Skip to Content

Monster Keep — Re-think about the game

So I know one of the mechanical ideas behind the game was "keeping Monsters" and therefore the name "Monster Keep" (MK). I've also learnt from playing the prototype, that the number of cards is too high and that the method of play is... by far not FUN enough because of all the MATH.

I had hoped that I could BLEND Fantasy with something like War! and come out with a very "take-that" kind of card game. But with the card count and all of the MATH ... Quite honestly, it just wasn't working.

Being disappointed about NOT "keeping Monsters" is one thing. But I did have a real nice breakthrough yesterday from just looking at the cards (physical prototype) and figuring out what I wanted to do... Sometimes when just take a moment to "appreciate" the thing you created can talk volumes about what or where to take the design to reach the "next level".

And so I had one of those moments yesterday night.

Of course BGDF was DOWN... And I could express my ideas and share with the community my thoughts and the general direction of my design.

TBH I really thought the IDEA of "keeping Monsters" was NEAT. But in terms of GAMEPLAY (and FUN) I realistically needed to think what could be a game you can RAPIDELY play in 15 to 20 minutes. As you know the problem with War! is that it can last a LONG time. Same with 24 Card Decks and capturing Monsters... It was and is a bit too much.

My DESIGN-MIND kinda worked when I said to myself: "The game has to play between 15 and 20 minutes". A Board Game Geek (BGG) Member said something ACCESSIBLE, QUICK TO LEARN and FAST IN PLAY would be the more MASS MARKET kind of game. So I sort of took that "to heart" and came up with a new design restriction which would make the game SHORT and HIGHLY replayable.

(More continued in the next post...)


Some early thoughts...

I figured from a 15-20 minute game as far as "expectations" go ... require something EASY, THOUGHT-PROVOKING, and still maintain a "Take-That" type of mechanic where you could have real Johnny moments.

So I wanted to RESTRICT the amount of MATH. That's #1 GOAL. And so the current prototype featured ONE (1) Monster and 1 to 3 Enhancements. But the format of the game added confusion and too much recalculation. And then there was the fact that there were TOO MANY ROUNDS. The game would go on until the Deck was exhausted.

What has this "taught" me???

That a 15-20 Minute game is about ONE (1) ROUND. THREE (3) Monsters and that's it. The player with the highest points wins the game. By breaking up the game into SIMULTANEOUS turns, there is hardly any "downtime". The game now has a REAL END (within the 15-20 Minute range!)

Another problem was MATH!!!

Since you have 3 Monsters, you have 5 "Enhancements". The math is DIRECT on the cards and ONLY affect YOUR Monsters. This is a BIG "breakthrough"! The math is simple, you just look at a card and add it up... So HOW the "heck" does this simplify the MATH, you ask???

Well you only do it for 3 Monsters... Not cycling through a deck.

So how is it that 3 Monsters are EASIER than 1 Monster with +1 to +3 "Enhancements". Some of this is kind of "confidential" but I have some real NOVEL ideas. The bottom line is that a CARD is a CARD and the stats are the stats you choose and the "Enhancements" that go in together to form ONE (1) Monster.

Instead of reading +1 to +3 "Enhancements", there are two (2) per Monster and you can VARY the "starting stats" within ranges.

There is a lot of Hidden Information during a turn and then there is also Partial Information about what was in play during the previous turn. All SIMULTANEOUS also... So NO DOWNTIME.

Also there are some NEW "Card Rules" which will GREATLY STREAMLINE the game. The TOP Ability is either an Attack BONUS or PENALTY. The BOTTOM Ability is either a Defense BONUS or PENALTY. And both APPLY TO YOUR Monster... Not your opponents.

The confusion about this is -X points to your opponent and +Y points for yourself, etc. Was very confusing. So NOW the stats are only for YOUR Monsters. You CANNOT affect an opposing player's Monster.

