Category Archives: Card game design

Card Game Design #4: The Beastiary

Well, we’ve moved from potion-making with Voodoo Mama to Frankenstein-ing and monster creation to Greek mythology.  After a number of iterations and sketches I found that my idea of matching animal parts to make a griffin or chimera was not going to work.  I loved that visual of building a creature/monster but soon I realized that I would need various parts of the same animal, which wasn’t going to work for a game.  For instance, if I had eagle/bird parts, I’d need eagle heads for the griffin but then also just wings for Pegasus, so a player would have a hand of cards, which some would work and others would not and I have to be conscious of card economy.


So I moved to full animal cards, not as fun as parts, but I think that’s the way to go.  In this first list we have: Goat, Bull, Eagle, Lion, Snake, Horse, and then I’m adding Man and Woman, as separate cards, so that you could have a Harpy (woman) and a Minotaur (man)


So if I stopped there we would have these little critters with VP and the player with the most VP wins.  Right?  But wait a minute… You can’t just make a Minotaur or Chimera and NOT HAVE THEM BATTLE!  That’s INSANE.  So, here comes the part where I now need to re-design this into a drafting-COMBAT card game.



Not at all what I was thinking, but with this theme and direction, I just don’t see another way to do it.  So now I’m working on the mechanics.  It’s still going to be FAST & FUN.  I want some strategy, but not too crazy.  Either each ‘beast’ will have a special ability to interact with the cards, or the various animals will have a color that they are assigned to and those will converge into the Beast and those abilities turn on then.  I think I will be sticking with 3 rounds’ Round #1 drafting, Round #2 drafting and Round #3 battle.  Whatever Beasts are left alive give you some VP and the one with the most wins!  Looking at a 20 minute game.  I still want in that quick Sushi Go, Coup-type of quick game space.  I still need a new name, I think for now I’ll refer to it internally simply as Bestiary (although there’s probably 5 games already named that).

So an idea came to me, what if round #3 there are locations that the players draft and can put down and send their beasts to and kill/eat the humans to get VPs?  This will be the whole crux to the game, how to do the combat?  Directly attack players, or use use this dungeon deck where the players send their beasts to.  But now, is it too similar to Thunderstone?  It becomes a whole different game.  So some things to think about:

  1. players draft location cards to play on themselves, on a little personal map.
  2. players all go through a series of locations from A to G, one by one and the player that beats the location gets the points.
  3. players pick, like a draft all at once which locations that they want to “explore” so it’s still drafting in a sense.
  4. locations spread out on a matrix and then players pick locations.

Many choices and possibilities.

Next up:  Play-testing!

Part 3: Is Making Potions fun? ie. Game Theme Change!

Part 2: Voodoo Mama ver 1.2

Part 1: A New Card Game


Is Making Potions fun? ie. Game Theme Change!

Just when I was liking the name Voodoo Mama, I was driving down to the LA Festival of Books this weekend at USC to work my booth selling my graphic novel series Pariah, Missouri and I thought, “You know this game doesn’t have to be about potions, it’s a simple set-building card game, it could be anything.”  I wanted to have 10 ideas/themes that we could go with besides the potion idea just to see what I could come up with.

I thought about what are MY favorite games.  I really like Galaxy Trucker and Castles of Mad Kind Ludwig, because they build things.  That idea of constructing your own X and seeing how it develops for me is a fun activity.  So how could I maybe add that to the game?  I want to keep it a card game, for my first original game that I’m going to see this through to the bitter end and I want to keep it simple with low costs and easy… so it’s cards all the way.

I didn’t want to do space-theme, like Trucker, because while it would be fun, it’s too close to that game.  I wasn’t thrilled about other vehicles or machines, things like that.

Here are some sketches I did on some cards for the potion-making Voodoo Mama

card game
Voodoo mama sketch

Now I was thinking, what if instead of making potions, you are making a monster.  Each monster would have some abilities and VP.  Lots of fun combos and ways to set up the cards.  I was thinking of them going side-ways and in different orientations.


Setting that up became a big challenge to make the art “fit” and be easy to read and understand.


I then thought, “Let’s keep it one orientation for simplicity.”  I made some sketches were all the monsters/people were cut in three parts.  So all the creations required the same amount, there were be combos that could still be used but we just made it even simpler.  The art however would be a challenge, because for a 7-player game we are talking about a LOT of cards.  So designing the different monsters would not be easy, and my 9-types of reagents in Voodoo Mama now seems really compelling.


Then is hit me, “What about Mythical creatures?”  So now we are talking about cutting up monsters and putting them together!  Wow, I like it!  So you all know the Chimera, Griffen, Hipogriff, Pegasus; all these Greek Mythological creatures, what if all the players were a God or someone who created the next thing, the Pig-Bat-snake!  So I made some sketches.



Next Up:  To Find a Name and get some dummy art to play a game with!

Part 2: Voodoo Mama ver 1.2

Part 1: A New Card Game

Voodoo Mama ver. 1.2

I made a few changes to the rules of Voodoo Mama (the working title, every time I say it it grows on me).

I added a way to get in the cauldron (discard pile) to retrieve reagents (now called ingredients) that players have discarded.

I changed some of the powers/abilities of the potions and made them a little more balanced.

I made player-versions of the recipe chart, although I think it’s too small and not a big fan of the colors yet and I’m starting to work on some very basic graphics and ideas for how the cards will look.

IMAG0068 Here’s the charts.  a little small, but I think will get the job done for play-testing.


IMAG0067Some odd symbols and graphics for the 8 ingredient types: Frog legs, Cow Eye, Bat wings, Saliva, Chick blood, Baby tears, Fish eggs

Part 1: A New Card Game