Skip to Content

Please Help

6 replies [Last post]
Joined: 10/27/2009

Please help i want to take game design farther. Ok so here is the situation I have been trying to design a game for over a year now and have come up with a bunch of ideas that I think it would be fun to finish. The issue I have is that when it comes time to start developing the prototype I have trouble coming up with the “content” and what the cards do. Is there any advice or techniques that might make this easier. The game idea that I want to work on has a players playing rival power companies that are using wind mills and solar to gain contact (houses with various levels) there are upgrades and additional ways to store power and use that to get money and houses. Can anyone give me some direction. I don’t even know where to start.


bonsaigames's picture
Joined: 12/20/2010

Heya Mike,
First of all welcome to the boards!
Many times I will prototype with a theme and some mock up cards and get ideas from the playtesting for cards and mechanics.
Hope that helps,

Levi Mote
Bonsai Entertainment

infocorn's picture
Joined: 07/30/2008
On the basics..

Hi Mike.

It sounds like you're very exuberant about your game, and that is always step one for me. If I can get myself crazy excited for something that doesn't even exist yet, that's just key. Check that one off your list.

The first comment about giving your creation a clear theme is very important. I find that writing some basic rules helps me: things you can do, things you want to limit, stuff that's right out. For the first step, don't sweat your world-building or backstory: get your map drawn in simple black-and-white and bang out your rules in a simple 2-3 sheet word document.

With your game's essentials taken care of (board for setting and rules as a roadmap), then look at how you want your cards to work. Are they going to be resources themselves (like Monopoly properties), actions (as you'd have in CCGs like Magic or Yu Gi Oh), or both? A great first step for card design is the game Dvorak. Google the Dvorak wiki to get the juices going...and to keep things simple. With the cards' role designated, think about the pieces that make up your game.

For the rest of this reply, I'm going to use a basic game like checkers and add a deck of cards to it to illustrate my point.

OK, the rules for checkers say "put your 12 men on the board in the three rows closest to you on one color squares. Players can move a single checker per turn, always forward, always on the diagonal. A move ends when a player takes his finger off the checker."

In just that simple rules set, here are the things you could possibly do with cards:
-- alter opening layouts
-- allow backwards moving
-- allow double (or more) moving
-- special rules/conditions for taking extra turns
-- add a new rule that all moves have to be approved by an opponent, etc.

And we haven't even gotten to "kinging" or jumps yet!

To start, you can even do themes: a set of "move two" cards, a set of "move backwards" cards, etc. I always find that the rules tell me where the loopholes are and the loopholes dictate cards. Again, keep cards pretty basic for your first run-- break the rules a little bit, but keep it to the basics of your game: draw more cards, move more spaces, break X rules, etc. I also don't sweat art or fancy names at first (unless you have something REALLY cool you don't want to forget). I've gotten more miles out of business cards in Microsoft Office than I could ever even imagine.

As far as prototypes are concerned, again, look at what you've got at home. A re-purposed Trival Pursuit board might be all you need for the basics of moving and taking game actions. Heck, some railroad games are crayons on dry-erase boards. And there is a neat-o graph-paper generator at that will make grids REALLY easy. Flat glass beads are available at most cheap stores like $1 stores or craft stores for a song and come in all sorts of colors. Again, using free Office or home publishing software that probably came with your computer is another great way to do everything from currency to game cards to pawns or markers with a little time and ink and limited overhead.

I will tell you too to log your creation...a lot. I have 20-some-odd pages of "Fixed X. Found typo in rules. New clipart added to __, __, and __." dated to show the evolution of the game for my card game A Twist of Fate. It helps you keep your ideas in one place and god forbid, is a track of your progress should there ever be legal ramifications.

This seems like a ton of work, but it's really amazing how quickly you can bang out a printable copy of something playable to get your beta stuff done.

Have fun!

PS: I will say that if you want feedback here, the more details you can give the better. We're all friends here, so put aside your fear of "somebody'll steal this" and let us know the details. Also, I had a boardmate tell me "Here's what I need from you guys" is an excellent way to start you various posts. You nailed this already-- don't forget to do it each time.

Grall Ritnos
Joined: 02/07/2011
Another perspective

I want to start out by saying that I think all of the information in infocorn's post is great, and I don't want to contradict what was stated there. I did however want to offer an alternate design perspective. From my understanding of infocorn's post, he's mainly referring to a style of design which is known as "bottom-up", that is, starting with an idea of mechanics, which gets refined, and then a theme is layered over those mechanics later in the process.

The opposite of "bottom-up" is "top-down", where a designer will often start with a theme in mind, which gets developed, then mechanical representations of that theme are tested to find one that works. For example, my latest design was primarily top down. I started by wanting to create a game where players controlled manufacturing companies, so I then asked what players would need to do: acquire raw materials, improve infrastructure, build products, etc. I then set about brainstorming multiple mechanics for each of these actions, until I arrived at a mechanical identity which I felt represented the theme I was trying to create.

Both styles of design are very valid, and many designers will rely on each type at different times. The style you choose may be based on a personal preference as a designer, or by what you have to go on from your initial inspiration.

If you want to attempt a top down design, I would encourage you to begin by clearly defining your theme, and brainstorming many possible ways which that theme will be expressed. You probably won't pursue all of these, but having options allows you to narrow things down later. Then I would start thinking about or researching other games with similar themes. This will help you get an idea of what is out there, as well as helping to stimulate ideas about possible mechanical implementations of your desired game world. This forum is also a great place to get input on implementations of various mechanics.

