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Abstract light war-game (brainstorm)

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Fhizban's picture
Joined: 01/11/2009

I've been trying to squeeze the entire spectrum of a war game into a simple card game (again) - here are my thoughts. Yes I know, its a huge wall of text - but your feedback is very welcome!

Note that the text has been put through google translate (because im lazy), so please excuse any errors.

1. Required Materials
Only special playing cards are used, at most a few counters and the rules-booklet, nothing else. That means this is a game without dice and without a game board.

2. Types of cards
There are basically only 3 types of cards: units, terrain and tactics. Where tactics
could also represent spells , items or equipment (artifacts, war-banners, etc.).

3. game play
the game is basically intended for 2 players, but could easily be played with more players. for the sake of simplicity, let's focus on the 2 player game. in the game two warring armies face each other and the aim is to determine the winner in an epic battle.

4. playing field
since there is no game board, neither hex fields nor measuring tape are used. instead, each player has 3 slots on which unit cards can be placed. these represent the left flank, the center and the right flank. the cards share such a space are considered as regiments. if a regiment attacks, it first aims at the opponents cards in the same space (i.e. the center attacks the opposite center). only if the opposing space is empty can another space be attacked as an alternative.

5. combat system
the fight itself is kept very simple: you just add up the strength of the units on both sides. the player with the higher total value wins this fight. the difference between the two values results in the damage that is added to the enemy units. for each point of damage the loser has to put a damage counter on one of his units. Most units can only take one point of damage and are then discarded, while others can withstand multiple hits.

6. fighting types
to spice up the battle, each unit not only has a strength value but several types of strength. these are represented by small symbols on the card. so there is melee, ranged and magic (or similar). A unit can have one or more symbols (e.g. warriors could show 2 melee symbols, but a magician could have 2 magic symbols and 1 ranged combat symbol).

if a player attacks now, he can choose the symbol which is used for this fight. the player only adds up this symbol (e.g. ranged combat) on his unit cards.

Whether his opponent must now use the same symbol or can also choose a symbol remains to be decided. There could also be another symbol "defense" which is only used during the defense.

to make the fighting types work out well, there should be lots of special rules that
refer to them. most notably would be terrain and tactic cards, but a units special
abilities could play a role here as well.

7. tactics and the rest
Since there are no dice and hardly any luck elements, the tactic cards are used to spice up the fight. each player can play a certain number of tactic cards when attacking and / or defending. the tactic cards are played out of hand and can influence the ongoing battle.

Example: "Higher Ground" - if your regiment attacks with ranged combat, it receives +1 to its total strength for this combat.

tactic cards can also represent spells or equipment. the equipment would be permanently attached to the regiment and improve it (e.g. +1 to close combat).

Of course, the units can also have special skills (in addition to the various symbols), I think one skill per unit is sufficient, in rare cases there could also be two. It shouldn't get any more complex than that.

ultimately, terrain maps could be used. these are placed on one of the spaces (left flank, right flank or center) and there can only be one terrain card per space. these would be permanent and would affect the units located there on BOTH sides. How exactly the terrain card placement works, still needs to be clarified.

Example: "Woodlands" - ranged combat attacks are at -1 strength at this location.

8. Open questions
Many questions are still unanswered if someone has an idea, your feedback is appreciated:

8.1 Defender Fighting Style
As mentioned above, a decision has to be made as to how the opponent will defend (same symbol as the attacker, choose your own symbol or a special defense symbol). see also point 6 above.

8.2 terrain cards
how they should work still needs to be clarified. see also point 7 above.

8.3 win condition.
how to win the game is also not yet clear. The good old "destroy all units" has several mistakes: firstly, it takes a long time, secondly, you can no longer win from a certain lower limit of units and thirdly, it becomes problematic if you want to add reinforcements later (so that the players will add new units during the play a running game)

another idea would be that each player has 3 "flags". one each on the left flank, the center and the right flank. if undistributed damage points are left after an attack, these could be transferred to the flag. if a player loses all of his flags, he has lost the game.

8.4 how to deploy units and reinforcements.
this point is also still open. do the players start with all units on the field? Do the players play the units of cards like in a trading card game every round by paying resources for it? one could also introduce a "reserve" zone behind the flank / center areas in which supplies are waiting, which may then advance. ask anything unexplained.

gold coins (or command points, however you want to call it) could be the resource that is used to bring new units or tactics into play.

8.5 deckbuilding
deckbuilding is another thing. shall we use preconstructed decks, fixed decks or allow the players to customize their decks? i like preconstructed but customizeable decks with about 30 cards each (should be enough with 20 units and 10 tactics or so).

