Dear readers and friends of fine card games in general!
In this here blog post I will be announcing my latest game (side-) project which is going to go by the name of…
…and will give you an anecdotal overview of how the very game idea was conceived, what the game will be all about and more things I deem noteworthy. I can tell you right away, that it will be about (Dark and Light) Albs (A German version of the word Elves) and Dragons! But let me start the story at the very beginning:
A Game is Conceived:
Well, this time around, the first spark that was soon to ignite the flame now called Albensang (that would translate to “Song of the Elves” in the English language), actually came to me as a need. A need for a type of game that did not exist, at least not a game like that I would enjoy playing. As it happens, I can be looking forward to several longer trips to be taken by train or bus over the course of this year (visiting conventions here and there for instance) and this made me think about how bored game-addicted me always used to be during longer or shorter train rides as everyone would be minding their own business if travelling in company and playing on their handhelds or phones at the very most. I however wanted a game that could be played on the smallest of flat, even surfaces and I would refuse to just play UNO or something similar. So I more or less had to create my own “minimal space game”. That was step one in the conception of Albensang.
Next I talked to my sister, who is totally into (Japanese) Anime and Manga, and I can’t seem to remember how we ended up with this but in the end, we said let’s do the game in Anime/Manga style with my sister contributing the character names and part of the character designs at the very least. This is when I decided I would be making Albensang this year’s birthday present for my younger sister Nora, as we will be travelling by train together from district Schärding in Upper Austria to Cologne in Germany, to attend Gamescom (a major video gaming convention) there, just at the time of her birthday. We would be riding the train for several hours so I figured a game like Albensang would be a great gift and pastime.
The second best idea after creating a Fantasy card game of sorts that could be played on minimal playing surfaces was the general premise of the game that came to m pretty much like in a flash of insight: Some of you will be aware of my game Elemental Clash, where the goal is to reduce the opponent deck to zero cards by means of dealing damage among other ways. So, I thought, how about something akin to “Anti-Elemental Clash”? How about, I was following my train of thoughts, instead you had to decimate your own deck down to zero cards, by clever play and combinations of cards, before your opponent could do so?! I was delighted, and the basic premise of Albensang was settled, yes, pretty much set in stone.
Finding the Theme and Artist & Some Eye-Candy:
So yeah, my sister pretty much defined the theme and setting of the game. Nora really loves Anime and Manga as mentioned before with some of her favorites being Fairy Tail and Sword Art Online (I enjoy the latter very much as well) so she wanted the style and look of the illustrations being influenced by these two mangas/animes in particular. Furthermore she is very much into Fantasy, with her favorite Fantasy Characters being Elves and, even more so, Dragons. So we soon agreed that we will have a game about Elves and Dragons, depicted in anime/manga style heavily influenced by and based on Sword Art Online and/or Fairy Tail. Nora also wanted us to have two factions; the Light Albs in alliance with “good” Dragons on the one hand and the Dark Albs closely bonded with “evil”, wicked Dragons. As I had intended the game to be a dueling, 2 players only game, that was a perfect fit.
Furthermore, I set myself the premise or challenge to design a game containing on just a 54 cards standard poker size tuckbox with cards an small rules booklet – no extra components included or needed – no counters, chips, dice, no nothing.
So two decks of 25 cards, the Dark Albs Deck and the Light Albs Deck it was then, with ample room to fit the rules booklet into the standardized The Game Crafter 54 cards Poker Tuckboxes.
Next up was finding myself a talented and affordable artist on the web, and there is simply no better place to achieve that goal than deviantart. So I posted a job offer there for a laughably, maybe even insultingly low pay per image. To my surprise, I got dozens and dozens of replies to my job offer. One of them stuck out from the crowd. It was non other than the nice person from the Philippines I had been mentioning in my last post about building a starter Magic deck for the very same guy, 21 years old Aeronne “Ae” Paul Coronel. At this point, please let me show you what he is capable of by presenting you with the eye-candy as promised!
First some stunnings Sketches:
From left to right: Dark Alb Wyrmrider – Dark Alb Deathbringer – Dark Alb Necromancer.
So you can see what Ae is capable of – to me his style and character designs are perfect, and especially the Wyrmrider looks magnificently kickass in my opinion!!
