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Monster Keep — Revisiting an older design

I've had a bit of "free time". Or more so what to do with this "EXTRA" time. I was discussing with @Fhizban different Archon concepts as he too seemed interested in developing an "Archon Board Game". Meanwhile I was exploring a Card Game ... And it didn't have anything SPECIAL. There was really nothing unique with this Card Game...

So I decided to shelve "Archon" and go back to "Monster Keep". After some playing around, I figured that "remembering" the different aspects of the game made me think: "Huh? This game has some potential!" I always kept the cards (prototype) that I had made... Because I FELT like there was SOMETHING worthwhile pursuing.

And just the other day... Bringing the "Archon" flavor to "Monster Keep" would be POSSIBLE, I'd just have to create a NEW "Prototype". But before I do that... I want to REVISIT the design a bit.

I had Spells, Keywords, and a couple Decks of cards.

Now that I have a better idea what the STRENGTHs (Mathematics, Blocking, etc.) ... I feel like I can just re-imagine the game. And I've got some inspiration to help me along. So this is where I am at: revisiting an older design.

Comments

Lot's of work ahead for this design

Although I am generally happy with the "direction" of this Design. There is a lot of work ahead before this design is "SOLID"! Firstly I am going from an RPS-9 to an RPS-5. I also changed the "Races" to be strictly monsters. So, things like Order, Life, Nature, Technology, etc. are being re-focused. I did not want any non-Monster related content...

There are five "Factions" and Monsters will be grouped into one of five (5).

I need to re-design the RPS-5 with all of the links/relationships. I guess that's my NEXT STEP: rework the RPS-5 such that it makes sense now under the rules of this NEW design.

When I have more news, I will ADD to this thread. Maybe once the RPS-5 is completed, I will add an image of it. Cheers!

Just a quick comment

The original "Monster Keep" (MK) is not "Crystal Heroes" (CH). And the reason is that game featuring "Game Tiles" was MOSTLY about "Heroes". I felt it was wrong to name it MK and traded the name of the game to CH.

MK is now the "mathematical game" and CH is the "tile laying/area control" game. The level of MATH is surprising but effective. Parents will encourage their kids to PLAY a game that has a strong mathematical component!

CH is very advanced in the "Art Design" phase. Before I submit the game to reviewers and complete the rulebook. That's right CH rulebook needs to be re-written such that the SIZE is more reasonable and easier to READ!

Bigger issues to tackle than the RPS-5

The prototype that I am working with ... is CONFUSING to say the least. I don't yet have a ROUND setup for the game, this is the major reason for the confusion. I have "too many" stats, turns and abilities. I am thinking about something SIMPLER: there are TWO (2) rounds.

In Round #1, you draw six (6) cards and are allowed to play four (4). Next you decide if you keep or discard the remaining cards (1 or 2) and refresh your hand to six (6) cards for Round #2. This is all GREAT. You can work on your equation and try to total the proper amount. Again all NICE and kewl.

What is troublesome are the "Abilities" on each card. If you play four (4) cards down and then you can EXHAUST each one ONCE... That makes sense. But the "Abilities" and "Health" are not working in that fashion... And here lies the problem.

I need there to be SOME KIND of interaction between BOTH players. HOW?! IDK -- yet! Otherwise it's like a Euro, you play and do your thing and I play and I do my thing. Nope. That's not going to work...

That's my problem ATM. And it is a BIG one. The RPS-5 isn't even on my radar at this time because there is too much "Abilities" and no Exhaustion (similar to tapping). It's going to take a while to THINK about this design some MORE. When I get some better direction, I will post some more about my progress. Hopefully soon! Cheers.

Three (3) stats instead of Mana

The current prototype uses three (3) stats instead of Mana. Those stats are defined by rolling 3d6s (White):

  • Power = Physical Attacks inflicting material wounds.

  • Skill = Abilities involving subterfuge, secrecy and stealth.

  • Magic = Magical Powers that are used to cast Spells.

