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Project Formation Tactics - A very alpha Card Game.

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So, hi again, Impetus here. It's been a while, huh?

For around eight months now, I've been working on an Card Game, experimenting with and developing the base mechanics of the game and evolving an identity for each faction.

The Game

So, what is "Project Formation Tactics", something I assume you wondered when you clicked on this post. Is it a rip off of an upcoming square enix game? Nope, not even slightly. I've been working on it from before that game was announced, I just haven't given the game a proper name yet, and I couldn't resist riffing on it.

(Above screenshot is an example board of the most recently playtested build in tabletop sim)

It's a card game that shares many traits and inspirations with the Trading Card Game genre, your magic the gatherings, hearthstones, pokemon card games and the like. You pick your cards, create a deck, and play against your opponent.
It's also a game that aims to do away with all of the common frustrations of trading card games, and push the limits of mechanics for each faction.
Tired of getting resourced screwed? Frustrated by dead draws? In PFT, you start with a steady income of resources which doesn't increase or deplete automatically throughout the game. At the end of each round, you can get rid of as many remaining cards as you want, and refresh your hand.
Bored of predictable early games, just waiting out the clock for your deck to come online? Games start hot with a bonus pool of starting resources, allowing each player to scramble to build a board as soon as they want, meaning the tactics starts at the start of the game, not several turns in.
Is combat starting to seem dull, just declaring targets or blockers, with barely a few keywords to spice things up? Here, positioning matters. Play units and buildings onto your battle formation, outmaneuver your opponent and utilize a wide variety of combat effects and status conditions to gain an edge in the combat phase.

Perhaps most (or least) importantly, I don't ever intend to have random packs for the cards. You buy the game, you get the game. The term "LCG" or "Living Card Game" has been coined for this sort of model, but it's trademarked so I can't use it =p
Even so, I hope to one day be able to publish this, and when I do, it'll be for sale as a complete package or as individual factions, no random packs or rarities involved.

The Rules

Link to the current Alpha Rules Sheet

So yeah, PFT is an acronym which sounds like a dismissive exhaling of air. I should really come up with a proper name... Uh, hang on.
Let me start over.
PFT is a card game, and like any card game, it has rules. Following them kinda makes the game work, but if you want to ignore them and do your own thing, that's valid. Eat the cards, sneak them into the monopoly community chest, or just stack them into a nice ol' house. Go for it, honestly.
But assuming you do want to play by the rules, here's a brief summary:

What do things do?: There are six main card types.
Commanders are the face of your deck, powerful, defining how your deck plays, but you go down with them.
Units and Buildings are your bread and butter. They both go into your Formation, with Units defaulting to the Frontline and Buildings to the Backline. Keep your buildings protected with units if you don't want them to be demolished. Your units usually attack for you as well!
Fields also go into the Formation, but affect an entire row of your choice. Use them to power up your cards, or hinder your opponent's. Finally, Items and Spells.
Normal items float around in front of your commander until destroyed, usually as a cost of activating their effects. They're a repeatable, or passive, tool.
Equipment items attach to a card instead. A card can only have one thing equipped, but once equipped, it gains the stats and effects of that equipment card!
Spells, on the other hand, are very powerful - but one shot. Cast them, and they're gone. Play these at just the right time if you want to win.

Setup: Make a deck of at least 40 cards, plus a Commander. You can put your commander's signature cards in if you would like, or legendary cards, assuming your deck meets the requirements for that card!

Starting the Game: Flip that coin to see who gets to choose first or second, make sure everything is in order on the table, then go ahead and set your resource counters to your starting resources and draw your starting hand. You can even mulligan cards you don't want by shuffling them back into the deck and drawing again. The winner of the coin flip can choose who starts.

Main Phase: Players take it in turns to do a thing. A thing usually involves either playing a card from the hand, or using a card effect. When a player does either of these things, the next player gets a chance to do their own thing.
This continues until both players decide to pass, and move onto the Combat Phase.

Combat Phase: This is where all of the cards you played go and fight for you. You'll have played units and buildings into your "Formation", consisting of two rows called the Frontline and Backline. Everything with an attack value does an attack against the first enemy card opposite it, in an order determined by their position in the Formation. If your opponent didn't block your attackers with anything, they hit the opponent's commander - but their commander will bite back when attacked!

End Phase: Now you get to discard any unwanted cards, draw back up to your draw limit and gain some resources to spend on cards next turn. A lot of status conditions reduce at the end phase as well. And it's onto the next turn!

Winning: Hit your opponent's commander enough times, and their HP will be reduced to 0. When that happens, you win!

(Your average commander. No, that colour isn't very readable...)

(And a unit example for good measure!)

The style and format of the cards is far from final, but this is what I'm working with at the moment.

