2018 GenCan’t/Button Shy Contest

When the announcement went up that Button Shy was sponsoring this year’s GenCan’t Game Design Contest, I was intrigued. I didn’t have any 18 card games in my catalog, but I did have a couple of games that could be adapted. Miniventure is a version of Astroventure that I intended to be a small promotional item I could give away at conventions or bundle with a Kickstarter. I shelved it mostly because Astroventure was going through a lot of changes that made it not reflect what Miniventure did anymore. Instead of making constant changes to two games, I decided to wait until Astroventure was settled and then adapt that into a small version of the game. Then when I shelved Astroventure, Miniventure got shelved by default.

But the contest came up and I thought, can I bring Miniventure back as just the whole Astroventure experience? Can I do it in 18 cards? I previously had about 25-30, so it felt like I could be done. The key trick was double siding the cards. I used to have a set of rocket cards and a set of planet cards. If I just put the planets on the back of the rockets, could that work? Turns out, functionally it does. I had to adapt how some mechanics work, but it does function that way. Which means I now have an 18 card version of Astroventure. I had slimmed down some of the planet portion of the game in the latest redesign ideas I had for the game, so I didn’t need the planets to be as robust as they were before. They could function as a set collection mechanic and a way to cull cards from your growing hand.

The problem is, I still don’t quite find the game interesting. It has a good curve to it and progression, but it feels like something you go through the motions for instead of actively choose to do things. I think in some ways it’s a better game for being only 18 cards. It might just be numbers balancing that might fix the game. I admit to get it on the table I didn’t tinker too much with values and that might be part of the issue. But something tells me they’re not the main issue.

Luckily I was making a second game for the contest at the same time. This one was based on another project I was calling CRISPR based on gene editing. I also used the same method of using double sided cards to basically get 36 cards for the game. I also changed the name to the Animal Revival Collective, or A.R.C. In this real-time game for 2 players, you’re scientists in the future and a lot of today’s animals have gone extinct. Luckily we have their genetic code mapped out, so we can reconstruct them if we can align DNA in the right sequence. Both players will race to be the first to recreate three different animals.

Players have 9 cards each. 8 of them are lined up in a row showing a string of DNA. The last card is placed so that you can see the two traits you need to reconstruct. By swapping, flipping, and readjusting the sequence players will need to recreate both traits on their animal card. Once you do you’ll shout “Done” and the other player will check to make sure you did. If you successfully completed the card, you’ll place it face down on the right side of the sequence and grab the left most card of the sequence and flip it over to find the next animal you need to recreate. Then both player resume play. Once one player has successfully recreated three animals, they’re the winner.

Unfortunately, every time I’ve put this prototype together, it functionally fails. Because of the way I have the patterns arranged, the 8 cards in front of you must always be able to make up the two traits on the cards. As it turns out, the way I’ve made the traits and the cards they just never 100% line up to be possible across every combination. So I’m starting fresh on this one and hopefully will get it right this time. I’ve got 3 significant failures worth of experience to help me get it right this time.

I think it’s a pretty interesting idea and I’m looking to see it go far. There’s a lot of people designing 18 card games for this contest so we’ll see how well it does, but I’m glad to have a new game design I’m excited about, even if I haven’t be able to get it to work out yet.