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Questions for submitters! Sticky

A topic by Keith Burgun Games created Jul 23, 2019 Views: 332 Replies: 10
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Hey everyone! First off it is so cool what a success this has been. We definitely should do something like this again soon. I'm gonna write an article about this game jam, because I think it went really great, and it'd be a good way to get your guys super cool games some more exposure. Steven Hutton had the great idea of doing short interviews with all of you and I can publish that in the piece. So! Please answer these questions if you want!

  1. What was the process like for creating your game? How did the limitations influence your design?
  2. How do you think it turned out?
  3. Do you have future plans for this game?

Please respond with a reply here (or if you can't for some reason, you can PM me on discord). I'll give everyone a few days to answer these before compiling them and writing my article.



Thanks for having this cool jam! I had been wanting to tackle doing an 18 card project, and this was just the nudge I needed to dive in.

Q 1)

  For Viscera, I started out with the theme, which is often where I start with most prototypes. I knew I wanted to make a game about fleshly, amorphous creatures struggling to scavenge, grow, survive, and consume one another. I had a rough idea of what I wanted the card layout to look like, and I wanted to the art to be pretty visceral (organs, appendages, slime, gross meaty stuff), but my first step was to sit down and slap together some very primitive cards using freeware icons and some vector art. 

This "bash it together and get it to the table" approach is usually my first goal in any prototype, because having cards and symbols and text to move around on the table can really help immediately identify design issues. It's good to have a sense of what the game mechanics will be and how they work together before putting any real time into art. I usually don't worry about proper art at all until much later in the design process, after I've gotten some good reps in with playtesting with various folks. Because this jam was super tight time-wise, I opted to just dive in full force and not playtest it as much as I would normally, because I fully expected to further develop it beyond the jam.

Working with only 18 cards and no other components is a huge challenge -- it sounds easy because there's less room for bloat in the design, but 18 cards is a pretty big limitation. I've played a lot of great micro games with 18 cards or less, so it's definitely doable.

With Viscera, I decided to have each card have  multiple ways players could use them. To make this work, and simplify the visual design, I set it up so playing a card face up would focus on triggering its ability. Then, I put icons on opposite ends of the long side of the back of each ability card. By playing a card face down, and rotating it in one of the two directions, players could trigger a few different options (attack/defense, foraging for food). I also added a slight hidden information element to the combat mechanics...the ability side of a card has a number in the upper left corner, which represents the attack or defense power of a card if it's used for that purpose. There are also modifier icons beneath that number on some cards that give various bonuses depending on how you use it.

Combat encounters resolve after attackers and defenders have placed their cards they want to use for those purposes, but then all cards are flipped over and the numbers and bonuses are tallied to see who wins the battle.

In any event, finding creative ways to get more use out of each card was central to the design.  I also used rotating and flippable card counters to track things like the player creature's body size and food storage. I think it all works fairly well, though I'm keen to further test it out and refine it.

Design-wise, things came together very quickly, but the art took the longest. I can average about 3-4 cards a day if I hustle and put a lot of drawing and coloring time in. That probably took up the most of my time during the jam.

Q 2)

In general I'm extremely happy with how the theme, the art, and the visual design turned out. For most of the 7-day development cycle, the rules and actual gameplay itself was a bit influx, and it really wasn't until the 11th hour that a few last minute changes brought it all together in a way that felt playable. Honestly, I'm happy with how the jam "alpha" version came out, but I'm absolutely planning to keep working on the game beyond the jam to refine it, test it, and sharpen it up.

Q 3)

The best part of doing a jam is it really forces you to focus and create something from start to finish in a very short amount of time. I'm a huge fan of rapid product development and making small, polished projects quickly (instead of big unwieldy games that take years to develop). Every time I enter a design contest or a game jam, it's ALWAYS with the idea that I'll use the jam to get an idea to the table as fast as possible and polish it as much as I can for the contest/jam, but the ultimate future goal is to fine tune and release each game I make in that way -- assuming it turns out.

I'm debating whether to keep the final version of Viscera only 18 cards, or boost it up a hair further to 36 cards instead. I like the idea of the game being very pocket friendly and replayable. We'll see what happens, but definitely keep your eyes peeled for a small Viscera Kickstarter campaign in the near future!



