Mana Stream – New Card Game Prototype

UPDATE: The rules and cards were changed a bit for clarity but the basics are the same. More substantial updates will be their own posts.

You might not know this but I’m actually a big fan of card games. Yu-gi-oh, Magic: The Gathering, or Pokémon, I’ve played and enjoyed all of these and others. Card games have this amazing ability to pull in so many disparate parts of other games that are just an inherent part of the genre. Strategy and personalization as part of the deck building. Adaptability and tactics while you play. And there’s so many different mechanics and goals for how any given card game plays. Whether it’s the six rewards cards from Pokémon, the JRuler system from Force of Will, the lanes in Gwent, or whatever any of the Digimon games try to do, card games have so much potential in every aspect in such a unique way that I keep at least one installed and a deck nearby at any given time. Maybe I’ll look into a deeper dive in a few of these at some point.

For now, what I want to do instead is throw my hat into the ring and see if I can come up with a card game of my own that’s can be as engaging and unique as the card games that I spend so much time on. For anyone interested in just getting into the game and seeing if they enjoy it, I’ll put the main rules and all the cards right after this paragraph and after I’ll talk a little more about it. All you need to do is read through the rules, print out and cut apart the cards. Then you’ll have everything you need to play. Sorry if it’s a bit plain. This is a very early version and I’m no artist so art for the cards will come later.

The idea was to have some thing in between the flexibility of Yu-Gi-Oh and the strong theming of Magic. Mana systems have also become really common and I think they are usually a good idea to prevent the one turn victories Yu-Gi-Oh sometimes gets. The consequence of that is either adding the possibility of mana flooding, like in Magic, where you suddenly have a bunch of useless cards in your deck despite needing them to have the deck function at all. Or a much harder limit to what can happen in a turn if you have something like Hearthstone’s system where it’s just another mana a turn that slowly adds up to what you can do. It’s good for pacing the match but it at the cost of a rigidity that sometimes cuts down on the amount of potential any given strategy can have.

So by having the any card in your hand have the potential to be used as mana there’s a clear risk-reward system going on. There’s no chance of mana flood or mana screw (not having enough to pay for any cards). There’s only a choice about what you’re willing to lose in exchange for what you want to play. Sure you could put your entire hand into mana but then you have no ability to combo into a better position or seek out better cards. So there’s a high risk – high reward system controlled entirely by the player. It also plays into the theme. Everything is a manifestation of the player’s magic so of course they can use it as fuel if they need it.

The other unique mechanic is the lack of a graveyard. Most card games have a separate place to put cards after they’ve been played to keep them from being redrawn. Since this is supposed to be a small fast game with a much smaller deck it was important to make sure a player didn’t run out of resources. The player should be encouraged to try and plan for big gambits not punished for it. It also keeps a player from being overwhelmed if they pulled out a key card at an unlucky time. That’s not a loss condition here, the strategy just becomes surviving until they can setup again. This fits the theme too. A mage wouldn’t just forget how to cast a spell or summon a creature and the mana represents how much energy they have to cast so why wouldn’t they be able to cast that spell that was just destroyed again?

Well, that’s my card game, Mana Stream. Try it out, let me know what you think. Hope you have fun!

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