NaGaDeMon 2013 Part 3 – Otters – hiring a graphic designer

Recap: I’m participating in National Game Design Month (NaGaDeMon) again this year, making a kid-friendly card game called Otters. Previous posts:

Graphic design

Now that I have the mechanics of the game and the art for the cards, I need good graphic design to bring it all together. Specifically, I need:

  • Card layout
  • A game logo
  • Card back illustration (incorporating the logo)
  • Rules layout (probably on a card)
  • Maybe a box design (depending on how I make this game available for purchase)

For Chaos & Alchemy, I worked with a friend who is also a professional graphic designer, Bree Heiss. You can see my post about her awesome graphic design work on the game here.

Fortunately for her, Bree now works for Wizards of the Coast, doing awesome graphic design work on their games. That’s a bit unfortunate for me, though, since it means I need a new graphic designer.

Making my choice

I put out a call on Twitter, asking if anyone had any recommendations for graphic designers. Several recommendations came in, and I followed up with three different designers.

Ultimately, I decided to hire Dane Ault. You should definitely check out some of his earlier work over on his portfolio page.

By Dane Ault

By Dane Ault

Dane has done a lot of work for kids, and I love his aesthetic. I almost regret that I’m using photos instead of illustrations on Otters, since Dane’s illustration work rocks. But, since I want to get this game out before the end of the month, the photos are much faster to work with.

Want to play Otters?

While the graphic design isn’t finished yet, Otters is completely playable right now with my own (kinda crappy) graphic design. If you’re interested in trying it out, you can download a PDF with the cards (and my experimental “rules on one card”) right here! If you’d like some more detailed rules (which would probably help), you can download the rules here. I’d certainly love any feedback that you might have, especially if you try Otters with kids.

Photos by Paul Stevenson, Steven Zolneczko and Tambako The Jaguar

Photos by Paul Stevenson, Steven Zolneczko and Tambako The Jaguar

I’m aiming for a game that’s interesting for adults to play (with some strategic choices), but accessible for kids, probably ages 6 and up or so. Try it out, and if you have some feedback (good or bad), drop me a line at


Michael Iachini – Clay Crucible Games

@ClayCrucible on Twitter

NaGaDeMon 2013 Part 2 – Otters – Creative Commons photos

In the spirit of completely making a game for NaGaDeMon 2013, I’ve decided to dive all the way in with Otters. You can read part 1, about the idea behind the game, here. As a recap, Otters is a simple, kid-friendly card game that’s mechanically inspired by Smash Up (but greatly simplified).

My initial play tests have left me pretty darn satisfied with Otters the way it is right now. So what’s next? Let’s publish!

To be clear, this is a little nutty, yes. Generally a game needs tons and tons of playtesting. But this one is very simple, and it just does what I want it to do as-is.

Now, if I’m going to get a published, purchasable game done by the end of November, I’m not going to have time to commission a bunch of illustrations for the cards. That’s okay, though, since part of the inspiration for Otters was how much I love looking at photos of otters online.

Of course, if I’m going to be able to use photos, I’ll have to license them. This is new to me.

Picking a photographer… unsuccessfully

I started by going to DeviantArt (an awesome web site when you’re looking for artists) and finding a photographer with otter photos that I liked. I sent a message via DeviantArt’s system and later followed the photographer on Facebook and sent another message… but no response.

Stock photos? No.

Since I’m trying to move quickly on this game, I had to try something else. Some other designers had suggested I consider stock photos, such as from iStockPhoto or Shutterstock. Unfortunately, Shutterstock does not allow their images to be used on merchandise, including game cards, and iStockPhoto only allows such use if you buy an Extended License, which appears to cost about $200 more per image.

Yeah, that’s not going to work.

Creative Commons – woo hoo!

Finally, I realized that the power of the open source movement could help me here – Creative Commons!

I’m no intellectual property attorney, but the basic idea behind the Creative Commons licenses (there are different versions out there) is that you can put a creative work in the world and allow people to use it for various things. In some cases, people will even let you use their Creative Commons licensed stuff (like photos, but also music and more) in commercial products. Frequently, there’s a requirement that you provide the creator with credit for their work.

