TCG - Card Battle

What's all this about? Some idea for a multiplayer trading card game-ish wargame / boardgame stuff.
Last Update: May 2020 - Added some ideas about single player progression and couple of animations as this type of concept felt hard to understand without animations.


-  Use CTRL+F to quick jump to topic titles.

General pitch

Launching the Game

Battle Screen and Game UI

Game phases

Winning and Losing

Cards and Properties

Special Abilities of Cards

Card types

Battle Map / Tile / Terrain Types

Placing units

Attacking and Retaliation

Destroying / Removing units

Change in Stats

Single Player Campaign

Single player AI / CPU controlled opponents

Building A Deck

Game Setup

Some More Stuff to Think About


General pitch

Intended as a 2 player head to head multiplayer, this is a wargame simulation viewed from a console screen. With limited colours, scan lines and low res graphics it resembles something from the 80's. Maybe a machine the military uses to train officers or some wizkid managed to hack Norad from his home computer and found himself in a wargame simulation thinking its just a game (like in the 80s movie, Wargames)

Each player has limited cards, places one card on an any empty tile per turn. once placed, the cards can not be moved again. Each card has arrows around them and they can only attack where the arrows point. Some units have armour or var┼čous other special powers (yellow icons below them). Outcomes of their attacks are calculated using these numbers and skills.

Each game takes around 10 minutes. (perhaps slightly longer if more than 2 players)

Game aims to be easy to learn and easy to play. It is even possible to apply these rules into a board game with actual cards and a board or a print and play style duel. Since it doesnt have flashy visuals it could even be a browser based game using php and database server.

See below for an image of the game screen. It should give some general idea on how the game works.

card battle combat screen

Launching the Game

Due to modern processors and ultra low requirements of this game, a load screen wont be needed. However if done correctly, an initial loading screen can be a nice way of reinforcing the "terminal connected to a system feel of the game. Maybe some russian or other foreign looking font / text would work nicely to create the feel of something like a soviet era computer console booting up

Boot-up shows a loading screen that writes various lines of text (the aim is to act as if the game is loading, but it actually delays the player for a few seconds) These random lines can be a mixture of both serious (analysing combat zone topography) or funny stuff (waking up sarge, doing 100 push-ups etc)

Battle Screen and Game UI

General feel of the UI should use a very simple layout. Player names on top corner, time limit warning and a second counter on the other corner, total number of cards remaining in the player’s deck and current 6 cards in the player’s hand at the bottom of the screen.

card battle alternative colours

card battle screen

Would be fun if the game screen had some wobbles and distortion but should be a toggle for that stuff not to make people puke


Game Phases

A typical game will proceed in the following order;

1 - deal a card to your hand
2 - play a card from the cards in your hand
3 - see consequences of the card played
4 - end turn (opponent plays)
- loop 1 to 4 until no more cards left to play
5 end game

When the game starts each player is given 6 cards from its deck (randomly)

Deal card
A new card is randomly drawn from the player's deck and added to the list of cards available to play.

Play card
Each turn players have 25 seconds to play a card. Drag and drop a card to an empty tile on the map to play that card. If the time is over before a card is played, a random card is chosen and placed on a random location behalf of the player.
Action / Results
Once a card is played the consequences of the card played is resolved (ie did the played card attack another card or did it receive a terrain bonus etc.) Once the action phase is done the player's turn ends (no need for end turn button as end turn will be automatic)

End turn
This is done automatically after the result phase. The next player starts its turn

End game
Once all cards are played the game proceeds to the end war phase, where the HP of surviving units are calculated for each player.


Winning and Losing

Once all cards are played (placed on the board) the game proceeds to the end war phase. In this phase the total HP of surviving cards are calculated for each player. The player that has the highest number of HP wins the war.

The aim of the game is to have the highest number of survivors (or at least the highest number of hitpoints) at the end war phase


Cards and Properties

HP - how much damage it can take before being destroyed.
DMG - damage it can deal to enemy unit’s HP
Special - special properties such as armour piercing, medic, scout etc.
Attack directions - shows the adjacent directions the unit can attack
Armour - shows the adjesent directions the unit will receive 1 less point of damage

Special Abilities of Cards

Scout - Binoculars icon: +1 extra sight radius around unit. Ideal for placing on random tiles to reveal as much of the map as possible. When attacking enemy stealth units, scouts never miss.

Healing and Repair - Wrench icon: +1 heal to all (damaged) adjacent units the same turn the wrench unit was placed. (no effect if adjacent units are undamaged or take damage after the healer was placed) 

Buff - Star icon: +1 HP and DMG to all adjacent units (buff is removed once the star card is destroyed) unlike the repair effect, units placed adjacent to the star unit in the future will also earn buff as long as the star unit stays in game.