What was the process like for creating your game? How did the limitations influence your design?

The seed of Class President came from a board game idea I had worked on a bit probably 5-6 years ago.  One of my personal restrictions was that I wanted to have a non-violent theme, and Class President was one that had been in my ideas folder for a while that fit the bill. 

The original idea was much larger and built around a blind-bid mechanic. I thought the idea could probably be simplified a lot and the 18 card limit seemed like a good test for that. The first challenge was how to keep track of the limited number of uses each player had for the Campaign action. Using the four sides of a card is a pretty simple and useful mechanic for that, and each player needed their own, so that was 2 out of my 18 cards.

The original board game idea had 7 different social cliques. Because I knew I wanted to work with a male/female interaction as well as the cliques/interests/classes, and I had 16 cards left, I cut it down to the four classes, and split the 16 student cards down the middle 8 boys/8 girls, so it made for nice and easy combinations. 4 single-class leaders (1 for each class), 12 other students with 2 classes. 

From there it was a matter of figuring out the traits and on-play actions of all the student cards. The first thing I try to do is identify all the different mechanical levers that are available to me as a designer. What things do the players or cards do normally that can be made use of in new or slightly different ways to make for unique abilities? Drawing cards, playing cards, using the Campaign action, combining students into cliques, these were the tools I had to work with when designing the abilities. 

A few were pretty easy and obvious, others took more work. I did a stream for a couple hours and just sat there with my cards spreadsheet open and spitballed ideas with some people in chat. One concern I had was trying to balance out the strength of a card's passive traits with the strength of its on-play ability, and I think that worked out alright (needs testing). 

Once all the abilities were assigned that was pretty much it for the mechanical design. I had originally wanted to have art for all the students but that would have taken a lot of time and abilities beyond what I have, so I just settled for the minimal, icon-only design (for now). 

How do you think it turned out?

I think it's playable? My personal goals were something non-violent and simple enough that my wife would play it with me, and I think I achieved those goals. I'm not sure how deep the strategy is, or if there's some really easy and dominant first-order strategy that I didn't think of. It definitely needs some testing. With the way the scoring system works it encourages you to keep building up the size of a clique, but you always run the risk of doing that and then your opponent just takes it on their next turn, so I hope that tension works out well. 

Do you have future plans for this game?

Not in the immediate future, but eventually I would like to get some simple art done. I had the idea of trying to get a good bit of diversity included among the students and try to break some stereotypes with the representation there, so hopefully I can do that at some point. It definitely needs more playtesting, I'm not sure how well balanced the scoring system is, or if some of the abilities are too strong.

Submitted (1 edit) (+1)

  1. What was the process like for creating your game? How did the limitations influence your design?

I was really impressed with Outpost18’s ability to distill Magic the Gathering style play down into such a small package. I had tried doing so myself before with 100 cards and failed miserably. With this I still wanted to do something ambitious and Twilight Imperium is notorious for being The BIG Game with lots and lots of things and rules. So Vengeful Stars is my attempt at that.

I spent Tuesday-Friday faffing about in the design cave and made the art and rulebook over the last three days. I started the design trying to think of how I could fit territory and money into the game, trying to cram as many little systems as I could into the tiny package. This is where I got the idea of ripping up the cards to act as tokens I intended to use as currency and tokens to move through space. After discussing the idea with the Discord consensus was that this was against the spirit of the jam.

The next iteration of the design focused more on just getting the social dynamic of Twilight Imperium down. I figured I would worry about the aesthetic experience of making it feel BIG after I got some good rules down. This version consisted of 12 action cards, each player would have a hand of one action card and would draw a second card at the start of each round. All players would play simultaneously and would get to keep one of their cards between rounds. I think this version would be fine to play but the action cards don’t carry much thematic weight and not enough rules existed to build faction abilities off of. So, I shrunk the game down to 6 cards and dedicated the remaining cards to secondary systems that would help give the game a sense of scale. This ended up being the Planet cards.

  1. How do you think it turned out?

I Chronically dislike almost everything I make, but I still want to work on this a bit until its more like what I wanted out of it in the first place. I think this version of the game doesn’t feel BIG enough but I’m hopeful for the next version.