And as it turns out, there are tons of awesome Creative Commons licensed otter photos out there! Many of them can be found on Flickr, but I did most of my searching using the Google Image Search tool; the Advanced Search options let you specify that you only want to find images that are available to do various things with (such as use and modify, even commercially).

Cute otters!

Fortunately, I don’t need a ridiculously large number of different otter pictures for my Otters game. There are cards with the number 1, 2 and 3 – so, three different otter pictures there.

Otter 1 by Paul Stevenson

Otter 1 by Paul Stevenson

Otter 2 by Steven Zolneczko

Otter 2 by Steven Zolneczko

Otter 3 by Tambako The Jaguar

Otter 3 by Tambako The Jaguar

There are special cards that let you play an extra card, play the top card of the deck or move a card from one spot to another.

Extra card otter by Peter G Trimming

Extra card otter by Peter G Trimming

Top card otter by Tambako the Jaguar

Top card otter by Tambako the Jaguar

Move an otter by Jay Gooby

Move an otter by Jay Gooby

There’s also an alligator card.

Alligator by John Magnus

And finally, there are otter playgrounds, so I needed beautiful lakes.

Lake in Canada by eleephotography

Lake in Canada by eleephotography

Peyto Lake by Jane Belinda Smith

Peyto Lake by Jane Belinda Smith

Lake Quinault by Tom Harpel

Lake Quinault by Tom Harpel

Next step: Graphic design

Now that I have the art for the cards completed, I need some graphic design help. Specifically, I need someone to:

  • Lay out the cards with the appropriate numbers and text
  • Design a logo for the game to put on the backs of the cards (along with anything we need for the background of the card back)
  • Lay out the rules (probably on a card, front and back, in order to use DriveThruCards for publication

I’m working on picking the graphic designer now. If all goes well, I’ll have final, laid-out files soon!

Michael Iachini – Clay Crucible Games

@ClayCrucible on Twitter

NaGaDeMon 2013 – Otters: Part 1

Last year I participated in National Game Design Month, better known as NaGaDeMon. In case you haven’t heard of it before, NaGaDeMon is inspired by NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. Instead of trying to write a 50,000 word novel in November, I’m trying to design a game.

My effort last year was called Gods & Champions. It was the second game I tried designing (after Chaos & Alchemy), and while I ended up with some fun stuff, I ultimately realized that the core mechanic I wanted to explore just wasn’t that fun. I could have a fun game, but it would involve going in a totally different direction, so I decided to move on to other games instead.

Example Blessings 01

This year, I’ve decided to work on a game entirely inspired by theme:


Otter photo by Dmitry Azovtsev -

Otter photo by Dmitry Azovtsev –

Let’s face it: Otters (especially river otters) are freaking adorable. As a kid, I loved the Christmas special called Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas. It featured adorable otter Muppets that sang and played musical instruments. Later in life, I visited an aquarium and was captivated by the cute river otters.

So, for a few months now I’ve known I wanted to design a game themed around otters. I wanted it to be kid-friendly, and I wanted it to have adorable otter art.

What would be the mechanics of this otter game? I had no idea.

I started by researching otters and what they do. And while they’re adorable creatures, nothing about their lives really inspired any game mechanics in my mind. I let things just simmer.

Scavenging mechanics from other games

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I found myself playing a game that I really want to like but that I actually don’t enjoy much: Smash Up. The theme of Smash Up (pick two cool faction mini-decks, like ninjas and wizards, and shuffle them together) sounds like a lot of fun. The art is awesome. And yet the game has been a drag both times I’ve played it.

Smash Up by AEG

Smash Up by AEG

Smash Up seems like it wants to be a simple, quick, wacky game, but most of the factions have some fiddly mechanics that can lead to analysis paralysis. It’s also quite fiddly to keep track of everything on the board; with all of the abilities from the base cards plus the ongoing abilities from the creatures and actions that have been played to those bases, it can be really hard to even know what the total value of cards at a base currently is. The game ends up taking way too long for the amount of fun it contains, in my opinion.

