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Standard Deck vs Specialty Card Game?

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ensor
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Joined: 08/23/2008

I'm currently working on a two-player card game, Worm Pullin', and it got me thinking about the differences between a commercial card game and one you can play with your regular deck of cards. You can create a deck for my game using two packs of playing cards (great for prototyping..) and it's starting to work pretty well, but the theme is totally lacking without pictures of earthworms on the cards.

Some games, like Canasta, Euchre or Go Fish, are sold as separate commercial decks, but they aren't really adding anything you can't get from a deck of cards. More similar would be like Lost Cities. It's a really popular and fun card game, however, you can play a decent variant with the standard deck, using each suit for a location, face cards for investment cards, etc.

So, which would you choose, a game you can play with the standard 52 deck of cards with some interesting mechanics, no theme, but free, or almost the exact same game with spiffy graphics and oozing theme, for about $10 - $20 dollars?

Nazhuret
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Standard Deck vs Specialty Card Game?

i would MUCH rather play a fully themed deck. even if i knew i could print out the rules and play with my normal poker deck it would not be as fun without the images.

"no seriously... it's a worm... just go with me on this guys..."
versus
"ha ha! check out the worm on THIS card!" (or whatever)

what's the point of tacking on a "theme" to a game played with a standard deck? that theme is basically pointless. it's truly just tacked on and it will feel like it.
the theme needs the support of images at least to even be called a theme. once you have that people start to do strange things like role playing within the game. they start to care about what happens more.

worm pullin' is worm pullin' because of .... anyone?.... THE WORMS.

other than that it's... well.... it's just another card game...

and who wants to play just another card game?

not me....

hpox
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Standard Deck vs Specialty Card Game?

Yep. Same here. But make sure to customize/tweak/enhance the deck at least a little bit or I'd feel cheated.

Scurra
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Joined: 09/11/2008
Standard Deck vs Specialty Card Game?

This is an interesting subject. I've recently been involved in developing some games that are played with a "standard" set of playing cards and so far I have learnt three things:

1. Sometimes it's the right thing to do. You may have a neat theme in mind that requires customised cards, but if in the end the game works without them and can be played with a standard deck, then why not use it? Unless the game really doesn't work "cold", stick with the cards until you are sure.

2. There's still a huge array of unexplored fields for card games to experiment with. Even within the three basic card game types (Outplay, Exchange, Comparison) there are a lot of empty niches, and there are plenty of non-standard formats to investigate too.

3. The constraints of working with 52 cards in 4x13 suits (and maybe a couple of Jokers) are surprisingly thought-provoking.

So my advice is not to be afraid of developing "standard" card games: they are a useful learning tool, they are widely understood (it's so much easier to teach people a new basic card game than most other games!) and (perhaps most crucially) they are really cheap to prototype with ;)

IngredientX
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Joined: 07/26/2008
Standard Deck vs Specialty Card Game?

One thing that always impresses me is when designers happen to have designs for "common" game elements (i.e. card games and dice games) lying around. Sid Sackson researched and collected a bunch of them in "A Gamut of Games," Reiner Knizia has a "decathalon" of dice minigames, and James Ernest releases a bunch of games in his "Chief Herman" collections; his poker variants aren't bad.

To me, it's almost like padding your resume. Giving out the rules to a card game on the back of your business card, as Mr. Ernest has proved, really goes a long way in making an impression on people. And as Scurra has pointed out, designing a game strictly for a traditional poker deck is actually liberating, not confining.

Nazhuret
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Standard Deck vs Specialty Card Game?

i totally see what you're saying and agree. to be given (or set yourself) a limited media to design a game with could force you to be more creative than you otherwise might be.

there are numerous reasons to do this in design. game or otherwise.

but when it comes to the question of "what would you rather buy" on the shelf... not as a "game designer" but more as a "person who is thinking of playing a game".... i think that's the real question here.

when i say that i'd rather buy the game with the worms and such on the cards and in the rules and on the box i'm not saying that the same game with jacks and queens and clubs is a worse game... i'd just rather play one with a bit more character to it.

which...
i guess...

means that uh.... it's a better game...

it's a weird sort of thing, this theme concept, isn't it? it's very subjective. for some reason i can't help but think of a game with worms as being more attractive than a game with suits. i know i'd have more fun with it. and there's really no other reason than the fact that there are pictures of worms on it.

man i'm repeating myself now...

ensor
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Joined: 08/23/2008
Standard Deck vs Specialty Card Game?

Thanks for all the input, it's really good advice. I think I might try some more basic card games, since they would be a good practice in mechanics.

Quote:
But make sure to customize/tweak/enhance the deck at least a little bit or I'd feel cheated.

That was the sentiment I was worried about, as that's how I felt when I played Crazy Eights for the first time, "Hey, this is Uno, and it's free." I'll play Uno with a regular deck in a pinch, but otherwise I prefer the commercial deck with it's easy to distinguish cards, wilds and draw fours and such.

For now, I think I'll keep working on Worm Pullin' using cards from the standard deck until I know things are working, but this conversation has made me want to use other specialty cards, like instant worm snaps, or negative pulls, to make it different enough to make it stand on it's own.
If you feel like playtesting it, let me know how it goes.

Thanks again,
Mark

Anonymous
Standard Deck vs Specialty Card Game?

I feel the exact same way, I'll play crazy eights only if there isn't an Uno deck around.

I am currently working on a card game that began it life designed for play with two standard poker decks. I then went on to create a themed prototype with cute flavor text and catchy graphics. Playtesting suddenly became much more FUN for everyone. It's the whole experience you get from the game. As a designer, I like to come up with games that can be played with standard items (makes playtesting REAL easy), but as a game player, I'd much rather get a game that immerses me in the theme.

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