Card game

Posted: 9th May 2015

As part of my quest to make a game every month until August here's April's attempt [1]: a simple card game.

Much like March's attempt this is a game idea I've been kicking around for a while (about a year and a half in fact). It's also a game that a) I've not yet actually played b) will come back to in order to refine (i.e. once I've played it). So, it's likely pretty terrible and there's a lot more I want to do with it but I thought I'd put it up here firstly so that others can poke it if they want and also so I don't forget/lose the rules.

The Idea

The basic idea of this is that you're magic users trying to kill one-another, the power for your spells comes from your own life force (and is also how you take damage) [2]. The intention is that, in theory, you can cast a spell on your first term which will kill your opponent; equally it's pretty likely they'll easily stop it and you'll die.

There were two core mechanics that I wanted to build into this game: life as both power and lose state, and the idea of building spells over multiple turns which your opponents can counteract [3]. As of yet the latter isn't really present but I think the former is and (should) be pretty interesting. I also have a slew of other mechanics that I'd like to play around with, either here or elsewhere but I figured it was better to keep it simple.



Had my first game and here are the adjustments I'm making based on that:

  1. Life card distribution is now: 12x1-point life cards and 7x2-point life cards
  2. The formula for defence is now:

    Defence = defensive power + number of defence spells

The reason for the first change is to encourage smaller lighter spells and make the game a bit longer (25 life cards rather than 15). The second change was made as in a lot of the games damage just wasn't being done, the defensive spells were just far too hard to breach, hopefully this will make offence and defensive play more balanced.


To clarify the rules a bit I've changed a few things.

  1. 'Summons' are now 'summon modifier' (naming things is hard, ok?) this is to make it clear what these do
  2. 'Summon Modifier' spells now resolve after attacks. This is to make it clear that the newly summoned modifier can't be used until next round.

I've also re-worded bits to try and make things clearer, any questions/comments/feedback feel free to email me at

The Rules

Winning & loosing

The winner is the last remaining player.


The player who draws the highest life card is first player (keep drawing to resolve ties).

Each player has a deck of 15 'life' cards these need to be shuffled and put near the player. In the middle of the table are the 'modifier' cards, organised by type. You need one of each modifier card per player (e.g. there should be 2 of each modifier, 12 cards in total) [4].

If there are more than two players each player needs 3 target cards for each other player.

The round

Each round is split into four parts: bidding, playing, resolution and clean-up.

  1. Bidding Each player states, and then draws, how many life cards they will use that round. This continues until each player passes.
  2. Casting In secret, each player plays up to 2 spells. The spells can be any combination of 'attacks', 'defences' or 'summon modifier'. Unused life cards are discarded face down.
  3. Resolution Spells are resolved: first 'attacks'/'defences' then 'summon modifiers'. All spent life cards are discarded face down and used modifiers returned to their pile.
  4. Clean-up The player to the left of the first player becomes first player. Players with no remaining life cards are out.


Starting with the first player then progressing to the left each player states a number, then draws that many life cards. Each player must draw at least 1 card and cannot draw more life cards than they have. Players may bid multiple times and bidding continues until all players pass.


There are three possible types of spell a player may cast. They can normally only cast 0, 1 or 2 spells per round (3 if they've played 'extra hand'). All of the spells require some number of life cards to cast and are cast in secret [5]

The three types of spell are:

Place a target card, any number of life cards and any number of modifier cards face down, portrait. Attacks do damage to the target. A higher total value of life does more damage.
Place a target card, any number of life cards and any number of modifier cards face down, landscape. Used to prevent damage to the caster. A higher total value of life prevents more damage.
Summon modifier
A single life card played *face up*. Allows a single modifier to be drawn. A higher value life card allows you to draw earlier.

Only life cards that the player drew during the bidding round may be used. Modifiers must have been drawn in a previous round to be used. Any life cards not used in casting a spell are discarded face down.


First resolve attack spells. Defensive spells only resolve when they are used to stop an attack.

