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Grand Illusion Core Mechanics

Preliminary LogoToday is the second in a series about designing a new game called The Grand Illusion. Via Twitter I asked for examples of different types of Victorian-era magic and illusions. Here are a list of some of them:

  • Levitation
  • Cutting off heads / Cutting someone in half
  • Disappearing persons
  • Escapes
  • Sword swallowing
  • “Anything with doves”

Of course there are others like sleight of hand, card tricks, collapsing cages, awesome tricks with electricity, etc. What I am looking for are core genres of tricks that can be used as the currency (symbols) in the game. So with that in mind I think there are several such genres that could be used. For now I’ll go with these:

  1. Escapes
  2. Sleight of Hand
  3. Disappearing
  4. Cutting (of people)
  5. Levitating
  6. Grand Illusions

That gives 6 “currencies” in the game that can be used for set collection.

Performing Magic

The real question we need to be asking is, “How exactly do you play this game?”

As I mentioned last week the idea is that you are a street performing magician looking to gain a reputation, earn some dough, and eventually find yourself on a stage performing a grand illusion for the masses.

This will be mostly a card based game unless the direction of the game changes. For now I have created preliminary icons for the 5 main magic genres listed above (excluding the Grand Illusions).

iconsV1

Players will begin the game with a hand of cards. They will also have their “Grand Illusion” card, which is private. There will also be a few magic tricks to perform that are laid out on the table. In each round the magicians will perform a random draft.

Here’s how that will work. Each player will decide which card they want in the pool of available cards. So each player will take one of their cards and put it face down in the middle. Once all players have chosen a card, then one random card from the deck will be added. Then the player with the smallest reputation will pick up the pile, look at the cards, and play one face up in front of them. All other players will follow in order of smallest reputation.

Once all players have placed one of the cards face up, each will have the opportunity to perform a magic trick. To perform a trick you must have a set of cards that appropriately matches one of the face up magic trick cards. So a trick might require 2 “Escape” skills and 1 “Levitate” skill. If you have played these cards in front of you then you can complete the trick. Turn in the three cards you used and take the completed magic trick card and place it in front of you.

These completed magic trick cards will have an icon or icons on them that allow you to perform better magic. Some will have icons that are not available in the standard pool of cards that are dealt to players. So players must complete magic tricks to gain the skills they need to complete their Grand Illusion.

Once a player completes their Grand Illusion, the end of the game is triggered. All players will have an equal number of turns to attempt to complete their Grand Illusion. If only one player completes their Grand Illusion, they are the winner. If several people complete their Grand Illusion, then a tie breaker goes to the player with the most completed magic tricks.

What’s Next?

So now that the framework is set for how to play, the next step is for me to mock up some cards and solidify the actual gameplay. Here’s where you all can join me in the design. I want you to provide names for magic tricks. I’ll use these as the names on the prototype cards. If they are really good names then I’ll use them as one of the Grand Illusions.

Also, I would love your feedback on the basic gameplay here. As I was writing this article I realized that this game has a feel very similar to Splendor or The Builders. There is definitely some engine building with simple card mechanics. I’m not too worried about that since I think the drafting mechanic makes it different enough. But I really want your suggestions!

Design: The Grand Illusion

Preliminary Logo

Ladies and Gentlemen, I welcome you to the big show. Tonight I will be performing a series of illusions of the highest grandeur. You’ll see things that no human has ever seen before. And then you won’t see them! Tonight it’s all about the magic. For my first trick I’ll need a volunteer…

I came up with a new game design theme a few weeks ago and it’s still rattling around in my brain. So I figure I should try to turn it into a real game design. For some reason I’ve decided to do all the design publicly on this blog. I think this will be a fun way to show people what is all involved with the game design process and I’m also looking for involvement from all of you!

So these design articles, starting today and continuing on Thursdays, are meant to be an open source forum of sorts where I welcome your comments, ideas, suggestions, etc.

Game Theme

I love the look and feel of vintage magician posters from that era.

I love the movie The Prestige. It’s a fascinating movie about competing illusionists in the early 1900s. If you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend it. For me magic has always been an intriguing thing. Last year I had the chance to visit the Harry Houdini museum in Appleton, Wisconsin. It was neat to learn about his story and more about the era as well. It seems like an interesting time to have lived.

So I want to make a game about competing illusionists from that time. Therefore The Grand Illusion is all about magicians and their competition to earn the best reputation.

You are a street magician in the early 1900s beginning your career. You’ve got a few tricks up your sleeve that no one else has mastered. It’s time to build a reputation and become a household name in the field of magicians.

You start small doing a few tricks for small crowds on the street. Do them well and your skills will increase, as will your reputation. When you’ve got enough of a following then it’s time to take your show to a real stage. But beware, the crowd will always be expecting bigger and better!

If you can find a way to continually master new tricks and perform them flawlessly, then you may end up as the greatest magician of all time!

Basic Concepts and Components

My original thoughts for the gameplay involve card drafting and set collection. The concept is that you have to collect sets of cards that allow you to perform certain tricks. The bigger the set, the more likely you are to perform the trick flawlessly.

But there’s a catch. You know the old “Ball and Cup” trick? The idea of the trick is that there will be a ball under one of three cups. Then the magician will move them around and try to get you to lose track of which cup the ball is under. I want to utilize this as a mechanic in the game. If players each contribute a card to a common hand these would represent the cups. Then if there were a special card added to that hand it would represent the cup with the ball. Then players would blindly draft and whomever pulled the cup-ball card would get to perform the best trick. That’s my basic original concept for one of the mechanics in the game.

What I want players to feel throughout the game is a sense of accomplishment while teetering on a sharp edge. Players should attempt tricks and illusions throughout the game but always with some risk of failing and letting down the fans.

Each set of cards used for performing tricks will have several different symbols on them. These symbols represent different illusionary skills such as sleight of hand. When you complete a trick you can increase your skills in any or all of those categories. One emphasis for that decision making process would be that each player has a Grand Illusion that they are working toward completing.

The Grand Illusion

Like a private scoring condition, the Grand Illusion card that each player holds is a trick that could provide a huge boost near the end of the game. It is a trick that can only be attempted once, so players will want to make sure they have a skill set that will help them perform the trick with high success.

The idea is that as players become better magicians and build an audience and a reputation they realize that they have to keep increasing the awesomeness of their tricks or else the audience might go to another magician. So by performing their Grand Illusion it could put them at the top.

What’s Next?

So that’s the current state of the design. It is just a bunch of basic concepts. But that’s where you all come in. What would you like to see in a game about Victorian era magicians? What mechanics, themes, components would you like to see?

Let’s design this together. Please comment on this article or reply on Twitter.  I’m looking forward to designing this publicly with all of you. Thanks for reading!

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