View Full Version : "Elements" in a Card Game...

2009-04-19, 02:01 AM
I keep having glimpses of ideas for a Card Game, but right now I'm stuck. I can't figure out what elements to include and what elements not to include. On top of that, I'm not sure how to keep the relations between elements "even." In other words, it would only make sense for each element to have the same number of strengths and weaknesses as each other element (unless I wanted to make things complex, and have more powerful [mechanically] elements have more weaknesses).

So far, the most pleasing development I've had is a triangle. I feel like this triangle leaves much do be desired, but is a decent starting point. The three elements in this triangle are Fire, Ice, and Water. Of course, I'm unsure of what I want water to do, mechanically.

Fire beats Ice. (Fair enough, Ice melts if it gets hot enough)
Mechanically, Fire should be explosive and aggressive, as such, it should be able to take out the ice player before he establishes himself.

Ice beats Water. (If water is cold enough, it freezes)
Again, I don't know what Water would do in this game yet, but Ice would resemble Blue in Magic: the Gathering, but with a lot of White's elements, as well. Expect Ice to have the game's "counterspells" and "circles of protection."

Water beats Fire. (Well, if you want to put a fire out with something, water isn't a bad choice)
I keep writing "Manipulation" and/or "Adaptation" next to Water, but it's hard to know what that will do in a game system you're currently making.

The only other element that I've thought of--and it's hard to incorporate into this system without counterparts--is "Nature," (I would like a different name) which I attach "Strength" and "Recovery" to. I don't, however, want to have "Storm" be a part of Nature (although I suppose having Ice and Water separate 'okays' being 'repetitive'), but do want to incorporate it.

To give you guys an idea of mechanics, this game uses no "resource cards," so Land (Magic) or Energy (Pokemon) cards aren't necessary. I haven't decided how many characters a player can have in a game, or how multiple characters work, but characters serve as your resource cards (and you start the game with at least one character in play). In order for me to use a Ice card, for example, I have to commit (Tap, Spin[?], is there a unused term?) an Ice character and pay its 'energy' cost.

This game is essentially based on depreciation, your characters start the game with X 'energy,' and use that energy as both life and "mana."

In addition to having cards to play in your deck, your character also has his or her (or its?) own abilities. Active abilities can be anything from attacks/debuffs to heals/buffs, to reactions (particularly counters), or possibly even other things. Passive abilities, on the other hand are desirable in that they don't (inherently) require any energy to be used, and may even function if your character is committed.

I think that's a full enough briefing to present a few passive realities to help justify how I have addressed the elements I have mentioned.

A cornerstone Ice ability would be "Exhaustion:"
Exhaustion - Active abilities of your opponents characters cost 1 more energy to play.
I think this does a good job of representing Ice's philosophy of "hosing" opponents. (No Water pun intended.)

Ironically, Fire could demonstrate how indifferent it is to this sort of effect with an almost mocking ability, "Intensity:"
Intensity - All energy costs are increased by 1.
Since energy doubles as life, your opponents are helping you kill them by doing things. Fire wants to take you down as fast as possible, and I don't think its own energy matters to it, I wouldn't think. (Unless you're feeding a fire, it'll die)

I'm not quite sure how this passive ability would work, but I would like for Nature to have a strong healing theme to it, enter "Regrowth:"
Regrowth - When this character uses an ability, it gains 1 energy.

This actually gave me a bit of a lead on Water, I think. Water could deal with Mimicry, check this out:
Mimicry - This character has all active abilities of the opposing character.
Looking at a character with Regrowth, a Character with Mimicry would obviously lose the race. Nature probably would be good (with?) against Water. Assuming there could be more than one character in play, this ability would need tweaking, but I'm still in an extremely conceptual stage for this game.

2009-04-19, 02:46 AM
Shouldn't fire turn ice into water, and then be beaten by that water? And ice would just turn water into more ice...

