Designing a Card Game

Alright. Wow. That’s about all I can say with respect to the current US political situation. Wow. WE have some serious problems. Most of them are in congress and senate. There’s a loud one in the white house. So toxic and loud.


I have been working on a card game on and off for about 2 years. The first idea of this hit me when I was reading The Lost Fleet series by Jack Campbell. Campbell’s descriptions of the space combat were engaging and provoked a creative response – I instantly started filling quadrille composition notebooks with diagrams and relationship structures for a card-based game that would simulate two fleets passing, or at least in my head it did. I had a good outline of something. Not a game. But a concept to build a game around. Sort of like bones that needed to become a skeleton to actually function together. I spent several months drawing different ideas. I had at the time no working title (I called it the Very Lost Fleet game as a joke). It has since been named Clash. We’ll see how long that sticks, and its probably already copyrighted. Might have to spell it funny, like Klash, or Claash, or Clasch, or something even more stupid. I’ll have to work at it.


SO, I had pages of notes. I distilled what I had to a few pages of diagrams and relationships, values, ideas I wanted to include, and put it aside for a time.

Then I started a big board game project that I am affectionately calling TUCA (Total Utter Complete Annihilation) which is basically a 4X game in a fantasy setting at the dawn of the discovery of a powerful new fuel: Slick (heavy handed much?). The game has a lot of stuff I want to include. The combat is card driven, with a rock-paper-scissor structure at its core. And there is a set amount of slick in the game world, and after set amounts of Slick is used to do things in the game, an Apocalypse strikes, and radically shifts the game rules and environment. All while you are fighting over territory, setting up mining operations, building forts, and other stuff in the terrain between city-states.

So yeah, another project entirely. Then I got to a point where it needs a big shift in thinking to get to the next playtest phase. TUCA is as of this writing about 30% something like a board game that I might want to play, which is basically the baseline for my even creating a game.


After getting through a few playtests of TUCA’s combat card mechanic, I had the ideas needed to make Clash a possibility. So I went to work. About 10 revisions and 4 months later, I have two working prototypes. It plays in the manner I envisioned it, and has a variety interwoven structures all in a rock-paper-scissor style format. The game revolves around forcing your opponent to discard cards until they don’t have enough to play the next round. It is possible to have both players lose.

Game Structure

The fleet cards are double valued, and are spun 180-degrees to change their ‘facing’ value which is the side of the card facing your opponent’s fleet card. Each player will have 12 cards (6 sets of pairs) for a basic game, or 18 cards (1 additional advanced card per pair) for an advanced game. Both game modes are encouraged to use Leader and Location cards, but its not necessary.

Game Play

Each round starts with both players (its a two player game) choosing and laying out four cards from their hand, face-down, in a row along the game placard. Then players reveal their first card, enact any card text if applicable, and make adjustments to your formation cards as per the rules in play. After all cards are revealed, the fleets “pass” each other for their attack run, and you deal damage to each other’s formation cards, and any tactics in play may or may not deal damage to your opponent’s hand of cards directly. Each move has a counter. Each counter, an exception. Every hit to your hand makes you lose a card. Every Formation card with a losing value (rock beats scissors, or bigger rock beats smaller rock) is also discarded. As you lose cards, you lose access to your tactics and your fleet’s ability to fight shifts, pushing you closer to defeat.

The game play should feel tense as you start losing things. New players should feel


I will be heading to a FLGS to playtest this in a couple Wednesdays, and get some feedback. I know it needs refinement, but I need minds outside mine to see it and play with the system I’ve assembled to expose its weaknesses to me. And whether its even fun or not, which may depend entirely on taste. This is a direct conflict game, as best as I can manage to make right now, and that doesn’t always appeal to everyone’s sensibilities, especially with board gaming as diverse as it is. I have a particular taste in games, and most board games don’t come close to modeling that experience. They model different ones, but not what I enjoy burning my brain on (Quantum and Kemet and Inis to name a few).

I hope it works as its suppose to, or maybe works in a really different way (which would be very cool as well). Hopefully folks will show up to try it out.