Design Me: Press Your Luck

It’s been a while since I posted a Design Me article. I blame that on awesome things like Thanksgiving and BGG.con. But today I’m back with a new Design Me challenge.

As a reminder I do these Design Me articles to exercise my brain. Like soccer players exercise their bodies during practice I think it’s important that if our brain is what we use to create things, then we should exercise our brains.

Using, this is what it came up with for today’s challenge:

At least it didn't choose zombies!

At least it didn’t choose zombies!

Abra CadAlien

Abra CadAlien is a mini game for 2-4 players using only cards. The goal of the game is to cast the right spells in the right order into the sky to eliminate the aliens that are approaching Earth.

Each player is a witch or wizard with their own special book of spells, or grimoire. These are specialized player decks composed of different cards. Each card shows two different spells that can be used. During your turn you will cast a spell from one of your cards into the pool of Aliens set up on the table. Your spell will have a certain effect given the type of Alien you are facing. To determine whether or not your spell succeeded you can “drop” the rest of your cards from above the table. Each card dropped will work like a coin flip. To be successful you will need to have a greater number of “heads” or “tails” based on the spell that was cast. Some cards will be “heads” on both sides and others will be “tails” on both sides.

So the press-your-luck aspect comes in from dropping the cards while using spells. The more spells you use, the fewer cards you have to drop.


  • Alien Deck – 16 double sided cards
  • Spell Decks – 9 double sided cards per player (36 total)
  • Rulebook

Alakazam! – How to Play

Poof! I just created some artwork. The game setup includes taking 9 of the alien cards and placing them in a 3×3 grid for 2 players or 16 cards in a 4×4 grid for 3-4 players. Players are working toward eliminating the aliens. They will have to work together toward the goal, but there can be only one winner. The first person to eliminate 5 aliens in a 2p game or 6 aliens in a 3-4p game is the winner.

The idea is that you will cast spells that allow the aliens to be grouped in certain patterns. Those patterns are required for you to be able to eliminate them. The spell cards are two sided. One side is green and the other is purple in the examples below. If you cast a green spell, for it to succeed you will need to have more green sides land face up during the card drop. If you cast a purple spell, then you will need more purple sides to land face up during the drop.

Each turn you can continue to cast spells and work toward your goal on the turn as long as you keep having successful card drops. Here are two examples of spell cards that manipulate the alien cards:

You've got to get the Aliens in the right order before they can be eliminated. These cards would help.

You’ve got to get the Aliens in the right order before they can be eliminated. These cards would help. (Book icon from

There will be other cards in the player’s grimoire (deck of spell cards) that can be used to eliminate an alien once certain conditions have been met. The idea is that on your turn you may cast a manipulation spell to get aliens where you need them, and then cast an elimination spell to eliminate an alien. You can keep casting spells as long as you keep having successful card drops. If your card drop fails you must undo one of your cast spells from that turn.

The grid will be composed of aliens of different types on different color backgrounds. For simplicity this image shows two types and two colors:

The Alien grid that must be eliminated! (icons from

The Alien grid that must be eliminated! (icons from

The idea is that your spells will manipulate and rearrange the grid to get the aliens right where you want them. Once you’ve got them in the right spots you can cast an elimination spell that allows you to capture one of them. Once the required number have been captured by a player the game will be over.

Your Designer Perspective…

What did I miss? Is this a concept that could work? Are there any glaring holes in the design? Anything broken?

These are some of the best questions you can ask other designers at designer prototype events like Unpub and Protospiel. I like to ask them of myself and step back to take a birds eye view of my game designs from time to time. That’s all part of these game design exercises! Thanks for reading.


Posted on December 6, 2013, in Design Me, The Boards and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. As always, fantastic article and design. I need to get a simple program *to work* that helps me make images… 😦 Could be a buggy laptop… maybe next Christmas.

    But I digress. Look forward to the next!

  1. Pingback: Today in Board Games – Issue #102

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