Of course, none of this matters if you make the game good, but don't shoot yourself in the foot by tying yourself to real-world interactions to that extent. I'd go with something like fire->nature->water->fire, and then just not explain it overly much. For play styles, fire would be fast and agressive and short-lived, damaging themselves to do more damage to their enemy. Nature would be more focused on long-term growth and crushing the enemy with superior end-game strength. Water would be more focused on reacting to the enemy and sustaining themselves, while wearing away at the enemy slowly and steadily. Fire beats nature by hitting it while it's weak, nature beats water by outlasting it and overwhelming, water beats fire by negating damage and sapping at fire's self-weakened strength.

Of course, all of this is moot, because if the game's outcome is decided before the game begins, then you may as well just play rock-paper-scissors with your hands. If you use the above setup, fire could beat water by causing wounds that cannot be healed, or damage over time type effects that can overwhelm water's healing. Nature could beat fire by using cheap damage reduction to keep it alive long enough to win, along with some limited healing and such. Water could beat nature by stopping it's production, or negating it's growth by sapping away whatever it gains with slow, steady attacks.

As an example, using "element" as the numerical resource you were talking about:

(Fire) Scorch
Lose 3 element, your opponent loses 5 element.

(Fire) Immolate
Lose 2 element. Each time your opponent gains element, they lose 1 element.

(Nature) Growth
Each turn, you gain 1 element for each card you have on the table.

(Nature) Ironwood
Each time you lose element, you lose 1 less element than you would.

(Water) Tide
Gain 6 element. Your opponent loses 2 element.

(Water) Erosion
Each turn, you gain 2 element, and your enemy loses 2 element.

You could mix things up by also having light and dark as sub-elements, though I'm not sure how those would operate.

2009-04-19, 03:00 AM
Thanks for the input!

You've made a good enough point on the real-world interactions. I think the best way to circumvent the "simply playing rock, paper, siscors," issue is to have more than three elements. I definitely would like for players to be able to mix and match elements in their decks, and I think doing so would be more... engaging (perhaps that's the word I want, I'm tired. :smallsigh:). Also, I simply think that the "indifferent to that" aspect of having multiple elements makes the system more interesting, ironically enough.

Right now, I've only got a basic idea of how things work, and the only two definite card types are characters and "spells."

Characters have energy values, this determines how much energy they start the game with (this would probably be best represented by the bead counters that many game shops carry, but could also be handled with a counter of sorts). Then, the character would have his abilities listed, probably two to four of those.

Spells are essentially character abilities, only they are inherently more powerful. In order to use a character's ability, you need to "commit" a character, in order to use a Spell, you need to commit a character of the corresponding element. There could be spells that can be played without committing characters (but require a character of a specific element), or possibly even spells that must be played off of committed characters.

I would like to incorporate creatures into the game, but I am having trouble deciding how they would work. I'm thinking they would serve as meat shields with their own abilities, perhaps having them be weaker than characters. While I don't think creatures should be able to cast spells, it is possible that there could be exceptions to this rule (as a passive ability, for example).

2009-04-19, 01:50 PM
You could just go for the classic four elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Air. Light and Dark could also mix in somehow, either as their own decks or as sub-themes on the original four. The most important part is to give each element it's own style, as in play style and thematic style. Earth could use the "outlast" style I gave for nature above, water and fire could use the same, and then air would do something else. Perhaps air could focus on manipulating the cards themselves? For example countering spells or reversing their effects, being impossible to hit and turning the enemy against themselves, all while sapping their strength.

If you want to incorporate creatures, perhaps light and dark could affect what types of creature you use? The elements would be your spells, and then you could have light for lots of smaller creatures that work well together, or dark for a couple big creatures that are just strong individually.

Soup of Kings
2009-04-19, 03:22 PM
I wouldn't worry about "elements" too much off the bat. Work out the mechanics, and come up with a few basic themes in terms of what cards do. Look at MTG. Each color of magic isn't strictly tied to a certain element (Red is earth, fire, etc. Blue is air, water, etc.), but they do have specific themes. So come up with these themes, and work out how they interact with each other. Don't even name them if you don't have to; call them "The one that attacks quickly" or "The one that focuses on defense/healing"

Later in the process, after you get all that worked out, look at the way they interact with each other and the themes they embody, and then choose elements to fit those themes. Remember that you don't even NEED elements, unless you want them, or need them, to fit the flavor of your game. That said, almost any sort of relationship is possible, and you, as the creator, have the ability to lay it out however you want and explain why this theme/element is strong against this other theme/element. There's any number of combinations you can come up with.

