Well at times I am intrigued about myself and the strange workings of my brain and mind and one thing is for sure: I can’t help but constantly think about designing games. Just yesterday such a “stroke of genius” if you can call it that occurred:
I was minding my own business working for hours on end to get the AWE prototype assembled and set up on The Game Crafter so that it could go out to my independent playtesters asap as I suddenly thought of an idea Tobi, my friend and fellow game designer from Bavaria had noted in a conversation while ago: Wouldn’t it be cool, Tobi pondered, if we put the great artwork we have for our card games on something like hex tiles. I kept that idea somewhere back in the murky depths of my mind, but yesterday, while working on those prototype cards, a big, bold “Why not!” hit me. I do indeed own a huge collection of fantastic artwork, predominately for Elemental Clash, which could well be put to good use in a game of an entirely different appearance and different mechanics as well. I was intrigued so I invested some more thought into the whole idea of recycling art in a totally fresh, new game, a hex-based game…
Thus “Elemental Clash – HEX” was conceived.
So I started brainstorming whilst doing the monotonous chore of assembling AWE prototype cards and made room for doing a first concept of such an Elemental Clash hex “card” in Photoshop, being a visual kind of person. Here is the result for you – the very first prototype card for Elemental Clash – HEX:
Does not look half bad, or does it? The awesome art by Evgeni Maloshenkov surely makes it’s contribution to the overall visual appeal of the EC hex! Elemental Clash savvy readers will have noticed that I just used the resource, ATK and DEF icons from the regular EC cards and I think it looks decent this way. My only complaint with the design is that the writing doesn’t run seamlessly around the corners of the six-sided shape. I have no clue how to come up with a better solution using Photoshop so this will have to do…
So what I did the past 2 days was not only assemble 80 AWE prototype cards in Photoshop and upload them to TGC, but also do a ton of EC HEX hexes, which resulted in a weekend consisting of two 10-12 working hour days. Poor me. But enough of the self-pity and on with what we all want to read about: You guessed it – EC HEX.
You know, dear reader, I tend to try out and adopt unorthodox approaches in many things I do and pursue and game design is no exception here. Usually, and this is considered the “professional” way, a game designer toils for months or even years to come up with solid rules, well-working mechanics and balanced cards/components before even considering having professionally looking prototypes of their game done. I have discovered for myself that doing it the other way around can work pretty well, at least for some games and at least for me personally. So what I did after my brainstorming was that I made card lists for two “decks” for EC HEX, one Merfolk&Spirits (Water/Air) and one Trolls&Goblins (Earth/Fire) and then, taking direct inspiration from the existing EC cards, I made some pretty decent (or even kickass) looking prototype graphics for the hex-based derivate of the EC card game that more and more consolidated in my head and on my computer screen. The most exciting and interesting part in this process was finding ways how to emulate an established card game to work as a hex-based game. And I am pretty happy with the result, as the mechanics are still reminiscent of the original “cards EC”, with the central mechanics still in place, albeit adapted to a hex-based game, and some player’s favorites still being in place (talking about Boon here), but the game works, or rather has to work, totally different at the same time, with interesting mechanics I came up with on the background and in the context of the different nature of the components used in EC HEX (cardboard hex tiles instead of standard cards).
Long story short, even if I haven’t figured out all the details of the inner workings of this game to be (although I have a good overall idea how it should and will work in the end) I made a visually quite appealing prototype and uploaded to and ordered a copy from The Game Crafter right away. I know for a fact that this unusual, seemingly hasty and unprofessional approach has worked for me before and I am confident that everything will fall in place neatly once I have the actual EC hexes in hands and can figure out how everything should work out in the end. Again, I am a visual type of person, and having the actual, kickass looking hex tiles in hands will surely help figuring out the details and will be essential for some thorough testing.
But enough of my lengthy ramblings on prototyping marathons and unusual/moronic game design approaches of mine.
Let me tell you a bit about how EC HEX works (at least what I know of that so far):
As mentioned above I had to “translate” a pure card game into a hex-based game. So here some things I came up with in order to do so:
Each player will have 30 hex tiles, which represent Creatures, Spells and your typical EC resources, the Element Stones. Instead of stacking the hexes as you would do with cards, each 30 hexes set is kept in one big-enough cloth bag from where hexes are drawn etc. I simply call these “magical bags”, cause after all all kinds of magical Spells and fantastic Creatures are found inside them.
The first awesome thing in EC HEX is that each hex will have a Creature or a Spell on one side, and an Element-Stone of the corresponding type/element on the other side. At this point a big THANK YOU to the awesome people at The Game Crafter who made this possible in the first place by offering double sided hex tiles now!! Below a sample image explaining this central principle in EC HEX:
As I have tormented you enough with my lenghty written elaborations, I will now introduce you to some aspects and concepts of EC HEX in the form of nice illustrations just like the one above…
Firstly, have a look at the different card types featured in EC HEX:
As space for text is terribly limited on hexes with a clear focus on the (totally awesome as I hope you’ll agree) artwork, I did not write the card type out on the hexes, but rather tried to distinguish them viusally. A Creature for instance can be easily identified by the red ATK and green DEF icons. A Spell does not have those, just the cost orb. Spellcasters and Element-Stones have no icons at all, just some text. Besides the border color (golden for Spellcasters and rocky gray for Stones) one can tell Spellcasters and Element-Stones apart by their illustrations as well as by the amount of text on each.
The distinguation of the four different elements I tried to achieve visually as well, as you can see in the example below, which displays one card sample for each of the four elements.
Now after having seen these surely quite awesome visual previews of the actual hexes you may start to wonder how the game actually works and how I managed to transform a card game into a hex-based game without sacrificing the overall feel and identity of the former. As I noted before, the details are not all figured out just yet, so I cannot provide you with a full rules document at this point. One thing I would like to show you in the form of a brief succession of illustrations is how the resource system and playing cards will work in EC HEX (I am pretty sure this aspect will be kept the way I have it now!).
So here the schematic depiction of three sample turns of EC HEX explaining the resource system and casting of Spells / summoning of Creatures:
This is a very basic guide to how resources (Element-Stones) are placed and how summoning Creatures and casting Spells is handled. Of course things get trickier when you play with 2 Elements (I would seriously advise against trying to assemble 3 or let alone 4 element “decks”), as you would need to place your Stones really carefully/wisely to be able to summon/cast Creatures/Spells of both your Elements in the most efficinet way. However that makes me think of interesting and tough gameplay choices, which would add to the overall gameplay value and strategic element of the game.
Before I close this longer-than-necessary introduction to my instant-game idea EC HEX with a gallery of some (prototype mind you!) card previews, I have note and emphasize once again that all the above is still highly speculative and all the card previews you have seen and will see below are just prototype versions which may and will be subject to balancing and other changes. In the best case, my intuition won’t fail me on this and in the worst case, I’ll have to revise some of the cards and think over some of the mechanics I have in mind so far until everything falls in place nicely. After all, a good challenge is what I love most.
Final note, I am doing this neither for the sake of money (those who know me will have guessed that already) nor for becoming the next big name in the games biz, and nor do I think EC HEX will revolutionize the world of board gaming. Just for the fun of it is and always was my motto and motivation. OK I am dragging this on for far too long… here’s the (far from comprehensive) hex preview gallery for you: