I was thinking about the differences between physical and digital collectible card games, because that’s the sort of thing I think about when you’re not around. My starting point here is that I enjoy playing CCGs much more in person, but the games aaarre just kind of objectively better in a digital form, when it comes to mechanics.
Basically, I wanted to try to take some of the most unique aspects of Hearthstone and port them over to a tabletop game. A lot of people have tried to convert Hearthstone itself into a physical game, and while I agree that this just doesn’t work for a variety of reasons, starting from scratch could work out much better.
So I tried it. Sort of.
It requires a few things. For example, to replace random card generation, there has to be a common pool of cards that all players can draw from. Simple enough. A much bigger change arose when I decided that in order to facilitate persistent stats on board, it would be best to use dice to represent the health and attack of units (or allies, as I wound up calling them). To do that cleanly the game would have to be balanced around a 6/6 as the largest baseline ally—though, there would be ways to grow them.
The cards themselves would have dice pictured on their faces, and players would be expected to place physical dice on those graphics. The good news is that this is about as awkward as the problems got, and it seems to me that such a game would play very smoothly. The necessary accoutrement would be easy to bundle into a starter pack, consisting of a bunch of extra cards and dice which really wouldn’t be cost-prohibitive.
I’m not interested in actually making the game, but it was a fun experiment, and some of these ideas might be useful to other game designers. I put together a basic ruleset, and class templates for a few classes. I’ll show the Priest below, after the rules (which I’ve annotated because they reference a lot of undefined terms specific to the game).
To begin a game, each player must have the following essential items ready to go:
- A 30-card Deck. Decks must be built from the core cards of the chosen class, plus cards belonging to any of the three allies that class is aligned with (i.e., different classes have access to different tribes).
- Five copies of the Signature Spell of the chosen class (akin to a Hero Power in Hearthstone, but with limited uses).
- Three Health Potion cards (Small healing spells.)
- One 20-sided die to keep track of that player’s life total.
- At least 13 six-sided dice to track ally stats, and to roll for various effects.
In addition to the items each player must have with them, there are a couple more things we’ll need to get started. These are shared by both players.
- A 12-card Quest library (Powerful bonuses if the criteria is met).
- A 24-card Anomaly library (Set of spells called on by other cards).
- A 24-card Avatar library (Set of allies called on by other cards).
- Up to twelve Token cards.
With all of the above, you’re ready to play. In order to get a game started, the players will follow the steps below.
- Both players draw three random cards from the Quest library, then choose one to keep and put the rest on the bottom of the library.
- Both players draw three cards from their Deck. They may choose to keep or replace any of these cards, shuffling cards they wish to replace back into the deck before drawing that many new cards.
- Both players roll a six-sided die, and the high roller will take the first turn.
- The player going first will start with one mana and draw no additional cards.
- The player going second will start with one mana and draw one additional card on their first turn.
- After the first turn, players always advance by one mana and draw one card at the start of their turns, capping at 10 mana.
- Players cannot hold more than six cards at one time. Any cards drawn while the player holds six cards are placed into their discard pile. Note that Quests, Signature Spells and Health Potions do not count toward this total, while Anomaly and Avatar cards do.
- Cards can be played when the player has enough mana to pay for them. Ally cards can only be played on the player’s own turn, while Spell cards can be played at any time.
- The game ends when a player’s life total is at zero at the end of either player’s turn. Draws are possible.
Allied with Demons, Humans and Spirits.
The Church of the Reborn was founded on the principle that troubled young minds might be molded into useful instruments of the Empire. Pupils of the church would learn a strict discipline and spend their days studying the magic of the Holy Light, before—in theory—returning to society to grant their new blessings in penance for past misdeed.
When the demonic curse of vampirism spread over the land and the Empire fell, the people turned to the Acolytes of the church for salvation. Instead, the young and ambitious mages took note of the strong compatibilities between Blood magic and that of the Light. In the newly reformed Church of the Reborn, sanguimancy is held in the same esteem as their more traditional, sacred magicks.
Signature Ability: (2) Balance
Deal 2 damage to your opponent, or restore 2 health to yourself.
Great Acolyte Allies:
(6) Defender of the Faith
2/4 – Blessed – If you have no other allies in play, restore your health to 20.
(10) Wailing Blood Priest
5/3 – Vampiric – Resummon the top 5 Vampiric allies from your discard pile.
Give an ally Vampiric.
(2) Flash of Light
Restore an ally to full health.
(2) Bathe in Light
Restore 2 health to all allies.
Draw a card, or your opponent discards a card.
(3) Blood Siphon
Deal 2 damage to an enemy and restore 2 health to yourself.
If you control an ally with Blessed and an ally with Vampiric, give all Vampiric allies Blessed and all Blessed allies Vampiric.
(3) Lay on Hands
Restore 6 health.
The next time an ally with Vampiric deals damage to an enemy, take control of that enemy.
Resummon an ally from your discard pile.
Until your next turn, you may not be reduced below 1 health.
Draw 2 anomalies, or draw 2 avatars.
For the rest of the game, whenever you would draw a card you may choose from your discard pile instead.
(5) Embrace Darkness
Deal 2 damage to all enemies.
Restore health to yourself equal to the damage dealt by your allies this turn.
(6) Play God
Destroy an enemy, or resummon an ally from your discard pile.
(6) Dogmatic Law
Name a card. Your opponent reveals their hand. If they hold the named card, it may not be played this game.
(7) Sacred Bolt
Deal 5 damage, or restore 10 health.
(8) Blinding Light
Restore both players’ health to 20.
Restore your health to 20, or reduce your opponent’s health to 10.