times. And what happens is that the difference between Food (Hunger) Stats is the number of cards that player may draw from his hand.

So say Player #1 had 4 and Player #2 had 2 (for Hunger) = 4 - 2 = 2 Cards Player #1 may draw from his deck (as having the higher amount).

Battle works similarly, the higher Battle (Bloodlust) stat wins the battle and the winner captures his opponent's "Monster". In our example this can happen five (5) times. Future captures don't do anything...

Lastly Treasure (Greed) works in the opposite manner of Food (Hunger). In the case where Player #1 has 3 and Player #2 has 4 = 3 - 4 = -1 Cards. Therefore Player #2 must discard 1 card. And this battle-type can be used up to seven (7) times, but only requires four (4) towards Victory Points (VPs).

I will be playtesting this game in February. My order from TGC is taking a bit of time for my 2.5" x 2.5" (100) cards to be assembled and shipped.

Today I finished up the stats for all nine (9) Lords. Cheers!

Finished 100% of the "Fire" Class

So I kind of "caved-in" to personal fatigue in trying to make the two (2) starter decks different from each other.

Now while the "Fire" Class (the Orcs) are more brutal and crave more battles (Avg = 4.9 vs. 4.3 Humans - Order Class) and they have the one of the biggest and baddest Monsters ("Red Dragon" - Oooohhh!)

It's not the most powerful Monster. But the "Red Dragon"'s Bloodlust is 7! The highest so far. Which means essentially this card defeats ALL OTHER "Monster". The good thing is it's unique (which means you can only have ONE of these bad boys per deck...), the bad thing is opponents will be gunning to capture it!

Just as a FYI, Monster stats range from 1 to 9.

And I introduced two (2) other card types:

  • Relics: Permanent item which can have a certain benefit.
  • Hexes: Instant spells which can have a certain penalty.

This will make the game a little more "random" in terms of battles. Relics stay within the Keep, while Hexes are only played once and instantly affect the combat's resolution.


Preview of "templates" for Lords

Of course this is prototype quality. I had to see if I can "FIT" everything that I need for the game onto this size of a "Lords Mat". Just barely...

At 100% it should allow "Acrylic Cubes" to fit and keep track of things. Each mat has 4 tracks:

  • Bonus Ability (1 to 3 uses)
  • Hunger Track (1 to 9 VPs)
  • Bloodlust Track (1 to 9 VPs)
  • Greed Track (1 to 9 VPs)

As I said, each Lord will be DIFFERENT from the others and in total there will be nine (9) Lords vying to become "Lord of the Keep"!

But the game can accommodate from two (2) to four (4) players per match.

It's still a little tight, but there is room for "an illustration" on the Right-Hand Side of the mat. Again this is just prototype quality - making sure I can get everything that I need onto the mat (and there is some room left over for an illustration too!)

We've coined some "expressions"

One of those expressions is "Bury". To "Bury" in "Monster Keep" means to place a card into your "discard" pile (also known as the "Graveyard").

We're not going to create a bunch of "keywords" that you need to memorize... At most expressions that make sense in terms of the game itself (such as Bury).

Other expressions are the "Vault" which is basically your "draw" pile. Your Vault contains all kinds of "Monsters" you can use to populate the Keep.

If anyone has some comments / feedback / questions concerning the Lord Templates that I've uploaded, please feel free to discuss.

I uploaded them to give another sample of this version's prototype (Version 10.0!) Cheers...

Interesting concept

The fact that you have thematic terminology goes a long way in making a game accessible.

First Template "Card"!!!

Here is the first "prototype" card: "John Brutus" ... A [Fighter].

I've been working hard on the prototype... Making sure it looks presentable and mostly "functional". I think it looks pretty good.

I also have determined that on a player's turn, he has THREE (3) Actions:

  1. Draw a card (Summon) from the Vault.

  2. Knock on one opponent's card to reveal the card to yourself only.

  3. Either play a card from your hand or battle one other card in the Keep.

That's the order and quantity permissible on each turn. This means you must use your followers as effectively as possible to win the match.

So far that's what I have worked on over the weekend and early this week. I'm just making certain that I ponder the different aspects of the cards. So far ... so good!

Comments welcome / Tell me what you think(?!)


A touch of RGB...

For those who have complained that my "B&W" prototype cards are a bit dull, I added some color just to give a slight feel for what I am doing. This way when I print out the cards via "The Game Crafter" they will have some color that is "functional" too.

Also for point #3 ... I am thinking: Play from 1 to 3 cards from your hand or battle one other card in the Keep (any type of battle).

Just to broaden the strategy now that I have an "Ability" System structured around a player's cards. This system also includes a positional element which also will greatly deepen the level of strategy.


Fully Rendered *Samples*

Here are some SAMPLES (with placeholder art) of a Wizard, Phoenix, Fighter and Bard. For the size it looks pretty decent. This is the real version for a card (2.5" x 2.5"). I think this should be a good format ... even if it hides a bit of the illustration.

Tomorrow's Next Step

I will be working on drafting the "card back" for the game. Obviously without a logo for the game (Should be a next step - once the game is playtested...) Maybe just a "partial" card back ... with a fade effect and tanned leather which will be colored according to the "Faction" of each card.

My order of "BLANK" cards will be coming soon... And I should be able to go to Staples to print out the colored version (Illustrator not photoshop), which could give players a feel for the game.

If anyone has suggestions / comments / feedback, please do not hesitate to add a comment.


Beautiful artwork


These are absolutely stunning! Long before folks read/review rules or discuss a title's "Gameplay" the very first impression is the art. Great job!


Sample Card Backs

Here are the "Dragon Scale" background. I've edited these card backs to reflect new "options" in the game.

The TOP icon is directional and for reference ONLY. It tells who is is the "owner" of the card.

