Bloodwork: But how do you win?

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It’s 3 in the morning and everything got busted up because the internet stopped working properly at my place, so in a fit of despair about workplace productivity I decided what I wanted to do with my time was work more on Bloodwork, because that’s what a sensible brain decides to do when it can’t sleep.

Okay, so I have resolved that every card needs to be playable in a variety of different play factors; a line builder, a deck builder, a hand builder, and three different forms of dice-fed engine flow games.

For a dice game, one of the most basic things you need is a number on the card to show what triggers it on a dice roll. That’s easily set aside because you can have that information presented by the materiality of the game itself: You place the cards in one of six potential spaces and those spaces indicate where you go from. ALl you need is a consistent number on one side to indicate where you count from

In the case of the decentralised cryptovamps, they assign stacks of 1-6, in the pyramid scheme, you start with numbers 1-4, and then as you add layers, you get 1-5, then 1-6 at third layer. This encourages you to relentlessly grow.  The cops’ line is six cards long and constantly cycling in individual members and the cult is similarly placing six cards around in a ring, jumping forwards a number. This completely offloads the number from the cards themselves.

What I need instead is to think about the actions I want the game to include so that the characters can engage in them and therefore, the cards can have standard iconography for it.

One thing I know I want cards to be able to do is violence. Cards should, when they present, make it possible for characters to attack other characters violently based on circumstances. This violence can be social or physical and have different demands. For example, it could be that violence against the crypto bros can destroy nodes (that they can rebuild), but violence against the pyramid only attacks the ‘outermost’ level. The cops, violence can smack around their cards a lot – maybe even knock cards out of their lineup for good, depending – but they just slot more cards in to fill back up.

Violence is not the primary way of winning the game. It’s a way of interacting with other players. You can do violence to hands decks and cards.

I need therefore a standard icon for violence

I want players to be able to draw cards. This may not be of use for a pyramid, or maybe a cult, that may have a different value there. But –


Okay, so there’s a card icon. For most people that card represents moving a card to a more usable state. For the bluebloods that puts it from the discard back into their deck. For the cult, that lets them pick up a card for placing next turn. For the hand management vamps, that lets you add a card to your hand from your used area. For the Pyramid, this lets you swap cards underneath the triggering cards. So ‘card draw’ cards let you reorganise the pyramid in a limited space, adjusting the impact of die rolls.

That means we need a standard icon for Plus Card.

There’s got to be a icon for Get Blood, and there’s got to be an icon for Get Thrall, those should be easy. Thralls are a burnable resource, a lot of the old vampire groups are going to want to dispose of thralls every turn as they get bigger. The younger ones are instead more likely to generate and maintain thralls as a way to get resources between turns – like thralls power up locations or can be used for blood in a renewable way.

A thing the deck builders probably want is a way to get rid of cards, and maybe turn them into other resources. That might need something like SCRAP or JUNK but really it’s more likely to ditch because that’s a grungier feeling word.

And that’s the standard terms; +blood, +thrall, +violence, +card. That’s a start.

There are also potential numeric values, since a thing I haven’t really addressed is how do you win?

Originally, the idea was that the game had very little direct player interaction. Vampire gangs were isolated and could only interact with one another by who they recruited. The goal of the game was that you could build up resources or sneak around and claim ancient relics from the oldest tombs, and ownership of three of them meant you won the game. But now this mechanic has gangs making direct attacks on one another.

I still like the idea of relics, stuff like that, and they can be put in the deck of cards as things that show up and change the game when they show up. No harm there. Control over them could also be a thing, though that runs the risk of not having them show up in the early game. The more layers of setup required to get the game going, the worse, in my opinion.

I want the game to take place almost immediately. The aim is that the players get their player card, the deck gets shuffled and the game starts, with each player doing the setup on their card. (Note to self for later: The player guide card should have the ‘setup’ on the back, including the ‘slow grow’ of the builders). That means strategies like a seeded deck aren’t good, and I don’t want the central area of the game to be too polluted with things that distract from the marketplace. 

I think with this direction I want the players to be able to hit each other and for the victory condition of the game to be messing people up. Suddenly, the organisations are ways to protect the player, and each has a new thing they can value. Defense! Things you have to get through! A vampire bodyguard demands you push through them before you can get to the player behind them. A fortified location can soak up your opponents’ violence. 

There’s also room for social hazards here – control, dominance in an authority in an area. Being killed, for the elder vampires, might not even be a concern. The concern might be what it means to be struck.

Borrowing here from Star Realms, now, we have some more mechanical terms for the cards

  • Attack. You need to spend resources to attack cards, you need to have violence opportunities. This can build on the mechanisms in the game Middleware, where ‘Violence’ gives a character an opportunity to make an attack, but those opportunities cost.
  • Defense.Some vampires, things, can
  • Control. Players start with control, and you can lose the game by running out of control (you lose it when you’re attacked) or win the game by hitting a target value of control. Possibly only old vampires can win through Control.

And then there’s the Relics.