Incendiary - Flame icon: this unit’s attacks are not affected by armour, but units with flame icons cannot attack air units

Anti Air - Rocket icon: + 1 DMG vs air units

Armour Piercing - Tank Shell icon: + 1 DMG vs vehicles

Demolitions - Bomb detonator icon + 1 DMG vs structures

Stealth has a 50% chance to dodge incoming attack

Couple of examples of how the cards will look. Each faction will have its own visual language.

wargame units

Card types

Infantry - Infantry cards usually have low attack and damage values. foot soldiers are ideal for taking advantage of any types of terrain, infantry are removed from the board when killed and another card can be placed to their spot next turn. This allows infantry cards to be ideal for weakening enemy cards.

Placed on forest: +1 HP and +1 DMG
Placed on Mountain: +1 HP and +1 DMG

Vehicle - the most common unit type, these leave a debris when killed and the tile is blocked forever. They are hard to maneuver in forests but still get damage bonuses by being able to hide and ambush enemy units. They perform poorly on mountain tiles so it is advised not to place them on mountain terrain

Placed on forest: -1 HP and +1 DMG
Placed on Mountain: -1 HP and -1 DMG

Air - Air units such as helicopters, fighters, bombers, etc. They cannot be hit by flame units. They are also removed from the board when destroyed (same as infantry) so they can be used for weakening stronger enemy cards. They can also be placed on any tiles including the debris left behind from destroyed cards.

No effect on forest
No effect on mountain

Structure - Structures cards usually have high HP and less damage. They are ideal for blocking critical map tiles to give extra protection to cards nearby. They also gain HP bonus by taking advantage of terrain tiles.

+1 HP when placed on forest
+1 HP when placed on mountain


Battle Map / Tile / Terrain Types

game map consists of tiles. all tiles are the same and have no special properties unless its a forest or mountain. (more info on tiles later on) players drag and drop units on empty tiles to play.


The battle map consists of the total number of  tiles that equal to the number of cards in both players hands and additional 2 extra empty tiles.

total number of cards in both players + 2 = tile size of the map
Lets say a deck is 12 cards each. For two players that makes it 24 cards, so the map would have a total of 26 empty tiles. I think adding the +2 allows tactical ooportunities instead of filling up a grid.
More than 1 deck can be used depending on game mode (2 decks vs 2 decks etc, whatever) in this case the map size will always be total number of cards +2

Map shape can be pre made (arena, official map etc)  or randomly generated and seeded (random feels better to remove first turn advantage)

The following tiles can be randomly spread around parts of the maps;

Clear (Empty) - Maps are mostly full of clear (empty) tiles where any card can be placed without any penalty or buff.

Forest - Forests usually provide DMG bonus for infantry, vehicles and buildings. Cards in forest tiles will take an additional +1 DMG from flame attacks.

Mountain - Rough terrain, usually negative for vehicle HP but buff good for gaining DMG bonus

Debris - any vehicle or structure destroyed will leave a debris and block the tile till the end of the game


Placing units

A single unit can be placed on any of  the empty tiles. Units cannot move once placed and remain there until destroyed.

Units can reveal the fog around them. if an enemy is placed on a tile out of sight from your units visible range, the enemy location is revealed but the unit type and stats are hidden until a friendly unit spots it.

Attacking and Retaliation


In this example a blue infantry is placed between two red units. Blue will check for targets clockwise  (N NE E SE S SW W NW) however it only has two black triangles pointing N and S so it can only attack north and south, beginning with north.

Once placed, blue card will attack red tank up north for 3 DMG and an additional 1 DMG due to its special anti tank ability (yellow icon under the blue soldier). Tank has no armour below (no yellow rectangles blocking south) so the tank will lose 4 HP and will be removed due to it having a total of 4 HP only. The red tank cannot retaliate as it has no triangles pointing south.

The blue soldier has another triangle facing south, allowing him to attack the red infantry beneath. Blue hits for 3 DMG and red cannot retaliate due to having no triangles facing north.

Note that the tank leaves an X mark on the tile, This represents the burning remains of the destroyed vehicle and the tile it was occupying wont be usable till the end of the game. Infantry usualy have less damage and HP compared to vehicles and aircraft but they never leave X marks, allowing players to use this for their tactical advantage.

Destroying / Removing units

A card is removed from the board if it takes enough damage and its HP reaches 0
if a vehicle's or structures HP reaches 0 it turns into debris (The big X in the screenshot) and continues to block the tile until the end of the game.
If an infantry card is destroyed it does not leave debris but is removed from the tile so a new unit can be placed on the tile on the following turns. Same applies for air cards. While may sound strange, this allows various opportunities with tactical unit placement to block tiles or keep them open for card placement even when they are destroyed.


Changes in Stats

Should be clearly shown to the player and easy to understand. I suggest using floating bars that fade in and out above units to show changes.
When a unit attacks or takes damage it should have a tiny icon next to the floating numbers to show the reason of the change in stats.

When a unit attacks another for X damage, attacker should have DMG-X text that floats
When a unit takes damage it should have floating HP -X text

Single Player Campaign Mode

While the game was initially intended to be multiplayer, it wont hurt to think of a single player mode.

