Monstrous Escape – first try at tabletop game

It’s my first card game. Real, physical cards game. I’ve had this idea flying around my head for a month or so. I’ve never designed a tabletop game so i thought – why not?

Basic rules are simple, borrowed from Uno: get rid of your cards. But anyone can make it harder for you by placing monsters in your “battle zone” (everyone has one). Use attack cards to beat them or action cards for extra fun. At first it was (another) zombie-themed game but I quickly changed that.

So I begun first prototypes. Just use a regular playing cards deck and go from there. I changed diamonds to monsters, other numbers were attacks and faces (J, Q, K, A) action cards. I drew over them silly faces and weapons. First version was tested only by myself and 2 to 4 “imaginary” testers, so when I played it with a real person for the first time, the game usually ended by 3 to 6 turns… That’s not good. After that came another prototype, with some rules to make game longer and also with powerful monsters that can act as action cards when you defeat them (this one was brilliant). For example, you could place monstrous Queen on player’s battle zone. Whoever defeats this monster, can use it as an action card called Headshot – kill any monster immediately.

I quickly realized that preparing each version of prototype and playing it even by myself took more time than I expected…

While ago I purchased Tabletop Simulator on sale and I realized that it could be perfect prototyping tool. No paper cutting required anymore. Just make a quick card deck in PNG, import and play. TTS has a scripting ability, so being a programmer i couldn’t resist hacking some logic controller in, but days passed and I didn’t do any actual progress on the game itself. I ditched Lua, and just started playing with rules displayed on another monitor. Shuffling was much faster, just press R on keyboard. Deal 8 cards with a click. Test, test, test.

On one bus ride back from work I tried to find a place where I can test this game with people I don’t know. Pyrkon quickly appeared in my search results with its “testing with Pyrkon” program. It’s a Polish convent located in POZNAŃ (300 km away from me). The idea was wild at first but I had to be there! For Adventure! I signed in with my girlfriend (she does all the graphics now) and we waited. We’ve got a reply, but I wasn’t sure if they chose us or not. So days passed and I stopped thinking about this game and moved on to another idea.

We’ve got a reply just a week away from the convent. WHAT. They gave me only a week to re-print the cards, cut them up, write the rules in human-readable format for new players, make a box, find a hotel and get train tickets… Busy week.

We made it! It was kinda great, I came there without knowing what to expect. The beginning was stressful but we got over it quickly. I counted 25 games played with strangers in 2 days (5 hours each day, during the weekend). We’ve got people in different age groups, which was great. Guys with other prototype played with us for a while and gave really constructive criticism. Woman in her 40s didn’t get the game but his husband was having fun. One teenager almost broke the game but came up with a sick combo which was amazing and still logical (he used a landmine action on himself, which I never though of doing). One kid spent over 2 hours with us!

This whole weekend was a real mind opener. We found some time to just walk around and see what other guys have. I even played 1 other prototype. It was 2 player card game with a Sherlock theme. Mechanically the goal was to place down cards in 3 columns and finish round with advantage of points in each column. There were so many other things to see. So many possibilities to create tabletop game, tokens, dice, counters, square cards, cubes. This event got me inspired.

Now I’m trying to come up with other game ideas, watching a lot of board game reviews online, gathering some tools to help me prototype in-real-life. I’m digging through my old list of video game ideas to see if any of those could work in tabletop format. In my job we now have a 2 hour meeting, once per 2 weeks, where we just play some games during working hours. Maybe one day I’ll bring my game there and see how it plays

I’m not sure yet if I’ll come to another Pyrkon next year. But I’m sure I’ll keep prototyping!