  1. Do you have future plans for this game?

I want to extend the game by another 18 cards. Using this space to let the game support 3-7 players instead of only 5. I’m going to add faction art as well as split the faction cards into 10 separate cards one for each faction. Additionally, I want to create separate VP counter cards and clean up some of the existing art.


1. I realized that I wanted to make a solo dungeon crawler, and then also realized that I have no idea how to make a compelling solo game, so I scrapped that. Then I wanted to make a game about cats in Istanbul, but it wasn’t coming together. So I thought, hey, why not try to do a Starcraft-like in 18 cards?

It came together in abou 6 hours.

From a high level perspective, I basically just wanted something to hit some of the feels that Starcraft offers. Economic power and exponential economics. Big, overly destructive units that mess with the opponent. And something fast paced.

Then I took to a bunch of old cards and just worked on what I wanted the game to feel like. I came up with the board state / layout this way, and decided on running the stat lines cleanly across the top and bottom for quick calculation. It became a deckbuilder variant pretty quickly because I wanted that sense of building and development. The rotating Command Center card thing was half inspired by Autochess’ experience system, and half traditional upgrades in RTS.

From there, I filled in some blanks. 

I opted for a small pool of hidden cards to act as a “build order”, so to speak, so there is a hidden information horizon. Something unique to 18 card games — because of the small card pool, this kind of information isn’t that random. Based on the cards they drew, a player would have a strong grasp of what is left in the 1* deck, and this creates strategic depth and a level of meta-strategy.

I split units in to 1* and 2*, just to add an exciting payoff moment for a teching player to get some big guns. 

I added a bounty system. This is important. By rewarding bounties for killing enemy units, it means the Econ player doesn’t have an enormous advantage. To compensate, I made SCVs cycle back in to the deck. I really like the dynamic this creates, although the numbers need work.

Then I made a bunch of units, added stats, and types, and some cool sounding abilities. And that’s where it’s at now!

2. Do I like how it turned out? Yeah, I think it is neat. After playing with a friend a few times, it hits the right “feeling”, and that’s the hardest part to hit. It feels like a Starcraft game should — economy focused, with hidden information, but with more aggression options than you get in most card games. It also works surprisingly well with 18 cards. It creates a small unit pool to remember, so it’s fairly easy to pick up.

3. Future plans? Maybe. I have another game world I am developing, and this would be a good fit for the story it is telling. If this becomes my next project, I’d like to find a way to maybe work in three factions in 18 card sets, and maaaaybe find a way for a single player campaign to work in a tabletop experience. That’s easier said than done, though.

Submitted (1 edit)

First of all, congratulations on promoting such a cool idea for a jam, Keith. =)
It was so challenging and compeling that here I am, talking about the first game I've ever designed in my life (with the exception of D&D campaigns, maybe).

1. We've started everything by agreeing upon some designing principles. We wanted it to be quick, versatile, simple to understand but with things to be learned, strategic without being 'solvable' and casual without being 'dumb'. These were the five goals that guided us during the development cycle.

The first fundamental gameplay aspect decided was the core mechanic: the two condition cards (which eventually became day/night and hot/cold). It was the solution we've came up to in regards to how we could make the game strategic and dynamic without using too many cards nor making it too complex for casual players. After that we've came with idea for seven cards: one neutral, four that would be conditionaly tied to the first two cards and two that would change the current active condition. So then, already in day one, we were testing our 9-card game. It was not enough to have a proper game, but we could already sense the 'gamefeel' and  testing match ups between different cards under different conditions felt fun in a way that seemed like we had more then 9 cards. After that we developed the remaining nine cards (including two special cards because we wanted to have something that felt like a higher layer of gameplay to please less casual players) and tweaked the numbers until it felt somewhat balanced and fair.

We wanted it to be a game that felt customizable, so when it came to the art direction and theme, we've decided to aim for something that would be quickly relatable and that could allow for player projection without feeling too generic. We wanted the cards to be as devoid of text as possible (eventually during playtesting we've decided that the special cards seemed to be the only ones that really needed the text explanation on them), pretty to look at (without taking to much time for us to design and produce), somewhat color-coded in a way that could help players create strategic associations without directly telling them, simple to understand if you know the rules of the game and educative if you don't. The theme of wizards and magic is already a somewhat established trope in roleplaying and we felt that it could help us communicate to the player that he can add new things, iterate over it and create narratives to enrich the gameplay experience.

