Design an 18 Card Legacy Game

This is a post about the design and development of a currently unnamed Shipwreck Game. You can see the other Blog posts at the Index for the Game.

Button Shy Games is a game company run by Jason Tagmire that exclusively publishes games consisting of only 18 cards. They often run public competitions and their latest is definitely designed (pun intended) to push the creative limit. They are giving people the months of April and May to design an 18 card legacy game. It must follow the general conventions of a legacy game, with permanently altered rules and components. And as well as the obligatory 18 cards, the game can have up to 3 card size sheets of stickers, and one card sleeve, black on one side, to hold/hide up to 3 of the 18 cards (plus the stickers, if you choose).

Mini Shipwreck Game

Making a 9 card version of Wingspan taught me a lot about distilling a game down to its essence. A legacy card game, of only 18 cards seems like an ideal opportunity to focus on getting the core elements of shipwreck working, and slimming the game down to its absolute essentials. The vast majority of this game was already blank cards, that you populate with info during the play. The trick with this competition is that you cannot use any other tokens in the game play, which means no cubes to track things like health or damage. That means combat will have to be like Marvel Legendary or Hero/Star Realms, where you either have enough “attack” to eliminate a card, or you can do no damage at all.

A Legacy Story

I have been working on the stories for the campaign, and have been thinking about adding additional elements and world building. The shipwreck game is very much a slow burn solo campaign, played over a large number of games. An 18 card legacy campaign, with changes being made to the core mechanics at the end of each game, is very much a different beast. I’m leaning towards making it a co-op combat game, where 2 players characters get stronger, as the villains they fight get harder. This idea is dependent on an efficient utilisation of the components.

Breakdown of Components

2 cards are required for player cards. These would have vital statistics on them, that will develop over time. They could be double sided, with a more complex side used later in the campaign. Or the scenarios could be done twice, so you end up with a choice of characters for post campaign play. Either way, that’s 2 cards down.

In order for there to be a decent arc in the campaign, there needs to be, maybe, 8 games. Jason Tagmire suggested 12 or 15, but I don’t see how to make that much variability. 4 double sided master villain cards would allow 8 different games. Each master villain would have their own game plan, with different powers, and different win conditions. Keeping the last 3 hidden in the sleeve might be a good way to keep those a surprise.

Villain and Hero Cards

That leaves 12 cards to play with. That’s not a lot of villains to fight from a villain deck, nor recruit-able hero cards to build a deck. Double sided cards increases the number to 24, and 2 cards on each side makes 48. That’s getting up to a more respectable level.

It’s still only 12 physical cards though, and it seems that it would not be a good idea to split that into 2 decks (heroes and villains) of 6 cards each. So in an effort to keep the different card types together in one deck, the logical choice would be to have the villains at the top and the heroes at the bottom. This would also simplify the mechanics by removing a form of currency. Instead of needing attack to fight the bad guys, and recruit/aether/gold to buy the good guys, you would just inherit the good half of any villain you defeated.

Thor Card

So in this instance, when you had 2 attack to defeat “Thor” you would gain “Mj√∂lnir”. Although, you might not be able to use it if you were not found worthy. **cough cough**

More on the Player Cards and the Master Villains in the next post.

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