Water > Fire > Wood > Earth > Air > Water
Fire > Plant > Water > Fire (AKA Starter Pokemon XD)
Steel > Fire > Plant > Earth > Steel

It doesn't even need to be as simple as that. Consider a multi-layered RPS mechanic. Say you have three categories, Natural, Magical, and Technologic.

Let's say
Tech > Nature
Nature > Magic
Magic > Tech

Now, within each category is three or more elements. Let's go with A, B, and C.
A > B
B > C
C > A

Tech A is strong against Tech B, but weak against Tech C. But it also interacts with the other categories. Tech A beats Nature A. It's even more powerful against Nature B, and probably evenly matched against Nature C.

This idea might be a bit confusing, and I don't know if I explained it well. I might make a chart later to illustrate it. The point is, you don't have to conform to a simple RPS mechanic. You can make it as elaborate as you want.

Anyway, that's my 2 cents. Or, perhaps, more like 20. Take it or leave it.

In summation, don't worry about elements to begin with. Concentrate on individual groups of cards that are tied together by a common theme (Mechanics-wise). "Elements" are essentially fluff, and I wouldn't worry about them until I had the mechanics of play worked out. Additionally, don't feel limited by a system of "This one beats that one, that one beats the other, etc." Be inventive!


One, regarding simply adding elements to take away the "rock paper scissors" aspect. It doesn't work. I've fiddled with the idea before, and while it may seem different at first, it's all the same. You just wind up with something like this (http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/319609). RPS mechanics aren't a BAD thing, they're simple and easy to understand. But be creative with them!

The other, regarding you trying to figure out how to work creatures into the game. I would look at the Harry Potter TCG or the WoW TCG for inspiration. WoW has "allies" who serve your character, known as the "Hero" and HP has creatures that serve your witch/wizard. Sorry if that's not close enough to what you wre looking for, though.

2009-04-19, 03:30 PM
Maybe have seperate triangles, which are indifferent to each other.

e.g. fire meets ice, fire wins; fire meets water, water wins(same triangle). But fire meets nature, it's a draw and they cancel each other out different triangle.

Or maybe have an octagon instead of a triangle. Fire beats nature(burns wood), nature beats earth(roots split rock), earth beats air(not sure why but it's classic), air beats storm(winds blow clouds away), storm beats ice(i don't know why), ice beats water, water beats fire.

Integrated as elements, but separate from the octagon would be light, dark and twilight. on a scale. Twilight combines the effects of both.

and to take away more of the r/p/s aspect, have backfiring spells which cost more element but reverse the octagon. e.g. water puts out fire, but by paying more you can use fire to turn it into vapour/steam.

And what about a final element, Aether. It allows you to combine element spells. e.g. earth, fire and Aether becomes magma, water, air and Aether becomes cloud or maybe even rainbow...


2009-04-19, 06:04 PM
Another way to beat the RPS mechanic would be to allow for and/or encourage multi-element decks. To use AgentPaper's elements in an example, a fire/nature deck wouldn't hit as hard as a pure fire deck in the beginning, but it would have a better chance of surviving in a long, drawn out match.

2009-04-19, 07:24 PM
How familiar are you with trading card games? What you're describing sounds a lot like old-style Magi Nation, with your "character" represented by a mage that actually casts the spells.

Or perhaps you play the character, then tap them to cast spells? That sound more like a cross between Pokemon/Sailor Moon and the Shadowrun/Vampire/Legend of the Fire Rings system.

Unless you want your system to be quite simple - and simple is good, just maybe not desired - avoid the Rock-Paper-Scissors methodology. Look at Magic the Gathering: white doesn't "beat" red, and black doesn't "beat" white, but a lot of white cards work well against red's common strategies, and a lot of black cards work well against white's common strategies.