As far as prototyping, one other resource you may want to consider is half sized index cards, which are available at most office supply stores. Although they don't maintain the carefully traceable records which infocorn references (man, do I wish I had those), I love being able to write my cards in pencil so I can quickly make changes while testing without having to print a new set.

Best of luck to you as you dive into your design. For my money, these early stages of brainstorming and dreaming are the most enjoyable and rewarding part of the process.

Joined: 10/27/2009
Next Step

Thanks for the input. I have taken some of your advice and develop a very basic set of rules/ game play. I now want to develop the Development deck and would like help brain storming/ developing the cards. One of the parts to game design I have issues with is how many of a type of card to start with and what the cost values should be. I think if I can get through this step at least once then other designs will come more easily as I will have done it once. This is the point where I always struggle. The following is what I have come up with so far.

Ideas for cards: Draw an extra card from the development deck, Get x amount extra energy cubes, Increase energy capacity, destroy a development cards, cancel a card, Development cards cost less.

I am also open to different theme ideas as it may help me come up with cards.

Players are “Green” Power companies fighting for the right to supply power to different houses in the community. Companies will be adding and upgrading their companies, while defending and attacking their rivals.

Players: 2-5

- Development Deck (enhancement/upgrade/resource deck)
- House Deck
- 6 Company Cards (variable player power cards)
- Power Tokens (cubes)

Set Up:
- Deal at random or choose a Company Card.
- To each player deal 6 cards from the shuffled Development Deck.
- Place the Development Deck in the middle of the table as a draw pile and flip the top 5 cards face up.
- Shuffle the House Deck and flip the top 5 cards Face up.
- Place the Power cubes to the side.

Game Play:
Sequence Of Play
- Draw
- Purchase
- Gain Customers (Houses)
- Generate Power

Draw – On a players turn drawn one card from the field or 2 from the Development Draw Deck. Skip this step on the first turn.

Purchase – To purchase something from your hand you must discard the number of cards equal to the value on the card or cards to purchase

Gain Customers – Spend accumulated power cubes to purchase houses.

Generate Power – At the end of a players turn they calculate the power generated and take that many cubes up to the power capacity of a players company.

Winning The Game:
The game ends when the House Deck is depleted. The player with the most victory points is the winner.

Draw Deck cards have a cost on them , the effect on the card, some have a victory point value and a card type.

House Deck cards have a power cost on them and a victory point value.


War Prime
Joined: 11/06/2011
Percentages for building Decks of Cards...

Hey Mikee,

I am currently working on a game that has 3 separate decks of cards and each deck has multiple uses based on various factors. Each deck is about 32-48 cards each.

My combat deck is used to resolve all combat. Players can have various effects happen to them like loss of movement, loss of cargo, etc... Players draw the same deck when attacking their attackers, but attackers dont have these stats so I have a simplified damage system for the attackers broken down to MISS or DESTROYED.

My Event Deck has everything from lucky finds, unfortunate events, and action cards that players can save for a rainy day. They also have an Attacker Number that is drawn when the player encounters attackers. This number tells the player how many attackers he has to deal with.

The last deck is my Loot Deck. Each card has a picture of one of the 6 types of Loot. It also has a City Name that is used when event cards call for events to happen in a city instead of to the player.

Each one of my decks has different numbers of cards and different uses. For it to be balanced, I needed to find the numbers of each card, turn that into a percentage of the total deck, and make adjustments from there. The best way to do this is my opinion is with excel (or Pages if you use a Mac). You can also use Google Spreadsheet since its web based and can be accessed from both Mac and PC.

You will need to build some formulas that look something like: =TO_PERCENT (G3/G19) Where G3 is the Number of Cards of a specific type and G19 is the total number of cards in your deck. This will display a percentage like (in this example from my deck) 13%. The next card would look like this =TO_PERCENT (G4/G19). Notice that the G4 is the only thing that has changed. This is comparing this number of cards against the total number of cards in your deck.

You will want to be carful about how many cards you have in a deck, it can be very easy to throw to much into it or have to many duplicates of a card.

Now where my cards got complicated was that I had the second values that each card could do. I dont want to overwhelm you with that part of it, so I will leave that part for another time, I just put it out there so you know its possible to do some very complex stuff.

I will duplicated this post and elaborate on it some more on my Blog if you are interested in reading more about this.


Joined: 10/13/2011
Card Brainstorming

Hi Mikee,

I usually approach the brainstorming phase of development from several angles and simply write down everything that comes to mind regardless of the "quality" of the idea.

The first time around, I tend to write down names for cards that fit the concept. For your game, I might have written down things like Ice Storm, Power Surge, & Demand Increase. The second time around, I tend to write down the result of playing the card. Again, for your game, I might have written down things like Gain 3 Power, Lose 2 Customers & Steal 1 Power and 1 Customer.

With these 2 lists in hand, I start trying to match a function to a concept. Most of the time the I am able to match a majority of both lists, but I always have concepts that don't have a function and functions in need of a concept.

I also use Excel to track the card lists and to calculate the deck composition by %. Cars that are powerful usually make up a smaller % of the deck while weaker cards or fundamental cards are a much higher %.

I tend to create prototypes based on what I THINK will be a good card mix, but there is nothing quite like playtesting to reveal what is balanced or excessive. I suppose the advice I have been given and suggest back to other people is that you get something playable together and test it out. It probably won't be perfect, but the feedback from playtesting will help you take a good idea and make it better.

Good luck with your design!

Syndicate content

forum | by Dr. Radut