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Monster Keep — Third Prototype

Well the good news is that I'm working on a THIRD (3rd) Prototype for "Monster Keep" (MK). And while the game has "changed" A LOT (True...) I believe it is for the BETTER. I gave myself SIMPLE "rules" to follow and see what the result could be.

Some of those rules are:

A> I wanted a Battle/Duel/Take-That kind of game.

B> I wanted it to be SIMPLER than Pokemon.

C> I wanted the game to play between 10 and 15 minutes.

D> I wanted a format that could support Deck Construction.

E> I wanted to have a format that could sell from an online store.

F> I did NOT want the game to be "pay-to-win".

On that last point F>, this was to be a BIG concern. I wanted a way to BALANCE "weaker" cards to work with "stronger" ones. So far I think that I have a method to make this work (from early thoughts) and it's pretty simple to understand too.

But most (if not all) those "rules" that I set out for myself were just there to SIMPLIFY what I was wanting to design. However with Rule C>, this gave a LOT of "restriction" to what I could do. The shorter the game, the more BANG for your "buck" you want/need.

So I am on my way to "Designing" the THIRD (3rd) Prototype and I'm very interested in figuring out HOW to "break" the game. Or more like WILL it break the game. Right now it's just a bunch of ideas for this third iteration ... and I'd like to see just how promising this version of the game will be.

Truth be told... I really HOPE this will be my LAST "Prototype". Prototype #2 sold me on the game. Yes, I had to compromise. Sometimes on things that I felt were important (like the Keeping of Monsters mechanic), I ultimately had to give this up ... because it just would NOT work with the 10 to 15 minute playtime.

Right now I have a couple of weeks worthwhile of designing and printing/cutting paper and then place them into card sleeves with Blank Cardstock (320 gsm Black-core) I bought from "The Game Crafter" (TGC) and I also still have "el-cheapo" plastic sleeves for more prototyping!

Hopefully I can "capture" some MAGIC with this design...


First Monster Designed

I am completing as of Now the First (1st) Monster: The Gremlin. As @Tim Edwards pointed out, a intro or "lesser" Monster it is. But given the Resource Points (RPs) which are currently at "5 RPs" means that the Gremlin's cards can HELP or benefit "stronger" Monster that I have yet to design in the NEW "format" (Prototype #3).

This prototype will be playable by my "TableTop" Meet-up (which has since been "cancelled" due to COVID-19)... But I guess we'll have to wait a month or so before testing it out with real gamers.

The benefit to all of this is that I can FOCUS on "TradeWorlds" (Still some Editing to be done) and work on the side by designing, printing and cutting cards for "Monster Keep" (MK).


Also ...

You've REALLY got to remember rule C> (10 to 15 minute playtime). You'd be amazed on how QUICKLY time goes by playing a game. With three (3) Rounds of simultaneous game play, it roughly takes about 3 to 4 minutes per Round. So this means that the game needs to SIMPLE enough to PLAY and there needs to be some kind of "strategic depth" to go along too...

And that's where I am at: the game is flexible enough to allow for STRONGER cards to inter-mix with "weaker" ones and this is part of the Deck Construction process. Trying to maximize the odds of score a "tight" combo. What I mean by "tight" is optimal Resource Points (RPs). So if the game is 5 RPs, having stronger stats combined with a couple weaker "enhancements" is one way to go. Or you can average the stats and use stronger "enhancements" if they are available to you!

So for 10 to 15 minutes ... the game is COMPACT and TIGHTLY designed with a very simple Victory Condition:

The player with the most Victory Points (VPs) wins the game. A game can have 0 to 3 VPs. As long as one player scores HIGHER than his/her opponent a victor is declared!

Spent some time watching a video

I wanted to really get a FEEL for "Redakai" (RK) Card Game. Because in a way I had another direction for "Monster Keep" (MK) in terms of gameplay. But after watching a playthrough Video... RK is NOT as "exciting" as you would think it would be (at least what I have seen).