Otters – The basic idea

So, my idea for the otter-themed game: Take the basic idea of Smash Up (playing cards from your hand to shared “bases” on the table in an effort to bring the total value of the otter cards on a base up to a target number) and simplify it, using cards with pictures of adorable otters.

Thematically, the “bases” will be playgrounds for otters (ponds, lakes and rivers). When you have enough otters in a playground to fill it up with fun, you score points for that playground.


Typically, I make quick and dirty prototypes for the earliest designs of my games. However, since Otters is all about adorable pictures of otters, I started using cards with art right from the beginning.

Now, I don’t personally own the rights to any otter photographs or illustrations, so I’m not going to show you what my prototype looks like here on my web site. Suffice it to say, I found adorable otter pictures online and popped them into a simple template.

Playtesting – you can help!

So far I’ve playtested Otters four or five times, with only small tweaks to the mechanics and rules along the way. It’s actually pretty much where I want it to be right now.

Otters is a quick (10 minute) 2-player game that’s easy for kids but still contains interesting decisions for adults. I might end up trying to expand it for 3 or 4 players, but I’m pretty happy with where it is as a 2-player game.

Furthermore, the only components are 54 cards. That’s it – no dice, no counters, no meeples, no board, not even some spare coins. Just a deck of cards. One of those cards is just a rules reference! I’m thinking I might ultimately make this game available via DriveThruCards or something like that.

If you’re interested in helping me to playtest Otters, send me an email at, and I’ll send you a PDF with the 54 cards of the game. I personally recommend printing them on regular paper, cutting them up, and dropping them into sleeves with Magic cards or something similar.

I’ll continue to post about my progress on Otters throughout November. I may be able to go from zero to game-available-for-sale during the course of the month. That, of course, will rely on me working with a graphic designer to make the cards look nice as well as acquiring the rights to some adorable otter photography (plus an alligator image as well as some ponds, lakes and rivers). I think this can be done, though. (If you have any tips on where I might be able to get such rights, let me know.)

Wish me luck!

Michael Iachini – Clay Crucible Games

@ClayCrucible on Twitter

NaGaDeMon 2012 – Gods & Champions recap

Previous postsPart 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4

I realized that I never put up a post at the end of November recapping what I had done on Gods & Champions during the month, so here you have it.

If NaGaDeMon is viewed as a game, I lost. I didn’t get to a finished version of Gods & Champions during the month, but I’m okay with that.

I went through three revisions of the game during the month, which got progressively more fun. The third version was played with my friend Nate, who is a professional game designer and a fantastic playtester. He had some suggestions, some of which I plan to take and some of which I may not. He was not in favor of the economic system I had set up in the game (two cards can be freely traded for one Power, and two Power can be freely traded for one Follower); I’m not convinced it should be scrapped, but I’m up for trying. He also helped me get to the point where I had an alternative to the Champion-switching between rounds.

See, the initial idea for Gods & Champions came out of my desire to explore the tension of wanting to build up your own Champion with better abilities, but knowing that at the end of the Age, another God might take that Champion away. I was worried that this might not be fun, and ultimately it seems that it’s not.

However, what I think WILL be fun and still provide a catch-up mechanic is to have multiple Champions. Each God gets one new Champion each Age, starting with one and ending with three. The God in last place going into the Age gets first pick of Champions. This means that the Champions will have to be a bit simpler to keep the complexity in line.

I also feel like exploring the Quest angle is going to be rewarding. I haven’t playtested the Quests that I came up with at the start, just because I wanted to get the Champions and Blessings right first. I might end up making Quests the way you get stuff (cards, Power, Followers) rather than having those things tied directly to the Champions’ abilities.

So, that’s where things stand now. I have ideas about where I would like the game to go next, but I haven’t put them into action yet. It doesn’t help that I had another interesting game idea crop up halfway through the month, and then another one just last night. I don’t feel the passion for Gods & Champions that I felt for Chaos & Alchemy, especially now that I’ve abandoned the core mechanic that I wanted to explore from the start. I’ll probably do a little more work on it, then set it aside to start toying with other games.

I kind of like the idea of having several different games in the works, any of which I might pick up and work on again in the future as the mood strikes me. Maybe some of them will even see print one day, but I’m not in a hurry.