2009-04-22, 10:13 PM
If you want to use elements, I would vote against any sort of rock-paper-scissors, because it's just going to make the game, well, rock-paper-scissors. (I come in with my fire deck, and you got an earth deck. Well damn, seems I lost)

Instead, go with something like what magic has done/tried to do/did/might do in the future, and have opposing elements. Fire and Earth strategies don't synergize well, so make them opposing. (Offensive vs Defensive) Air and Water don't synergize either, so they also oppose each other. (Proactive vs Reactive)

Edit: In any case, share what you have as soon as you think it's ready for playtesting! I'd be happy to help work out any kinks. I can't claim to be a card-playing master, but I've played a good bit of magic and should be able to spot most of the obvious flaws.

And as a final reccomendation, I've always wanted to see a card game that used a battlefield-mechanic of some sort. For example having 5 or so routes between the players that you can use, each some random terrain type, and you have to choose which to attack through and which to defend each turn.

2009-04-23, 12:39 AM
I agree with the lack of rock-paper-scissors going on...

I'd also suggest the classical Greek or Japanese elements: Earth, Wind, Fire, Water, and (respectively) Aether or Void. Perhaps Void/Aether could allow combinations of elements in ways not normally allowed...

2009-04-23, 02:06 AM
Sorry about not responding, gang, I really appreciate the feedback. I had typed up a large reply, and it got lost somehow. That frustrated me too much to re-type it at the time, and I haven't been in the best mood lately.

I'm still thinking about this project occasionally, and I think I'm going to put the elements on hold, and just group mechanics and whatnot as it seems appropriate. I'll name the groups later.

I've given thought to playing cards face down and perhaps treating them as something else (MTG, 'Morph'), or playing them later via unconventional means (Yu-Gi-Oh! and its flip cards). However, cards would be put face down by other cards (and turned face up), as opposed to having a sort of trust system in effect.

I believe someone asked (don't feel like looking now, sorry if I'm rude) what games I am familiar with, I currently play Magic: the Gathering, and have recently learned how to play UFS, I've also re-learned Pokemon. I picked up some stuff from my parents house and my Gameboy Advance was among said stuff. I started playing Magi Nation (the GBA game), and a lot of this game's inspiration is here. I'd love to learn more about the Magi Nation card game, but have no access to cards or players of that game (I also don't feel like paying for cards at this point in time, either).

I'm going through a weird, angsty episode, but I haven't abandoned this project, it's just not as prominent in my head as it was.

And as a final reccomendation, I've always wanted to see a card game that used a battlefield-mechanic of some sort. For example having 5 or so routes between the players that you can use, each some random terrain type, and you have to choose which to attack through and which to defend each turn.

I appreciate you sharing this idea, but I don't think it's well suited to the game I have in mind. It's certainly not a bad idea, though, and you might be onto something.

2009-04-23, 06:30 PM
I appreciate you sharing this idea, but I don't think it's well suited to the game I have in mind. It's certainly not a bad idea, though, and you might be onto something.

Hmm, you may well be right. To the drawing board!

Mayhaps if I get this into a workable system, we can playtest each other's games, hmm? Not sure how we could arrange that though, admittedly.

2009-04-23, 09:37 PM
While I haven't played it much, I am familiar with Magi-Nation, and could tell you just about anything you'd like to know. Well, except about tournament-grade decks; I'm afraid I'm not that familiar with it. :smalltongue:

And yes, your concept is similar to Magi-Nation, at least in part. It's also similar to the Planeswalkers in Magic: the Gathering.

Playing cards face-down at first is interesting. It's a bit like Yu-Gi-Oh's trap cards: your opponent knows you've played something, but has no clue what it is or what it does.

How are you planning the game to play out? I wasnt familiar with the Universal Fighting System (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_Fighting_System) before you mentioned it, so if it's similar to that, you'll need to explain. Getting a good idea of how you want things to play out will help with making suggestions.

And as a final reccomendation, I've always wanted to see a card game that used a battlefield-mechanic of some sort. For example having 5 or so routes between the players that you can use, each some random terrain type, and you have to choose which to attack through and which to defend each turn.
This sounds sorta like Eve (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eve:_The_Second_Genesis_Collectible_Card_Game), Shadowrun, or even Dungeoneer (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dungeoneer_(game)).

2009-04-23, 10:54 PM
Hmm, might have to check those out more for inspiration. Anyways, I'll not derail this thread any further. I might make a new post for my own game, though, once I get some more mechanics ironed out.