Next the first two colored artworks I have from Ae so far (more to come very soon as he seems to be both highly motivated and greatly motivated by my list of character names and instructions I had sent him):
Left: Light Alb High Guard – Right: Light Alb Archer
So yeah, we have established that the game will be looking badass in the end. By the way: There will be no duplicate cards in either the 25 cards Light Albs Deck or the 25 cards Dark Albs Deck so each character will be unique and my sister will take care of (most of) the names, whereby I will be helping her (to ensure that the names are not too cheesy… haha) and having a say in that as well. I think the final product with no less than 50 anime-style artworks will be a very visually appealing one. So much for the visual… besides those a game needs a good system and well-designed mechanics, and that’s where my humble person comes in! Let me tell you some about how the game will actually work:
Game System and Mechanics – How Albensang is Played:
So, the basic premises are twofold and where mentioned before. Just to recap, here the premises I confined myself to:
- The game cannot have any other components besides 54 cards at max & a booklet in a tuckbox.
- The goal of the game is to deplete your own deck to zero cards before your opponent can do so.
The second premise was most defining for the following design work, as all other mechanics in the game are based on and centered around this one. So what soon came to my mind was that A) you would be trying to get rid off as many cards in hand as possible through pulling off clever combinations of said hand cards as B) at each beginning of turn (your own as well as your opponent’s) you’d be refilling your hand up to 5 cards, which is your starting hand size as well. So the more cards you are able to play during one turn, the more cards you’d be drawing anew from your deck at each beginning of turn, thus ever faster depleting your own deck. More on this system and the combat system I developed to fit these particular combination of mechanics a bit later on. For now, let me show you by means of an illustrative graphic just how little space the game actually needs to be played as well as a card preview with explanations (I am sorry, but the card text will be in German, as I will be doing this for my non-English speaking sister – it does not really matter for showcasing purposes though!).
So here is what the whole playing field in a game of Albensang would look like:
So yes, that is all there is to the layout of the playing field in Albensang. Just three stacks of cards – the two player’s decks and in between the central Stack where cards will be played to. Of course each player would have a hand of cards, but as the name cardhand indicates, that is not placed on the table under normal circumstances. So you could play this game on a surface not much larger than a DVD case, which is quite neat I think and I had achieved one of my goals of creating a game I’d enjoy that is not only highly portable but can be played pretty much anywhere.
At this point I have to thank my dear friend and talented artist Dennis Saputra for doing the nice card backs as seen above as well as the full game logo as to be seen below:
Next and before I tell you how depleting your own deck in order to win is done, I would like to showcase the “anatomy” of an Albensang cards. In general, to save card slots / to keep the card count low, there is only one type of card. But the cool part is you can play or use it in three different ways, quite similar to what I did in the AWE Tactical Card Game previously. Play a upright as a Character, play it sideways (rotated 90°) as a Spell or face-down to generate resources (which are called “Vigor”, which just means life force which I see as a good alternative name to “Mana” which has been used over and over again already). I would like to seize the opportunity to extend my gratitude towards my awesome new gaming buddy Stefan, who suggested a simple and elegant alternative to the awkward resource system I had been using previously. Thank you Stefan for testing and suggesting! 😀
And here as promised above, the explanation of an Albensang card’s anatomy. The text is all in German as I noted before but it shouldn’t matter or be any problem for showcasing and explaining the card layout and such:
Now about how to best deplete your own deck in order to win:
Just as a reminder: As I mentioned before, the more cards you get into your hand from your deck and the more cards you send from your hand to the central playing area (we could call it the “Stack” in English) the sooner your deck will be running out of cards, which is, as you surely remember, the victory condition in Albensang, as at the beginning of each player’s turn, both players must draw cards until they hold 5 cards in hand. That means the best case scenario would be an empty hand at the end of your turn so you’d draw a maximum number of 5 cards from your deck in the consecutive turn. And this is how you can achieve this:
By default during each turn (yours and your opponent’) you got
- 1 Summon: Play a card from hand as a Character. The Character effects will apply and the Power value as seen in the above diagram becomes relevant, because playing a Character always means participating in Combat. As the active player, you will always play the first card and considered the attacker, while the other player is considered the defender. This will matter on some cards that gain Power etc if attacking or defending.
- 1 Cast: Play a card sideways as a Spell. Spells have effects that resolve upon playing them from hand but do not have a Power value to add to the Power values of the Characters you played, unless their effect tells you so.
