Author Topic: Shared Mana / worldbuilding CCG challenge  (Read 115 times)

Xenophile

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Shared Mana / worldbuilding CCG challenge
« on: September 25, 2018, 02:07:06 am »
My wife and I were recently reintroduced to Magic, neither of us having played since childhood. My wife, especially, had idealized certain childhood perceptions: in her memory, Magic was unlike any other card game, because it was all about land. You got to build you own world, and then populate it with creatures and kingdoms and temples and stories...

So we finally got around to playing Magic again with some of our friends, and it's a lot of fun. But it's nothing like that. Magic isn't really about "building a world." It's a game of war, and the lands are little more than summoner batteries. Locationality is basically irrelevant, as Magic's Battlefield is almost entirely abstracted. And we had a lot of fun as Planeswalkers, but I keep thinking... What about that game my wife imagined in her childhood, building worlds country by country, and staging epic fantasies between? What if we weren't the Planeswalkers, but the Planespinners themselves?

That question is what brought me here. Here's what I've got so far:

Players play as Gods, co-shaping Creation. Each player has a custom deck of cards, made up of two different kinds: World Cards and Spirit Cards.

WORLD CARDS are formatted horizontally, representing terrestrial features: deserts, mountains, rivers, etc. Each turn, a player may play 1 World Card into the center of play between players; this space is known as the "World Tree," and each new World is placed beside the last, creating a linear sequence of Worlds. A maximum of 7 Worlds can be present at any time, though repeats can be stacked (as in: multiple deserts atop an original desert in a single of the 7 slots of the World Tree). Worlds can also be destroyed through card effects, or built upon/overridden by special Worlds (playing an oasis upon a desert, for example--while the most evolved Worlds might be celestial features like quasars and black holes).

All Worlds within the World Tree passively generate "Spark" of a particular color (e.g. deserts give Yellow Spark, mountains Red, etc.). On her turn, a player may use all available Spark to call Spirits from hand to the field of play. Which brings us to...

SPIRIT CARDS are formatted vertically, and represent conditions of the World: they might be creatures, like humans and animals, or weather conditions such as storms; they might be artifacts or auras that interact only with other Spirits, vehicles or buildings, tribes or civilizations; angels, demons, Gods, gnomes. All Spirits have a "Soul Cost," which must be paid in appropriately colored Spark to bring the Spirit to the field. When a Spirit is called, it must be born into one of the 7 Worlds, and can only act within that World (though travel between Worlds is possible). Spirits are mostly defined by their stats and powers, and their interactions with other Spirits across Worlds make up the majority of gameplay.

(There are also a few special types of Spirit Cards that aren't born into particular Worlds, but rather linger behind the World Tree in the field of play. These include:

- Spirit Songs, representing epochs; lasting effects that change the rules of the game until the Song is interrupted by another Spirit;

- Spirit Dances, representing events; instantaneous effects that immediately resolve, and can sometimes be triggered on the opponent's turn;

- Spirit Quests, special goals that if fulfilled grant boons to the player, such as drawing an extra card, discarding an opponent's card, or otherwise enabling victory conditions (see details on "Seven Secrets" below).

There might be a couple more Spirit sub-type sub-systems, but I want to keep them to a minimum for the sake of simplicity.)

HOW TO PLAY: At the beginning of the game, each player shuffles their deck, then draws 7 random cards, placing them face down before themselves. These are the Seven Secrets, and by opening all 7 a player triggers their personal apocalypse and wins the game. Next, each player draws another 7 cards, their opening hands. Players then sacrifice the top card of their deck into the grave (discard pile). This card decides order of play, with the lower Soul Cost playing first (players with less powerful cards are more likely to get first turn advantage).

Each turn, the player draws a card; plays a World; calls Spirits with Spark; guides Spirits in their activity (traveling to parallel Worlds, engaging other Spirits in their World, activating powers, holding steady, whatever); offers trades; then, if the deck is empty, reshuffles the grave into a new deck, burning the top card to make a new grave; and ends their turn.

The goal of the game is to open all Seven Secrets, which is accomplished through meeting the requirements of special Spirit Quests or other conditions given by Spirits and Worlds. When such conditions are accomplished, a Secret is opened and that card is added to the player's hand. Opening all 7 Secrets wins the game. A secondary win condition is to uber-deck the opponent--remove all of their cards from play, so that they cannot reshuffle from the grave when their deck is empty at the end of the turn. Such a player falls from the game.

...

That's about what I've got so far. Theme-wise, I think the collective myths of humanity are a massively untapped well, as far as collectible franchises go. It's public domain, and endless, and fits the Gods of Creation motif. Mechanically I've tried to focus on simplicity of play, excluding components like pen and paper, counters and tokens, secondary decks; my hope is that the layout of the 7-slot World Tree will aid in functionality of play space.

I'm actually concerned I may have overcomplicated system's victory conditions by including the Pokemon prizes, masqueraded as my Seven Secrets; I think having variable opening conditions based on different cards could easily lead to unbalanced decks and broken combos. But I also think using only the "uber-decking" victory condition alone is kind of spartan. It's harsh to get your whole deck sucked out from under you, and the more you lose, the harder it gets. While I want that to be an option for intermediate metagamers, I don't want it to be such the focus of play that it's the entire goal of the game.

So, I've got two main questions/points of concern:

1) What do you think of this mana system? I know Magic's whole land-as-mana schema gets a lot of flack these days, with the possibility of mana lockout especially condemning those design choices. I'm hoping to mitigate that somewhat by sharing Sparks in the World Tree... if someone's got something, then everyone's got it. Sharing mana might also help to mitigate first turn advantage. But where might this still fall short, or set up other problems down the line? And how could we address those concerns?

2) Any other ideas for simple but meaningful victory conditions? I want to stay away from the war game/health points approach; hopefully the cards can rather tell stories with each other, thus opening secrets in my schema, but how else might these stories and interactions win one the game? Any other ideas on how to hone the Seven Secrets system?

Other idle concerns include which stats should be included on cards--should every Spirit be able to Attack and Defend, like in Magic/Yu-Gi-Oh etc. Should every Spirit have a speed-of-movement across Worlds? How else could travel be handled? And how generally can Spirit interactions be geared less toward combat and more toward storytelling without leaning too much towards a "2-player Solitaire" kind of experience? I feel like there's so many possibilities here, and I'd happily drift further from the more generic Magiclike trappings of this current incarnation. And any other general takes on fulfilling my wife's childhood dream game, or games which might approach these ideas?

Also, what should we call them? Spirit Cards? World Soul TCG? The Game of Creation?? Sefirot???