However it does play like one of my "ideas" (an inverted game of War!) and seeing it be played as such ... Just doesn't do it for me (disappointed in the resulting gameplay).

MK currently uses simultaneous turns and partial hidden information ... Which sort of ADD to the dynamic of the game. It also uses three (3) Lanes for playing three (3) different Monsters against your opponent.

There is no "graveyard" as the game is comprised of THREE (3) Rounds:

Round #1: Secretly play three (3) Monsters face-down until revealed. This will determine WHO (if anyone) has a Bonus Attack or Defense.

Round #2: Secretly play three (3) Stats face-down until revealed. This will determine who are the leading Monsters in the three Lanes.

Round #2: Secretly play up to (5) Enhancements face-down until revealed. This is the part which can lead up to some serious "Take-That" play to defeat your opponent.

And instead of playing cards on you or your opponent (I believe this is very confusing with RK...) It's also not obvious who owns what cards. Something that I feel would complicate matters in a game that allows Deck Construction.

So FOR NOW, I will continue to work on Prototype #3 ... And determine if I can BREAK the game or not... Cheers!

A concern for me ...

questccg wrote:
On that last point F>, this was to be a BIG concern. I wanted a way to BALANCE "weaker" cards to work with "stronger" ones. So far I think that I have a method to make this work (from early thoughts) and it's pretty simple to understand too.

A concern for me is, and it may just be the language, but you keep referring to "weaker" cards, where I understand weaker means lower health/damage etc, compared to stronger creatures with bigger health/does more damage. And why would a player take "weaker creatures" over "stronger ones".

In my opinion, there shouldn't be a balance problem here. They should be CHEAPER, not WEAKER. If they are weaker, remove them from the game. Magic the gathering has cheap creatures and expensive creatures. Occasionally, when they mess the rules up they have "weak" creatures, but weakness is either an inappropriate cost, or have a lack of utility. Both of those are designer issues.

Two different solutions off the top of my head:

  1. Give all the "weak creatures" crazy utility. Eg. "If the Mouse is on the field, all Elephants can't move".
  2. Scale costs for each creature with strength - big = expensive, small is cheap. Then, give all players a fixed some of cash to spend. Then, it's up to them - a player has (20 cash) can buy (read: fill their deck with) 3 x (6) Monsters, but her opponent filled his deck with 10 x (2) creatures.

Let me clarify a bit...

ceethreepio wrote:
A concern for me is, and it may just be the language, but you keep referring to "weaker" cards, where I understand weaker means lower health/damage etc, compared to stronger creatures with bigger health/does more damage. And why would a player take "weaker creatures" over "stronger ones"...

Indeed the game has "weaker" cards as in "less powerful" cards. This was a problem for me, because it meant a "pay-to-win" sales model where players would ONLY buy the "stronger" cards and completely IGNORE "weaker" ones.

@Juzek offered me an interesting idea: in-game cost to play cards. It's not so much a "Draft" as it is "Hand Management" for three different hands.

So while the "Gremlin" is the "weakest" creature... He has a couple of things going for him.

1> He is Terra (Earth) Element so he beats Aqua (Water) Element which would mean he earns a +1,000 Defense.

2> He is Melee (Up-front) Combat so he beats Range (Projectiles) Combat style which means he earns a +1,000 Attack (against Range Monsters).

Next we can take the Gremlin's Stat card:

1> 2,500 Attack

2> 2,500 Defense

These two (2) stats are VERY "average". You could translate that to being "weaker"... Compare this to a "Leviathan"(4,000 ATK and 2,500 DFS)... You can immediately spot the difference and wonder: "Why would I buy the Gremlin???" Let me continue with my analysis and it will become clearer...

The Gremlin comes with TWO (2) Enhancement cards:

1> Angry Mob: +1,500 ATK

2> Midnight Snack: +1,500 DFS

Again these "Enhancement" seem to be not at all that powerful ... Just small "buffs" for offensive and defensive capabilities. Again nothing over-powering ... just some average "extras".