Attacks resolve in order of most to fewest component cards (e.g. an attack with 5 cards will resolve before an attack with 1 card). To resolve the spell the caster turns over spell's target card. The target may then nominate any number of their defensive spells with which to block it. Once all defensive spells have been nominated all of attack and defence cards are turned face up.

The attack then does damage:

    Damage = attack power - Defence


    Defence = defensive power + number of defence spells

e.g. If player-A has an attack spell consisting of two power-2 cards and a power-4 card then they have a attack power of 8 (2x2 + 4). If player-B then uses two defensive spells to block the attack, one containing a power-2 card and another containing two power-1 cards then they have a defence of 6 (2power + 2x1power + 2spells). This means player-B suffers 2 point of damage.

For every point of damage the defender must discard, face down, a life card from the top of their deck.

Once the damage is done any modifiers used in the spells are returned to their draw decks. All life cards (from attack and defensive spells) are discarded face down. The only exception are any defensive spells with the 'durable' modifier which discard the modifier only and are turned face down. The target card returns to its owner.

Next, resolve any summon modifier spells. To resolve a summon modifier spell the player takes a single modifier card. If multiple players have cast summon modifier spells resolve order is determined by the value on life cards they have played. The player with the highest value life card draws first and so on.

Clean up

The first player moves to the left and any players with no remaining life cards are out of the game. Any modifier cards are kept for the next round.

The Cards

This is a card game, to that end you need cards, 21 per player. You can buy 1000 blank white cards for about £10 or you can get a couple of decks of playing cards and have some sort of mapping.

There are two sets of cards: 'life' cards and 'modifier' cards. Each player has a their own deck of life cards then the modifier cards (one of each per player) are a shared resource.

Target cards

If there are more than 2 players each player needs 3 tokens or cards per other player to represent their targets. e.g. If there are 3 players each player needs 6 target cards, 3 for each of their opponents.

Life cards

The life cards are simple, each has a value and that's it. The values are 1 to 5 with the following distribution:


Not very imaginative but it's a start, I guess...

Modifier cards

The modifier cards are more complex. Obviously the life cards are force, these are finesse. I've currently come up with 6 of these and one of each is needed for each player.

When this spell resolves add the top card of your life deck to any spell (including this one) [play with spell].
When this spell resolves move 1 life card from (or to) it to (or from) another, unresolved spell [play with spell].
Reveal this with target. At least 2 defensive spells are required to block this spell. If only one defensive spell is used it has no effect but is discarded as usual [play with spell]. [6]
This spell can block 2 spells (on the same, or different turns) [play with spell].
Extra hand
You play play 3 spells this turn [play after bidding].
Return any number (minimum: 1) life cards to your deck then shuffle it [play after bidding].


An offensive spell, does damage equal to the sum of the power in the attack spells.
The amount of life force you'd like to use to crush your enemies (this turn).
When a player moves cards directly from their life deck to the discard pile.
The amount of damage mitigated from an attack. Equal to the sum of the power in defensive spells plus the number of cards used to defend.
Place a life card in the discard pile, life cards are always discarded face down.
Used to power all spells. A number between 1 and 5. When you run out of life cards you're out of the game.
Spell components that produce more interesting effects.
When the spell actually happens. In the case of a summon it resolves when it's your turn to take a modifier. For an attack or defence it resolves when you reveal life cards. i.e. revealing the target of an attack is not resolving it, neither is playing a defence spell, only when the cards are turned face up in order to calculate damage does either spell resolve.
Summon/Summon Modifier
'Spell' that allows you to add modifiers to your hand.
The player that an attack spell will do damage to.

[1] Yes, I know it's May, so I'm late, so sue me. [back]

[2] I realise that this is a pretty hackneyed idea but I think the mechanics are reasonably interesting. [back]

[3] Basically envisaging the Wizard towers from Terry Pratchett's Sorcery, huge complex spells which have to be tuned to your enemies' defences. [back]

[4] I suspect I may need to change the number of modifier cards but 1 per player seems a good start at least. [back]

[5] e.g. behind a book or something, I dunno, convince your cat to sit in front of you maybe? [back]

[6] This is far wordier that I would like it to be... [back]