Card game resource-gathering

So I'm working on Leviathan, which is, at the very least, a customizeable card game where you play gang-like groups competing with one another. I made an over-long post about it on my blog, where I am mining a scholarly work on gang behavior for mechanics.

For the time being, I have an inkling of how I want to design the "character" cards, but before I can genuinely simulate simple interactions between them, I need to understand how they come into play. I have had two principal ideas thus far. One is more inspired by Magic: The Gathering than the other.

In Magic, for those who don't know, you build your deck to include a fair number of "land" cards. These are special cards that cost nothing to play, can be tapped once per turn for one unit of the resource ("mana") you spend to play other cards, and refresh to an untapped state next turn. Thus, the most mana you can spend in a single turn, barring specialized cards, is the number of land cards you have drawn thus far in the game. This is simple and quick in play, and it makes it an easy metric for balancing.

So one method would be to duplicate this structure, making certain cards explicitly of the resource-producing kind. The wrinkle would be that your resources aren't limited by the number of such cards you have. First, you need to have some character card "collect" or "harvest" the resource. Second, a given resource card may be tapped multiple times in a turn, but generating some kind of threat, danger or bad karma (basically, some kind of resource for your opposition) as the supply grates under your greed.

The other method was the first I thought of, and a bit more complicated and out there. The idea was that characters would cost nothing to play, but that they can only be played during conflicts, either as the instigator, by the aggressor player, or as a responder, by the defensive player, or as someone who gets drawn into the confusion, by either player. At the end of the conflict, all the characters return to the hand. Resources still exist (since there has to be a struggle over them,) but they either can be spent only on other sorts of actions besides playing characters, or they are merely a metric for success/victory.

Any thoughts about the consequences about either of these methods? Does one sound more or less fun or thematically appropriate than the other? Any card games out there I could mine for better-seeming mechanics to try out?


  • My first thought for a "resource" is what we used to call "Juice." I dunno if that's still a relevant term these days, but it basically means "respect mixed with heavy doses of fear." The problem with enforcing your territory through fear is that if you push people too far, they won't have anything left to lose and your power over them immediately ceases. Perhaps that's one consequence of "tapping" the resource, you have to keep spending at least what you've spent before + a little bit extra. That might also reflect the inescapable gang lifestyle, to certain extent.
  • Yeah, "Juice" is the word, at least for modern urban settings. But one of my hopes right now is for the players to design the setting by defining what is scarce in it. So my deck might be composed of Fremen and spice-generating patches of desert, but I probably couldn't say that the Fremen might push the desert too far, and now it has nothing to lose. :) That's why I thought it would be preferable to have a vague "Karma" pool that your enemies can spend to create adverse circumstances, that builds as you practice unsustainable business practices, which of course you have to do, because your opponents are going to, and you need to keep up.

    Although I might be best advised to make the game accord with a single fixed setting at first. In which case, "Juice" will be one of the big resources, along with "Heart," "Straps" and "Fliff."
  • The newer card games all have much more economical (by which I mean, more interesting-stuff-per-card) resource setups than M:tG does. See Quickstrike and the Naruto game for implementations where cards can be resources or ...things you need resources to do... depending on what you do with them.
  • Quickstrike looks like fun. I wonder what their next license will be. The deck->discard->energy->deck mechanic reminds me of the old Decipher Star Wars card game, which was awesome, if a bit before my time. But I enjoyed it's sans serial numbers resurrection as the WARS TCG plenty.

    ...And I see nowadays WARS be had for ridiculously cheap on ebay.

    Given that I'm trying to make a card game, it's probably time to revive Dead CCG Night. Heck, it's probably time to just play a lot more, period. Lately, I've been harkening back to those more balanced college days when my gaming thoughts and actions weren't so focused on RPGs alone...

    Thanks for the heads-up, shreyas. Definitely planning to start playing Quickstrike.
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