You may remember that I recently posted about experimenting with Magic: The Gathering by playing with the mana system and allowing you to identify what colour of spell a card has by its card back. Well, I've moved this onwards a little. Imaginatively, I have retooled these ideas into a new two-player, magical duelling game, partly because I was being thematically uninspired, and partly because most of my games so far don't work so well with two players, so I wanted to work on something for two. Besides, doesn't everyone make a two-player, magical duelling game at some point?
A common trope for game designer is to make a game where you cast spells, but look! - there are six types of magic (or four, or seven...) rather than M:TG's five. I can do that too, so I made my game about wielding the four elemental powers of earth, air, fire and water. In another not-entirely original step, I decided that the game would be about trying to win a certain number of simultaneous battles.
So I threw together a first-pass prototype, with a few cards from each of the four elements, including elementals which are used to take control of a battlefield (or "realm" as I am calling them), enhancements to buff an existing elemental, and incantations which have instant and non-persistent effects. The idea is that on your side of a battle you may not combine opposed elements, so if you play an earth elemental into a realm, you may not play an air card in that location, for instance. As with that M:TG experiment, cards are used to power cards. Apart from a few other card features, that was about it.
Playing this went pretty well -- certainly better than the Magic variant that it was built from. There were, of course, plenty of problems, including that it was far too common to end up with pretty much useless cards in your hand, and that control of the realms could turn too quickly, but most of the issues were with details; the big takeaway is that this looks like a viable game in a form similar to where it is now. Good enough for me to do some more work on, certainly. I suspect that it would be difficult to get the game published (I mean, everyone and their dog makes magical duelling games, so you have to be really special to stand out) but I think my main aim here is to work on something that stretches different design muscles to the ones I have been using before, and see where it goes...