So things like a -2,000 ATK no longer mean your opponent loses -2,000 ATK points. It means YOUR Monster loses -2,000 ATK points. The cards speak for themselves... And the Abilities alter ONLY your Monster.

This TYPE OF MATH SIMPLIFICATION is important. Because ALL you need to do is look at YOUR Monster and you know its stats. With the current prototype you need to DO MATH with your OPPONENT's cards. A total mess.

Therefore the MATH ... Is being re-worked!

(More continued in the next post...)

No more need for a die and other parts

Although usually a die (or dice) isn't a cost prohibitive factor, a CUSTOM one is... So I used "The Game Crafter's" (TGC) Indented Die and made stickers for all the six faces. It was OKAY... but still not 100% perfect. So I explored custom stickers for the die and had those prepared to be made. Since they are also no longer required, I can remove them from the game too!

In addition, there was the CONCEPT of the "Scoresheet". This too is no longer required because I SIMPLIFIED scoring (and the MATH that goes along with it...) So no Scoresheet and no Dry Erase Marker/Pen... Oh boy, all this streamlining makes me HAPPY that the game will take on a SIMPLER form.

All that is LEFT is ONLY cards. And at it's core "Monster Keep" (MK) is a CARD GAME! So this is all making a LOT of sense...

That sounds like a great way

That sounds like a great way to streamline things.

Indeed ... I guess people won't care

So I'll "divulge" the "secret nature" of my ideas: I am going to use Plastic Clear Cards for the game! They cost more than cardstock ... But you don't need plastic sleeves, they also have a matte coating for resilience and that will allow them to "stack" from one turn to the next.

This is like "premium" grade content... And it's given me ALL sorts of ideas for FUN ways to make "Enhancements" for your Monsters!

Like "Midnight Snack": +1,500 DFS, picture of some boxes of Pizza! or "Cherry Bomb": +1,000 ATK, picture of a cherry with a lit fuse... etc.

All kinds of silly things... AND they "stack"!

My "secret" is out. I will NOT use "The Game Crafter", instead I will BUY in BULK and send out orders from a shopping website. No KS for the time being... At least that is the general direction (as of today). Things may change... One thing I am going to have a hard time doing is "Playtesting"... I can't afford to print prototypes because the cards come in BULK.

So we'll have to see HOW I make this game a reality!

May I say that I love these

May I say that I love these "thinking out loud" posts. It's lovely to see how other designers think through a problem.
The stacking sounds like a great mechanic that adds depth without making the game too complex. That's quite an achievement!

Psshaw! Hihi...

I'm still surprised people read the threads! I thought my "trade secrets" would get buried somewhere deep within the thread and that nobody would read it or care about it!

TBH ... What I did is just TAKE the cards and place them into my hands and sort of "fan them out" a bit... And looking at them... I thought: "They look pretty cool!" The "Abilities" stood out and my next thought was: "What if they could STACK???" And then the whole "Plastic Cards" came to my mind because I always wanted to do a game with such plastic cards...

So yeah... Thanks for your interest and "following"!

I just pictured the cards as they are but... with layers! And then the whole "all cards/abilities/enhancements" belong to THAT card not affecting the opponent. That was a real breakthrough because it SIMPLIFIED the math...

Thanks for reading... I'll be sure to post an update when I figure out HOW to playtest this game. I can't afford to print plastic cards because on the LOW end they come in BULK with 200 cards up to 1,000 (afterwards no additional discount — what I mean is the cheapest price is 1,000 cards afterwards like 2,000 or 3,000+ same unit price).

There used to be transparent

There used to be transparent plastic sheets that were inkjet printer friendly. They were mostly used for overhead projectors.
I don't know if you might be able to get hold of some of those for your prototype.
Another option might be using just plain ol' acetate sheets with stickers or hand-drawn with permanent markers.

Thanks for your input!

tikey wrote:
...Another option might be using just plain ol' acetate sheets with stickers or hand-drawn with permanent markers.

