Back at work, I taught it to my colleague/friend (more friend than colleague I suppose) Sherif. He thought it was pretty cool and took it away to his friends who were avid gamers and to my surprise they enjoyed it. He came back to work and even had some changes that they had made! I was stoked that they had done so and he taught me their tweaks. One of them was that you would heal off the top of the discard so you could put your bad cards at the bottom of the discard and not heal too much, meaning you don’t get those cards back in circulation. The act of resolving cards into the discard in a specific order though added a lot of rules complexity but it was good to see what they were trying to achieve. We played a few more times at lunch, tweaking it here and there but that was about it.
We didn’t play it again. Well, not for 6 months or so. I was not expecting to do anything with the game again (it was just a design exercise after all).
During a chat with a colleague of mine I mentioned my game design hobby and he mentioned that his son had just gone full time doing character fantasy art for D&D players. I checked out the gallery at www.sketchgoblin.co.nz and was instantly impressed by the clean and consistent minimalist style. I was blown away that you could have expression in a face without even having a face! And I left it at that.
After another few months I had an epiphany; DJ’s art (yep he’s the Sketch Goblin himself) is perfect for a deck of cards, and I had a partly finished game using a deck of cards. My thought was to get DJ to do the art and use it as a way to promote his site, and slap our game on it too, but figured that 80% of sales would go to people who wanted a beautiful deck of cards, 18% to people who loved our game, and 2% to the readers of this blog (you kinda have to now…). I pitched it to DJ out of the blue, and despite the fact that he says no to game projects all the time… he said yes! Co-designers Paul and Andy were on board and so we started working to make Regicide the best game that it could be.
So, back to our game and the problems we faced. It was clear that you could draw the whole deck so we added a rule that if you go to draw a card and can’t, you all lose. It seemed to make sense but it really limited the number of players. Four players was basically impossible. Also, big diamonds became a liability in the late game which didn’t seem right.. There were plenty of times where having one of the best cards in the game meant you couldn’t play it. Maybe that could have had potential to become a meaty decision point for the players, but it just felt bad.
Also, the game had a weird cadence to it, where someone would play a big diamond, we would all draw up to our eyeballs and the turn player would discard down to 6. The rest of us though were starting to get quite the collection. It was starting to feel pretty samey since you would just be binning the weaker cards. You never really had to play the low cards and we wanted them to be part of the game. It’s ok to have weaker cards (that’s what makes the other cards stronger right?) but never having to play them wasn’t where we wanted the game to go.
At this stage we were thinking that it might just have to be a 2 or 3 player game, which we felt was not a great result. The trophies were also becoming problematic. If you have played the game live with a deck of cards (and I’ll know if you haven’t!) you’ll know that keeping track of 2 decreasing stats for each enemy is not easy unless you really try. If someone takes ownership of it it’s not too bad, but if you’re looking up every turn and doing the math it can be a bit taxing for some players. Well, imagine now that you have defeated enemies in front of you adding 1 or 2 to specific suits. It made the math really cumbersome. I don’t mind asking players to do math even if it means they need to sharpen up a bit, but the trophy setup was just a step too far. We decided to try having the defeated enemies go to the discard to see what it was like. The Jacks would be worth 11 in the hand, the Queens 12 and the Kings 13. We noticed a few things straight away.
- The power of the deck ramps up as the players progress so now it feels like you’re building up to something.
- The enemies are being defeated and join your cause (broken free from their corruption perhaps?)
- There are now 11 more cards in the deck by the time you are facing the last King so there is less pressure on decking out.
We instantly liked the idea of the defeated enemies going to the discard to be redrawn but there was still a lot more experimenting to do there.
Still, things were progressing well, and it wasn’t because of any amazing design ability or phenomenal spreadsheet with every stat mapped out.. It was just trying a crappy game and fixing stuff along the way. We love to theory-craft, but there is no substitute for just getting it to the table!