Custom Card Game Design

A look at the resource system


today I want to conclude the introduction to Conquest of Orion. In the upcoming articles I will then talk about the story and specific game mechanics that may be interesting to look at. What’s missing to a good overview is a look at the resource system.

Just quickly summarizing from the previous article: There are two resources in Orion – minerals (blue) and gems (gold). You control three basic planets at the beginning of the game, each producing one mineral per turn. You can store these resources for later use. To manage the resources, we always used colored glass stones, but you can also use two dice of different color. The first option has the advantage that you can quickly do math in your head by seperating the stones into two piles – one pile you just want to spend on a card and the other what will be left after you spend those resources. Also, your opponent can quickly confirm that you substracted the correct amount of resources.

So you get minerals from your planets, but how do you get gems? Each player has an innate income of one gem per turn. In addition, you can conquer unique (nonbasic) planets to further increase your income.

Unfortunately, Orion has a lot of tiny extra rules and numbers you have to remember, when it comes to the resource system. Those where all introduced during playtesting to further refine the system and optimize the tempo of the game. To help out, each player can get an information card on which everything important is noted. In a previous version of the game, this card was the “Star”-card and represented you as a player, but people got confused, thinking it was an actual card in the game when it was not. The new “Timeless Archive” is clear about that:

Timeless Archive

Art by Hameed Nawaz

Let’s look at the information given here. The first paragraph tells you that your starting hand size is five cards. Before the game begins, you have the option to increase your hand quality by exchanging any number of cards in one swoop (you draw the new cards from your deck). The second paragraph is the innate income of one gem per turn. Tiny extra rule: You don’t get a gem on your first turn. The third paragraph is the maximum storage clause, or “upkeep cost”. If you store more than six resources until your next turn, you must reduce the total number of resources in your pool to six. The fourth paragraph tells you that you can trade resources at any time with the offer curve three to one. Finally, the costs you have to pay to ascend a Tier: Each upgrade costs three gems and each consecutive upgrade costs one extra mineral.

Update: Mulligan rule obsolete with game rules update. It has been removed from the card.

Resources are all handled at the beginning of your turn. When you start with each turn, first pay the upkeep if you have more than six resources in your pool, then you gain resources from all planets, then you ready your units, attachments, achievements and planets (these are called permanents) and finally you draw the card for your turn. The fact that you gain resources before you ready your planets is important! To understand this, let’s look again at a basic planet card:


The ability of the planet says that you only gain resources if the planet is ready. There are multiple ways a planet can be exhausted. For example, you activated an ability that exhausted it. Some unique planets have such abilities.

But most important: When a planet is dealt two or more damage in a single turn, it is exhausted. This incites players to attack their opponent, even if they can’t destroy a planet in the process. Locking down a planet this way may delay your opponent for one more crucial turn.

The third way a planet is exhausted is another tiny extra rule (it’s the last one, I promise!): Each player starts the game with one of his planets exhausted. The player that begins the game also doesn’t ready that planet that turn and doesn’t draw a card, to compensate for the advantage he gets from going first. So, the income of the starting player is two minerals and zero gems on the first turn (2 / 0), 2 / 1 on the following turn and 3 / 1 on each other turn. The income of the other player is 2 / 0 on the first turn and 3 / 1 from there on.

Now let’s see how you can conquer additional plants to increase your income:
Each planet has a resource cost printed in the upper right-hand corner. This is the cost required to conquer that planet. A player chooses a ready unit he or she controls, moves that unit onto the neutral planet he wants to conquer, exhausts that unit and pays the resource cost of the planet. Neutral planets are best placed at the side of the table, in equal distance to both players. Before the start of the game, four unique planets are randomly chosen from the unique planet stack and put into play. These are the planets players can conquer this game. There will be ten unique planets in the first set (eventually increasing to 20 with the following sets). Basic planets also have a resource cost – when a player loses control of one, it can be conquered.

At the start of the game, the table should look like this:

Game begin


(Planet art by Cotetiu Madalin, Alexei Kozachenko, Robin de Blanche, Chris Cold, Mac Rebisz, Austin Pickrell, Long Pham, sanmonku & Faia89)

I try to keep this article slightly shorter than the last one, so I’ll stop here. But I think it’s a fun idea to post another random card at the end of each article.

Today’s card is from the nebula cycle (a cycle is a group of cards that share a similarity). Nebulas function as a way to look for a specific card in your deck. The cycle of nebulas this card is from (there will be others) each searches for a card of a specific card type and puts it on top of your deck. However, if you already reached Tier 3, you can simply put it into your hand – very handy since you don’t have much time to do random things once you are at that stage of the game. You might notice the symbol I added next to the card name. This is the set symbol which also shows the rarity of the card. There will be three rarities – copper, silver and gold. Kraken Nebula is a card with copper rarity.

Kraken Nebula

I hope you got a good overview of the game by now. If I should expand on something in another post, let me know.


2 responses to “A look at the resource system

  1. Prophylaxis July 25, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    Two questions:

    1. You start with three basic planets. What are those costs on the northeast then? Do you draw more planets?

    2. Can you go through Warp Whale? It looks like a cool card, but I don’t know what it means. What is teleporting?

  2. antaresmtg July 26, 2012 at 9:13 am

    1. Planets aren’t part of your deck. The cost in the northeast is the cost to conquer them. Look at the game situation in this article: You see the neutral planets at the left (these are Azure Infinity, Veraes 5, Paiura and Kaskala). They all have different costs and resource income. Once a basic planet has been destroyed, it’s moved to those neutral planets.
    “Basic planets also have a resource cost – when a player loses control of one, it can be conquered.”

    2. Warp Whale has 4 abilities. First, you have to sacrifice a Iamuran to play it. It has mass destruction, which is like trample, but normally a unit can’t split its damage even between other units. So if the Warp Whale is facing six 1/1 tokens, it can destroy all of them, another unit wouldn’t be able to. The third ability is a modal (so actually two abilities): First, you can “teleport” another unit onto the planet of Warp Whale, if you’re currently defending (“the defended planet”). Teleport means to instantly move that unit onto that planet. So, Warp Whale can call for help to defend a planet and destroy the attackers – or save a unit by teleporting it away from the battlefield. The second modal allows you to teleport a unit an opponent controls onto the planet the whale in located on, if you’re the attacking player (“the threatened planet”). You can do this after the opponent made his movements, so he can’t move it away again! Being the truck he is, the Warp Whale can then destroy the victim with ease.

    As I wrote in my post about combat, units can move between planets during certain phases. But Warp Whale can teleport units at any time. The difference between “moving” and “teleporting” is like the difference between “Draw a card” and “Put the top card of your library into your hand” in Magic. The result is the same, but in the second version you never actually drew a card and things that trigger on you drawing a card won’t trigger. (hope this made sense, if it doesn’t, simply ignore this paragraph 🙂 )

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