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Tokugawa period card game needs feedback

5 replies [Last post]
Joined: 09/14/2013

Hey guys,
First post and first attempt at this style of game (please be gentle).

I am currently thinking of making a card based Japanese Samurai themed game set in the period of history when the Tokugawa shogunate was in power. Each player will role as a daimyo and will try to build up their cities and attract famous characters to their clan.
I have some things that I am sure may be an issue (such as the number of card decks) but am not sure as (as I said) this is my first attempt at this style of game.

My plan is as follows.

To finish the game with the greatest fame/influence.
This is obtained through 2 main ways: earning influence through actions or keeping alive famous samurai/priests/characters from Japanese history.
Each character will be worth a certain amount of influence and can also stand to earn or lose influence through the course of the game.
I am currently thinking that it is best for the game to have a set time limit - perhaps 10 turns or something.

Each daimyo (player) will start with a set amount of influence (perhaps 10). It is possible to spend this influence on actions that can help you in the game - such as delaying an opponents samurai reaching Edo, or hiring a ninja, or bribing an official.
Each daimyo will also have a set amount of gold.
Gold is mainly used for building things in your cities, but can also be used for certain actions - such as bribing officials.
Each daimyo will also start with a hand of cards. Currently I am thinking that this will contain 2 famous characters and 3/4 action/building cards.

I am considering having a honour system - with each daimyo having an honour rating between 1 and 5 that will shift depending on what they do (1 being dishonourable and 5 being very honourable) - but this will need playtesting to see if it works or not. This would obviously affect which characters you can obtain.

Characters will only be eligible if you have the right buildings. By this I mean, if I wanted to have Baiōken Eishun (an artist) then my city would have to have a few beauty/culture buildings - each building will give certain characteristics to your city (most will give more than one type - e.g. temple will give culture and religion, but some, such as a dojo, will only give one type - maybe a dojo will give 2 military?).
I am considering that if you do not have the requirements for a character, you can always build them in an opponents city. This would obviously have drawbacks which I will explain below.

This is an important mechanic in my game. If a character is in a home town, then they will be harder to influence or affect with cards. If they leave the safety of home, however, than they are much more at risk. Each turn a shogun card will be turned over. This card will introduce a novel effect to this round/subsequent rounds.
One may say that there is a martial arts tournament in Edo (Tokyo - the capital), and another will say that there is a card that says a certain number of Samurai must travel to Edo. A player can refuse to send anyone, if he desires, however he will suffer penalties if not. Also, there can be significant benefits if a player does follow the card - such as willing influence/money/equipment in a tournament.

My current idea for a travelling mechanic, is laying the character face down on the destination of interest. Then one turn later they will arrive and can be turned the right way over again.
This will enable players to lay trick cards down instead - as opponents will be able to perform actions against the travelling character. Examples of these are as follows:
- Bandits - strength 4 fight - cost 1 influence and X gold.
- Bad directions - take one more turn for character to reach direction - cost 1 influence
- Tegata refused - character has to go back to place of origin - cost 1 influence and X gold.
- Spies - see face down card - cost 1 influence and X gold

Daimyo will be able to play cards to help themselves though such as:
- Messenger pigeon - cancel one played card on character - cost X gold
- Decoy - lay face down in place of character, if get through then can pick samurai (who has not travelled) and move to another city freely. Place Samurai face down at home until then. Can place decoy face down at home but will do nothing. - cost 1 influence and X gold.

For effects to take place, I am considering a 2 D6 system. Each effect will have a check associated with it, this will be compared to the targets stats.
The system is currently as follows

Difference = D, Highest stat/initiator if a draw = H, Lowest stat/target if a draw= L

D --- 0 1 2 3 4 5+
H ---(8+) (7+) (6+) (5+) (4+) (3+)
L --- (6-) (6-) (5-) (4-) (3-) (2)
If a roll of 7 with a 0 difference, then re-roll (I need this to keep the chances being even in a draw situation).
Scores of 12 or 2 will reward the H or L respectively with the maximum outcome on situations.
Double dice - e.g. 2 2's or 3 3's, will reward with one higher outcome than normal.

An example of this would be a duel between 2 Samurai. One has fighting skill 8, the other 5 (the difference, D, is 3).
The samurai with 8 (samurai H) will win on a roll of 5 or more. The samurai with 5 (samurai L) will win on a roll of 4 or less. Each player rolls one dice, and the two are added together. Samurai H rolls a 3 and samurai L a 6. The score is 9 (6+3) so samurai H wins the combat. Samurai L will then take an injury card, and will look at his armour and samurai H's strength/weapon to see the outcome. Most cards will lead to stat reductions - such as an arm injury leading to a loss in fighting skill, but some will lead to outright death.
Samurai L's card may read as follows:
Arm injury
Difference less than 3 - mild cut - no effect.
Difference 4 to 6 - deep cut - lose 1 to fighting skill, strength/artistic feats 1 rank harder.
Difference 7 to 9 - loss of arm - lose 3 to fighting skill (if lose both arms, 0 fighting skill), trength/artistic feats 2 ranks harder.
Difference 10 or more - Die

If samurai H had 3 strength and a +1 katana (4) and samurai L had armour of 2, then the difference would be 2 and the outcome would be a mild cut.
If samurai H and L had both rolled 4's (total 8, samurai H still winning), then the outcome would have been a deep cut as it would be one outcome higher. Had samurai H and L both rolled 6's (total 12), then samurai L would be dead.

Injuries that do not result in loss of body parts can be healed for money at a doctor in a town.

Another roll may be in relation to a card.
For example an art competition would test players against each other in their artistry stats. Obviously these would not lead to injuries, but instead the winner could draw a card from the prize deck (and gain a fame bonus on their samurai).

I am considering a seppuku mechanic that can be performed on characters who have lost too much influence/fame. This could give the player an instant bonus of half the characters starting fame for the cost of losing the character permanently.

One problem that I currently foresee is the large number of individual decks that I will need in my game.

I currently have:

1 injury deck, 1 samurai deck, 1 other deck (buildings and actions), one prize deck (swords, armour and gold mainly), one shogun deck and one events deck (each turn events are played out on towns - such as a fire that would effect just that player, or a tsunami that may effect everyone).
I do not know of many games that have this many separate decks of cards (6 in this current iteration of my rules).
but am yet to decide if this is a bad thing or not...

Sorry for the wall of text, I thank you if you actually managed to get to the bottom in one piece ;-)

As I said before, I am new to this style of game design, so any help/advice at all will be greatly appreciated!


questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
I would not worry too much

I think you are overly concerned with the AMOUNT of decks. My Deck-Building Game (DBG) has five (5) decks... Plus it has a Draw pile (another deck), a Discard pile (another deck) and a Recycle pile. So that means eight (8) decks in all... It all works and fits nicely.

It also depends how many cards per deck... And duplication of cards: How many cards are doubles?

The ONLY problem I see with 6 separate decks is the amount of ARTWORK that will be necessary. That typically where I see things going south. If you are self-publishing this could make things more difficult than let's say a game that only has 2 decks.

You also need to figure out the COST to make (again only if you are self-publishing) and that is also an area where more decks will make the game more costly. But again it's only ADDITIONAL cards (so that's usually pretty cheap).

Ya so my opinion is the only real issue is... making the artwork for the game. Lots of UNIQUE cards imply more artwork and artwork isn't cheap! If you have doubles that should help in lowering costs somewhat.

Joined: 09/14/2013
Thanks for the advice questccg!

Thanks for the advice!
Currently, I am just using cheap blank cards with text on (good old biro!)
It is in the very early stages.
As for art, well that isn't such an issue - I have a load of nice artwork from a previous project of mine, so the old scavenging technique is probably going to come into full force when I get to that step...
Also, due to the nature of the game, excluding characters and possibly certain weapons/events (currently there is only one tsunami and two earthquakes), many cards will be doubles or triples. Buildings and special plays can obviously be repeated as special plays are the meat of the game and you need to be able to try and guess what the opponent is playing against you (or what you can use against him). Too many special cards can make a game a bit unwieldy - and it is also harder to balance really strong cards...

Currently I am just trying to make sure that the concept is sound.
Then I will move onto serious play testing (as you can probably tell from my description above, I have not progressed very far yet and am still throwing ideas at the wall to see what sticks before committing to any 1 idea too strongly) and editing.
Once the rules are nice and shiny, then the cards can receive the same treatment!

Thanks again!


Kenyon Oreblook
Joined: 08/22/2013
Thoughts on the honor system

I have some thoughts on the Honor system.

You could make it possible for certain rules to be "broken", for example, the number of cards played at a time, playing "interrupts" that effect gameplay, etc. However, these plays will create "dishonor" for the player, possibly causing long term difficulties.

The player would then be able the weigh the choice of having a short-term gain or long-term benefits.

Joined: 09/14/2013
Hey Kenyon Oreblook

Yeah, that is my current plan.
However, like most things, it is quite hard to implement in a satisfactory manner...

The number of cards at one time is an awesome idea - I will see what I can do with that. Thanks!

I am a bit worried about the reliance on combat to win, that my current cards seem to have. Although I obviously want a strong combat thrust to my game (pun intended), I do not want that to be the only way to win.

Perhaps I can balance this with some more shogun events/special cards that reward alternative character skills (I have quite a few famous monks in the game thus far - maybe something related to them).

Thanks again!

Traz's picture
Joined: 04/06/2009
verrryyyy interesting...

This sounds like an exciting project - but I fear you may be putting too much detail into your combat system. All that detail for just the arm makes me worry that there is leg damage, torso damage, etc. Your dice differential combat system sounds interesting - but only as a game in and of itself [perhaps an expansion game that could be used as a variant with this?].

It's like you're trying to make two games into one. A dueling game and a strategic game involving politics/personalities/resources/etc.

I'd be VERY interested in the latter - not so much the first.

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