And so I associate "average" with "weaker" ... Because there are STRONGER cards available to purchase.

So now let's get back to @Juzek's suggestion: in-game costs...

What I did is decide that when configuring a Monster to your deck, a COST must be respected. I call it "Resource Points" (RPs). Each Monster during the game can have AT MOST five (5) RPs. This is where "average" cards can make the difference...

If (and it is so) my Gremlin's Stat card costs 1 RPs to use and both of its Enhancement cost 1 RPs too... To configure a Monster with the Gremlin's card cost 3 RPs! Okay so you wondering: "Why is this important?"

What it means is that the Gremlin's Enhancements ONLY cost 2 RPs. Leaving 3 RPs for the Stat card... Meaning you can PAIR a STRONGER Stat card with the "average" (or weaker) Enhancement and therefore have an EVEN STRONGER Monster in the end.

And so you can now see how "average" cards (or weaker ones) can be used to combine STRONGER "combos" not necessarily with the SAME "Monster". And there you go... Average cards can be combined with Stronger cards to make a "Strong" Monster even better.

This means that NO card is worthless and also avoid the pay-to-win scenario because you just can't use ANYTHING with anything else... You must respect the "Resource Points" (RPs) when constructing your Deck if you want to be MORE successful during a battle.

Also ...

The first (1st) Round is a "Crap Shoot". Meaning you don't know what the pairings are going to look like until the Round is finished and both players reveal their cards. This is the partial hidden information that I mentioned earlier...

And the thought process is something like this: "Hmm... My opponent has a Flying Monster compare to my Melee Monster, that's +1,000 ATK..."

This means that one card has an "advantage" but not a guarantee that the opponent will win. But in your mind, you MIGHT be willing to sacrifice ONE (1) Lane and work in favor of the other two (2) Lanes ... Trying to win with a score of 2 to 1. Remember there can be ties too... So WIN or TIE is a valid strategy (2 to 2).

This "random" First (1st) Round is a bit of a mystery Round and you'll see what the Match-Ups look like after the cards are played and REVEALED. Obviously if a Lane gives you an "Attack" Bonus, you should be thinking that this Lane may be good to BOOST as much as possible for this Monster. Because you have an "advantage".

After the First (1st) Round, the strategy is more about figuring what Lanes you can WIN with and which one to sacrifice. And then your 2nd Hand is all about "Stats" and how will you configure your Monsters. Sacrificing one Lane might be a valid strategy ... Even if it is recommended to go after ALL THREE (3) Lanes.

Lastly the Third (3rd) Round, is the most strategic because you have a hand of FIVE (5) cards and you can play from 0 to 5 cards ("Enhancements") during this round. These are over-the-top (Take-That) cards that BOOST your Monsters and allow them to capture the victory.

Another small comment...

I mentioned configuring a STRONGER stat card with "average" (or weaker) Enhancements ... But the OPPOSITE is also TRUE:

You can use the Gremlin's stats (2,500 ATK, 2,500 DFS) and use 1 RP. And then you can use more POWERFUL "Enhancements" which can cost 2 or 3 RPs too!

So that's another KEY point too... The RPs allow players to work within the confines of the five (5) RPs per Monster RULE ... Which could CHANGE down the road to maybe six (6) RPs as I expand and design even more powerful cards...

The real issue is this: When you start designing cards for a COLLECTIBLE game... You don't necessarily want the MOST powerful cards to be in the first series. You may want "average" and "a bit over average" cards to allow more even posturing in the Lanes. But the fact of the matter is IF you DON'T OFFER any benefits to FUTURE cards, why would anyone buy them???

There's a double edged effect. And it has to do with SALES (or should I say future INTEREST) in cards available at a later time. Of course there needs to be BALANCING and playtesting to ensure that no card is too powerful... But generally speaking "Resource Points" (RPs) help to ensure that cards are combined TOGETHER rather than solo.

I wanted to make another comparison!

Take for example one pairing of two (2) cards:

#1> The Gremlin (Melee, Terra, 2,500 ATK and 2,500 DFS).