Players can pick one of the playable factions and start with a deck full of basic units for that chosen faction.

card battle campaign map

Next screen players can  pick a path on the map, moving from node to node, travelling would consume resources (food, crude and morale) once a node is reached it would reveal an event. Events would include combat (fighting off an random enemy deck, finding resources, finding recruits (new cards) and making decisions and facing the consequences of those decisions.

card battle campaign choice



Single player AI / CPU controlled opponents

AI can be very basic and doesnt have to provide much of a challenge.

There can be 2 types of AI;
unit placement is totally random regardless of type, direction and tile. Easiest to code. While seems like an awful opponent to fight (it is actually hehe) the random card placements of the dumb AI will still provide somewhat of a challenge in fog maps due to the limited empty tiles on the map 

The AI should consider the placement of player units in play and try to avoid being hit as much as possible.

The AI should consider the special abilities of units and try to attack players using stone paper scissors mechanics and attack directions to win.

AI should always be able to see inside the fog (regardless of unit sight) and consider placement (not fair but considering how weak the AI is, such action should provide a better challenge.)

AI card placement priority can be as follows;

every turn check if AI has infantry in hand;
- play infantry on mountains and try to block as many mountains with footsoldiers as possible
- play infantry on all forests asap before player does

if AI has no infantry in hand;
- play anything on forest tiles as much as possible to block player from gaining cover
- must try to avoid playing vehicle on mountain as long as possible.

so we can try to reinforce the AI's lack of intelligence by making it block the cover tiles usable by the player.

if AI only has vehicle in hand
then do not play on mountain unless no free tile available

if AI has repair, star or any other buff in hand
- try to play next to other friendly cards


Deck Building

Game is played with minimum one deck and each deck will consist of 12 cards belonging to a single faction. Depending on game mode you can bring more than one deck per battle.

Every faction requires a minimum of 12 cards to build a deck so even if you have 4 blue cards, ou will not be able to build a blue deck and play with them unless you find more blue cards and add them up to 12.

Building a Deck Step by Step

In order to build a deck;

1) Click on one of the Deck slots (1 to 6 as shown below) Contents of the deck will be visible if the deck already had saved cards inside. 

2) Pick a faction to start building your deck by using that factions cards. Drag and drop the faction logo into the large slot below and click next

3) Once you drag and drop the desired faction, only the cards belonging that faction will be listed. Every faction requires a minimum of 12 cards to play, if a faction has less cards it should be darkened out or have a warning icon on it

4) Next drag and drop the desired cards from your total card pool into the purple slots to place the cards in the deck, click save once all 12 slots are full.


Factions and Differences

My initial idea was to make factions as fictional countries, make them all have unique cards and differentiate them by making some factions focus on air force while others focus on heavy hitting vehicles, another could focus on infantry and stealth tactics while another focuses on low damage but high HP etc. 

Red - Star and Sickle - This faction resembles WW2 and cold war era soviet technology. Focuses on heavy armoured vehicle cards

Blue -  Rising Eagle - These guys use stuff similar to our modern day war machines and usually have the most balanced cards. This should be the faction to pick if you prefer balanced decks

Grey -  Barbed Star - Some high tech country (or could be some rogue AI) that uses mechs and other hi tech, robotic war machines.

Yellow - Shining Sun - These guys salvage the remains of regular vehicles and turning them into war machines. (tractors, sedans, loaders and makeshift bunkers etc) Most cards found in this faction have low HP and stealth specials. This faction has low HP

Purple - Galactic Invaders - Aliens from out of space, these guys have very weak infantry and vehicles but have strong air force made of ufos

This list can go on forever but its better to keep it short for the sake of simplicity.


Game Setup

Just some brief ideas on game parameters when creating a “new battle”
Number of players (2 - 4)

Number of decks (1 - 2 - 3 - 4) the number of decks each player can bring into battle. 1 or 2 should be ideal

A deck is 12 cards
2 makes it 24 cards per player (ideal for most)
3 makes it 36 cards per player
4 makes it 48 cards per player. Would be a pretty long game if 4 players have 4 decks each)

Factions per deck (single - multi) will a player's deck consist of a single faction or multiple factions (this depends on the number of decks, if its a single deck game the faction must be single)
each deck (12 cards) cannot contain mixed factions but if a game has 2 or more decks, each deck can be a different faction per deck (not mixed)

So every faction requires a minimum of 12 cards

Time limit (25 - 60) seconds before auto end turn and a card is randomly placed. (25 by default to make sure each game takes only 5 - 10 minutes to play)  

Fog (on - off) if the map is covered in blackness or starts explored. Only the tiles around units are visible. (off by default)

Special tiles (off - few - normal - many - random) the amount of forest and mountain tiles. (random by default)

Menu and Screen Layouts 

Image below shows a quick look at how screen layout can be.

Some more stuff to think about...

Somehow this game does not feel solid. There are lots of things to think about...

Where do you find the cards? Do you earn and unlock them as you play? Are they sold as digital packs with random cards inside?

Does this game have a single player campaign or is it just skirmish and deck testing vs the cpu?

By nature multiplayer games are harder to make and maintain, how will the servers be handled?

Free or paid? Freemium or membership? I hate marketing...