9. Taboos
I would like to define a few "taboos" which should not be discussed here, because those would be beyond the scope. all other points can be freely discussed.

9.5.1 setting / genre
please no genre discussion, the game is completely independent of it ("magic" can simply be exchanged for "psi" etc.).

9.5.2 dice / board etc.
please do not insert any dice or a real hex-based game board, the rough framework of the game works without these things.

9.5.3 complexity
please do not expand the complexity (in terms of card types, size of the playing field, combat system), I think that it is sufficient.

9.5.4 no ccg
nope, this game would be NO ccg/tcg. you get all the cards that you need right away (also im leaning towards a free print-n-play game right now). not said that there is no deck-building though.

Well, that's about it - I would be very excited about your input!

Fhizban's picture
Joined: 01/11/2009
A bit of brainstorming later,

A bit of brainstorming later, these rules seem like good additions to the core rules. Not very innovative but i suppose the game would work just fine this way:

1. Supply Points

A resource to pay for cards is a requirement, without its very hard to balance the power of cards. You can call this one gold coins or whatever. Im more for a fixed supply points system instead of using cards to represent resources. So the rule would be quite simply:

At the start of each players turn, that player gains 3 supply points. Unspent supply points are carried over to the next turn.

Unit cards cost between 1 and 5 supply points to bring them into play, the same could be true for tactic cards as well (unless someone has a better idea).

2. Victory Condition

The "banners" or "flags" mentioned briefly in the introductory post seem like a good victory condition. Each player uses a spare card, placed face-down behind each one of his/her zones. These face-down cards represents the flags that your opponent must conquer.

So each player starts the game with one flag on his left flank, one on the center and one on the right flank.

When attacking an army at one location, any excess damage points are carried over to the flag. Just 1 point of excess damage is enough to destroy the flag there.

This victory condition is strongly inspired by games like Duelmasters (an old CCG). Instead of 5 face-down cards, we use just 3 of them, that should be enough (creates some tension as well). As the flags are positioned at the three zones, this setup also adds more importance to where to place your units (in order to defend your flags).

let-off studios
let-off studios's picture
Joined: 02/07/2011
Play Test

Once you have a prototype to show, please post something here. I'd be pleased to take a look for you. This sounds interesting. :)

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
Funny ...

There are some glaring resemblances to "Monster Keep" (MK). For one the three (3) channels or lanes in which you place cards. I think you mentioned being inspired from DuelMasters. MK also uses three lanes and the victory condition is "winning" each lane. In other terms, the player who wins the most lanes is the winner.

But in MK, it is possible to have "ties" in a lane. So if you tie one lane, that leaves 2 remaining lanes to try to win. Now you could tie one and win another to have a score of "1 to 0" or win two and have a score "2 to 0"...

Getting back to combat... In MK it's a simple "Power" comparison to see who is in the lead and ultimately the winner of a lane. But I think for your case... It might be better to have two (2) stats: A> Power and B> Guard. To defeat an opposing unit, you must have MORE Power than that units Guard.

This is deterministic and better because it sets up "natural ties". Like 5 Power, 4 Guard vs. 3 Power, 6 Guard. In this scenario NEITHER card can defeat the opposing player's unit. So that's one GOOD aspect and there is a double effect: BOTH players die (again "natural ties"). This results in another form of tie too.

Again, I'm pointing out things that are different from MK. Similarities I won't discuss further (with the exception of 3 lanes). However I will honestly try to help discuss further YOUR design.

So we covered the Victory Condition: Win as MANY POINTS in the lanes as possible, ties are permissible and can occur. If the game ends in a tie, play again to determine a winner. Something simple like that. The player with the MOST points IN THAT LANE wins. So you again can have a 2-1 or 1-0 or 3-0, etc. Ultimately it boils down to a simple LANE Victory.

Each Unit defeated earns you +1 Victory Points (VPs) independent of the type of Unit. When a Unit is defeated, send it to the owner's Graveyard.

Don't do DAMAGE. This is annoying to follow. I know there are things like Damage Counters... Trust me, you want to AVOID these as much as possible... The other point I wanted to make about Boosts or Buffs, do so for ONE (1) Card in play. This is another simple rule that will HELP you a LOT. If you have Card "x" and it says: "+2 Guard". Well then play that on your Unit of choice and it ends there. No need for counters and it is obvious which card earns the Boost/Buff.

Getting back to Damage Counter. Don't use them. Make battles ALL or nothing. So either you DEFEAT an opposing Unit or NOT. The Power/Guard stats will serve you well and add more VARIETY to the game now that you have TWO (2) stats that you can "play with" (in terms of card play: Boosts and/or Buffs).