And then there is one (1) Black Die which is the "Arcane" stat. It's sole purpose is to replace one of the other three (3) stats when they are used as resources. All this works GREAT!

The 3d6s (White) act as the equation TOTAL. So 3 + 4 + 2 = 9. The goal is to make an equation that equals 9. This also works great too!

So Mana is covered with the rolling of 4d6s.

There are five (5) colors/classes of cards:

  • Passion (Red): whether Anger, Hate or Love, this class is about focused and/or direct energies.

  • Serenity (Green): this class is about Calm, Patience, Peace and energies which embody Freedom.

  • Empathy (Blue): unlike the other energies which are about themselves, this class is about others and Understanding, Compassion, Comprehension, etc.

  • Courage (White): to others Courage means being Brave, Bold, Decisive and everything Honorable. But to some it means Honesty and Forthrightness.

  • Fear (Black): this class is about not only about being Horrified, it's also about Anxiousness, Cowardice and also Vulnerability.

So far all of this is real GREAT! And seems to work well with the mathematical aspect of the equation(s) too.

This means that each stat can have six (6) resources but I plan to have certain units which can add bonus resources to one of the stats. At the price of "Exhausting" a unit (Taping). I want to rid myself of the RPS system... It's too prohibitive, even if there are only five (5) classes.

Some cards are UNIQUE which means that there can only be ONE (1) in each player's Deck. That too seems reasonable and works okay on the Deck Construction side of matters. This is more of a competitive card game and therefore the composition of your deck matters.

For those interested, I will continue to explain further. And maybe one of you can shed some light on my "complications" on HOW to handle the "Battle Element" of the game.

Battling has been resolved ... I think?!

Each Monster has two (2) types of Attack: a Primary Tactic and an Advanced Tactic. Usually the Primary Tactic is some form of "direct damage" and consists of method to deal damage to opposing Monsters in play.

But aside from two (2) types of Attack, each Monster has a RANGE value which determines "what" Monsters they may attack. Range varies from 1 to 3, where 1 = Melee (Directly Facing), 2 = Range (Adjacent also) and 3 = Extended (Two Monsters away). So you just CAN'T "attack" whomever you like, the range determines what Monsters you can attack.

Next each Monster has "stats" in the form of 3 values: Power, Skill and Magic (as already explained in this blog entry earlier on). Generally speaking Monsters have between 5 and 7 "Health Points" (HPs) and are divided into three (or less) stats.

An example will explain where I am going with the Battling:

questccg wrote:
Example #1: Rock Golem.

Primary Tactic: Crushing Fist, can deal up to 3 Power of direct damage.

Advanced Tactic: For free, this Monster can Absorb 3 Power of damage from adjacent attacks.

His Range = 2 and has 4 Power, 2 Skill (6 HPs).

So when you play Rock Golem, it can "absorb" 3 Power damage for FREE. That is the Monster's Advanced Tactic. And it works on either the card to the Left or the Right (Adjacent attacks).

To DEFEAT this Monster, you need to deal 4 Power damage and 2 Skill damage. So this opens up the game to COMBOs and generally speaking I did NOT want it to be TOO EASY to defeat an opposing Monster. This is because of all the Math content (Equation Building)... But still I felt like there needed to be some "tension/disaccord" between the two dualists.

I will of course need to Design, Print and Cut all these cards to actually give them a TRY. It's cool to design stuff ... But the only way if you know the game is BALANCED is to actually prototype and give it a try. What I mean is this prototype has still been untested (no playtesting) and I am still in the "physical" design phase (working with Illustrator and designing prototype cards to be cut).

I'll post back once I am further into the "physical" design...

Finished 20% of the cards tonight...

I've managed to find a bit of a balance between editing and enjoy the amusement that is TB. Anyhow, I managed to complete 20% of the cards. With card distribution, I can really work on how "common" or "rare" a card is. This is great because it will allow some "common" cards to be more FREQUENT in a 15 card selection.