Yeah I think I can do CUSTOM "stickers" once I figure out the size and stuff from "The Game Crafter" (TGC) and then apply them to acetate sheets like you suggest and that should work (at a fraction of the cost).

Otherwise I would need to PRINT in BULK with a MOQ of 200 units PER CARD!!!

Stickers will be less expensive and good for PROTOTYPING. I didn't really PLAN on this... My goal was to use TGC for production... but I guess this per-unit basis will be a more novel ways of producing in bulk.

Hmm... Questionable?

I found a CCG called "Redakai: Conquer the Kairu" which is freaken so close to the concept that I am working on with "Monster Keep" (MK).

How is it similar:

1. There are three (3) "character" spots (or lanes).

2. The cards are plastic and clear to allow things to be seen through.

3. It's a collectible card game (CCG) ...

Here's a YouTube Link/URL:

But their cards even feature 3D Animations too! OMG. So disappointed. I really thought I had a great concept... IDK ... Should I pursue it or not???

What do you designers think???

There are not that many

There are not that many completely original games. If it doesn't look like you STOLE their idea, I think it's fine. I doubt there are that many people you were about to sell it to who have ever heard of Redakai: Conquer the Kairu.

You make a good point

Well not many card games use plastic cards. Actually from Googling, all I found was Redakai. But they go down the route of most CCGs: booster packs.

I'm not selling boosters. I plan to sell INDIVIDUAL cards. And cards can be present from 1 to 3 times depending on each card.

My sales model is simple: BUY ONLINE ONLY.

You see all the current MONSTERS available for purchase with pre-configured stats and enhancements. So the deal is you buy like 3 to 4 cards together and you can add the cards you like to your three (3) Decks: Monsters, Stats and Enhancements.

So I have to PAY for ART and CARDS.

I PLAN to only start the game with NINE (9) Monsters... So pretty low budget and see if there is a DEMAND from the players. If I manage to get 100 or so players... Could be a nice start and then grow from there.

I don't want any BIG all-out projects from now on... Small, limited offers. Great quality and FUN entertainment all with different types of mechanics.

Something to consider

In my current prototype, I had "Enhancements" which could "penalize" the opponent's Monster. However it can be determined by the nature of those penalties that a paradigm can be established. It goes something like this:

1. A Minus ("-") Defense (DFS) is the SAME as a Plus ("+") Attack (ATK).

What this says is that if I want to affect MY OPPONENT's Monster by lowering his Defense (DFS), the reciprocal action is to augment MY OWN Attack (ATK). It produces the same effect. Let's look at an example to understand:

Let's say you HAD an -1000 DFS penalty for your opponent's Monster. If we don't want to play cards on the opponent's side of the table (only ours), all we need to consider is that giving yourself a +1000 ATK bonus results in a SIMILAR effect.

Given some stats:

You: 1000 ATK, 1000 DFS
Opponent: 1500 ATK, 2000 DFS.

Using the -1000 DFS penalty, your opponent goes from 2000 DFS to 1000 DFS. And then your attack is successful 1000 ATK beats 1000 DFS.

Now let's assume that we DON'T want across the table penalties. So it becomes:

Using the +1000 ATK bonus, you go from 1000 ATK to 2000 ATK. And then your attack is successful 2000 ATK beats 2000 DFS.

This is very IMPORTANT because it shows the reciprocal relationship that establishes the "NO NEED" for penalties... You can use the opposite relationship and get a SIMILAR result.

2. A Minus ("-") Attack (ATK) is the SAME as a Plus ("+") Defense (DFS).

Much like statement #1, #2 is the opposite (for attacking penalties). It works in the SIMILAR fashion as statement #1. Again it means that IF you want to apply a Attack PENALTY to your opponent, all you need to do is give your Defense a BONUS.


For simple PENALTIES, you can use the reciprocal relationship to inflict the same amount of "damage"... And this is super great news, because it means that for the most part you DON'T NEED to play cards in your opponent's area of play (or on his cards). This is very important because it reduces the mixing of cards and demonstrates that a SIMILAR result can occur WITHOUT any mixing of cards...

