After spending half a year developing a 370+ card expansion for Marvel Legendary, including new mechanics and a new play mat, I thought my first original game should be a much simpler affair. A single deck game with card drafting and set collection would be a great way to begin. So I began a search for themes, with the only requirement that it had to be a game I could play with my 10 year old daughter.
Being a nerd, my first thoughts turned to the Periodic table. Perhaps you could collect rows or columns of elements and earn points for that. Perhaps you could collect element cards, and combine them to make compounds (2 Hydrogen cards and an Oxygen card to make water, for example). A quick investigation of the Interwebz showed me that other younger, and far more handsome nerds had developed these games long before I had thought of them.
The next logical progression my mind made was to simplify the elements to Earth, Fire, Air and Water. These always make me thing of the Smartphone and Tablet App ‘Dragonvale‘, which is a game about breeding Primary element dragons together, and collecting all the possible resulting Hybrids. While this is a game I want to examine in Tabletop form, it is not something I could do justice to in a single deck card game, so I made some notes about that concept, and let my mind meander on.
It wandered to a series of books I read when I was about my youngest daughter’s age; The Littles. It is the story of a family of small beings, living their lives within the walls of a human house, without being discovered. A charming series of books, and if you have young children I thoroughly recommend them. Throughout the books, we are introduced to different “little folk”, that are referred to by different names. The main characters were the House Littles, but their world was populated by Trash Tinies, Mountain Smalls, etc. Two word names; an adjective and a noun; that denote a race and a location. Not a new or unique nomenclature. It’s probably as old as literature, and is certainly prevalent in fantasy writing; wood elf, water nymph, etc. But this naming convention prompted some more solid notions for a family game of set collection.
The cards in a regular deck are also denoted by two words. 7 & Hearts, for example. And in a regular game you can make sets with either of these signifiers. You can collect the 7‘s or you can collect the Hearts. My mind coalesced all these percolating thoughts into the idea of a card game based around a set of locations, representing “the 4 elements”, populated by 4 magical creatures, such as Fairies, Pixies, Elves and Dwarfs. You then have 16 different cards; Earth Fairy, Earth Pixie, etc, plus the 4 creatures in the Water location, the Fire location and the Air location. Game play would revolve around collecting the same creature from the 4 different locations (an Earth Dwarf, a Water Dwarf, etc) or collecting the 4 different creatures from a single location (an Air Fairy, an Air Elf, etc). Each card belongs to two different sets, giving it multiple ways to earn points.
It felt like I had arrived at a reasonable beginning.
Continued in What’s the Hook