Skip to Content

Concept: Canavan's Back Yard - Solo Exploration Horror Card Game

4 replies [Last post]
let-off studios
let-off studios's picture
Joined: 02/07/2011

Two evenings ago, I read a short story by author Joseph Payne Brennan called, "Canavan's Back Yard." To borrow from this recorded reading's description: "A tale of a piece of land that doesn't stay the same size, and of whispering grass that doesn't want you to leave."

It served as inspiration for a card game idea, initially based on a classic deck of playing cards and its different suits. As you read this, should you have any suggestions or brainstormed ideas, please share.

I'd like to make a game that is a kind of solitaire version of Betrayal At The House On The Hill, or whatever it's called. The player explores this bewitched field/yard, gradually revealing the mystery of what haunts it. Once its true nature is known, they must work to stop it - changing tactics, if required - while the threat actively tries to stop them from succeeding. Furthermore, if a player hasn't prepared for the obstacles, they could become "lost" in the territory, and then lose the game.

The first objective that came to mind is that of rescuing Canavan or someone else the player holds dear. They know Canavan is lost somewhere in that field. Maybe they were kidnapped, maybe they wandered in, maybe they are also searching for something. The player doesn't know until they carry out their own search.

The player wanders the area themselves, searching for clues. Maybe they have a token and they move over different stacks of cards. Maybe its more abstracted and the player simply flips over cards from a single deck.

I'd like the player to have to make choices with the cards they uncover. Maybe they are trying to build sets with the cards, based on suit or number. To provide a choice to this, I'd like to limit the sets they can attempt to create during one outing. This can also be the mechanic required to escape the field before they become victims themselves.

Finally, the player takes the clues they've found (the sets they've successfully built) and uses them to research in the library. The player must learn the true nature of what's bewitched the field. In the short story, it was a tale about a witch that hinted at this. But I also wondered if there would be a way to add replayability and other interesting mechanics by having a different kind of threat represented by the different suits of cards.

So...questions for you:

  • Have you ever played, seen, or heard about a game like this? If so, what is it / what are they?
  • Can you suggest any specific ideas to explore within this framework? Something you think I should try to develop? A mechanic that seems worth connecting to the theme I've presented?
  • What do you suggest I do in order to prevent this from turning into a solo puzzle instead of a solo game?

Thanks for reading, and thanks in advance for your suggestions...! :-D

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
Interested in following this thread...

Although I can't say I have any answer to "@let-off studios" request for some ideas and answers... I can say that I am curious about this thread.

Why? Well there are a few reasons.

The first, is that I have an IDEA for a "game" which involves moving around the board like "Arkham Horror". But I'm not sure what the contents of my own board would be... But locations and spaces between them ... sounds like a good way to go. However "chaotic" that board is... It has potential.

Secondly, I am interested in some kind of "STORY-TELLING" element that involves going to various locations and following the story. I would want this to be DIFFERENT each playthrough ... For some interesting replayability if the players don't SOLVE the story in time...

This second aspect is closer to "Betrayal". Although the story only kicks in the 2nd part of the game.

But, more importantly, is how you take a game like "Betrayal" and ADD a fully immersed story ... Players follow is what FASCINATES me...

Let's hear from the other Designers ... To see where this leads!

Joined: 09/06/2017
Thoughts and games to look at

An unorganized collection of thoughts about your game.

In order to make it a game and not a puzzle you should have attributes that players can manage. Like strength, speed, knowledge, and sanity from betrayal. ( These may not be exactly right).  The game comes from try to manage these in the face of the randomness of the play. Some alternatives to these could be stamina, mana, and navigability.

If you had a deck or decks of cards. You could make the game over condition running out of the deck of cards. Like pandemic.

You could have a grass grows mechanic. Basically if the grass gets to high you can't find you way out. Maybe there are bonuses in low grass at the beginning of the game and pentilties for high grass at the end of the game. One possible implementation of this is to have two overlapping cards. And move one card up as the grass grows. If the top card was turned sideways you could reveal and hide the aforementioned bonuses and penalties. In my imagination it would be a white picked fence gate that slowly gets overgrown by grass.

As you have said having different scenarios could increase replayability. Different characters would help too. If you had one more interchangeable thing you could get a lot of replayability. Maybe somerging akin to masterminds and schemes in Legendary.

Games to possibly look at and why:

Betrayal at boulders gate. This on is kind of obvious. So it is basically a cleaned up fantasy version of betrayal. The best change is that the haunt happens when you get six pips on the dice you roll. Better from a design standpoint since there is a smaller game state that the haunt is likely to occur in. As a player it means that you do get to adventure for a while before the haunt happens. There is also less book keeping since the haunt number is always six plus.

Dragon wood. In this game you get to fight monsters, using a collection of cards that are either the same number, same suit, or a straight. Players can use one to six cards in each battle. To battle you roll the number of dice equal to the number cards you palyed. This game uses a five suited deck.

Shadows over camelot. The key part of this game to look at is that there are quest that require straights or sets of same numbered cards to  complete.

Legendary. So as I mentioned above, the thing to look at in this game is how the scheme and the mastermind work together to increase replayability. Basically number of masterminds  times the number of schemes.

Sentials of the Multiverse. Same concept as Legendary's masterminds and schemes. In this game they are villains and enviroments.

Battle star galatica. This connection is a little weak. But it is an additional example of players having to balance attributes in different situations. In this game there are universal pools of food, fuel, moral, and population. If any of these become 0 the human players lose and the Cylon players win.

Honey I shrunk the kids. Okay so not a board game, but it is another tale of a harrowing trip through the back yard, maybe you can get some inspiration here as well.

Good luck with your game.

let-off studios
let-off studios's picture
Joined: 02/07/2011
Brief Update

Just dropping in a note here that I will be participating in the "Mapemounde" Game Jam event this weekend, with the hopes that I can come up with some sort of workable prototype within the month.

I am also hoping to use the Carta game design engine I noted in a recent discussion thread here to make this game. As such, it will be an exploration and journaling game, different from my typical stripe. It may be more achievable to maintain the horror atmosphere and a solo game experience.

Revisiting Dr. Lew's book, -Game Design From Start To Finish-, to apply some more structure and design goals into my process. I feel driven to create a workable prototype of this game and will do my best to see it to at least this first phase. I'll re-evaluate at that point and decide if it's worth pursuing or I should put it back in the drawer.

Joined: 04/18/2018
Horror Theme

I've always been a fan of horror! "Canavan's Back Yard" brings to mind the madness of Lovecraft, the dimensional instability from "House of Leaves," and, of course, similarities to Joe Hill and Stephen King's "In the Tall Grass."

To incorporate these ideas into a card game, you might want to consider Arkham Horror: The card game. Of course, you don't want to be too similar. But, in general, you could have your adventures set out to unlock clues to the mystery by achieving success based on your card game mechanics. The challenge is to interweave story elements with gameplay as you progress.

I'm definitely interested in the theme and to see how you evolve this idea!


Syndicate content

forum | by Dr. Radut