Custom Card Game Design
Khemia – Playing with mechanics
January 8, 2015Posted by on
Per my previous post, I’m shelving Generals of Dareth and working on a different project for awhile – Dunes of Khemia, a top-down set based around Egyptian Mythology. Today, I’m continuing to look at potential mechanics for the set and I’d like to post some up here and get some feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of each mechanic.
A big theme I want to explore in this set is the difference between the lower class, peasants and laborers, and the upper class, pharaohs and the gods. I’m currently playing with two themes here, that aren’t completely symmetrical but may still work well together. Cards that target or affect the ‘upper class’ will seek out converted mana cost 4 or more. Cards that target or affect the ‘lower class’ will be power three of less. One of the first mechanics I’m playing with that explores this is Worship:
No set that features ancient gods and goddesses would be complete without a mechanic symbolizing worship. Theros did it with Devotion, but wisely named the mechanic in a way that it can be used later on, which was a good call. I’ve had this mechanic in the wings for a few years now, and it’s gone through several iterations. It still isn’t perfect, but there are a lot of things I like about.
As previewed last week, as well as below, one big part of the set is going to be a cycle of ‘gods’ that must first be summoned from their temples by placing loyalty counters on them. This mechanic plays into that beautifully, I think.
The mechanic has its downsides, however, mostly regarding its complexity. First off, it’s wordy, and that means less space on the rest of the card for more mechanics. Secondly, it mentions three different types of counters. While +1/+1 and loyalty counters coexist easily, ‘worship’ counters make things more confusing as it’s a second type of counter on creatures with a completely different meaning. Another option would be simply to remove the ‘worship counter’ and instead have it be a transferrable +1/+1 counter, though I’m not a huge fan of that solution.
It’s basically impossible to have an Egyptian Mythology set without mummies. This isn’t necessarily because true Egyptian mythology featured reanimated mummies all over the place, but rather because that’s how Egyptian mythology exists in pop culture. One of the lessons learned by MtG after Kamigawa is that a top-down design needs to address expectations over attempting to stay true to source material.
Given that there are two other cycles in the set that use the double faced template, I felt that representing reanimated mummies was best done in this way. This card also speaks to the high converted mana cost vs. low power conflict I spoke about previously.
Mummify is almost too simple to be a new keyword, however. There are only two arguments I can make for making it a keyword – First, it makes it easier to drop the reminder text later on to save on space. Second, it feels better in a sort of intangible way. Pretty weak arguments in favor of this being a keyword, so that may not make it (as a keyword – I like the mechanic itself) in the final draft.
Sidenote – a change I might make to this card, at least the front side, is to make it care about base power, so you can still pump your weenies without worrying about them being destroyed. Lastly, once flipped these cards have a converted mana cost of 0, which makes the ‘converted mana cost 4 or more’ interactions not apply to them. This could be interesting, or it could be unintuitive.
As previewed last week, this set will have its own take on ‘gods’. There will be five gods in the set, one for each enemy color pair, each based on a different Egyptian god.
A few tweaks to the Temple/God cards have been made since the last post, thanks to the feedback in the comments. First, the artifact’s ability can only be activated at sorcery speed, and second the transfor trigger is not state-based and non-optional.
This card is based on the Egyptian god Osiris, their god of the dead. The planeswalker itself is absurdly powerful, appropriately (in my opinion) godlike. However, summoning him will take some doing, requiring 8 loyalty counters before begin able to transform the temple, making summoning the planeswalker require dedication. Of course, the tap ability itself on the artifact is very powerful, as expected on a 5cmc mythic.
One last thing to mention about the ‘gods’ being Planeswalkers. The Theros gods weren’t Planeswalkers intentionally – planeswalkers and gods are different things. The same is true here – these cards are planeswalkers, intentionally, and planeswalkers and gods are still different things. A big part of the second set of this block is the common people finding out that the ‘gods’ actually aren’t gods at all. But we’ll get into that another time…
Looking for feedback
As always, I very much want your feedback. Ideas you have to improve these themes, mechanics, and specific cards. Ideas you have to make this blog more interesting to read. Really, any discussion is welcome.
Thanks for reading!