Kingdoms of Immacus: Entering the Fray of a Non-collectable Card Game
I am now far along in the development process of my card game Kingdoms of Immacus to talk about it a little bit. First I’ll go into some history on the game. Kingdoms of Immacus was once a board game concept I was working on based on characters I had developed back in high school around 1999. Like a minority of young awkward teens, I spent much of my time alone and kept my mind busy making various board games or remixes of current games. I was fortunate enough to have a brother and three sisters to playtest with (even though we didn’t know that’s what we were doing). As the games progressed, they got bigger, more elaborate, and required hours of time cutting out little pieces of paper in the shape of creatures or tokens I had created. As far back as I can remember I was always a gamer, but I never had the money growing up to really own a video game system until much later in life. I think that’s where my joy for game development came from. If I couldn’t afford to play the games other people made (either video or board games), I would make my own. It allowed me to be creative, work on my artistic skills, and spend quality time with my siblings.
Around 2008 while I was at community college, I got the urge to go back to old art and concepts that I had worked on for a Kingdoms of Immacus board game and develop them. It was a battle board game much like Risk or Battle Masters, anything that had a battlefield where different factions fought it out across a fantasy world. I spent months researching game design, the market, and how to publish. I finally came down to a design that I liked, which made the game much like a board game version of an RTS. Everything was on track and moving along until I got to the development of the board. The necessary space to house my six factions and their units was way too large. I experimented with shape and shrinking unit tokens down, but ultimately it seemed too large for an average gaming night. I eventually moved to a module board concept where each race had their own board and you connect them based off of the number of players playing. This created a new issue of placement as some players were at significant disadvantages when playing with multiple players. This was enough to discourage me enough to put the game on hold indefinitely. As I look back it makes me a little disappointed since so much art and mechanics were hashed out already.
One of the components of the game was a small deck of cards that you used to affect your troops, movement, and strategy. In August of 2015, I was going through some of my old art and the cards I had made and decided that perhaps I could expand the deck element to a fully fleshed card game with the RTS construction mechanics of the board game, and that’s how the Kingdom of Immacus Card Game got reborn from the ashes of the board game. I’ve always been a lover of hard number goals and set the card number goals for each race to 50 cards. Multiply that by six races and I was looking at 300 cards. Add nonracial specific cards and the set starting to balloon to 350+ cards. Though this goal seems daunting, it seemed necessary for a core set. Upon my first play test with the first iteration, there were just not enough cards to build a deck with variety with only a smaller number of race-specific cards. With some minor tweaks, each race sits at a little over 50 cards. As I started the first iteration of the first race, I spent several months reading design blogs, watching game theory lectures, and looking at other games (mainly the ones that failed) to avoid the pitfalls and build on the successes of others. Though I had an informal game design education, I wanted to know how experts in the field approached game design.
The amount of theory resources for card game development was very limited. After a few months of research, I started to understand why. TCGs (trading card games) and CCGs (collectable card games) have almost become a toxic acronym. Magic: The Gathering was the primary culprit that seemed to alienate most gamers, requiring them to pour hundreds of dollars into every set to be competitive or worse to even build a deck. The randomized nature of collecting seemed to disenfranchise the players the game was built for. I very quickly went through the five stages of mourning to ultimately accept that this model was broken, unfair, and in many ways just not fun. The little shots of dopamine from opening randomized packs weren’t worth it to players in the long run. This has affected the number of cards in the core set to fit a model that is nonrandomized in nature, which is for the better and will be discussed in a later entry.
Now that I had my conceptual distribution model and number of cards in the set, I went to building the game and implementing all the elements from the board game into the card game. Once I finished the cards for the first race, I ran into some glaring problems. Quite frankly, it did not work. There were too many mechanisms, many of which convoluted for a card game, and it became a card/board game hybrid in all the worst ways. After my first playtest, I realized massive changes needed to be made. After a second completed race and a few playtests later, the Kingdoms of Immacus Card Game is shaping into something worth talking about. Something that I know in its final form will be something to be proud of to put in front of other gamers. This is the beginning of me documenting this journey and I hope some people come along for the ride.