As a matter of practice, it’s important to me that I keep demonstrating different ways to engage with games. Making games is a practice, and when you can look at game assets and consider ways to apply them, you’ll begin to see how much of game design is stuff you can do. Therefore, on this blog I’m making it a project to regularly grab some game assets I couldn’t make myself, that are made for game designers to work with, and see what ideas they inspire.
I did spend a long time today – when I wrote this – picking out possible assets to buy for this project this month. I also thought about maybe just using art assets I knew I couldn’t buy because the point is the brainstorm, not the product. I looked at a lot of stuff today, and I tried very hard to come up with something that felt interesting…
But I kept getting pulled towards a mechanical idea I’ve been thinking about.
This time, we’re going to look at an idea I’ve been toying with that wants to use, at least to start, ordinary playing cards.
It’s not that I don’t have game assets to work from but in this case, I have a specific idea that I’ve been aiming at, a game that’s been in the drawer for years. I want to make a game about running scams on a casino, and I want to do it as quickly as possible, with almost no difficulty making a prototype out of existing pieces.
Easy way to rapid prototype? Playing cards.
This is something that’s important for brainstorming process. A typical euro poker deck is a deck of cards that has an existing set of priorities and relationships. There are suits, colours and numbers, and there’s also the division of face and number cards: You can make a lot of different game designs just using those existing groupings.
This was in part inspired by Regicide. If you’re not aware, Regicide is a cooperative card game that uses what is really a standard deck of playing cards. It gives you powers based on the suits of cards, it gives you an enemy based on the face cards, and it uses the symbols of the suits as a mnemonic to explain what the cards are doing mechanically. I’m disgusted by how clever this game is and it kind of underscored to me just how much you can do with cards that just explicate what they mean to one another.
Anway, I’ve long had an idea about robbing a casino as a card game, and this seems a fine way to approach it. The casino starts as a grid of poker cards, and you’re placing your workers in the casino to do things like scare off security, chase out other criminals in the space, maybe get special abilities based on various face cards, and ultimately, at the end of the positional game, the winner is the player with the best poker hand.
Okay, what if two players want to occupy the same room in the Casino? Could be a mechanic for making them fight – maybe it’s just at the end, the winner is the one in the room with the highest number. Could be a thing you use other moves to change, pushing people out of the room somehow. Tokens with hidden numbers on it seems fun to me.
Play loop at this point is that players start the game with two hole cards, you deal out this grid, with a burner card. Then you get to place your workers, each turn, and each player moves a security guard from room to room on each turn. Where the guard arrives, everyone leaves to an adjacent room. The simplest version of this just ends when everyone’s placed their workers.
Okay, so the art assets will follow along with the game mechanics. What I want to look at here is how many cards does this need?
A typical poker game uses hands that are five cards. In Hold’em, there’s a ‘river’ of five cards, and two personal cards, and you make your best five card hand out of all those cards put together. People have the same common pool, which means you can guess what possible cards they prioritise; and you have personal cards that change what you value. Based on this, I want players to pick three cards, their hole cards are two cards. What does that mean…
It means that players get two cards each, there’s a grid of nine, one burn card, at minimum. Simple math time.
x=9+(2*4)+1 x=9+8+1 x=18
Our nearest multiple of 4 to 18 is 20, and 16 at the other end. We can get two different options there:
18 Cards, King-To-Jack With Wilds K♥ Q♥ J♥ A♥ K♦ Q♦ J♦ A♦ K♣ Q♣ J♣ A♣ K♠ Q♠ J♠ A♠ Joker (Black) Joker (Red)
20 Cards, King-To-Ten K♥ Q♥ J♥ A♥ 10♥ K♦ Q♦ J♦ A♦ 10♦ K♣ Q♣ J♣ A♣ 10♣ K♠ Q♠ J♠ A♠ 10♠
I’m not an expert on the math, but the King-To-Ten has space for more ways to get a straight (ace, king, queen, jack, and ten). That seems to give more interesting options, as opposed to there being only two options for a potential straight. I like twenty cards for now.
Twenty cards to make up our casino. Three tokens per gang. A tile that gives you your gang power and player reference (because poker hands are sometimes confusing).
That sounds very doable, to me, and in this prototype form doesn’t need anything but the existing cards and some chips or tokens.