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Rotating card in a deck building mechanic

9 replies [Last post]
larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008

I just had this idea last night that I want to share. I intend to use a deck building mechanic a game of mine which is assisted by other mechanics (like starcraft).

One of the problem I had is the amount of cards that I needed to print to play the game. Like starcraft, there would have been 3 factions which each had 9 units. Here is the structure of a unit:

First, for each unit, there is the "Basic" unit which comes with the basic set. They do not represent anything in particular. Then if you want to add a unit to your arsenal, you add 3 cards to your deck. Each unit has 2 possible upgrades which each adds 2 cards to your deck.

So in the end, a unit has 8 cards: basic + 3 unit cards + 2x2 upgrade cards. Multiply by 9 units, it makes 72 (9x8) x by 3 factions, it makes 216 unit cards. There is also other cards for support and defense. which gives approximately 300 cards.


Now my new idea was: what if I can reuse cards by allowing players to rotate the cards so that each card has 2 sides. One of the problem is that, a card could be shuffled in the wrong way, or get drawn in the wrong direction and player could lose track of the side the card was. But I think I found a way to solve this problem too.

To illustrate a card, I will use the following notation
[ Top of card | Bottom of card ]

The unit will be identified as unit 1 to 9 which can get upgrade A and B.

First, there will be the basic card the player start with.
[ Basic | unit 1 ]

The reverse of the card hold the unit 1 information. So when you want to purchase unit 1, you search for the basic card, you rotate it then you add 2 additional unit cards:
[ Unit 1 | Upgrade 1A ]
[ Unit 1 | Upgrade 1B ]

So 1 card gets changed and 2 cards are added instead of 3. Then when it is time to upgrade, if you buy upgrade A, you rotate the unit card above and add 1 card:
[ Upgrade 1A | Nothing ]

Same thing if you buy upgrade B, you rotate a card and add 1 card:
[ Upgrade 1B | nothing ]

So you would need a total of 5 cards instead of 8 cards to achieve the same goal. So the total number of cards would be 135 instead. The fact that you have less cards also makes your deck thinner.

If you forget the side of the card, you can easily know what side it should be according to what you have purchased. For example a unit card gets flipped on the "Upgrade A" side. If the "Upgrade A" 2nd card is still in front of you to buy, you know that this upgrade is not available.

It reminds me that you could get upgrades on the spot which could be an interesting feature. For example. On my turn, I decided to buy upgrade A, upgrade A 2nd card is placed in the discard pile and will be reshuffled at the end of the turn. Meanwhile, if I draw the 1st card "[ Unit 1 | Upgrade 1A]" I can immediately rotate it to benefit from the upgrade.

Do you think that rotating cards would still make the game convenient to play?

Joined: 05/25/2010
Flipped cards are a hastle

Flipped cards are a hastle from a player standpoint...since when you hold the cards in your hand you can't conviently see both sides of the requires constantly flipping the cards over or craning your neck...there just isn't a great solution. They are awkward.

Please prove me wrong, because the game potential for easy to use flips is huge, but everytime I see them attempted they are more hassle than they are worth

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
I agree that it is somewhat

I agree that it is somewhat true, but the information of the reverse of the card sould be available in front of the players as cards to buy. So players does not need to bother about what is the other side of the card to play the game, only to upgrade or rotate misplaced cards.

I don't know if it helps?

Joined: 05/25/2010
If the cars are just

If the cars are just representing several design angles or paths why not just have ten it so design paths or separate technologies with levels 1-3 or 1-4 and instead of having the tech on the cards just have the cards represent one of the ten or so tech trees and players just play cards to a tech tree board which has all the tech listed on It?

That way deck building is easier...and as long as you have enough technology trees, you'll get a similar effect with less cumbersome card design.

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
If I understand your idea, i

If I understand your idea, i could have a set of cards labeled 1 to 10.

When a player buy a tech, he place a numbered token on a chart besides the tech he wants. So for example, he places number 1 besides tech X.

All cards with number 1 will gain the effect of tech X.

Players will not be able, in this example, to buy more than 10 techs.

sedjtroll's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008
This is similar to the last

This is similar to the last suggestion I think, but what came to mind when I read your original post was this:

Instead of flipping the cards or replacing them, just list all the versions of the unit on the card:
Unit X
Unit XA
Unit XB

And then have some other way to represent which tech level you have. For example you have 9 units, so a player could have 9 counters (one for each unit type). There could be a small reference board with spaces for BASIC, UNIT, UPGRADE A, UPGRADE B.

I think that would accomplish what you're going for without needing nearly as many cards.