-Michael the OnlineDM

OnlineDM1 on Twitter

NaGaDeMon 2012: Gods & Champions Part 4: Actual playtesting

Previous postsPart 1 / Part 2 / Part 3

As National Game Design Month (NaGaDeMon) rolls on, I’m working on a new board game, Gods & Champions. Each player gets to be a God, acting through a Champion to claim Followers. The God with the most Followers at the end of three Ages wins the game.

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve spent more of my game development time on the expansion to Chaos & Alchemy and less on Gods & Champions, but I haven’t totally abandoned my game development. As a matter of fact, I had a fantastically helpful playtesting session this past Sunday with some new friends.

Current state of the rules

Here’s the way things work right now:

  • Each player randomly gets a secret God card, which they can either keep secret throughout the game and reveal at the end for bonus points, or reveal at any point to activate the God’s ability, giving up the bonus points. (I haven’t actually played with the God cards at all so far; I want to make sure the Champions work first).
  • Each player gets a face-up Champion card, most likely through some type of opening hand size bidding mechanism (still under development – for now, initial Champion assignment is random).
  • In the first Age of the game, five Follower tokens per player (so, 15 tokens in a three-player game) are put on the board. (I’m currently using white poker chips for Followers.) The Age will end when all of the Followers are gone. (I’ve also experimented with rules that give everyone three turns per Age and rules that let you keep claiming Followers after the pool is empty until everyone has had an equal number of turns, but I find it more interesting to deal with the fixed pool of Followers).
  • After each Age, the player who claimed the most Followers in that Age gets some bonus Followers. Then there is a re-draft of Champions, starting with the player in last place.
  • The Second Age cards are shuffled into the deck at the beginning of the second Age,  and the Third Age cards are introduced at the start of the third Age. (I’m also experimenting with entirely replacing the prior Age’s cards rather than shuffling them together.)
  • The second Age has 10 Followers per player available, and the third Age has 15 per player (this might end up at 20 per player). Each Age awards bonus Followers to the winner of the Age, and is followed by a re-draft of Champions.
  • The Champions are worth points at the end of the game (rules still under development; it will probably be based on the total value of Blessings on the Champion).
  • There are some Quest cards available that your God can claim if certain circumstances are met. (I haven’t playtested these at all yet; they’ll probably be an advanced rules module for later.)

These rules are still a bit in flux, but I’m getting close here. Of course, the big question is, what do you do on your turn?

Turn order

  1. Receive 2 Power (currently represented by red poker chips) from the bank. In the second Age, this increases to 3 Power. In the third Age,  it’s 4 Power.
  2. Use each ability of your Champion once (skipping any abilities you don’t wish to use), in any order you like.
  3. Claim 1 card from the board. You can either take the card in the free slot, pay 1 Power for the card in the 1-power-slot, pay 2 Power for the card in the 2-power-slot slot, or pay 1 Power to draw a random card from the deck. The cards then get cheaper (shift them down one space, discarding the free-slot card if a card was drawn from the deck) and a new card shows up in the 2-power-slot.
  4. Play any number of cards from your hand, paying the Power cost for each card. Most of these are Blessings that give your Champion new abilities for future turns, but there are also Miracles that have one-shot effects on the board right away.

In addition, there are two things that you can do at any time on your turn, as often as you wish:

  • Discard two cards to gain 1 Power
  • Pay 2 Power to claim 1 Follower

When it comes to Champions, they each have three slots for Blessings. If you want to replace an old Blessing with a new one, you can essentially “sell” the old Blessing for half its original cost (probably rounded down, but I’m experimenting with rounding up, too) and pay the difference for the new one. You can’t downgrade a Blessing to a less expensive card in order to downgrade your Champion near the end of an Age (since someone else might get that Champion for the next Age).

