Monday, February 20, 2012

Game Design Notebook - Horde - Step 2: Revision and Prototype

In my last post, I mentioned my newest game project, tentatively called Horde.  The original submission was for a contest entry at BGDF and was constrained by the contest restrictions and the 200-word limit on entries.  Once the contest was over, free from those restrictions, I liked the idea enough to create a prototype and try it out.  The original idea had used small figures of different colors; I shifted that to cards, and created a deck of cards with six "suits" - typical fantasy stuff: fire, water, sun, moon, forest, royal - and five monster types - troll, ooze, golem, dragon, skeleton.  I doubled each of these, for sixty total cards, which would be more than enough for people to pick a couple of them on each of 11 turns (5 monsters + 6 suits = 11) and have enough.
Art for cards

But, as I was making these up and doing some rudimentary art, I thought of some ways to make the game more interesting, by having special additional monsters that allowed for special plays or special scoring.  That added a bunch more cards, and because those cards are generally more powerful than the regular ones, I needed new rules to balance out these cards.  The mechanism I tried initially was this: whenever somebody chooses a special card, everybody else gets another one.  More on that in my next post in this series.

I wanted to make the prototype at least look nice, so I collected some art for it, shown at right.  The art that I used came from four sources:

  1. stuff I made myself - generally crude or bad, although some of them were OK
  2. stuff I already had access to - I commissioned some art for a previous game, Zombie Ball, so I had art for skeletons and vampires already in place.
  3. online clip-art - I didn't want to use clip-art that was licensed or of unclear origin, so I went with royalty-free open-use stuff.  There's a pretty extensive clip art library at which purports to be all  royalty free.  There's another one at which is even more clearly royalty free.  Clker includes nearly everything at, so you can get more options at clker.
  4. art from expired-copyright books - for this, I used Google Books and searched for books from prior to 1923 - anything in those is in the public domain.
I include examples of each of these below.  The result is not publication-worthy, but it looks good enough.
    I got the background textures for the cards from a variety of sources, but a great one that I use a lot is Mayang's Free Texture Library ( - this has high-res texture images of all kinds of things.

    Once I had art, it was easy to go ahead and order a prototype from - and because I was curious, I even went ahead and got one of their medium boxes, which is cool - I'll discuss that later too.  

    I did the ooze using PowerPoint
    and some GIMP effects
    The final prototype
    A knight from a fairy tale book,
    once colorized, became my Elvenking
    Clip art borrowed from


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