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Civilization Deck-Building Game

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bottercot's picture
Joined: 02/06/2018

I am in development for a deck-building game heavily based off the Civilization series (namely Civ 5). It will have many elements of Civ 5, such as Science, Gold, Culture, Food and Production. Here is the full list of 'elements' and concepts that this game will have:
1. Food
Food cards are used to keep your Civilization happy, and to increase your Population.
2. Population
Population is the size of your Civilization, and its size is represented by your hand size.
3. Production
Production is used to buy cards, much like Gold in Dominion.
4. Gold
Gold can be accumulated (unlike Production) and can be used in lieu of Production and possibly as a sort of booster to Science. It could possibly also be used to activate Military cards (Gold is a WIP).
5. Military
Military cards give you a way to interact with other players, impeding their progress to support your own. They may possibly lead to a Military Victory, though I'm not entirely sure how.
6. Culture
Culture is accumulated overtime, and can be used to purchase Social Policy cards, and eventually to win a Cultural Victory.
7. Social Policies
Social Policy cards give unique, specific bonuses, similar to Wonders, and are valuable cards to have.
8. Buildings
Building cards are cards purchased with Production that allow special actions.
9. Wonders
Wonder cards are great works of human engineering that provide unique actions or powers.
10. Science
Science is used in Researching Technologies, and can be accumulated on a track.
11. Technologies
Technology cards are cards that, when Researched, immediately unlock new cards to buy.
12. Happiness
Happiness cards are used in activating Citizen cards, and mark the contentment of your population.
13. Land
Land cards are cards gained through exploration, that provide bonuses through ownership of them.
14. Victories
There are many types of Victories: Cultural Victory, achieved by reaching the end of the Culture Track; Science Victory, achieved by Researching the last Tech card; Diplomatic Victory, achieved by getting the most votes once the UN Wonder is built; and Military Victory, achieved through a means I have not yet determined. I am also thinking of adding a Time Victory, triggered once a certain number of cards runs out, achieved by having the biggest deck of cards.

I have some questions:
1. What do you think of this game? Would it be unique enough?
2. Are there any games out there similar to this?
3. How should Military be worked?
4. Do you have any further questions about the rules? There's a lot I didn't publish because it would have taken up too much room.

polyobsessive's picture
Joined: 12/11/2015
Go for it!


You haven't actually described a game yet, just a bunch of things you want to include, but it looks like it's something you could build a game around -- you may actually find that you have too many elements there, but you never know.

As for uniqueness... Don't worry about it. There are a load of civilisation building games out there, some of them based around card play, but not so many that it is a crowded market that couldn't withstand another. Uniqueness is all in the implementation, not the concept, so go for it and make a great game. :)

So are you planning to have the game being purely based around deck building and card play, or do you plan to use other components like a board or other record keeping and tracking elements? I can't suggest anything for military without knowing your intentions on that.

Good luck!

Corsaire's picture
Joined: 06/27/2013
There are three popular games

There are three popular games that set out with a very similar objective:
- Through the Ages
- Innovation
- 7 Wonders Duel
And of course there are the two directly derived Sid Meier's board games.

None of the cards games include land as an aspect of them, but are probably worth knowing about to understand how you contrast with them. From the depth you are describing Through the Ages would be the one you would most likely be contrasted with (it has an iOS app that I've really enjoyed playing.)

Civilization games are my favorite stretching back to the Original Avalon Hill Civilization and am always interested in seeing new ones with a different take which deckbuilding would be. Just don't let a goal of simulating a video game overshadow good game design, i.e. be prepared to cut whole elements that don't enhance the fun.

bottercot's picture
Joined: 02/06/2018
The Actual Rules

Okay, I guess it's time to actually post the rules. This might take a while. I'm not great at writing rules, but I will try.

1. Food Cards and Population
Food cards are cards in your hand that serve 2 purposes:
A. Keep your people happy
B. Increase Population
Keeping people happy will be explained in the next section.
Population marks the size of your civilization, and is tracked on your Civilization sheet. At the beginning of each of your turns, you will draw cards up to your Population.

2. Happiness Cards and Citizen Cards
Happiness is a necessity for a growing kingdom. Happiness is represented in your hand by Happiness cards.
Happiness cards can be played to activate a Citizen card in your hand. Citizen cards can be played, if activated, to grant you things such as Science, Food cards, Production cards, Gold, Culture, etc.
Citizens form the basis for expansion, as they are some of the first cards you will get. Without them, your civilization's development could easily slow to a standstill.
Happiness is tied to Food. If, at the beginning of your turn, you have at least 1 Food card in your hand, your people are fed and content, and you have nothing to worry about. However, if you don't have any Food cards in your hand at the beginning of your turn, your people are discontent and will complain. You must immediately trash 1 Happiness card. If you don't have any Happiness cards in your hand, you must instead gain a Rioter card in your discard.
Rioter cards represent unhappy citizens. When you draw a Rioter card, you have a choice. You may either discard a Happiness card before doing any other actions, or you may trash 1 Happiness card from your hand to also trash the Rioter card.
If your hand is ever occupied by more Rioter cards than other types of cards, you must trash 1 Building card or Citizen card from your hand.
If your hand is every completely filled up with Rioter cards, you must decrease your Population by 1.

3. Production and Building Cards
Production is the currency by which Building cards and Citizen cards are bought. Production does not carry over from turn to turn, so there is no reason not to spend it.
Production is gained from cards such as Citizens or, in some cases, Buildings.

4. Culture and Social Policies
Culture marks the societal development of your civilization. It is used in purchasing Social Policies.
Culture is counted via the Culture Track, and Social Policies may be gained when your Culture gets high enough. Periodical points on the Track will be marked (i.e. 1, 4, 9, 16, 25, 36, etc.) with increasing distances between points.
Social Policy cards provide unique bonuses that no other cards normally would provide (i.e. +1 Production this turn for every Citizen card in your hand).
Once your Culture reaches the end of the Track, you win a Culture Victory as soon as you have 50 more Culture than any other player.
Some example Social Policies:
Aristocracy - Social Policy
Wonders cost 2 less Production this turn. If you have at least 1 Citizen card in your hand, gain 1 Happiness card.
Free Thought - Social Policy
Score 1 Science for every Citizen card in your hand.

5. Science and Tech cards
Science, just like Culture, is marked on a track. It is used to Research Technology cards, which allow you to buy more advanced cards. Some Tech cards also increase bonuses gained by certain cards. When the final Tech card is Researched, you win a Science Victory.

6. Building cards and Citizen cards
Building and Citizen cards are the main cards that you will be buying with Production. They are the main way to gain resources. Some example cards include:
Farmer - Citizen
Gain 1 Food card.
Miner - Citizen
Gain 1 Production this turn.
Scientist - Citizen
Score 1 Science.
Courthouse - Building
Trash 1 Rioter card from your discard, or all Rioter cards from your hand.
Workshop - Building
All Building cards cost 1 less Production this turn.
Monument - Building
Score 1 Culture.
7. Wonder cards and Tourist cards
Wonders are cards that provide major bonuses, similarly to Social Policies, but usually much better. As well, most Wonder cards allow you to gain Tourist cards, which are useful in gaining the advantage in Culture when going for a Cultural Victory.
Tourist - Citizen
All other players lose 1 Culture.
Some example Wonders:
Great Library - Wonder
Gain 1 Tourist card. Gain 3 Science.
Temple of Artemis - Wonder
Gain 1 Tourist card. Gain 1 Food this turn for every Citizen card in your hand.

8. Gold
Gold is an accumulated currency that can be spent instead of Production when buying new cards. Unlike Production, it is carried over between turns.

9. Land
At the beginning of the game, a Land card deck will be placed in the center of the play area. Players may play certain cards (such as Scouts) to draw from the deck. The cards they draw are placed in front of them and represent their owned territory.
When an Ocean card is drawn, you can no longer draw from the deck until you have Researched the Navigation Tech card.
Land cards provide bonuses each turn.

10. Military
Military cards are still a WIP, and I'm not entirely sure how to work them. I'm thinking that they may let you do things such as steal Land cards from other players, cause players to trash cards from their hands, steal Gold from players, or maybe have wars where Military strength is compared.

These are the rules so far, I hope it's clear enough.

bottercot's picture
Joined: 02/06/2018
I haven't played Innovation

I haven't played Innovation or 7 Wonders Duel (I have played plain old 7 Wonders) but I actually very recently bought Through the Ages, and that's where I drew a bunch of my ideas from.

polyobsessive's picture
Joined: 12/11/2015

OK, cool, I think I get the general gist of it. The game is all about cards, but you have a couple of tracks on the table to keep score with. I don't quite get whether there is a tableau building element or if is all Dominion-style flow of cards through your hand.

Based on that, I think you might have some issues with being able to get usable hands on a fairly regular basis, but it depends on how you manage your hands, how big your hand is, etc.

Have you tested the game at all? If so, how has it gone? If not, then I recommend you put together a deck with enough cards for a couple of players to play a handful of turns, even without all the features of the game. So forget military for now, just have a couple of types of building and citizen (but choose ones that could work together), and so on. Then try it out and get a feel for it, then add a few cards to fill in the gaps you identify.

bottercot's picture
Joined: 02/06/2018
Thanks for replying. I'm

Thanks for replying. I'm using the base Dominion deck-building mechanic rules (I own the game), and I'm adding my own cards and additional rules.
I did play-test an earlier version of this game, and found that it took a while to really stabilize your hand before you could start focusing on things like Culture and Science. But I have yet to playitest this version. I will probably do that.

polyobsessive's picture
Joined: 12/11/2015

Go for it and good luck.

For what it's worth, as long as you find a way to manage the complexity effectively, this sounds like a game I could really enjoy playing.

Joined: 07/03/2013
Play Eminent Domain

Howdy and welcome,

I just thought I'd pop in here and suggest that you give the deck-builder "Eminent Domain" a play in addition to the games mentioned already. It's not commonly thought of as a "classic", but it might change the way that you look at a deck-builder if you've only played Dominion and Dominion-clones.


larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
- Nation Is another idea,

- Nation

Is another idea, almost without lands. I think there is a dice game of nation too.

You might want to also take a look at tableau building games like:

- Imperial Settlers
- Master of Orion

It's a type of mechanics that is very common in 4x style card games.

Try to develop a core game first. Trying to put too much at first just does not work. I have been there with my many Master of Magic attempts.

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011

I too have designed a "Deck-Builder" ("TradeWorlds") ... but it is rather different than most deck-builders. Player have said that our game is better than "Star Realms" (which is a pretty popular Deck-Builder too).

Now while I LIKE the "Deck-Building" genre, I think it's a "mistake" to take a Deck-Builder like "Dominion" and just add a "theme" to it. In your case a "civ" theme... The thing is, I am concerned about "legal issues"...

So most games borrow mechanics, in your case you are "borrowing" the "Dominion Deck-Building ENGINE". My guess is various piles player may choose to draw cards from. This is how "Dominion" works and expansions add new piles, change the piles to match the "expansion", etc.

My guess is that "Rio Grande" would not be interested in the product, well because the already have numerous "expansions" for Dominion. Else-wise I fear that many people will simply see this as a form of "plagiarism" since the "Core" of the game is pretty much what "Dominion" does and how it works.

Look I'm not trying to dissuade anyone. Just trying to figure out your goal with this game: A> Is it just something you design for yourself, your game group or family B> It is something you want to publish.

If it's A>, well then go right ahead... But if it's B>, you may run into legal issues because the engine is so similar to "Dominion"...

Just some food for thought. Cheers.

Note: In the best case, no publisher will "touch" the game because everyone will see the "strong" similarities with "Dominion" and decide to pass of the game due to the fact that the ressemblance of "game play" is so similar...

Update: There is also this game by Sid Meiers:

And it's a popular one -- with over 16,000 owners... I'd check it out!

Update #2: I've watched some reviews of "New Dawn" and the link I provided... And it seems like they aren't the "greatest"... So there may well be room for ANOTHER "Civ"-type game. I'm just not sure about the whole "Dominion" Engine part of your game...

Update #3: The BIGGEST complaint about OTHER "Civ"-type games is the implementation of "Military". "New Dawn" has minimized this aspect of the game and it's one reason "New Dawn" isn't the whole complete, amazing "Civ"-type game. Anyway just wanted to bring this topic up.

Also you're trying to design a 4x game into a Deck-Builder. "eXplore, eXpand, eXploit and eXterminate" ... Again not sure about the whole difference between the genres of two (2) different games using very different game engines...

polyobsessive's picture
Joined: 12/11/2015

It doesn't sound too much like Dominion to me.

It's fine, go ahead and make your game. It'll be its own thing.

bottercot's picture
Joined: 02/06/2018
Dominion Similarities


I wouldn't really consider my game so much a Dominion clone, or reskin, or anything. I just got the basic rules (such as draw from your draw deck, play as many cards as you want, discard all cards into discard deck) to handle how deck-building works, and from that then added tons of my own rules and cards and concepts and mechanics to make the game unique.
I realize I didn't make that as clear in my previous post.

Some things:

-I am not really planning on publishing this game, yet at least, because so many people would see how blatantly it is based off Civilization.

-I actually do own the board game for Sid Meier's Civilization (not a new dawn).