Open issues

The game is actually fun right now, largely thanks to the theme (it’s fun to be a God – who knew?). The mechanics are okay, but there are ares for improvement:

  • Some of the cards, especially the later Age cards, are out of whack in cost compared to their power level (too cheap or too expensive). This is pretty easy to tweak.
  • A lot of my cards don’t have names yet. Not that hard to fix, but the flavor is going to be really important in this game, so I have to do a good job here.
  • The whole business of re-drafting Champions each Age is what I originally wanted to explore but, as I feared, it might not be that much fun in the end. If I ditch it, I’ll need a new catch-up mechanic.
  • Card selection is currently not that important. If you have five cards in your hand, you don’t much care what most of them do, since you’re only going to be playing one or two each turn. The rest will be discarded for Power. This is a problem. It might be solvable by letting you do other things with cards in hand (perhaps you can discard them for more Power if they’re more expensive). Alternatively, I might make it so that you just don’t get all that many cards, though I like having the exchanges between the three currencies (cards, Power, Followers).

Next steps

From here, I’m hoping to find time for some more rules tweaking this week, followed by more playtesting later in the week. I don’t know that the game will be “finished” by the end of November, but I think I can at least put something playable up here on the blog by December 1. I’ll continue working on it from there, but I think I should be able to declare at least a partial victory on NaGaDeMon 2012 by the end of the week.

-Michael the OnlineDM

NaGaDeMon 2012: Gods & Champions Part 3: Solo playtesting

Previous posts: Part 1 / Part 2

As National Game Design Month (NaGaDeMon) rolls on, I’m continuing to work on my new board game idea, Gods & Champions.

Quick recap: Gods & Champions is mainly a card game. Each player represents an ancient God, and the Gods act through their Champions to claim Followers and ultimately win the game. At the end of each Age of the game, the Champions can change allegiance via a drafting mechanic. This means that the Gods want to invest cards to build up their Champions, but it’s possible that a different God may claim that Champion in a later round, thus introducing tension. This is what I want to explore via the game design process – can this tension be fun?

Trying it out

Last time, I talked about the Blessing cards that you can play to improve your Champion. I got some great feedback from readers – thank you for that! I made a few tweaks, but I realized that I had no idea how good or bad various cards would be until I actually played with them. At the same time, I didn’t feel like the game was even close to being ready to try out with another person, not even my wife.

Solution: Solo playtesting!

I printed out the cards, sleeved them with Magic cards and tried things out with just myself. I played two different Gods, each with its own Champion. Right from the start, I found myself tweaking things.

It’s hard to see how much fun a game is when you play alone, but you can see if it’s completely broken or not. Gods & Champions in its initial form was indeed completely broken. It just didn’t work. Fifteen minutes of actually playing with the cards revealed what sitting in front of my computer could not.

It can be fixed

Fortunately, solutions to the problems suggested themselves quickly.

First, the Champions were completely unbalanced in their initial forms. Some of them were great and some of them were worthless. A varying power level is okay, but I don’t ever want a situation where one of the Champions just feels terrible to have. I could adjust this easily enough.

Second, it was clear that I was going to need way more cards, and more variety in them. The big insight here came from a game that one of my friends had made up in which the available cards would change as you move through the game. In the case of Gods & Champions, there will be a First Age deck, a Second Age deck and a Third Age deck. When you move to a new Age, you shuffle in the new cards (or perhaps completely replace them; I haven’t decided yet).

Third, just drawing cards didn’t present enough interesting decisions, so I added  a “pay to pick” mechanic. (Coincidentally, Daniel Solis was looking for a name for this mechanic on Twitter the day after I added it to my game.) This means that there will be three cards available to choose from when it’s time to “draw” a card. One of them is free, one of them costs 1 Power Point and one of them costs 2 Power Points. I’m also including the option to draw the top card of the deck for 1 Power Point.

Fourth, things were a little too chaotic. The rules I had in mind would have players getting power points, drawing a card, playing cards and using the cards they had on the table, in any order they wished. The problem was that it became messy to remember what I had done and what I hadn’t done if I could do them in any order. I needed an order of phases within the turn, which is currently:

  1. Gain Power Points
  2. Use the cards on the table
  3. Draw one new card
  4. Play cards from hand

I also have a rule that says you can buy a Follower for 2 Power Points at any time, but I might restrict that to phase 4 of the turn.


I learned a lot from a little bit of solo playtesting, and I used that knowledge to make a very different set of cards for my next playtest, which would come Sunday night with my wife. More on that one later!