The LEFT icon is the "capture" indicator. It says if this card can be captured or not. Capturing is a bit controversial topic and it is a part of this TGC.

The RIGHT icon is the "discard" indicator. It says if this card can discarded from the table. Cards that can discarded may also allow capturing too. What this would means if BOTH indicators are "active", when you "capture" a Monster, you may "discard" it and place it in YOUR graveyard.

The BOTTOM icon is the "scout" indicator. It says if this card may spend its scout action to view this card or not. A card that may not scout must be "attacked blindly" if that card is to be either "captured" or "discarded".

In the middle of each cardback, I plan to have the game LOGO (for "Monster Keep")...

Again this is a "Work-In-Progress" (WIP), so these modifications may NOT be 100% final... I'm still working on refining the design. This is the refinement I have been talking about in my update below.


It's been a while...

Haven't updated this thread - because I haven't had much time to work on the game.

I am expecting my "square cards" soon... should arrive this week or next week (from "The Game Crafter"). They are just "white" cards that I will use a the correct thickness with "card sleeves" and "inserts".

I may also prepare more files (illustrator) and print out more cards in "color". We shall see. I might take a ride down to the local Staples and print some "color inserts" and use them with the "stock" cards and sleeves.

So still some waiting... We shall see!

I've also been busy again with "TradeWorlds"... Always something to do and help with especially since the guys at OLG are swamped with work! Spent the whole day searching for "online" retailers ... Put together a worksheet in Excel for the possible Canadian accounts.

Made some modifications/additions

See the following comment for the "NEW" cardbacks that I have worked on:

The additions have been in the form of ICONS that indicate how a card "functions". Basically the behaviors about the card are defined using the three (3) icons to the LEFT, RIGHT and BOTTOM.

The TOP icon is used for navigation and to indicate the OWNER of that card.

This is still very much a Work-In-Progress (WIP) so there may still be changes to these icons... For now you can have a look at what I am thinking about adding to the "design".


Some changes to come

After reviewing my ideas from 2:30 AM, I am returning to the original meaning of the icons! LOL

So now it specifies what can be done to that card and not what a card can do.

This means if an eye is on the bottom, it means that this card CAN BE SCOUTED. Similarly, the same for capturing and discarding... I've gone back to the previous meanings because each cards "actions" work for that specific card itself.


Care for a Game of WAR!?

One of the "sources" of inspiration for this TCG is the very simple game of WAR. I wanted to have a similar "combat" mechanic for the TCG so that even kids could play the game much like other TCGs like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh!

So now that I introduced "Scouting" (or no scouting), I should explain how a battle occurs between two cards:

  • Firstly the cards must be adjacent to each other.

  • Next the Attacker declares the TYPE of battle: A battle for Hunger, A battle for Blood or a battle for Treasure.

  • Both players reveal their card and any "melee, support or auxiliary" cards that could alter the outcome of the battle.

  • The winner is determined as per the rules of each "battle type".

For Hunger, the higher of the two gets to draw the difference between both cards from his Vault that amount of cards.

For Blood, the player may capture the opponent's card or it gets Buried. This depends on the behavior of each card. At times it could be both or neither depending on the card...

For Treasure, the difference between the lower score minus the higher one, returns a negative number, indicating how many cards must be buried from the loser's hand.

Something along those lines...

Some new things to consider

I realized that instead of "waiting" until the end of the game to collect the captured cards, the player capturing the card will immediately turn the card facing his direction (after a capture).

This will give all the other players a chance to either re-capture that card (if you are the player that lost it) or be another player looking to get his hand on a specific (or more powerful) card from the table.

Of course for the player who originally captured the card (in the first place) will also mark his "Bloodlust" track as "+1" for Battling successfully and capturing the card!

There are still some concepts that need review -- namely formations and abilities. I will continue to work on those before a prototype gets actually made for the game.


Update: More about "formations"...

Adjacent Facing Adjacent
Next To Your Card Next To
Support Backup Support

This is the nine (9) positions with respect to ANY card. It's all relative to "Your Card" and the orientation of your card. I've streamlined the positions ... because it was a bit unclear before. These NEW positions make the game much more comprehensive and will help in defining the "Special Abilities" much easier...

Been re-working some of the cards and...

I also managed to take the time to "think-up" nine (9) asymmetric abilities for each one of the Keep's Lords. I still have to playtest them and balance them, since each one has it's own usage.

For example: [Lord Asinius] - Fat, bald merchant

Player's Hand can hold up to ten (10) cards. May be used 4 times.

So basically what this means is when drawing new cards into your hand, you may ignore the eight (8) card rule and go for ten (10) cards on four (4) different occasions. This means that IF you use the ability, you must either play two (2) cards on that turn OR play one and bury the next one. Otherwise on your next turn, you can't draw an any additional cards...

Something along those lines. I still need to fine tuned the uses to see how advantageous the ability is and balance it with the other abilities.


Going to put this design ON-HOLD!

I'm going to take a step back from "Monster Keep". New ideas for another game I have been working on have "re-surfaced" and I'd like to explore them further... I will be focusing on the "viability" of the project instead of the design itself.

So what I am looking to explore is how the project could be brought to life and what are the requirements needed to get it "off the ground".

I often do this kind of assessment. And one of the reasons I am taking a break from "Monster Keep" -- is primarily the business aspect... I have a hard time figuring how to sell the game (business model).

The re-hash of the older design is also to think about the "viability" of the project too. Again it's a Collectible Card Game (CCG) and so I'd like to think about how to make it viable. Perhaps a "box" set (think "core") and add singles to the mix from an "online" website.

Sort of build a small community and then see the product grow over time - provided it's a very good game. Anyhow I will continue to invest some time in this "newer" idea and see where it goes.


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blog | by Dr. Radut