Ok, rules are boring. Tell me about...
The Cool Stuff

Each faction in the game likes to break things in it's own way. Even the unaligned cards, which can be splashed into all of the other factions, are scary on their own.
Let's break down the factions and what they do briefly!

Unaligned: Unaligned cards don't belong to any faction. They're free spirits, helping out whomever they please. Thematically, they could come from any walk of life in the word of Kythera. While they lack fancy mechanics, they're reliable and cost effective, which is often exactly what you need! Unaligned Commanders are the ultimate powerhouse as a tradeoff for lacking other faction mechanics, and unaligned cards have their own hidden synergies with each other that rewards including more of them in a deck.

Worldcircle: The Worldcircle is a global collection of druids and others whom venerate nature, or are simply a part of it. Eschewing modern magic and material resources, Worldcircle use only one resource, Natura, which can even pay the cost of unaligned cards at a 1:1 conversion. If that's not enough of an edge, they can also draw upon the Aspects of Nature, and the Stars above, choosing one of three cards from the top of their unique Aspect Deck to put into play each End Phase. The aspects not only offer two-sided effects, but increase your affinity to one of the core aspects. Higher affinity allows you to play affinity-gated cards!
Wield the powers of nature to heal, inflict status effects, transform cards and summon powerful beasts, druids, and other heralds of natural forces to aid you. Just don't expect to be building too many citadels.

Freefarers: The Freefarers are an almighty mercenary guild with planet-spanning operations. Their mastery of warfare unmatched, entire nations cower before their mass produced legions of golem warriors, their entire population paling in comparison.
Freefarers are the only faction to create Tokens - cards generated from outside of the game that you can end up with far more than two of! They're also the only faction to directly steal cards from the opponent, so it's kind of like playing two factions at once. Just use whatever good cards your opponent decided to put in their deck!
Masters of combat and tactics, Freefarers like to be flexible. They have a mix of solid units, buildings and spells, all with tricks up their sleeves. While nothing is overwhelmingly powerful, what they lack in firepower is more than made up with speed and numbers. And if your own cards aren't cutting it - just use your opponent's!

(Imagine 5000 of this guy staring you down. That's wooden infantry. Rendered in glorious dev art form.)

Devoted: An organization of paladins, clerics and faithful, all devoted to one or all of an alliance of deities. As they try to uphold their god's justice, both forces of darkness and other self interests often find themselves in their way.
Devoted can play Divine cards - a special subtype of card which, unlike other cards, costs ZERO resources to play. Instead, a specific condition has to be met for the Divine card to be valid to play: perhaps you need 3 less units in play than your opponent, or your commander has to be on half HP. Divine cards can have powerful effects while allowing you to conserve your resources.
Devoted also have a small toolbox of other exclusive status effects and abilities. They can reveal hidden cards (on the field, in hands, or even on top of decks), and have access to the 'Protection' status effect, which blocks a damage instance, and the 'Sanction' status effects, which impose extra costs on a card to hinder your opponent.
Devoted like to focus their might on single powerful cards, filling in the gaps with divine effects. Their threats are hard to take down, but they can be overwhelmed.

Abyssea: Abyssea are the name for a huge, underwater hegemony of aquatic people, with a core residence in the Water Plane. Power unmatched among other nations, they seek to expand their way of life until all are under their banner.
Abyssea is one of two factions that likes to play Hidden cards - this means they're placed face-down, and only revealed when the time comes. Perfect for concealing your strategies from your opponent while you develop your board.
Unity is the name of the game when it comes to Abyssea cards. In fact, cards with Unity effects will literally combine their powers when played together - becoming a new unified card with enhanced, or even completely new effects. Knowing when to play a card alone, and when to play them together, is key.
Abyssea also have a deep and esoteric command structure, and endless resources. Sometimes, raw materials aren't enough to play cards. Sometimes, you need the Prestige to play it. Prestige is a special limited resource that is produced by some Abyssea cards, and consumed by others. You don't get any Prestige naturally on upkeep, so making sure you have enough is going to be harder.
Abyssea is a faction of empire builders and loves to focus on units and buildings, using everything else merely to help things along. They'll set traps, win trades, and slowly overwhelm with a mix of flooding and powerful cards. Speed, however, isn't always their forte.

Arkanium: Arkanium are a relatively small, but immensely powerful academic union of spellcasters, with bases scattered wherever magical academies can be found.
Archive cards from your hand to set them aside until you need them. Your other cards might even grow in power with each additional card you archive! Really need something? You start your game with three cards of your choice already achieved, so you can ensure you have what you need.
Maybe you don't like only getting value from spells once? When another cards Learns a spell, they equip that spell (not counting against their equipment limit) and gain some benefit out of it's effect. Gain it's damage as attack damage? Cast it every round? Anything is possible.
Powerful spell cards are the name of the game, and the tool to rule the battlefield. Everything else takes a backseat. But when you're in control, you don't need to constantly brawl with brutish units anyway.

