designing in circles

card design in mabeopsa

From the very beginning, cycles were at the heart of Mabeopsa. Cards belonged to an element (wood, fire, earth, metal, or water), and I wanted players to move between them either in generative order or in overcoming order. Generative order starts at one element which provides a context for the next element (wood burns, creating ash/earth; minerals/metal are retrieved from the earth and enrich water, which then nourishes wood); overcoming is when an element halts the progress of another (wood roots prevent erosion; fire melts metal; earth muddies water; metal chops trees; water extinguishes fire). The second cycle is the day-night cycle that corresponds to a card's aspect, either yin or yang. While any card can be played at any point in either cycle, the goal was to make them more effective at the appropriate time.

The cycles were part of making the game more predictable to provide yomi opportunities. If I just played a fire card, then you know that I want to follow it up with a generative earth card, which you could counter by playing a wood card; however, if I suspect that you're going to play a wood card, then I can respond by playing a metal card to stop it. I could also play another fire card, but it shouldn't be optimal. If I was really trying to be tricky, I could try to play a water or wood card myself, but doing so should be very difficult. The time of day would determine the card's strength—maybe the water card I chose wouldn't have any effect other than interrupting whatever wood card you played because it didn't match the time of day.

The first version of this made cards easier to play after generative or overcoming elements (playing earth after fire cost two fewer energy, while playing metal would cost one less) and harder moving in the opposite directions (wood after fire cost one more energy, while water would be two more). Playing an element that opposed another element interrupted it and prevented it from having any effect. Matching aspects generally let the card function efficiently, with mismatches sometimes having no or even negative effects.

The cards that resulted from this context were largely similar, falling into the elemental damage problem where each element had a damage card. And a movement card. And a defensive card. It worked because of the interrupt and energy mechanics—though it also meant that each card was changing its energy cost for what appeared to be random reasons while its strength also varied based on time of day.

My current solution to this issue involved asking what shapes I had available in a two player abstract card game with two ranges. More on that next time.