- 1 Transform/Invigorate (?): You may place 1 card from your hand face down on the Stack and add Vigor (Life Force – the universal resource or currency in Albensang) equal to the transformed/invigorated card to your virtual “Vigor Pool”. You may use the Vigor generated this way to pay for Summoning Costs of Characters or for Casting Costs of Spells.
Now that alone would allow you to spend 3 cards per turn, sending them from hand to the Stack, but you should be striving to send as many cards as possible to the Stack in one turn. This is enabled by a concept quite reminiscent of Deckbuilding Games like Dominion or Thunderstone, but to my knowledge it has not been done before in a simple card battling game like Albensang: There are many cards that give you additional Summons, Casts and Transforms as well as cards drawing you extra cards in order to enable you to play lengthy combos exceeding the 5 cards in hand count. These cards would just say “+X Summon”, “+X Cast”, “+X Transform” as well as “Draw X (cards)”. That is basically the system. But the awesomeness (??) does not stop here! Just like this, Albensang would be ending up like some games that have been called “Multiplayer Solitaire” (the most well-known candidate for that being award-winning Dominion) as they lack player interaction and everyone is just running through their turns trying to pull off as lenghty combos as possible. To prevent Albensang from becoming another one of the ominous “Multiplayer Solitaire” games, I came up with a Combat System that ensures a lot of player interaction and fits the general system and victory condition of the game very well.
In Combat, players alternate playing cards (either transforming for Vigor, summoning a Character or casting a Spell) onto the Stack until both players say they want to pass or run out of cards and/or actions. This is called a battle. Once both players have passed, battle is over and each player counts the Power of each of their (non-defeated – a detail I will refrain from explaining herein) Characters. The player with the highest total Power is the winner and the loser of a battle has to return all of their face-up cards they played during the battle to the bottom of their deck (in an order of their choice), whilst the winner will be allowed to keep their cards in the Stack. In case of a tie in total Powers, all cards owned by both players remain in the Stack.
This means you MUST try to overpower your opponent in battle, through cleverly combining not only Characters but also supportive Spells in order to keep the cards you played in one battle in the Stack instead of returing them to your deck, as your ultimate goal is to reduce the latter to zero cards!
Triggers – An Advanced Rule?
I am not sure about one mechanic I do find quite appealing for several reasons and am undecided on whether or not to make it an optional or advanced players’ rule. On the one hand, it would speed up the game even more (and fast gameplay is what I want to achieve with Albensang) and add some element of luck and excitement but on the other hand it is, as our first test runs showed, easy to overlook and we constantly forgot to apply the mechanic at all. I am talking about the Trigger mechanic! Basically, it would work like that. About half of the cards in each deck have one out of 6 Trigger Icons. Whenever you play a Character, factually attacking with him or her, you’d reveal the topmost card of your Deck and check if it has a Trigger or not. If it has one, the respective Trigger is applied at once and if it has none, nothing will happen. In either case, the revealed card would be put back on top or under the deck – active player’s choice. The 6 different Triggers are shown in little orbs in different colors on the cards that have a Trigger with the first letter of the respective Trigger type on it. The different Triggers would be:
- Z (Ziehen – Draw): Draw 1 card.
- S (Stärke – Power): Your Character gets +1 Power.
- B (Beschwören – Summon): You get +1 Summon.
- W (Wirken – Cast): You get +1 Cast.
- T (Transformieren – Transform): You get +1 Transform.
- D (Dezimieren – Deplete/Decimate) Put the revealed cardonto the Stack face-down immediately.
Again I am really not sure what to do with the Trigger Ability. The game is easier and works as well without it but on the other hand it profits from playing wiht the Trigger Mechanic in place as well. I think I will just make it an optional rule, advising beginners to ignore the Triggers altogether whereas advanced Players could enjoy playing the game with the Trigger Mechanic in effect!
And this is pretty much all I can tell you so far about my progress on Albensang, which I want to have finalized and printed by beginning of August this year, right in time for my sister Nora’s birthday on August 8th! Should be possible, also from the art side, as Aeronne said doing 50 characters until mid-July would be feasible for him.
So yeah, I hope you found my rather lengthy ramblings on the newest game project of mine at least somewhat entertaining and insightful and hopefully you enjoyed the awesome art of Aeronne as much as I enjoy it!
Thank you Ae, Dennis, Nora, Stefan and all other contributors!
Well, all that remains for me to say now is, as always,