Me and my friend are building a "simple" trading card game - in the beginning we would have 20 cards and two resources, mana and health. This, along with a working multi-player is the minimum viable programm. The programming and graphics are not a problem - not of course literally, but since we're in the design state, we have other questions before coming to this two topics. Currently we have 10 cards, some basic mechanics and a short draft of ideas/comments/etc that I call the Design document. What I'm unsure now is how to continue developing the game, so I guess what I need are resources for game theory/game development so we at least don't reinvent everything.

Edit: To answer the questions below and keep them more visible:

This is the game in it's current form (made for iPad but works on Desktop computer if you use A S D J K L): http://app.planetofsnail.com/game.html As you can see, this is not a trading card game (or anything more than the bare skeleton of the idea :) The reason I called it a TCG is because of the way you play the game: you tap combinations to create magic symbols that translate into spells. When you break it down, it's like playing Magic the gathering, but instead of collecting and tapping lands, you make some hand gestures :) You have spells and monsters and two mana cast cost translates into two cast combinations (not exactly, but this is good enough without going into unnecessary details).

So to sum it up, from M:TG it uses literally spell names, mana costs and the fact two players play the game. The actual mechanic is different (you don't collect lands, every turn you have a fixed amount of mana that replenishes etc.)

BerndBrots' link to a game balancing article and actually the whole series is what I'm looking for - how to design a game (preferably TCG since TCG is the closes to what we're doing).


This is a really broad question that does not allow for a single specific answer. Also, I don't know of any TCG specific game design resources. Let me still suggest three things that might be helpful to you:

  • Is your TCG based on something, like a concept to explore (honor, survival, priorities in life), a setting (wizard duel, political campaign, city building), or a specific franchise (Pokémon, Game of Thrones)? If so, try to deduct as many of the game mechanics from this basis (or these bases) as possible. Don't just copy the mechanics of another game and force them on top of whatever your TCG is based on.

  • Define win conditions based on your core concepts, setting, or theme, and then try to use cyclical imbalances to your advantage. Cyclical imbalance means that some cards or tactics work well against certain other cards or tactics, while being vulnerable to others. If done right, this ensures that your game does not become stale, as there will be a meta-game evolving around it. Even if you want to produce a prototype as quickly as possible, I'd say that it is important to design that prototype in such a way that there is some space left from a mechanics point of view to add more complex cyclical imbalances later on.

  • The makers of Magic: the Gathering have defined what they call a "Jedi curve", which specifies, for each spell color, how strong a creature without abilities can be depending on its mana cost. They also defined multipliers for keywords such as "flying" or "first strike". The rule is that each creature has to be within +/- 15% of that power value. That ensures different creatures are comparable in their cost/benefit ratio. It's an easy balancing tool that you can use as well.

  • \$\begingroup\$ You are right, the question is broad, and I may have titled it wrong, it's less about only specific TCG mechanics, and more about not having answers about balancing a driving game. \$\endgroup\$
    – Andrija
    Aug 22 '12 at 15:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, the concepts of cyclical imbalance and the Jedi curve might help, but if you have no idea about balancing, I'm afraid that you have to read up on the subject as a whole. You can find an overview and additional readings here: gamedesignconcepts.wordpress.com/2009/08/20/… \$\endgroup\$
    – BerndBrot
    Aug 22 '12 at 16:36

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