Setup of my Online Storefront

I'm just working on the Online Storefront and realized that it allows PRE-ORDERING! Which is great because I can set the initial quantity to about 200 units per set and ... then see who pre-orders a set of cards to play.

Heck, I know it's not Kickstarter or Crowdfunding... But for such a low barrier to entry product, I don't need funds to make it happen.

The real issue is will this concept work???

Will I get a minimum of 100 pre-orders of custom decks??

What will people think about my game and its rules?

It's freaken EXCITING not to have to Crowdfund a game and still be able to offer something to Gamers and the General Public.

I'm still not finished the configuration of the Online Storefront... I'm currently about 2/3 done. Which is fairly reasonable... Since I've taken about an hour to do the configuration (and tweaking as I become more familiar with the Online Storefront).

More about the Storefront...

Well I've gotten 7 out of 9 cards configured for PRE-ORDERING on my webstore...

Looks good, I also concluded that I wanted to OFFER a FREE "bonus" to players of the game. So one Monster (the Demon) will NOT be for sale, instead if you spend $25 USD or more in the webstore will earn a FREE copy of the Monster.

Something to interest the PLAYERS of the game! Plus it makes the game a bit more "affordable" too... Since it lowers the overall price of the cards (because it is being offered for free).

My average price per card is $0.79 USD. Which is rather affordable for the type of cards and game which is being offered. They are plastic cards and the art costs need to be covered too!

I priced the lenticular cards ... oh boy!

I saw one website offer $399.00 USD for 500 cards! That's $0.80 a card!!! And that's the COST only... Add ART to the price... It's going to be OVER $1.00 USD per card.

I have no clue how Redakai got their 3D Blast Technology ... Because I checked their BOOSTERS were selling for $5.99 for 6 cards. That's $1.00 USD per card...

I figured since I don't have the lenticular option to my cards, I'd just drop the price a bit... For more reasonable value. $0.79 USD a card is pretty reasonable (20% less expensive than the lenticular option).

It's my compromise... Anyhow ... I'm still feeling like the price of the cards is rather reasonable, even without the 3D Blast Technology!

What do you designers think???


The reason $399.00 USD is so high is...

Because I have to commit to 500 units. That's a real difference of $49.99 USD for 200 units which means each card costs me about $0.25. That's way more affordable and allows me to stock sufficient inventory to make a few bucks and the re-stock and adjust price points as per popularity.

Overall the lenticular price point, I can't carry that MUCH inventory and wonder when and if it will sell. Too bad, because it was CLOSE to being a possibility but I think I will have to pass on "lenticular" 3D (or 4D) technology...

Oh well... That's life (compromises). With a lower price point making my cards more affordable (and without lenticular technology) ... I'm hoping to attract more people to the game...

It's LESS expensive than your typical "Customizable" Card Game (CCG) which requires you to buy boosters and chase rare cards. In my game "Monster Keep" (MK) you just buy directly the card sets that interest you. And then you can create and customize your decks to challenge opponents to duel!

Prototype #2

Well I decided against FANCY "stickers" and am going to rely on a MANUAL prototype for version 0.2a. So my plan, now that I played the not too exciting version (with the "fancy" cards from The Game Crafter) ... I'm going to go back to the beginning and re-work the NINE (9) ... Well technically TEN (10) Monster sets that will be available to purchase.

Just with those cards on sleeved cards with a dry ink pen... I'm going to focus on playability and see if the abilities work, check the MATH, make sure that all is good with "the game" and then we'll see.

I know I thought I had a GEM of a design... But it looks like it really is in need of some TLC (and way more playtesting!!!) I'm going to work on the cards tonight... So that I can reward myself with some playtesting later on this week.

Should prove to be exciting!

