I’ve already decided that I like the idea of cards for this game, they can be played out quickly or held for strategic play forms. I’ve also decided that I’m aiming toward something between the quick abstract combat of Magic the Gathering, the targeted attacks of Freebooter’s Fate and the “cheating” formalised within the rules of Malifaux.
I could develop a unique set of cards, perhaps for the creation of customisable decks (like MtG), but this makes the game a bit more esoteric. I want the game to be pretty quick to pick up and play. That leaves me with the standard 52 card deck (13 ranks in 4 suits), malifaux comes up with some interesting effects using a 4-suited deck of this type, but links really strongly into the hertiae of wargaming with an abundance of stats and special abilities for the miniatures. Freebooters fate is a bit more elegant in this regard…I’ll be drawing more cues from there.
Four suits ties pretty elegantly with 4 character attributes. I’ve used the concept previously in The Eighth Sea (released 2008), The Great Bard (for 2011’s Game Chef contest) and a few other games that I’ve written. It helps that the 4 traditional suits have some esoteric connotations that link the different aspects of the persona.
Hearts = Emotion
Spades = Thought
Diamonds = Mystic Soul
Clubs = Physical Force
I don’t think that this breakdown directly fits roller derby, but it can be tweaked a bit.
Hearts = Soul – Used to determine morale, concentration and teamwork effects
Spades = Strategy – Used to determine availability of tricks and bonus effects (key for pivots)
Diamonds = Speed – Used to determine movement rate and evasion (key for jammers)
Clubs = Strength – Used to determine combat skill, damage dealt and damage resistance (key for blockers)
…but having four attributes and four suits is just a single mechanism, and still a long way from a complete game system.
Translating these stats across to a Magic the Gathering type of system (or that found in many Collectable card games), combat could simply be an option of comparing “strength (clubs)” to “strength (clubs)”. Higher result wins unless some specific card element dictates otherwise. If we throw in a random modifier in the form of two cards we might get…
Combat = Strength + 2 Cards vs Strength + 2 Cards (allocate one to attack one to defence)
This gives some possible variation in the results.
A skater winning both continues skating with no penalty
A skater winning attack but losing defence may keep skating but suffers an injury
A skater losing attack but winning defence has their movement stopped but suffers no injury
A skater losing both suffers and injury and has their movement stopped, it’s likely that they fall.
This is getting close to what I’m after. It doesn’t feel exactly right compared with the visions of game play that I have in my head…but it’s on the right track. It also doesn’t account for the fact that blockers will have high strength scores and will thus be an even match for other blockers, but the jammers should be able to get past them (after all, that’s their job). So we need to incorporate some kind of effect to give the jammer’s movement (diamonds) an influence on the combat procedure.
…but we still need to keep it fast.
Some other options running through my head at the moment.
Perhaps a combat system like the miniatures game Confrontation (2nd-3rd Editions). Combat is strategy versus speed, and a successful hit has damage determined by comparing the strength of the two combatants.
Perhaps instead of adding attribute plus card to get a result, simply use the high card to give one of the skaters a +1 to their relevant attribute. If attributes are left at smaller values (say 1 to 5), then this makes numbers quicker to add up and resolutions easier to achieve. Magic works with a lower spread of attributes by giving many of the creatures special abilities beyond their raw numbers.
Perhaps I move more toward a Malifaux style of play…where two skaters compare their relevant attributes. If the values are equal, the two players draw a single card each and compare values to determine a winner. If one skater has a higher value, this player draws two cards and uses the best result. If one skater has a value that is more than 2 points higher (or maybe twice as high) they might draw a third card. Special abilities might allow extra card to be drawn, or might prevent opponents from drawing extra cards.
The final thought here is a bit more radical, a bit more reflective of what might be going through a skater’s head, and a bit more closely attuned to the combat mechanisms of Freebooter’s Fate. It deserves a post of its own.