That another design decision, I've gone from 12 cards to 18 cards. Just for the sake of more variety and make certain cards more "relevant" like the "Scry" cards... Yeah I know that's a Magic: the Gathering (Magic) keyword, but I really could not find better. The game is nothing like Magic, BTW. It has it's own Mana or Resource system (explain previously in this blog entry... just scroll to the top), and the card are indeed different.

Doesn't even feel like anything like Magic. I just used that ONE (1) keywork... So don't worry. This is NOT a Magic clone... I am getting these card printed in Hong Kong (Sorry about earlier confusion that led people to believe I was going to use The Game Crafter). I am going to have these cards printed on Plastic Cards (ultra thin and very resistant). You don't need sleeves for these cards and they shuffle super good even thought they are a bit smaller than standard Playing Cards!

More about the cards tomorrow... That's enough "play" for one night!

Note #1: FYI I plan to code a randomizer for the cards according to a pre-determined distribution that I will use to generally control (semi) which cards get produced (in sets).

There are some more "rules" which state that in a Micro Deck, you can have at most three (3) of the SAME cards. I also canned the "unique" card rule and went to the three instead of only one. I know it's not impossible to bring back this rule (in the case of too strong cards)... Well see!

Note #2: Planning to use Letter-mail to send out these cards because the cards are thin enough to fit in a standard envelope with a clear, re-sealable baggie along with you a big "Thank You" to the gamers who bought the product. Letter-mail is so very inexpensive for the USA, I believe it $2.00 and for Canada is $0.75. That's also a GREAT PLUS for selling the game.

Finished ALL of the cards and printed them out...

Now comes the HARD part: cutting the cards! LOL I just cut the NEW score cards because there are only two (2) of them; one for each player.

The cards are a bit "random", I've set some distribution quantities ... But it seems like for now, I'll stick to what I have and then for real production, I will design that "Deck Design" code to create Decks for the people who BUY the game.

As of today, the plan is to sell a 15 Card set which will have a "controlled" randomization: 5 Common, 4 Uncommon, 3 Rare, 2 Mythic and 1 Promo... Only one promo card per Deck. I know this is not the usual booster set and really it's not, this is a very different game from your A-Typical CCG. The "set" is all you need to play the game and will cost $25 USD. The VALUE of said cards is approximately $40 USD. So, I will be giving great value to the people who buy the game EARLY.

Lot's of CUTTING to do today and tomorrow... We'll see how things go. If the game is at all "playable". That's the thing with "designs": before a prototype, IDEAS sound good... But sometimes can be useless and crappy when you actually TRY the game. So re-iteration is required to refine the game and improve on the problems such that challenges in the design get resolved!

Cheers all...

Now cutting the cards (4 sheets)

I'm about 25% done with the cutting... Did 2 out of 8 sheets. Not too bad. But I noticed that I used different colors which made them more readable than the current ones (too dark -- Need to lighten them up). After playtesting and seeing if I need to TWEAK cards, I'll have the RIGHT colors, because I already went through them all and changed each one to the LIGHTER color palette (they're all grey -- because I am using a B&W Laser Printer).

But printing at 1200 DPI ... And still they look a bit DARK!

Next batch will be better and we'll see about the BALANCING also. Keeping you all informed as to my progress with this game...

100% finished cutting of cards and even customized the decks

MK is occupying all my time recently because I got a bunch of FRESH ideas and I have been focusing on this design. As far as them "fresh" ideas, well it includes the following:

  • Mathematical equations/formulas

  • Improved Score cards (more resources available to players)

  • Combat using stats as opposed to Health Points

  • The use of "keywords" to shorten tactic descriptions

I want to get to a PLAYTEST in the next 1 or 1.5 hours ... A first type of duel. I created a CUSTOM Micro Deck (15 cards) but identical to BOTH players to see how it plays. Is it FUN? Is it PLAYABLE?! We'll know soon enough ... Excited to give this a go... It's been on my mind since the start of October!

Keep you all posted about the progression and how my playtests go...

