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The Design Philosophy of Conflict of Dreams

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Conflict of Dreams is a trading card game which is due to be introduced to Kickstarter on the 1st of June 2019. As the lead designer, I've been asked to describe and elaborate on the design of the game.

When setting out to design a new game we had to assign some design goals to ensure that we had accomplished what we had set out to do. When starting any project, whether it's designing a game, writing a book or anything else, you need to know what it means to finish that project, otherwise the project will lack direction and can cause you a great number of problems. We decided early that we really wanted four things from my game; these were for it to be easy to play, unique, fair and balanced.

Easy to play

Easy to play, hard to master is always a sign of a great game, as such, we set out to make the core of the game as simple as possible. The game turn is split into three phases:

The draw phase

The main phase

The end phase

The draw phase is where you draw a card and gain resource tokens (3 for the first edition champions). Then resolve any other abilities which state they need to be done in your draw phase as specified on your cards. The choice of having a static amount of resources each turn eliminates the potential for having blocks of useless cards which you can find in similar games (mana block and creature block for you card game veterans).

The main phase is where you can do what you want in any order. You may:

Play any number of creature, plant or construct cards.

Use the actions of any champion, creature, plant or construct card in play.

Play any number of cast cards.

The end phase is where players may remove up to one stun token from each card if able, each creature and champion takes 1 damage for each bleed token on it and 1 bleed token is removed from that card. Players can then resolve any other abilities which state they need to be done in the end phase as specified on the cards.

Unique

It was important to make sure that we were not just cloning a game that already exists. Creating something new and innovative was important and we wanted something that would excite new players and cause veteran gamers to consider CoD’s unique aspects.

This is perhaps the hardest part of the design. While fishing around in the ether of random thoughts within our minds it is extremely difficult to come up with something truly original. Although it is alright to draw inspiration from other games, there really has to be something special about it. To make it unique we wanted each playable deck to feel as though the player was almost playing an entirely different game than their opponent. We decided that each deck would start the game with a champion card, when this card is reduced to 0 hp its controlling player loses the game. Each deck ended up revolving around different types of cards:

The martial deck uses equipment cards which have abilities that function as an extension of the champion's own abilities (an equipment cannot use abilities on its own). Various cards also allow the champion to perform combat moves to outplay the opponent.

The magical deck never features any card in play for longer than one turn besides the champion card. This gives the player a feeling of real spell casting unlike any other card game as you're fully dependant on playing it correctly to survive your opponent's more permanent cards.

The mechanical deck features bots and upgrades, creating the largest variety of combinations and a slightly more restricted way of gaining resources.

The natural deck focuses on creatures and plants; creatures help attack and defend while plants focus mostly on increasing the number of resources you gain each turn.

Fair

When it came to the idea of fairness, the idea of play and counter-play is a great design template to work with, whenever someone plays something, there has to be a way to counter it with correct play. The thoughts of a good player after having lost a game must not be "I lost because of the cards", it must be, "I lost because I didn't play as well as I could have", and this is critical to the design of a fair game. We wanted each player to always have options as versatility allows for real skill to determine the outcome of a game instead of luck. The only luck in the game is down to the draw of your cards; all other forms of luck are eliminated. We never wanted a player to have a hand full of cards and feel like there's nothing they can do. That being said, we wanted good play to be rewarded with advantages as well.

Each champion has their own abilities which will remain available throughout the game, and working around these help the player stay ahead. There is a great variety of ways in which each player can either gain resources for playing cards or drawing cards. At the start of each turn each champion allows the player to gain a set number of resources (3 for each of the first four champions, (this may change with future champions released)). This static income creates a baseline that won’t ever decrease, but playing well can greatly increase the number of resources you receive. These resources are retained by each player until they are used, meaning they do not reset at the end of a player’s turn, which can put a lot of focus on denying your opponent's bonuses by simply attacking them. Trying to keep a balance of resources and cards becomes a higher priority than defeating your opponent when playing from behind, but playing carelessly while ahead can cause you to lose rapidly even if you were winning. A lot of cards have secondary goals to ensure the game is rich in choice and consequence and really allows players to get a kick out of playing their decks well.

Balance

This obviously has to come last. Having each deck function in such an extremely different way makes this part of the design rather difficult, but very possible. Simply put, the decks which field the fewest cards in play require a greater number of ways to gain resources and cards. As such, each mage champion has a way to draw the greatest number of cards if you're able to achieve certain goals.

The Soldier (martial deck champion) is more dependent on how effectively he can use his equipment to draw cards and make them last as long as possible. The mechanical deck allows the player to recycle cards from your hand to gain resources, but this trade off comes with the risk of running out of cards if done recklessly.

The Diogeni (natural deck champion) doesn't have any way of drawing cards directly besides drawing at the start of your turn because the whole deck has a focus on gaining additional resources each turn, which allows the player to field stronger and stronger cards assuming you can keep your resource generation alive. The lack of card draw forces the player to make the most of what they have much more than the other decks.

In summary, each deck has a large amount of things that it can do, and a large amount of unique ways to counter what your opponent does. I hope that all players will appreciate the great amount of versatility and skill that this game allows.

 

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gamedev indiedev Indie Game #card conflict dreams card game

Jason Barker

I'm the lead designer over at Somnio Games which creates great and innovative card games and board games.

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