It is days like these where I am very glad that I am a game designer – after having several experiments fail in a row over the past few weeks it is nice to have something positive to turn your mind to!

Continuing my run of games inspired by digital games, today’s idea is trying to take one of the core ideas of games like Minecraft, where you ‘craft’ new objects out of others, and translate that into a card game. The idea of combining items to get better items seems to fit a deckbuilding shell quite well, so that seems like a reasonable place to start!

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Day 17: Minecraft Deckbuilding

In the game, your eventual aim is to build fantastic structures, and discover unique materials that no one else has in their worlds. These structures are represented by cards that require certain resources to be crafted together to create the structure. For example, a Castle might require 4 stone, 1 glass and 1 tile.

Besides the structure cards, there are also item cards, with the key difference being that item cards all provide a certain material that can be used to craft other items, or structures. Players begin the game with a deck with basic items, such as wood, rock and water. There is a tableau of cards in the middle of table that are able to be crafted by combining these basic items together, such as a torch might require wood. On a player’s turn, they draw a hand of cards from their deck, and can combine these cards to acquire new cards from the middle of the table, or structure cards. Importantly, whenever you craft a new item, you must destroy the cards that were used to craft it. A player can also draw a random card from different wilderness decks each turn, for example in the Mountains deck you mainly get rock, but there are also a chance you might find something rarer, such as metal, when digging there. As in other deckbuilding games, any cards you gain are placed in your discard pile, from where they will be reshuffled into your deck when it runs out.

Cards can also have functions that you gain when you play them (which you can do instead of using them for crafting). For example, a Torch could be played to give you Fire for that turn, which might be used to craft another card that requires it. A weapon might make other players discard a card from their hands, and a pickaxe might let you draw the top 3 cards of the Mountains deck and choose 1 to keep.

The game continues until a player has built a set number of structures, at which point the player with the highest value amongst their cards is the winner.

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I am intrigued by a deckbuilding game where you constantly have to decide how you are going to combine your resources – do you combine a lot of the basic items early to get a really good card at the risk of being hamstrung for the next few turns when you don’t have enough basic items for other cards? Or do you slowly upgrade your cards, never trashing too many basic items, until your whole deck is awesome? Unlike other similar games, your deck cannot operate as efficiently as an engine, as you are constantly consuming the resources that you are using to progress, and you have to think about how you are going to replenish those resources efficiently. Is it worth getting that particular card right now, or would doing so mean you would be giving a superior card to your opponent in the next round? Do you think this would make for an interesting game?