Fhizban wrote:
Example: "Higher Ground" - if your regiment attacks with ranged combat, it receives +1 to its total strength for this combat.

Again make this card apply to ONE Unit ONLY. Place on the unit's card to know which one gains this ability. For simplicity and not require counters to know when a card earns some kind of BONUS.

Terrains are a bit tricky. I would say some kind of EFFECT on battles. As you have suggested. Like maybe "+1 Guard" to any Ranged Unit if in the Forest Grove... That could be for ONLY the unit in that LANE. So again it APPLIED to ONLY ONE (1) Unit at a time...

If you kind of understand what I am "suggesting", it will save you a LOT of hard work and keep the design simple enough that a variety of players may understand and enjoy playing your game.


Fhizban's picture
Joined: 01/11/2009
@let-off-studios: will do,

@let-off-studios: will do, could take a few months though ;-)


thanks a lot for your detailled feedback, you've been really helpful in the past as well. Nothing changed in that regards, BGDF is THE place for board-game designers!

1. "lanes" sounds nice, reminds me of the League of Legends - you don't mind if I use that term as well?

2. im leaning towards 2 stats as well, Power and Guard (Attack/Defense whatever). Attack would be further split up into various types (Melee, Ranged and Magic) as explained in the opening post.

3. Victory Condition
It would work a bit different from what you wrote in your answer. You cannot win X points in a lane, the only thing you can do is to capture your opponents flag in that lane.

In fact, winning 2 out of the 3 flags would be enough to win. I bet it creates quite some tension when a player captures the first flag (just one more for victory).

4. Damage Counters
Thats right, better no damage counters. What do you think about turning a card sideways to indicate damage? That would grant me a bit more design freedom. If not, the whole damage tracking can be removed (most games do not care about it anyway, as its too clunky to keep track).

5. Boosts
Good point on that one, most effects should affect just one card to prevent balance issues. And as you stated, it makes targeting effects much easier. If a player really wants to affect multiple cards with a boost/buff, that player would have to play more than one tactic card to achieve that effect.

6. Terrain
Still thinking about terrain in general. Terrain cards could be the only ones that affect ALL cards at that lane (the whole army - your and your opponents). so they would be more powerful than a tactic card, but as the effect applies to all units, it might be OK.

Im also thinking about adding troop types like "Infantry", "Cavalry" as keywords to units. So terrain cards could affect only a subgroup of cards to soften their effects.


Moat - All Cavalry cards at this terrain suffer -2 Melee Power.

Thats a powerful effect, especially because it affects ALL of your and your enemies units at that lane. But on the other hand, it only applies to cavalry.

Thanks again, starting to flesh out the rules soon.

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
Before you go any FURTHER...

I want you to look at this game (Sorcerer by White Hat Games):

Just because you may be leaning towards something SIMILAR... Here's the Rulebook:

Read over some of the rules... You MAY (I'm not 100% certain) want to avoid some ideas because they may be akin to this game. I'm just saying THIS game covers a lot of concepts SIMILAR to most "Card Games"...

Take a look at Rob's Preview of the game... Again showing you want competing products seem to be "made of". Again, just so that you don't follow in any of the competitions "steps".

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
I was thinking about your Flag concept ...

Maybe your Flag concept might be similar to the BattleFields in Sorcerer. Not sure... You haven't explained HOW to "capture" a Flag... Other things of note, each BattleField (in Sorcerer) can only accommodate up to 4 Units. Again we did not talk about the number of Units per "Lane"... Is it "stackable" (eg. the top-most cards is the current Unit which needs to be destroyed, but below may lie other Units, etc.)

I figured I'd share that link, because you talked about "Deck Building". Sorcerer uses a Novel Deck concept which features three (3) sub-decks that you combine into ONE (1) Player Deck: Character Deck, Lineage Deck and Domain Deck.

Just again showing how Sorcerer does it... You may want a more OPEN or loose concept ... Or you may want to configure your own Decks. Since this is a GAME, it might cool for some "on-the-fly" kind of design/combination.

X3M's picture
Joined: 10/28/2013
One thing I liked about my event cards

You could also try the following:
The cost to play one card could be supplied by another card.
Meaning that if you want to play 3 soldiers or 1 tank. You pay a tank for the 3 soldiers or vice versa.
Players have to make a choice here.

You then can add cards that allow players to pick more cards per round.

What I had in mind for one of my "failed" attempts was this system.
Where players picked 3 cards each round. And "Harvesters" and "Refineries" would be able to increase this by 1 or 2.

The "destroy all" idea is indeed troublesome. But RPS should be able to tackle this?
At least, for my version, you needed a couple of cards to defeat the worst possible blocking card. While 2 or more would return. Only after a set ammount of cards placed on the table, one of the players would start to shrink again.

