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Project: Dead End part 2 - First Test Rules and Cards

Project: Dead End is a development blog where I am chronicling the process of game design from initial concept through publication. To start at the beginning, click here: Part 1

In my last post I discussed how the design for "Dead End" came about. This time I'd like to talk about specifics. When I was working on ideas, I had a few vague plans for rules, and some card ideas, but I hadn't finalized anything. When I sat down to write out the cards, I had to at least consider limits so that I could stay within boundaries.

What I had at this point:

  • - Hand Size: 3 to 5
  • - Play 2 cards per turn.
  • - Draw up to maximum hand size at start of turn
  • - At the end of the active player's turn, if the total strength of zombies at their house is greater than the current defense, that player dies and becomes undead.
  • - Undead players cannot be the target of zombie cards and cannot play cards such as guns, barricades, or axe.
  • - In addition to playing cards during their turn, undead players may move one zombie off of their house to a living player's house.

With these basic ideas in place, it became time to actually start working on cards. I knew I wanted weapons because... well, this is a zombie game. It just wouldn't be the same without weapons. I wanted the players to be able to boost the defense of their house with boards and nails or heavy furniture. I really wanted players to be able to move zombies off of their house. I struggled for a bit figuring out various ideas for this. The main idea was ripped straight from Walking Dead where the characters are all quiet and don't move and the zombies walk on by. I also wanted to add a bit of uncertainty to using guns. They universally seem to attract zombies in the movies, so why not make that a setback of playing them?

Also, I didn't want there to be useless cards. If a player dies or doesn't have zombies on their house, what would they do with all those action cards? I decided that all cards would also serve as basic zombies. This led to some problems when writing out the cards because I didn't spend any time working on the correct ratio of cards and zombie strength, but I figured that would be corrected through playtesting. So, the cards:

# Name Text Zombie Strength
8 Pistol Kill one zombie Strength 3 or less. 1
6 Shotgun Kill one zombie. 2
7 Shhh... Move one zombie to any opponent. 5
4 Axe Kill one zombie. 7
6 Barricade +2 Defense. 2
5 Noisy Neighbor Play after an opponent uses a gun. Move one zombie to that opponent. 3
4 Here they come! Reveal the top 4 cards of the draw pile. Play one zombie from the revealed cards on each opponent. None
5 Fast Zombie Cannot be killed with an axe. 3
3 Strong Zombie When played, destroy one barricade on the opposing house. 3
2 Wandering Zombie At the end of your turn, move the Wandering Zombie to the player on your left. 2

As you can see the power level of the deck was not really taken into consideration. I really wanted to just see how these cards work together, so I went really heavy on action cards. Also, I started the houses at a defense of 15 which is either too low or the zombies are too strong. The second version of the deck will have less action cards, more zombies, and the strength of zombies will be adjusted. I have a few ideas for some new types of specialty zombie, but there may also be some that are just plain old zombies.

The main thing that needs work is the total distribution. This is also one of the parts I enjoy the most. Whenever I design a new card game, I like to lay things out and look them over. I used to play a large number of CCGs and tuning my games cards feels a lot like building a deck in those games. I like looking at the total power of the deck versus the expected defenses of the houses. I enjoy figuring out the correct mix of offensive versus defensive cards to achieve a balance, but which slightly favors the game ending. Otherwise, it would be very easy to make defensive cards completely useless or make it so that the game never ends because players can easily survive each turn.

I know I promised to talk about the second playtest version in this post, but to be honest, I haven't worked on it yet. I have ideas in my head that I've been stewing over for the week, so I'll put it together before the playtest session............. tomorrow!?

Gotta go. More to come!

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On to Part 3 >>

- February 7, 2012