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Card Wargame

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Fhizban's picture
Joined: 01/11/2009

so one of the many projects I am working on currently (like everyone i guess) is a card based wargame. I would like to hear some of your thoughts, because im still in the very early stages of design.

the game is about battling monsters with a far-east style to it. it uses cards to represent units, there are also terrain locations and a few special cards (like spells). thats all. this game is on skirmish level with ca. 8 units per side.

my question is about the representation regarding the game board: shall I go with a traditional war-game system where cards move in inches or use a tile based system instead?

right now, this is much easier to develop than the other option - because im not restricted to a board of a given size. it is more flexible in terms of range and distance. in addition the required table space is smaller, as this is a skirmish game. you can easily play it on a small table or sideboard, even on a small round garden table.

the con's are that the game systems are more complicated to set up because everything is based on inches. this also makes creating, describing and balancing most of the rules and special abilities much harder. small example: you "charge" into another unit, this means you move enough towards the unit to touch it. touch it how much? overlap the other card? or is getting near enough already?

a whole different story is using a board. the main drawback is table space: even a 5 by 5 board takes up a lot space on a table (when fitting a 2,5" by 3,5" inch card into every tile). to have a proper game, i guess a 7 by 7 board would be needed.

but, abilities are easier to describe and balance. because everything is grid based. this is also much easier to teach to other players because most people are afraid of tape-measure systems and prefer tile based systems instead.

counter example to the one above: when you are adjacent to another unit, you can charge. simple.

any ideas on this substantial question?

X3M's picture
Joined: 10/28/2013
I am not afraid of tape

I am not afraid of tape measurement games.
Instead, I dislike them.

It is a matter of taste.
If you want players to have an absolute fair feeling in movement and range. You go with a grid of some sorts.

If not. Then I rather have round cards. This removes any issue with corners sticking out for other cards to reach or not.

Fhizban's picture
Joined: 01/11/2009
maybe you are right, but

maybe you are right, but there are still a few practical issues to both systems i guess.

hah, what a nice idea - with the round cards.

let me see: right now I have 8 stats per unit and up to 2 abilities. need to squeeze them onto a round card without requiring an additional reference card.

the test board im using, is covering a whole - big - living room table, with just 9x9 tiles to fit a 2,5 by 3,5 poker card in each slot - this seriously gives me a headache

thats why all CCGs/TCGs divide the game into zones instead of trying to simulate a grid

X3M's picture
Joined: 10/28/2013
Zones does keep the mind at

Zones does keep the mind at rest.

I don't know about how much different units we are speaking here. And how many you want to place on the "board".

Joined: 03/02/2014
The problem with cards, if

The problem with cards, if you are actually going to have them placed in specific locations, is that they can be hard to pick up. If my fast unit has suddenly found himself nearly surrounded and I want him to run out of there, I have to pick up the card in the midst of a bunch of enemy cards that I don't want to move accidentally. That's why traditional wargames use figures that have height.

Fhizban's picture
Joined: 01/11/2009
wall of info text

wall of info text incoming:

the setting is eastern fantasy with lots of mythic creatures. there are also elves and orcs, but the orcs look more like pigs on two feet etc.

before the game, each player builds a warband if 6-8 units. units have a cost from 1 to 3 and your total cost may not exceed a certain amount. each unit has an element, as well as typical stats: Health, Attack, Defense, Movement and up to 2 special abilities.

according the number and cost (level) of the chosen units, you get a deck of cards that contains "Powerstones". those are runestones aligned to one element each. im still thinking about deck min-max sizes, and you have to add a few powerstones of different elements as well if you do not reach the min-size.

The powerstones are used to pay the unit activation cost during the game, but they also have a built in special ability. that ability is activated only if you discard the powerstone in order to activate a unit of the same element. some powerstones can also be used while defending - so on your opponents turn.

you begin with all of your units in play, otherwise it just takes too long. there is no energy or resource system besides the powerstones. set up your units to form a battleline, but you can place them in two ranks as well. the board is planned to be 7x7 - if you have more than 7 units you must place them in two ranks of course.

when using a table and measuring system, setup would be different of course.

each player draws nine powerstones to begin the game with.

turn order is dynamic: you activate a unit, your opponent does. cycling back and forth until both warbands are done (put markers on units that have acted already). a new turn starts and both players re-draw cards to fill up their hands to 9 cards.

basically units can only move and/or attack and only do one action per turn. some special abilities count as action as well. you MUST discard a powerstone in order to make a unit act. some units can be activated multiple times by discarding more stones.

combat uses dice. only d6. roll d6 equal attack, 4+ is success. opponent rolls d6 equal defense, 4+ is success. remaining attacks are applied against health. when discarding a powerstone for defense, you gain a bonus (+1d or something), if it is of a matching element you gain +2d defense bonus.

the first player who defeats X cost (levels) worth of enemy units wins the game.

other bits:

a little terrain system, terrain cards cover a spot on the table (or on the grid) but can be walked over - are aligned to elements as well with a special effect.

elemental bonus to have a little RPS style system woven in

some powerstones can be discarded to generate effects like magic spells


thats it. nothing has been decided and/or tested yet. just a wild collection of "stuff"

Fhizban's picture
Joined: 01/11/2009
brainstorm update that

brainstorm update that modifies/complements my posting above:

Players buy Units AND Powerstones at the beginning of the game with gold. To keep things simple, there are only three different unit costs that reflect the strength of a unit:

Gold Units - cost 3 points
Silver Units - cost 2 points
Bronze Units - cost 1 point

The Powerstones are bought as well, so no deck building here and no randomization. Instead you must spend some of your gold to get the Powerstones you need to activate your units. The question is how much they cost and if they come in three different cost levels as well.

right now, 18-24 gold for a medium sized game sounds good.

any input/ideas welcome!

Joined: 08/21/2015
I agree with the other

I agree with the other commenters that cards will be difficult to pick up.
Tiles of thick card are much easier to pick up, but can still be nice and large(to hold lots of information), and I would personally prefer them for representing units (because they are more substantial).

The idea of circular cards (or tiles) is very clever and original. However, I would modify this slightly and either use square, hexagonal or octagonal tiles. All of these polygons approximate a circle (although quite crudely in the case of a square!) The octagon can keep orthogonality (it is just a square with the corners chopped off, although it can be used in more versatile ways too). You could put one of your stats along each edge of the octagon, which could solve the layout problem.

I have a strong personal preference for hexagonal tiles. Using them, you could possibly even dispense with the tape-measure entirely, by including
a small number of movement templates consisting of different numbers of joined hex-tiles-you place them touching the tile to be moved, then holding the template down and relocating the moving tile. A board would still be less clumsy though, and could probably be made slightly smaller for hex tiles than for poker-sized cards.

Finally, if you really want to stick with cards, you could just use a smaller card size. Several board games that I know of have tiny cards - almost the size of one of those solitaire decks you can sometimes find.

Midnight_Carnival's picture
Joined: 06/17/2015
Cards and models?

If you are suggesting a card wargame in which you move the cards x inches, check that the card is in range to attack the other card, etc then I would suggest keeping the board defined with squares. You don't need to worry about size of the board/cards becasue you can have it so each card which represents something wich features on your battlefield could be represented by a coresponding tile instead of the card.

Then there is the option of extending the tile idea and perhaps even totally doing away with the suqares on your board. You could make your game into something like Warhammer only played with cards instead of dice. I somehow see something like this attracting a huge cult following.

The other option of course, always open to people who have great game ideas which are difficult or messy to play in practice is to make the game as a board game but a board game which is played on a computer. The computer game industry is driven by graphics and other superficial things, the "retro" games were an attempt to fix this but have also sometimes become superficial. A game which works as a board game which people could actually play but is comuterised might be a welcome change.

Some random ideas (what I do best):

food and morale - I thought perhaps you might want to include formation/manouver cards which could be played but only if your army had enough food and morale to support them. The food would be what you take into the battle and what you can steal from your enemies (or scavange off corpses for monsters?) but there would be a set ammount of food which would determine the 'size' of the battle. The morale could be earned or lost during the course of the battle, it can go as high or as low as the game allows.

double sided cards - military comanders must make tough choices, perhaps some of the cards could be double sided yet only one side could be played at a time, that way you need to choose if you want x or y, you can't have both.

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