For something similar, check out the combat system in the new Sid Meyer's Civilization the Board Game.

- Seth

Willi B
Joined: 07/28/2008

Yomi isn't a deck-building game but it does take the route of the 2 sided card. I think the reason that it could succeed is that there are only 4 basic card types being represented.

Granted, there is other box text, but the basic type of actions are limited to 4. So few things make it easier to pull off.

JustPlainChips's picture
Joined: 05/13/2010
rotating cards with overall tech level

I had not really noticed that Yomi has two sided cards, though they seem like they are not upgrades but just different to provide another choice/decision point.

I'm not familiar with the Starcraft game and don't *quite* get the trading upgrades in and out. But the concept of rotating cards gave me an idea that may fit into a game idea that I'm working on. I hope you don't mind me stealing your thought and running in my own direction. It is actually similar to Seth's suggestion.

Each card would be able to be rotated almost like a block in a block war game, maybe 4 sided or maybe just top and bottom . You would have a counter out front of you describing your tech level and that would tell you how many rotations you could do in your current hand.

So it isn't that a particular unit was upgraded, but you have an overall tech level. So when you draw your hand you are able to upgrade some/all of your hand, representing just that little snippet of your whole army (or whatever.)

Does that make sense?

Joined: 05/25/2010
Explanation of My Idea

Actually I had it pictured a differently, and since this is a complex idea I've included a picture.

Basically there is a global tech tree and each player will have a pawn or token for each tech branch. A tech branch in this example is a unit type (a, b, or c) or a Building type (a, b, or c). So there are 6 tech branches. When you are deck building there are color coded cards they correspond to each tech tree.

So say Unit A is an archer type unit. The first tech allows you to build archers, the 2nd allows you to build composite bow archers, and then it splits. You can do offensive/defensive splits for each unit, or whatever makes sense.

But the cards are simplified, because you only need any Red card to develop your archer unit. So you don't need to deck build and draw Unit A, Unit A+, Unit Aa+, you can simply just draft 4 red cards and then whichever order you get those red cards in they are good towards upgrading your archer unit. If you want to make it so harder tech is harder to obtain you simply make each tech level require additional red tech cards. When you buy the tech, you move your pawn in the tech tree down the tech path. That way there is a quick visual guide to where each player is tech wise, and all players reference the same tech sideboard for their information.

The tech board can explain the features of each upgrade so there isn't any need for the information to be on the cards or anything like that.

Also with this sort of layout you can have bonus or wild cards. You can have a card that say is worth 1 upgrade to any unit or 1 upgrade to any building. Or possibly a card that is one upgrade to any Nb+ type unit so that there are generic card types in the deck so that every player gets something useful. Possibly these cards are worth 1/2 upgrade so that they are slightly less valuable to compensate for their flexibility.

But this sort of system allows very flexible upgrade play, still meaningful deck building (you draft the two or three unit types you want to focus on), and it's easier for players to build decks since they don't have to worry about drafting a set of cards just to get to the top of the tech tree.

And if you expand this into a tech board that has 10 different tech trees, all with 3 levels, you can quickly see how this system is both intuitive and simple on the surface, but complex and choice filled enough for more tactical players.

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
I really like the

I really like the diagram.

From what I understand from people suggestion is that it's not the presence in the deck of a cards that determines if it is active or not but rather a side board that indicates what you have.

So each player will always have all their cards in their hands, the reference chart will tell which abilities are unlocked.

So you could have for example a card like

Archer unit
Att: X
def: Y
Rocket arrows upgrade
Att: +2

So now you would check your sheet for the rocket arrow upgrade and see if it is actually unlocked.

The pro is that there is much les cards to manipulate and no rotation to do. The con is that there is more crossreferencing.

Another con could be the card ratio if all the cards start in the player's hand. If players have all their unit cards which means 3x9 = 27. Players has 3/27 -> 1/9 chance to draw a unit card. If player starts with 9 cards and you rotate and add 2 cards, players has 3/11 ~> 1/3 chance to draw a unit card.

But, I think I can come up with an hybrid of both system. Maybe buying units will rotate 1 card and add 2 cards to the deck. But the upgrades will be listed on the cards and kept track on a side board.

This way, it is easier to know in a glance which units you have in your hand. Else, you constantly need to check if that unit is available which makes it more visually annoying. Else the upgrades are mostly used for combat resolution.

I might also revise the number of cards there will be for each unit.

By the way, There will stricly only be unit on cards. I decided to place buildings directly on the map. Support cards like in starcraft will actually be abilites given by other units.

I'll make another post about ressource harvesting problems I had in the last play test. I think I have an interesting idea.

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