Playtest #1 under way ... And...

It seems like the LATEST prototype ... is still much TOO COMPLEX! Why? Well because EACH card has "2 ways to Battle": a Primary Attack and an Advanced Tactic.

While this is COOL on the cards... (Looks impressive). I think I should re-iterate and refine those 2 ways into ONLY 1 way.

That will reduce the Analysis-Paralysis (AP) by quite a LOT. The Mathematics rules... So "battling" is a secondary task after you have set up your "equation"... Because players play cards facedown, it is practically impossible to determine the player's opposition.

The other matter to refine is the "stats" on each card. 3 Power, 2 Skills and 1 Magic "sounds good" ... But in reality the number of COMBOs required to conquer these cards is significant... Like I said I wanted "battling" to be a PART of the game, not the focus.

So some re-thinking of "stats" and a major overhaul is needed.

I figured as much... There was just too much going on. The 4 resource dice are great, the "new" Score cards are good too... A bunch of good stuff also (done right). But this is an iteration (one of many) ... And I need to re-edit all the cards AGAIN and stick to ONLY the Advanced Tactics as the method of attack...

It may sound a bit "dis-heartening" but that's the process: an iteration is only as good as it's number. Meaning the more you "retry" the better the outcome (until you have a SOLID design).

Cheers folks and will keep you all informed as to how things progress!

Need to put in some more "thought"!

I realize that reducing the Monsters to only one "ability" can be VERY limiting. Especially because those abilities can be OTHER than "attacking".

There are some NEW thoughts about HOW to simplify the game such that a nine (9) year old can play the game. I'm working on it ...

Again more thought need to be given into this design.

Some early thoughts...

I believe that two (2) things need to happen:

1> First need to REVISE ALL cards and be sure that they will be useful in the *next* iteration. Specifically what I am looking for is cards that are not useful and cards that are TOO powerful.

2> Determine HOW I want play to be done. Again the problem here is over complexity. Having TOO much to think about (Analysis-Paralysis -- AP for short). But at the same time I don't want to STRIP out everything that is UNIQUE to the game itself!

More thinking about this TODAY as I play TB... Me and the Clan members were itching to ATTACK an enemy City for raiding one of our Gold Mines... Anyways looks like we will have to use diplomatic channels because of the ROE and we don't want to be ousted from our Clan (or our Clan to be Black Listed)... The JOYS of playing a GAME!

Note #1: One of the apparent issues is RANGE. Instead I am thinking that this should be REACH (instead). Meaning ANY "1" can attack an opposing "1" in the stack. This means that there would be THREE (3) Reach Levels (1 to 3). Each Level a sub-set of the monsters in the stack (meaning you can't attack everyone... You need to do some planning and figure out your most important targets.

This will OPEN UP the game a bit in that it doesn't matter WHERE in the stack a monster is ... It's the target's Reach that matters. This will allow me to COMBINE monsters and also allow BONUS "effects" to carry over also.

More notes as I come to further thoughts on the game!

I think ... most of the cards are NOT BAD!

Thinking about "Reach" vs. "Range" and this has changed my view on the game. It is now REALLY COOL! My only remaining ISSUE ATM is figuring out how many attacks are allowed PER ROUND. There are a TOTAL of 4 Rounds. And you have Global Resources (for ALL ROUNDs inclusively). So now it's a question of figuring out HOW to PLAY one (1) Round.

Are there Action points? Or perhaps the Arcane die has a DUAL purpose!? Hmm... That's not too bad of an idea! It can serve as a replacement die, but the Arcane die determines HOW MANY "Attacks per Round" (since it is a standard d6) that means from 1 to 6 ATTACKS. I need to playtest this... And see if it reasonable.

Another possibility is something like "Three (3) APs per Round". That could be a FIXED cost of attacking. But I like the "MAX 6" because it means more use of cards and total/complete annihilation (or more combat for sure).

We'll see... Another PLAYTEST will determine HOW I move forwards with this design... Cheers all!