2. I think we've reached most of the initial intended goals. The game was fun to play, we could come up with several different ways to play it and make it always fresh, both experienced and inexperienced board and card game players understood the mechanics quickly and had fun playing it, the game had a satisfying balance between luck and skill and we've managed to take some important notes for possible upcoming versions. There were however some important points that we've left out due to time constraints. The manual was written on the last day (in less than two hours to be exact) and it is quite far from what we wanted it to be. The game is simple and very easy to learn when physically played or verbally explained but the written instructions are not as clear as we desire. It also does not contain the text description to the game modes we've developed and tested, only the original base from which we derived them from and it was also written in a very rushed fashion. This is our main point of attention that we want to get right in a next opportunity and to fix in the next update.

3. Our initial intention was just to participate in the jam and finish the project within the deadline, it is our very first game after all.

But I must admit that we were very positively surprised with how fun the game turned out to be, specially when playing with friends. It was very fullfilling to see our less nerdy friend ditch her Uno and have a blast playing Manaduel as well as seeing our most geek D&D-playing friends turning what could be just a simple "who has the highest number" into a thrilling roleplaying experience or to grab the cards for about half an hour to study the relations between them or remember the most gamechanging plays. And due to that, we feel that it would be unfair to just let this idea die where it is now. We will make some updates and see what people think. =)

We will very soon (probably in a couple of days) upload a new version of the manual, closer to what we've originally intended. In this new version, we will present some of the several game modes we've developed and maybe some fun suggested game lore to accompany them. We will also focus on create more and better graphical elements to make the rules clearer as well as simplifying the written explanations.

As a way to pay homage to its origins (this game jam) we will try to always keep the 18-cards core, also because the game mechanics were so tightly built around that exact number (16 playable cards and 2 condition cards). But as a way to keep it fresh and make it even more customizable, we intend to periodically release optional expansion packs focused on additional game mechanics that the players may choose to add to the game in order to make room for more complex gameplay (ex. we've already drafted a version based around moon phases - each producing different effects on the cards when the time condition card is set to night).

Other plans such as making a playable HTML5 version, going from vector-based art to illustrations and opening a patreon or kickstarter would be really cool, but of course it depends on how well the game is received and if people will care about it, since there are many better things out there developed by way more competent people. But we hope you all do and nothing would make us happier than to be able to provide at least an hour or two of fun for you and your friends with our game. <3


What was the process like for creating your game? How did the limitations influence your design?

I've been kicking around the idea of reversing the deckbuilder somehow. I keep returning to a few ways of doing it, but I've never actually made a prototype to test any of the concepts. This was the perfect opportunity. (I went with "deck destruction" but probably a better genre term would be "deckthinner").

Once I settled on the core mechanic of stealing from the main deck as the way of removing cards, a lot of the pieces came together including the theme of espionage. 

The limitation of 18 cards really challenged the balancing phase. I used only the "pictures" at first, and it essentially turned into a coin flip with minimal strategy. So, I put numbers on the cards which didn't quite work thematically to make the choices harder.

That made it so that both player lose a lot of the time. I wanted "go wide" strategy (you get caught a lot but end up winning do to how many pieces are on the board) vs a "go tall" strategy (you remove all cards that can catch you). 

Putting two symbols on the cards made these strategies less viable. 

I think all this could be fixed with a bigger deck size to fine-tune the balance a bit more.

How do you think it turned out?

I think it works great as a proof of concept. As a fun game on its own, it works a few times. Even in this form, there's a lot of interesting decisions. Do you try to remove cards to make your own board safest or do you try to work off the opponent's board to complete their sets? It grants both of you safety when you do that. But if you sabotage one their cards in the end, it ruins your own safety.

This was a somewhat unexpected emergent concept I hadn't planned on.

I'm also not convinced the win/lose condition is quite right for this style game. I went back and forth on it a lot. Conceptually, I think it has to be tied strongly to the "deck playing out" on its own in order to make the deckthinning concept feel meaningful.