#2> The Leviathan (Melee, Aqua, 4,000 ATK and 2,500 DFS).

So the "weakest" (The Gremlin) vs. one of the "stronger" monsters (The Leviathan).

+ Both are Melee, so NO Attack Bonus.

+ Terra beats Aqua so the Gremlin gets +1,000 DFS.

So this makes our Gremlin (2,500 ATK and 3,500 DFS) vs. the Leviathan (4,000 ATK and 2,500 DFS).

So just without ANY "Enhancement" cards... The Gremlin will defeat the Leviathan (2,500 ATK vs. 2,500 DFS) and the Leviathan will ALSO defeat the Gremlin (4,000 ATK vs. 3,500 DFS)... But the second victory is pretty darn CLOSE!

This shows that even the "weakest" card can hold it's own and that ADD to the mix the "Enhancements" ... It's not sure how this pairing would result because of the numbers (as I have shown).

And so it's all about the 3rd Round (Enhancements)... This shows that the cards can literally be only 500 to 1,000 points apart from stopping an opponent in his tracks!

Now let's make some assumptions and see what happens...

If the Gremlin plays his "Angry Mob" (+1,500 ATK) and "Midnight Snack (+1,500 DFS), we have 4,500 ATK and 5,000 DFS...

(Supposing) the Leviathan plays his ONE (1) Enhancement "Crashing Waves"(+1,000 ATK) and "Calming Seas" (2x Aqua DFS), we have 5,000 ATK and 5,000 DFS...

This results in ONE (1) Victory Point (VP) for the Leviathan and zero (0) VPs for the Gremlin.

So now you see with an example and using the Monsters AS-IS (which could but probably won't happen) ... That one of the "stronger" cards beat his opponent by 500 DFS points!

"Weaker" doesn't mean useless

ceethreepio wrote:
...And why would a player take "weaker creatures" over "stronger ones"...

That was my whole dilemma. Why would a player use "weaker" Monsters if the alternative was "stronger" ones?! Furthermore this sets up a pay-to-win model where only the STRONGEST cards would get purchased and ALL the other cards would get ignored. This was FAR from ideal...

You can appreciate that in a game not ALL cards are equal (in power, strength, health, etc.) in stats and that some Monsters have more Attack, others have stronger Defense, etc. And this is all very normal. But now that I am using an in-game cost associated with the cards, it makes it more interesting to understand HOW to use the cards from "weaker" Monsters...

So now all cards have an inherent value and HOW you choose to use them is up to your Deck Construction style.

Co-existence between weak and strong

ceethreepio wrote:
...Magic the gathering has cheap creatures and expensive creatures. Occasionally, when they mess the rules up they have "weak" creatures, but weakness is either an inappropriate cost, or have a lack of utility. Both of those are designer issues...

Clearly Magic is "different". My game is MUCH simpler. But still the issue of "weak" vs. "strong" is present in "Monster Keep" (MK). Instead of doing like you suggest (getting rid of "weak" Monsters), my game chooses to embrace the difference between the Monsters. All cards can add value and have a concrete method of play.

But it AFFECTS nearly ALL cards. Without the "Resource Points" (RPs), it would be impossible to handle the "pay-to-win" reaction to the cards. I say "reaction" because it would be the players who would go and decide which of the "stronger" cards they would use to build their deck. And of course, in terms of VALUE/PRICE "stronger" Monsters cost relatively more than the weaker ones. Note that this is not always true ... but generally speaking it is.

About the SALES model

So I have been working on getting the "storefront" to be done... And it looks pretty good (so far). I figured I'd share some of the information about HOW I am planning to SELL the game.

As of today the sales model will be via a Webstore and players can browse the catalog of "Monster Sets" and choose HOW they want to build their deck. What I mean by this is which "Monsters" they wish to add and make a part of their deck.

Some "Monsters" have 4 cards others only 3. And obviously 3 cards is LESS expensive to buy than 4. But from a game Point-of-view (POV) it makes sense to balance your Deck with both 3 and 4 card "Monsters".