Some observation following my latest PLAYTEST!

It would seem like "Power" is the pre-dominant stat. While most of Monsters have a Primary Attack requiring "Power", most of the cards have "Power" and another stat ("Skill" or "Magic"). The issue is that MOST of the cards have "Power" and not one of the other TWO (2) stats. So there seems to be a "kind-of" BALANCING that needs to be done to ensure that there is MORE variety in terms of the stats.

Like IF some units could use "Skill" to deal "direct damage", that may be more interesting than say, most cards that use "Power".

It's about 50% done design-wise. Another iteration is definite ... But some re-think on the cards (stats-wise) is required.

In my brief time to think about the game last night...

I took down three (3) items that need to be reviewed/re-iterated:

1> The Monster Stats (Power, Skill, and Magic) need revision.

2> Primary Attacks need to be revised also.

3> Some balancing needs to be done to some of the "Monster Tactics".

BUT some operations like Minus ("-") and Division ("/") are not great in having sufficient of an equation to MERIT having a divisor or a negative value... So "+3" is great ... but "-3" SUCKS to start with. And then "/2" DIVIDER SUCKS also... Which means that not all paths lead to reasonable equations.

With FIVE (5) PLUS "+", FOUR (4) MINUS "-", THREE (3) "/" and THREE (3) "x" the game is difficult to play because the computations are off in the stack for MOST paths. And this makes it EASIER for the opponent to ONLY target the GOOD paths available to the player.

I will be thinking hard on HOW to improve the odds of success and how to improve the Micro Deck... We shall see what I can come up with!

Note #1: What if the operation was to be CHOSEN by the player??? Maybe this COULD WORK! In a previous iteration, I TRIED to make the OPERAND be arbitrary (you could choose the value). It didn't work very well and I was forced to "hard-code" a value. But maybe with the OPERATION it might be more interesting... Hmmm... I've been saying that there is no NEED for "minuses" and "divisions" ... But WHY not leave that up to each path in the stack and let it be decided by the players!

Note #2: I'm thinking that as Monsters get knocked off, the remaining Monsters and their operations will be subject to EDITING. So even if something is a "+3" ... It could change later on to becoming a "x3" (for example). This would mean that the game would be more DYNAMIC and the loss of Monsters LESS DRAMATIC. So far, great thoughts on how to IMPROVE the game during this next iteration (before re-editing, re-printing, re-cutting and re-playtesting)...

Let us think about the STATS and see what we can determine

In thinking about the STATS, the earlier goal was to ensure that NOT too many Monsters get slain and therefore cause there to be no PATH on the stack without the four (4) cards to complete the equation.

And so the solution was to have POWER and (SKILL OR MAGIC). Since the quantity of resources depend on dice (and their rolling), it made sense to BOOST up your POWER because most of the cards had a POWER value.

So the goal was to have some kind of COMBOs: two (2) cards (Monsters) to defeat another Monster. But ALL the cards have a POWER ability (Primary Attack) but few cards have SKILL and MAGIC. So TOO MUCH Power and NOT ENOUGH Skill and Magic.

This is indeed my FIRST PROBLEM: too many cards dealing with "Power".

So I've worked on almost ALL the Monsters tonight

I am only missing four (4) that I will take care of TOMORROW. The good news is that I have simplified the abilities (less Stats and more variety). So now some Monsters do "Skill" Primary Attack Damage or even "Magic" as a special type of attack unique to that Monster.

The idea of requiring COMBOs remains ... But there are LESS Stats to concern yourself with.

For example: Instead of three (3) "Power" attacks, it's only ONE (1). And each Monster's Strength has been lowered from a four or a six to a 3 or a 4.

I've tried to address all THREE (3) of the above issues at the same time. It just worked out that way, while making EDITs, it because obvious that there needed to be modifications or corrections to make the game more "playable".

I will wrap up tomorrow morning and hopefully get a chance to PRINT and CUT the new cards tomorrow late-afternoon... Cheers all!

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