Do you have future plans for this game?

Now that I know this type of thing can work, I'd like to try again with a more modern approach. Right now, this is just a simple "card matching" game. I'd be curious to explore card interaction with text on the cards and different types just like in the popular deckbuilders. There's a lot of places it can go. 

Submitted (1 edit)


I originally didn't think 18 cards was enough for a good strategy game. To be honest I've only partly changed my mind on that now!

Jammers were certainly forced to consider the question "what are the absolute minimum mechanical essentials for strategy?" When the materials at hand might only support some, or perhaps barely even one, of the "essentials", we'd better try to understand what they are!

I think struggling with that question, and clarifying ideas about what's important for strategy, was my most valuable takeaway from the jam.


I don't think my game turned out very well. Approachability was an important design goal - the whole idea of keeping the card set small surely comes with a desire for something non-daunting and easy to pick up. But by opting for abstract, themeless mechanics my submission feels a bit like meaninglessly pushing cards around the table.

On the flipside of that I was stupidly pleased with the look of the abstract, themeless cards! Not being an artist I decided to go with just colours and shapes like Uno cards or something. 

I also like the mechanic of using repeated little RPS "fights" between the players to supply some ongoing randomness, even though I can see it has questionable knock-on effects on other parts of the game. Having to use such a small set of components is great for being able to see when adding one mechanic squeezes something else out on the other side.


No concrete future plans for this game, other than probably playing around with the prototype cards from time to time and hoping inspiration strikes.

But it's such a small design space you can easily mull it over in your head at random moments. If I do that I'll definitely be trying to think of ways to add more interesting persistent state within the players' hands, rather than it being limited to the "Texas Hold'em" style table cards like it is now.

Submitted (2 edits)

The 18 card limit really drove both my motivation and the design. I spent a few days thinking about ways to overcome the limitation. As I saw it, the problem was  that you need a relatively complex game state and provide a sufficient amount of options for the players for the game to be strategic, and also to have hidden information to feel like a card game. And you only have 18 cards to represent that. I settled on using the cards placement on the table in a grid pattern as the game state. So the players place cards on the table to build up the state similar to games like e.g. carcassonne. Also, the final score should be given from that state alone so as not to require any extra tokens. 

For card placement to be an interesting mechanic cards should affect nearby cards, and with only 18 cards all cards need to have multiple functions to give enough possible interactions and combinations. I chose to go for a model with cards granting one of three different resources (gold, food or knowledge) depending a condition, and also being of one of three kinds of cards (people, buildings, land). This makes the cards not only score on their own but also affect the scoring of nearby cards. 

Now to give players more strategic choice and to have hidden information and also to feel more like a card game, players get to put cards in their hand. Again, 18 cards is not a lot so you cannot have too many. I chose to go with a combination of a 3 card hand and 3 cards in a common pool. This gives a total of 6 cards to choose from, and still have an initial remaining deck of 9 cards. It also has the added complexity that you see three of the cards your opponent gets to choose from next and may pick one defensively. 

I think the game turned out to be a lot of fun and quite complex to play. The interactions worked out the way I wanted. My biggest concern is that the scoring gets a little complicated. I'd need more playtesting to see if it actually is strategic or not. 

I haven't decided if I want to pursue it further yet. We'll see. Given the limited time I pretty much completely ignored the graphical side so there is quite a lot of work left. But I note that the low production cost for a game with only 18 cards opens up some interesting possibilities, such as bundling and promotional giveaways. 


1) I spent a lot of time just ruminating in my head about different ways to make the 18 cards go far while keeping the rules simple. The limitations made it so I had to keep the interest in the intersection of different cards and with the interaction with the opponent rather than MORE COOL CARD POWERS.

2) It turned out fun! My wife and I played probably 10 or so games back to back and it was nice to have a new really chill, fast-playing game like Jaipur or Lost Cities or something (but shorter!)

3) Probably not gonna take this one any farther, just because for the old "day job" I mostly focus on single player things for technical reasons (don't have to do multiplayer code for digital or produce physical things for tabletop).


I answered my own questions at the end of this podcast ep: