Skip to Content

Hand Matters

3 replies [Last post]
Joined: 12/12/2011

Do you know of any good mechanics or systems that encourage keeping cards in your hand?

I'm working on a card game idea and I'm looking for mechanics that give cards in your hand a different value than the card has when played.
My goal is to make a game without restrictions that would limit how many cards you play in a turn, balancing card play instead by giving value to held back cards. Ideally, I'd like a successful player to be the one that knows which cards to play when, and which cards will best support their strategy by being held back instead.

I think many card games have this to some extent in the form of holding back answers, reactions, or threats you think will do better if you wait for your opponent to act first, however I'm looking for a mechanics that makes this more integral.

Below is a list of what I've come up with so far;

Non-persistent board state, such as in blue moon or gwent. Holding back cards is necessary to do well at later stages in the game.

Cards in hand have a specific role while in hand at a set time, like combat in Arctic scavengers

Bluffing - what you have in hand will directly affect an outcome as much as the cards you play

Delayed Costs - cards you play have to be payed for or maintained at a later time using the 'resource' of the cards in your head.

In-Play/Hand coordination - the value of cards in play depends on the cards in your hand at certain times. So on average, an equal number of cards in play and in your hand is better than all of your cards being in play, similar to mathematically how 3*3 > 6*0.

Do you know of any good mechanics or systems that encourage keeping cards in your hand?

let-off studios
let-off studios's picture
Joined: 02/07/2011
Epic PvP, Red Dragon Inn

You may want to have a look at Epic PvP:

Some cards need to be face-down in front of you, serving as hit points/hits-to-kill, and the text on them is disregarded for the current match.

You can also have a look at Red Dragon Inn:

This game consists of a mish-mash of mini-games and take-that mechnics, and depending on the cards in your hand you'll be stronger at some times, or much weaker at others.

Unfortunately I've not played any of the games you cited as examples, but hopefully someone else can chime in. What you mention about "In-Play/Hand Coordination" sounds intriguing to me. What games can you suggest that use the mechanic you describe there?

Joined: 01/27/2017
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

It's an interesting concept, but my experience has been that most games seem to be trying to solve the opposite problem by limiting the size of the hand.

The problem with making in-hand cards useful is doing so without revealing them (since being hidden is an integral part of being in the hand). Three low-hanging-fruit solutions:

1. The "power rating" of unplayed cards is added to the score at the end.

2. Card text can directly refer to the size of the hand ("+1 defense for every two cards in the player's hand").

3. Cards in hand are the player's life points. Discard when you take damage.

A more complicated solution would be to inflict side-effects when playing some or all of the useful cards, with side-effects potentially depending on the size of the hand ("High-G Maneuver depends on having slack in the ship's structural integrity reserves... take 1 damage if High-G Maneuver is played while leaving fewer than five cards in the player's hand").

Joined: 12/12/2011
Thank you both for the

Thank you both for the feedback!
@let-off studios: I'd heard of red dragon inn but not epic PVP, the mechanics seem very interesting and I may have to order a copy.
It gives me a very interesting idea for merging its mechanics with that of Bluemoon.
As for the concept of "In-Play/Hand Coordination" - the closest published game I can think of is Elements

@FrankM - I definitely agree that a card's value comes when it's revealed, however you could consider the value of a card in hand like potential energy rather than kinetic energy. Maybe in hand value is really just a matter of timing mattering more. In many games, it's typically best to do as much as possible, however games that I'd consider to emphasize hand value encourage holding back or timing plays vs optimizing. Games like blue moon and gwent come to mind.
I like your low hanging fruit ideas. Do you have any favorite games that use any of those mechanics?

Syndicate content

forum | by Dr. Radut