Many years ago I had a dream where I was playing a clever little game where you explored a setting created on-the-fly by laying out cards. Each game there would be a general scenario where different cards would mean different things. I wrote down as much of that dream as I could remember the next day, and over the course of a few weeks, Ghost City Raiders took form.
I've had another of those dreams, this time it could easily be linked to the Goblin Labyrinth setting that I developed a few years ago, but might go an entirely different direction... either the dream was a bit vague on the specifics, or I've just forgotten those bits already.
Play involves a deck of specific cards, a pair of dice, and some tokens.
The game is fairly simple...it plays out like a street fight between two gangs. Each player has a small deck of cards representing their gang, there might be a dozen cards in this deck. Six of their cards are laid out in two rows of three cards each. The row of cards closest to the opponent are the first rank of fighters, the next row of cards are their support, and the rest of the deck are reinforcements.
Decks are shuffled before placement, players draw their first six cards and may look at them as they place the two rows, but they are placed face down so the opponent can't see which cards are where. (This is the general rule, exceptions may occur).
Play commences with each side rolling the pair of dice (actually, there must have been a pair of dice for each player). One die was allocated to speed, the other die to strategy. Each player gained a number of tokens equal to the strategy die result, and the player with the higher speed result went first.
Each player flipped over their starting rank of fighters, these were laid out in such a way that the first rank of one side matched up against the first rank of the other. The player going first would activate one of these pairings of fighters, the attack of each side was compared to the defence of their opponent to determine tbe outcome of the melee. Before the resolution is determined, the faster player may spend a strategy token to increase attack or defense by a single point, or may spend one (or more) strategy tokens to activate a special power on the fighter card. The slower player may then do likewise. Players alternate like this until no-one wants to spend further strategy tokens. If the final modified attack score is greater than or equal to the opponent's final modified defence score, the opponent is removed from the fight. If not, they remain... one fighter card could be eliminated this way, or both...or neither.
It could theoretically be possible to line up three fights where neither side is eliminated, thus leading to a stale-mate... my dream never saw this happen, so I'll have to consider a contingency plan for that.
When a fighter from the front rank is eliminated, a support fighter from the second rank steps forward to fill their place, and is turned face up. From the three cards immediately behind, a card could be shifted straight forward to fill the gap, or could be moved diagonally forward. This leaves a gap in the support rank, and that gap is filled by the next random card in the deck. This seemed to reflect the idea that battles can often start with elaborate and carefully planned strategies, but things get more chaotic as time goes by.
Many fighter cards had one or two traits on them, some cards gained automatic bonuses or penalties (to attack or defense) when confronting opposing figjters with specified traits. Some strategy effects were modified in the presence of traits too... that's where the clever deckbuilding elements came in.
An exception to the "face down" rule was the hero card. Heroes have power and notoriety, so even when in the support rank, heroes were placed face up.
A game ended once one player had lost all of their hero cards, or half of their total fighters (whichever came first).
I think there's some potential here, it probably needs a bit of work to get it running smoothly, but I just thought I'd get it out there while the dream ideas were still fresh in my mind.