(Un)productive Games

Anyone who knows me knows I love games.   And I love a variety of games; I’m not tethered to just RPGs or just board games.  My tastes run the gamut – everything from stock card games to console games to board games; PC games to custom card games to pen-and-paper games.

A lot depends on the mood I’m in and what else is going on.  I might feel like taking on a dungeon crawl in Munchkin; maybe I’d rather go with a classic game of chess; perhaps I’m thinking old-school with Katamari on my PS3 or really old-school with World of Xeen on my PC.

This week/weekend has been spent playing a new game I picked up – Star Realms – as well as designing not one or two, but three games of my own (to go with the other game I’ve had working for a few months).

[all this, of course, while I’m supposed to be remodeling the house.  But that’s beside the point; games is the point here]

Star Realms, if you’re not familiar with it, is awesome.  It’s a deck-building game that’s set in space where you’re out to destroy your opponent by buying ships, bases and outposts, putting them into play, and then slowly (or quickly) taking your opponent’s “health” down to zero.  I have both the physical game (~130 cards) as well as the mobile game (you can find that on Android or iOS – both free) and the PC game.  It’s a great game that’s easy to learn and play.

In short here’s how it goes.  You start with a deck of 8 “Money” ships and 2 “Combat” ships.  You shuffle them up, deal yourself five and then use the value of the Money ships to  buy new ships/bases (which immediately go to your discard pile) and the value of the Combat ships to attack your enemy and their bases.   When your deck runs out then you shuffle your discard pile and start over, but this time all the ships you bought are in your deck – hence “deck-building”.

It’s way more in-depth and strategic than that (each ship/base has certain Money/Combat values and they can “team up” for more benefits with ships of their same faction; some can let you draw additional cards, others can let you scrap low-value cards; others can give you free ships; and so on) but it’s a very simple mechanic – simple enough my 9 year-old picked it up the first time he played it…and almost beat me.

It’s also more even than something like, say, Magic: The Gathering because the ships you can buy are a common pool – everybody can buy from them.  There’s no “I paid $300 for my deck” to worry about (the full game is less than $15 on Amazon and plays two+ players); if the Blob Fighter is in the center and it’s your turn you can buy it; if you pass on it then the next player can buy it instead.

Oh, yeah – and it’s very addicting.

The three games I designed are in various stages.  The first one has the concept fleshed out, the initial specifics put together and the cards written (now it’s on to playtesting/stress testing); the second one has the first two parts done but is waiting on card creation; the third is just a fleshed-out concept.

I’m not sure yet what I’m going to do with the four games I have (all are custom card games; two are deck-building; one is a dungeon crawl; one I don’t know what to call it).  Once I’ve validated that they are relatively balanced and make sense from my end I will probably try to playtest them both with my kids and some of the online forums and hopefully at least one of them would pan out to license/sell to someone.  I’m also contemplating a Kickstarter campaign if they really flow well; there seems to be a huge (and growing) market for them.

My biggest challenge right now is really artwork because, well, I can’t draw.  Anything.  So for my card designs I’m just writing stuff on them for now; ultimately, though, I’ll have to find someone who’s capable of putting multiple dots together on a picture to make it look like something real.  That ought to be interesting.

That’s it for now – time for some dinner and then more remodeling work (since games took up about 2/3 of my weekend so far…).

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What do you think?