Super weapons (cards that you play 1 time) can keep players, playing.

Fhizban's picture
Joined: 01/11/2009
@questccg: Just checked the

@questccg: Just checked the Sorcerer game...a perfect example how i do not want to do it. why? (the game looks great!) because its just too much stuff: they have cards, boards, dice, markers and even more cards, dice, boards and markers.

@quetccg: You simply deal excess damage in a battle to the flag, just 1 point is enough to "capture" it. this of course requires testing.

units can stack on a single lane of course, with no stacking limit so far. testing is requires to see if a hard cap is actually required or not (it might not make sense to add anymore units to a lane after a while, more useful if you distribute them across all lanes)

deckbuilding is a thing i want to have in this game for sure. thats one of the aspects i like most about CCGs and even non-collectible card games make heavy use of it nowadays.

@X3M: thanks for the input, still undecided about the resources.

The original idea is from the "Doomtrooper CCG" where each player has 3 actions available per turn. its one of the few games with such a mechanic that i actually played. I think the old "Netrunner CCG" used a similar mechanic.

The interesting thing is that this resource system does not rely on cards as a resource or card texts and that it is deterministic. Its also always the same for both players and always fair. there is no "bad draw" to a system like this.

I bet i have to write down a very early version of the rules first and develop a test-faction. after that some playtesting is required to see if the system works out the way intended.

Thanks for the input guys, leep the ideas coming - lots of moving parts to set into stone

Fhizban's picture
Joined: 01/11/2009
Updates: 1. Flags


1. Flags removed
Removed the flags as they introduce several design flaws (i can explain in detail if anybody is interested). Instead, the new victory condition is to claim victory points by winning battles:

During each turn, the armies located at each lane do battle. The army that wins the battle claims one victory point. The player who first scores three victory points, wins the game.

This victory condition is very easy to handle now, it does not require spare cards and the number three (3) can be adjusted if balancing requires that.

2. Combat Tactics reduced
Instead of three combat tactics (melee, ranged and magic) there are now just two of them: normal combat and special combat (where "normal" means melee and short ranged combat and "special" represents long range and magical combat).

This simplifies the game. Two are enough, it was just important to have more than one type of combat. You might be able to build an army that is good at "normal combat" OR "special combat" but its difficult to provide both. Its also difficult to defend against both.

3. Lanes reduced
Same goes for lanes, we do not need three lanes. Two are enough. This simplifies the game even more.

It was just important to have more than one lane, so that there is more than one zone on the playing field. You might field a powerful army in one lane but its difficult to have a mighty army on both lanes. Same is true for defense: its hard to defend both lanes at once.

Started writing the rules down as well, have to see how the changes turn out once the playtesting starts.

Fhizban's picture
Joined: 01/11/2009
Updates: 1. Genre/Background


1. Genre/Background world is now "Nordic Mythology". It's all the craze since the "Vikings" TV series but I liked the setting before that show as well ;-)

Imagine "Dark Age of Camelot" as a light wargame, where the Britons of Albion fight the barbarous Norse from Midgard as well as the magical Celts from Hibernia...

Tons of (non-copyrighted) material to use and of course there will be a Excalibur card later on...

2. In order to win a victory point, there must be a terrain card in play at the same location.

Did a few tests with mockup cards and realized that without this rule, its way to easy to win victory points. Had a few first-turn-VP situations that resulted in a runaway leader.

Now you first have to play a terrain card onto that area (imagine the armies are fighting for control of that terrain) and then you can win VIP there. Once a player claims a VP, the terrain card is discarded, so the space is "free" again for any player to play a new terrain card.

As only 3 VP are required to win, the terrain card slows the process down a bit. It also incorporates terrain nicely into the rest of the system (still lots of testing required though).

3. Rules
Still on the rulebook, around 10 pages (with a few diagrams)

pelle's picture
Joined: 08/11/2008
Cards representing units,

Cards representing units, terrain, and tactics... That pretty much describes the classic Up Front. If you have not played it I strongly recommend you have a look. I think the rulebook PDF is free from drivethrucards (where they also sell all the cards to play the game). That game does amazing things with a few different terrain types and very few other special cards.

Tim Edwards
Joined: 07/30/2015
Have a look at: Field of

Have a look at:

Field of Glory: The Card Game

It shares a lot with your idea, though maybe yours is an improvement.

Fhizban's picture
Joined: 01/11/2009
After another week of

After another week of experimenting with the concept, here is a very early version of the rules. Grab yourself a cup of coffee and 30 minutes to read:

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