-Michael the OnlineDM

OnlineDM1 on Twitter

NaGaDeMon 2012 Part 2: Gods & Champions Blessings

Previous post: Part 1

As National Game Design Month (NaGaDeMon) rolls on, I’m continuing to work on my new board game idea, Gods & Champions.

Quick recap: Gods & Champions is mainly a card game. Each player represents an ancient God, and the Gods act through their Champions to claim Followers and ultimately win the game. At the end of each Age of the game, the Champions can change allegiance via a drafting mechanic. This means that the Gods want to invest cards to build up their Champions, but it’s possible that a different God may claim that Champion in a later round, thus introducing tension. This is what I want to explore via the game design process – can this tension be fun?

A brief word on mechanics

My current thinking is that players will begin with a God card (which they may keep hidden, a la Lords of Waterdeep) and will draft a Champion at the beginning of the first age. The Champion will come with one ability to do each turn, plus slots for three Blessings to be added.

On a player’s turn, the Champion will receive 2 Power Points (poker chips) and will be allowed to carry out each of the Champion’s actions a single time (the base action plus each Blessing action). Also, a Champion may always spend 1 Power Point to draw a card or 2 Power Points to claim a follower from the pool. Any unused Power Points carry over to future rounds (so a Champion may save up for something big).

The cards in the deck are Blessings and Miracles, and each of them costs a certain number of Power Points to play.

Today’s topic: Blessings

Most of the cards in the game are going to be Blessings that the Gods can bestow upon their Champions, thus giving the Champions more and better abilities. Each card has a Power Point cost to play it, and once they’re on the Champion’s board they can be used for free every turn. This makes Blessings an investment: the cost to play a Blessing that lets you draw one card will typically be higher than the cost of drawing one card directly, since you’ll be able to use the Blessing every turn in the future.

However, there is another, more subtle cost to playing a Blessing to your Champion: That’s one less open Blessing slot. Each Champion can only have three Blessing cards in addition to the base Champion ability. There will be rules for upgrading a Blessing to a better one, but I’ll get into that later.

I definitely want there to be Blessings that cost more than 2 Power Points, which means that you’ll only be able to play them if you save up over multiple turns or if your Champion has ways of getting extra Power Points. However, I also want there to be some Blessings that cost just 1 or 2 Power Points (or possibly even zero), thus creating some interesting tension between getting a lesser Blessing on your Champion immediately and saving up for a better Blessing later.

Below are some ideas for Blessing cards. I haven’t designed any super-expensive Blessings yet; this batch tops out at a cost of 4 Power Points (the number in the upper right corner is the cost). I could definitely see a cost of 5, but I don’t know that I want to go beyond that. I haven’t playtested any of this yet, and I’m sure that will be what determines the way to cost these things.


My hope is that Champions will be able to build up engines via combinations of Blessings and the inherent Champion abilities. One Blessing lets you draw more cards; another lets you turn cards into extra Power Points; a third lets you turn Power Points into more Followers. You basically have these three currencies in the game (cards, Power Points and Followers) and  I like games that let you change one resource into another at better exchange rates as a way to move toward victory.

What do you think?

Now that you can see a little bit of how the game is shaping up, what are your thoughts? What’s fun or unfun about Gods & Champions so far? Where might I be missing something that needs attention early on?

I have to admit that I’m excited to get to the point of actually trying this idea out! Maybe this weekend.

-Michael the OnlineDM

NaGaDeMon 2012 Part 1: Gods & Champions idea

I haven’t been playing much Dungeons & Dragons lately. I wrapped up the Council of Spiders season of D&D Encounters a couple of weeks ago and was glad it was over.

That doesn’t mean I’m not gaming, though! I’m hard at work on setting up an awesome Kickstarter campaign for Chaos & Alchemy (tentative dates for the campaign are January 22 – February 21), which I think is going very well. I’ve picked up some new board games recently and am hoping to try some of them out this weekend.

I do want to get back to blogging regularly, so I’ve decided to participate in NaGaDeMon 2012 – National Game Design Month. It’s inspired by National Novel Writing Month, but for game designers instead of fiction writers.