-I don't see a problem with making a deck-building 4x game.

-Interesting about the military. I'd been really thinking about how to work it, and I'm still not too sure. Maybe if I look at the mistakes of other games, or the complaints, I can think of a good way.

-Also, does anyone have information about the Civilization card game that I know got released at some point?

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
No problems

bottercot wrote:
...The board game for Sid Meier's Civilization (not a new dawn)...

It seems like to WIN you must explore the "tech tree" which seems to always lead to a "tech victory" as being the predominant result of good play.

bottercot wrote:
I am not really planning on publishing this game, yet at least, because so many people would see how blatantly it is based off Civilization.

Nothing wrong with developing your OWN "Civilization" game. Like I said it seems like most implementations are "weak" when it comes to military and combat simulation. You might be able to abstract that a little since it is a Deck-Builder.

bottercot wrote:
I don't see a problem with making a deck-building 4x game.

I don't think there are any 4x "deck-builders". Usually it's one genre or the other - not both. Maybe because there are so many moving parts...

From what it seems like, there needs to be a BETTER "Civ"-type game out there in the market... While there are some, it seems they are riddled with flaws and missing elements (or even partial elements).

My conclusion to this is -- well that you should continue to work on your game... because your "Civ"-type game might be better than all of the previous ones which are ridden of problems or missing elements.


bottercot's picture
Joined: 02/06/2018
Weak Military Mechanics

The thing is that is seems like (at least for Sid Meier's Civilization: the Board Game) they could have made a military system just like, if not very similar to, the video game, but they didn't. Like, it was completely in their range of power to create individual miniatures or tiles representing individual types of units on the map, but they chose to instead do a deck of unit cards and little "army" figures representing groups of units.
They totally could have, and I would have loved if, they made units like in the video game (more talking about Civ 5 than Civ 4) that could move and act on their own, with unique abilities (i.e. ranged attacks, more movement, etc.). But I guess they thought that might be too complicated, so they didn't do it, and now the combat mechanic seems bad and too abstracted.

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
What I liked about the "Video" Game

There used to be this cool feature with which as you built your Empire, if you did exceptionally well, you would be rewarded with a ornament for your "throne room"...

Anyway where this is leading me is to "some sort" of LEGACY mechanic.

I know "Charterstone" is a "city building" game... But I was picturing something more like Civilization. Or maybe just a game like "Bronze Age"!

This way you don't need to worry about Tech-Trees going into Modern Warfare and such... Maybe just focus on ONE PERIOD (of time) and doing that real well with a "legacy" element to the game.

It's just an idea...

Joined: 07/03/2013
Returning to Eminent Domain

Again, I highly suggest you take a look at the central mechanic of Eminent Domain if you want to have cards that provide resources as well as playing abilities.

To adapt it to your game, perhaps have the food/culture/whatever icons in the top left or right of the card, which means that card can represent that type of resource. Some cards may represent multiple copies of a resource, or different resources, making the acquisition of new cards with better symbols important, and giving you a drive to abandon older technologies as time progresses (why hold on to "hatchets" which produce only one wood per card in hand when you could use "circular saws", which produces three?).

When it comes time to purchase buildings, colonize cities, or move armies, you could be required to show a certain number of symbols (say 3 symbols moves an army 3 spaces, or 2 bricks and 2 stone symbols is required to build fortifications). Maybe each card you acquire has a basic ability (like moving an army, building a building, and your ability to do those things depends on how many symbols you can show from what's left of your hand (after you play that card).

Basically, what I'm getting at is that you can have resources without "resource cards", so each turn involves decisions about what to keep/get rid of so that your civilization can progress.

Also, incorporating Eminent Domain's "when your opponents take a given action, you can follow" mechanic could give you bonus points, because it reduces downtime significantly.

Corsaire's picture
Joined: 06/27/2013
Don't try too hard to

Don't try too hard to simulate the video game. I found the first Sid Meier civ board game to be too fussy with its attempt to cover too many of the video game elements to the point of being not much fun. A disappointment as I rarely make specific present requests but had mentioned it to my family and took them a year to remember it.

bottercot's picture
Joined: 02/06/2018
I will definitely try to

I will definitely try to check out Eminent Domain. It sounds interesting!
The main idea and reason for making my game is to simulate the progression from stone age to atomic age through a deck-building game. Yes, I'm trying to keep it fairly simple, but at the same time, the idea spawned from saying "hey, a Civilization board game didn't work, so what about a deck-building game?"

And also imitating Civ 5 gives me an excuse to use Giant Death Robots.

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