Note #1: Got 2/3rd of the decks done... One more missing (the "Enhancements" Deck) which gives all the BONUSES/Extras to the Monsters. Will continue some more tomorrow (if time permits)!

FIRST Playtest TONIGHT... Ooohh!

I am pleased to report that my very FIRST playtest of Prototype #2 turned out to be rather interesting. Played over 3 Rounds, turns are all simultaneous and contain "partial" hidden information until revealed...

Some things to know is that it's good to REMEMBER the cards as they get played ... because during the SIMULTANEOUS turns in a Round, the cards are hidden from your opponent... You may consult them for your own purposes (such as better planning and more depth of strategy) but your opponent needs to wait until the end of a Round to be reminded of what was played!

It's pretty simple and my first game was a 3 to 1 score. And at the end of Round 2, the score was 2 to 2... So some effects from the "enhancements" altered the outcome of the game.

There is hardly any downtime. Except when you are looking at your cards and trying to figure out what to play.

However I have some "minor" thinking to do... Right now using the reciprocal relationships, it's possible to NOT mix cards. But I need to ensure that the abilities (eg. Enhancements) work well with all the cards. Just so that I can achieve some BALANCE and make the game more interesting with all the "card-play" and "take-that"...

About the Partial Hidden Information

So I added to the list of available cards for purchase three (3) Card Covers to keep secret the nature of the cards used during a Round. I've also priced them at the lowest price point for all three (3) cards.

Originally I wanted to COVER up the cards in PLAY. But I realized that the Hidden Information would make decision making like "in-the-dark"...! Because unless you have a very good memory, you are most likely NOT going to remember what cards were played in an earlier Round.

Therefore I have come up with a NEW IDEA: cover ONLY the cards of that Round.

The game is divided into THREE (3) Rounds. During the first two Rounds, from your hand you choose three (3) cards... The Monster Type will be hidden in Round #1 and the Stat Cards will be hidden in Round #2. Similarly in Round #3, all of the cards played will be kept hidden until BOTH players are ready to REVEAL their cards.

This NEW method of play ... Is easier to understand and keeps Partial Hidden Information from the other player until a Round is done.

More on the webstore...

I managed to ADD the "First Edition"(!?) Card Covers (I need to find a better name...) and made images for the webstore too. The cards feature a front view and a 3D perspective view for giving a better effect than the FLAT card in the normal view.

I must admit... They do look pretty decent:

Please feel free to comment and let me know your thoughts! Cheers.

Doing some editing ... but

I plan to do another playtest tonight. This time, I will "time" the game using my smartphone and play the game from START to END without any breaks. This is to know the average playing time (is it 10 minutes or close to 20 minutes?) I don't usually do this... But to get a better feel for the game, I will do this tonight.

It's not as if I have played the game "extensively" ... So this trial run tonight is to get a better picture about PLAYING time. And this is VERY important. Why? Well if a small 10 to 15 minute game requires you to only purchase 9 sets of cards and is real easy to understand... That could mean that the game as "Mass Appeal". And that's what I am hoping for... Something COOL, SIMPLE and QUICK to play.

As I said, I got the inkling for such a game, because honestly I don't know of many small format games which allow full-customization while offering the simplicity of a "basic" card game. Again the game is very clever... And that's something that incites more strategic depth as well.

13:43 Playtime

Now the game was a bit "slowed down" because I had to play BOTH sides of the table! But I'm sure I could have shaved a couple minutes off the total time making the game time somewhere in between 10 and 15 minutes. Just as I wanted! That's a good/positive result.

On the bad side, the game finished as a TIE (3 to 3)... All Monsters were defeated by each side...! That's a bit awkward ... but bound to happen. I tried to be as "impartial" as I could be.

So more trial runs tomorrow... That's enough for this evening. I've got family time for tomorrow and in the evening, I will sit down and try another run of the game.

For those interested by my progress, feel free to comment or share your thoughts/ideas on my progression.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Syndicate content

blog | by Dr. Radut