I had the idea for this game a couple of months ago. As with Chaos & Alchemy, the inspiration came when listening to a gaming podcast (The Dice Tower, in this case). There was some discussion of games that involve drafting roles, such as Citadels (which, fun fact, was the first game I played that got me into cool board games beyond Monopoly and Risk and such). San Juan and Puerto Rico have similar role mechanics.

These games consist of a number of rounds of play, each of which begins with the players choosing their “role” for the round. Each role will give the player a different special ability, and the value of each role can vary from round to round – sometimes you really want to be the Builder, and other times that role won’t help you at all. Each role can only be taken by a single player, so this “draft” of roles is very important.

Core concept

The concept that I want to explore is the idea of players hanging onto their roles a little while longer before re-drafting them. While a role is inhabited by a player, the player can spend resources to improve the role. The tension here is that players want to make their role powerful so that they can take maximum advantage of it, but knowing that there’s a chance another player could get the role next round means that there’s a balancing act – one that might put a premium on jockeying for the next round’s role draft.

I like mythology, so the concept I’m going for here is that each player is a mythological God and the “roles” are legendary heroes that the gods can recruit as their Champions. Each Champion will work for their God for the entirety of an “Age” (several rounds around the board), but at the end of the Age the Gods will have the chance to lure the Champions away from one another.

The working title is Gods & Champions.


I envision the game as mainly being a card game. Most of the cards will be enhancements to the Champions’ powers. Your Champion will be represented by a big card that can hold, say, three playing cards on it. These are the “Blessings” that have been bestowed upon the Champion by the Gods, which affect what the Champion can do each turn.

I plan for each Champion to have some basic special ability, and then slots for up to three more abilities that come from these “Blessing” cards. If a Champion already has the three Blessing slots filled, a new Blessing will replace an old one (upgrading a Blessing to a new one will probably be cheaper than playing a Blessing to an empty slot, since there’s the cost of giving up the old Blessing).

There may also be some hard-to-earn cards that will stick with the God (that is, the player) rather than moving with the Champion from Age to Age. I think each God will only be able to earn one or maybe two of these throughout the game, since they’re inherently more powerful to have.

I’m thinking that a turn will consist of the Champion receiving a certain number of power points, and also taking each of the actions on the Champion’s card (the basic action that the Champion gets for free, plus any Blessings). There will be a number of “Follower” tokens up for grabs in each Age (likely a small number in the first Age and bigger numbers in later Ages).  These Followers are ultimately the game’s victory points – the God who has amassed the most Followers at the end of the game will win.

Champions will always be able to do things like spent a power point to draw a card and spend two or maybe three power points to claim a Follower for their God. The Champion inherent abilities and Blessing cards will allow for more card drawing, more power point collection, more ease of getting Followers, sacrificing Followers for cards or power, and so on. I want there to be the feel of combining Blessings to build up an engine that ultimately leads to more points.

Each Blessing will have a cost (in power points) to play. More powerful Blessings will cost more power.

There will be some cards in the deck that are Miracles rather than Blessings. Miracles will have some effect on the board and then will be discarded, as opposed to the Blessings that stay around on the Champions.

I would also like to have some Quest cards available. Completing a quest will be challenging but will come with some special rewards.

Finally, each God will have its own unique ability. Right now, I’m pondering a mechanic similar to Lords of Waterdeep, where the God’s identity is hidden until the end of the game. However, some Gods will have special abilities that could be useful during play, and the player might have the option to reveal the God’s identity (possibly for some cost) in order to take advantage of that special ability.

What do you think?

These are just some initial concepts that I’ve been noodling around in my head for a while, and NaGaDeMon is the perfect opportunity to put them out there and refine them into an actual game. This is obviously intended to be a much deeper, more strategic game than the quick-play Chaos & Alchemy. I love the mythological theme, and I think that the tension of building up a Champion at the risk of losing it in the next Age could be interesting.

What do you think? Does this sound like it has potential? What suggestions do you have to make it better?

If all goes well, I’ll have a complete rules set and card text by the end of November – an actual, playable game. I’m sure it will need refining before I consider it “done” but if it goes well, maybe this will be the second publication by Clay Crucible Games!

-Michael the OnlineDM