|Cards from V0.3 (third prototype). It's a staged picture, but building a tableau looks a bit like this.|
The general idea was to try creating a card game with virtually no downtime (that time when you are waiting for somebody else to take their turn) that wouldn't take up too much space on a table and could be played easily within an hour-long lunch break, including teaching folk how to play. I liked the idea of using a drafting mechanic, where players all choose a card to keep for themselves from a selection dealt to them before passing the remainder to the next player. This method of play is probably most famously implemented by the award winning game 7 Wonders, which is really something to aspire to.
This game was really mechanics-led from the start, which is the root of my struggling to give it a name. Nevertheless, I decided on a pasted-on theme of shadowy factions vying with each other to have the most influence in a medieval/fantasy city. Pasting a bit of theme on at the beginning of the process has actually guided some decisions as I went along, so hopefully the theme will end up being a bit more integrated by the time I am done.
With all this in mind, I figured there would be two main types of card. One, which I have dubbed "city cards" represent the people and places within our city and which provide resources in the shape of influence. The influence would be over one of four different power bases within the city: the church, the military, the guilds and the people. Some cards would provide influence of more than one type.
The second type of card is "personage cards" and these are the figurehead characters within the city who really sway things. In essence, personages yield victory points depending on the influence you have acquired. So, for instance, "The Mayor" gives you one victory point for each point of influence you have with the people, and another point for each influence with the guilds.
My first prototype was just a small number of cards like this, which I tried out a couple of times with my daughter. The game was incredibly dull but basically worked. You needed to collect a combination of personage and city cards, and that was about it.
At this point I already had plans of what to do next: I wanted to have some special effects that mixed things up a little when certain cards went into play. So I added a bit of text to the personage cards, ran off a new set of cards (I'm using a piece of software called nanDECK for this, about which I expect I will post another time) and had another try.
I had a few plays of the second prototype with a few different people, including a really useful session with a couple of guys at work. While the game basically worked, some of the effects I had added in had the tendency to just destroy any strategy that someone might be developing. A bad run of play could basically turn the game into a big ball of Not Fun for one of the players. This is definitely something to be avoided if possible, although it is possibly less of a problem in a short game like this.
Armed with this feedback, and some comments from elsewhere, I expanded the size of the deck (we now have 54 cards) and tweaked a lot of the effects to, hopefully, make them (at least mostly) more fun even if you are on the wrong side of them.
And that is where we have got to now. I have only managed to play the latest version once so far, but have some feedback from that and from another friend who has read over the materials. Hopefully we'll get a few more test plays done soon, but already I am getting the feeling that there may be too many personages in the deck.
Thread on BoardGameGeek
Game files on DropBox