Each "Monster Set" is priced individually and you can mix and match the sets you want for your Deck. As we grow the brand, new cards will be made available for either a NEW "Series" or some NEW "cards" in an older one...

So you need to check back every now and then and see IF there are NEW cards (or Monster Sets) you may want to buy!

Special BONUS card for the PLAYERS!

In addition to the various "Monster Sets", I have included a BONUS set for the PLAYERS. Not so much for the collectors (who just want all the cards), the extra set is the "Demon" and features two 3 Level "Enhancements". For a player, this set is FREE is you spend over $30 USD in total purchases (excluding shipping & handling).

This is an INVALUABLE card for PLAYERS. With BOTH 3 Level "Enhancements", you can improve the game's experience. I won't explain the use of each card but suffice to say the "Demon" is a worthwhile set to have as part of your Deck...

I'm doing a FREE "bonus" to encourage players to buy sufficient amount of card sets from the Webstore. Since the "Demon" will be available in limited quantities ... First come, first served!

Note #1: I realize that "collectors" may ALSO want the "Demon" set ... Which is fine. But the real use is a practical one while playing the game. So we don't discriminate between Collectors and Players, it's just that the set has more VALUE for the Players...

Manufacturing consideration

One of the things that I have learned with "cards" is IF you can make them "White Border" ... You should. I know some Magic players hate seeing White Border Lands ... But WOTC doesn't produce White & Black Borders any longer, only the latter so Black only nowadays.

But for Plastic Cards that are "shuffled" A LOT, I would tend to THINK that the Border which is used for Bleeding would get a lot of "friction" when you shuffle the cards. That's my primary reason for choosing White Borders on the Monster Cards. Stats and Enhancements are "clear" cards so those don't really matter as much (since there really is no border per se.

In the case of the Monster cards, they will be coated with a Matte Finish which should also provide additional protection to the cards themselves. I'm still thinking through the cards and how to manufacture them... The Matte Finish may be COOL but it may also be "incompatible" with Dry Erase Markers. That's why I am thinking to ONLY Mark "clear" cards...

We'll have to see futhermore into the future... Cheers!

Two (2) other games that tackle the GENRE

So the closest version to "Monster Keep" (MK) as per the current design, is a not-so-popular CCG called "Redakai: Conquer the Kairu". This game is a DUEL-based game. And I watched it played, a game between a Son and his Father. So each player chooses a "Character" to play. Next each player deals himself five (5) cards. The Player #1 goes and plays ONE (1) card against his opponent. Next the opponent responds with his own card/attack.

The bottom-line is that it's a continual BACK-AND-FORTH type of game.

The even more popular game similar in some ways to MK is "Yu-Gi-Oh!" And I have watched that too... And I have played a game of this too... And FOR ME ... It's TOO BORING. Again it's mostly about the duel concept. But it feel to me like a game of War! (The Card Game).

And both of these games have made millions of dollars in sales. So no matter what I think of these games, people have bought and played them. I on the other hand cannot offer one of my own games and see if there is sufficient demand or not.

But one thing for certain: MK is a simultaneous play game. There are turns but BOTH players play the turns AT THE EXACT same time. For the most part this doesn't mean that one player may take more time than his opponent... But there is less downtime (trying to aim at almost 0 downtime) and the hand sizes are limited to five (5) cards eliminating AP (Analysis-Paralysis)

So I'll know when I launch the product IF it WORKS! Cheers...

One of the most AMAZING things is...

When I look at the types of BORDERS, I have both Silver and Gold options... Which is pretty darn COOL for premium versions of some cards. and then there is a foil option which makes for an AMAZING effect.

Right now these are "out-of-scope" because of the fact that they are MORE expensive... But it does make me think IF the game is successful, I could definitely print a Silver or Gold Edition of some Monster cards...

The foil option looks AMAZING. But is very pricey... However some PREMIUM cards (for collectors) could be made available at a LATER time and VOILA ... Amazing cards to collect and show off!

50% of the MK Prototype is ready...

So I've got about another 50% to complete. Mostly now Enhancement cards for the triplets of each Monster card. How am I going to playtest this??? Well to begin with, I'm going to take one of each Monster and play it that way.

If it turns out that the game is FAIR and EVEN. That will be a good sign. The next logical step would be to try strategies that BREAK the game. And one of these is trying the three (3) of each scenario where each card can be AT MOST three (3) times in a player's Micro Deck.

If that works out fine and I try some variations but the game is still FAIR and EVEN... Well then folks, we've got a GAME!

Keep you all posted as I continue to cut the remaining 50% of Enhancements and be ready to design some decks for playtesting... Cheers!

75% done... This is not a play-by-play (LOL)

Well I've almost completed the entire prototype (#3) with the new cards. It's almost been a MONTH since I designed the First Monster Set for this specific game. What can I say?! I've been busy Editing TradeWorlds. That is a BIG task and I started editing in December 2019. It's been over 4 months editing and I still have some cards to do, not to mention a couple rulebooks and a box to correct/address.

But I'm taking a small break from all of that... And I'm working on Monster Keep (MK) Prototype #3... This version of the game was tested briefly using card sleeves and a dry erase marker. That version turned out to be a total waste of sleeves... But it PROVED that the game was finally looking interesting to play (worthwhile addition effort for this Prototype #3).

I want to finish cutting the remaining cards and maybe have a Playtest day TOMORROW. Like I said, I'm ALMOST done with the cards (cutting, printing, editing, formatting, etc.) Last step is cutting and I've only got 25% left to do (some #1 Enhancements and all of the #2 Enhancements).

Hopefully I can share more progress with you all tomorrow!

Update #1: ALL of the #1 Enhancement have been cut, sorted and put with their corresponding monster. All that remains is the #2 Enhancements (which is 15 cards to cut)! This prototype is ALMOST done. Woohoo!

Update #2: Only three (3) cards need to be cut and collated with the "Red Dragon"! Aye mate, there be a "Red Dragon" Monster to scare the children... (LOL) Should finish up these last cards and be ready for bed afterwards. Tomorrow is a PLAYTESTING day... So we'll see if the game is SUFFICIENTLY FUN. Because I've got to be HONEST and say I really LIKE the "Deck Construction" aspect. A Deck is anywhere from 27 to 36 cards. And the decks FEEL AWESOME (just the distribution and card counts...) Makes the game feel REAL too!

Update #3: 100% DONE!!! Finished up the last three (3) secondary (#2) Enhancements for the "Red Dragon"... And tomorrow we are off to chasing more dreams and trying to make the game be more than a meaty-two-player-duel... Is it "EXCITING"??? Are there sufficient "Johnny Moments"?? Will this be the last prototype and that we've finally have a final product ready for Art? TBD. Tomorrow!

Some early thoughts...

Okay so I did some playtesting today... It will "spill-over" to tomorrow. Even though I got off to a bright and early time this morning (9:30 AM), I only managed to get one (1) playtest all day. The rest of the time, I was reflecting on how to "improve" the game.

I may well go into a completely DIFFERENT direction... I need some more time to REFLECT and work on the "concept". But clearly the NEW direction has some definite "appeal" especially when it comes to kids!

IMPORTANT new constraints:

1> Instead of having different types of cards (like Prototype #3), there would be only one type of card: Monster Elements.

2> This means that the Deck doesn't need to divided into separate decks like Prototype #3. I really LIKE this ... Because it simplifies the overall concept (not design-wise... It actually makes it SUPER HARD to ensure everything will work together).

3> I think making the game more "FUNNY" ... could make the game a bit more FUN too! The comedic value of a game that is designed to be SIMPLE but at the same time SUPER "dynamic" and "richly layered" with a TON of options!

4> The game may take a bit longer to play: between 20 and 30 minutes.

TBD... I definitely have a NEW "direction". But can I bring it to fruition? This IDK ... Yet!

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