Grim League: The Grim League is a cabal of pirates, crime groups, and followers of dark gods and darker arts. Their motivations varied, and organization filled with infighting, the name nonetheless inspires fear in most hearts.
Grim League are able to banish cards from the game entirely, and only Grim League can interact with banished cards at all. Use this to deny your opponent the satisfaction of saving a card, or bringing cards back.
Grim League can also pay HP to play some cards, sacrificing the life of their commander or their units and buildings for power.
Along with Abyssea, they're the other faction that likes to play hidden cards.
Grim League don't excel in anything, but instead like to hamper their opponent's ability to excel as much as possible, bringing their opponents down to their level. Hinder resources, block effects, and generally be a nuisance. Eventually, you'll claw your way to the top.

Mekanist: The Mekanists are a alliance of nations all unified by their belief in the power of engineering and clockwork power. A tradition originating in the futuristic city of Calexios deep in the earth plane, they now command much power, and a legion of engineers and automatons ready to defend them from unwanted... machinations c;
Upgrade! is a special effect on cards which allows you to flip the card over to it's upgraded side when a certain condition is met. This is usually a mini quest of some kind - perhaps it will only upgrade if it destroys a unit in combat. Trigger the upgrades on your cards to get a big power boost and maximize the card's value.
There's no end of life for a Mekanist creation either. Cards in the discard pile can be played again, using "Reactivate" effects. It's like a whole extra hand in there.
Mekanists love interacting with the discard pile and destroyed pile, taking any opportunity to re-use old cards or use them as scrap for new ones. They also have a lot of cascading effects - rewarding clever placement and ordering of cards to run like a well oiled machine and pay off dividends in repeating or enhanced card effects.
Mekanists are solid at everything, but particularly like Item cards, and are weak on the spells front.

All of these factions are far from final, and also far from their peak of possibilities. I'm hoping to have a few more unique mechanics for each faction, and push the boundaries out of how they break the 'core rules' of the game even more with their mechanics.

Fine fine, I made it through your long winded post. Just tell me...
Where can I play this?

Thanks for asking! If you want to play it yourself, the rules are a bit above, and you can find the most recent playtest version on the steam workshop below. Things are a little outdated in terms of card balance, but it's a pretty solid version.

(She's not in the game. She's just the workshop icon.)

Steam Workshop Link

You'll need a copy of Tabletop Simulator on steam to play. Luckily for you, it's still on sale at time of writing. I'd hurry and get it c=

If you want to find players, I also made a discord server! There's some people in there who would be up to play, plus, I'm in that server and more than willing to playtest with anyone and explain the game as I go. Just give me a ping or DM.

Join the Discord Server!

The Future

The current playtest version just has one unaligned deck, but I'm hoping to expand the deck count to around four pre-built decks to showcase a few factions and give me a varied set of playstyles and strategies to then battle with and balance and polish before expanding out too far with hundreds more cards across a bunch of factions.

Beedee's deck (the current one) is focused around building a board of simple but powerful units and playing around with a few synergies to buff them up. I have a poll running in the discord looking for input on what other decks to add to this deck pool: At the moment, the choices are kind of tied, so extra votes would help! Once the results are finalized, there's no turning back until the picked decks are polished and I'm ready to expand out more, so this is a big decision.

Other than that, I hope this project has piqued your interest and you'd like to follow along with the development, playtest with me, and hopefully enjoy the game =D

And lastly, I'd like to say a huge thank you to all of SMWC, for being a place for me to keep up my passion for game design all of these years, even when, growing up, everyone else around me acted like it was a dumb hobby and told me to do other things. This site is the reason I could keep it up all that time, keep developing my skills and growing as a game designer. And it's all been worth it, I hope!
Hi. Thought I'd cross-post my little poll here, so people don't actually have to go to the trouble of joining the discord if they wanna reply:

What sounds more fun as a demo deck for each faction below? I wanna know what I should focus on for my next alpha version.
1: Stacking boosts on the commander, fighting units personally
2: Synergizing simple units with few abilities to outplay your opponent in the battlefield
1: Utilizing strong defensive effects to stall out the game, gaining enough affinity to play massive cards
2: Stacking decay and other status conditions on enemy cards, causing them to be weaker in combat and lose health constantly.
1: Creating a mobile army of flying units that you can swiftly relocate to outmaneuver your opponent in battle
2: Stacking golem tokens alongside a strong backline of buildings that blocks off and outnumbers your opponent
3: Creating alchemist's fire which can be accumulated, boosted, and use to damage units on demand or even combo to destroy the other commander with direct damage
1: Value focused deck where you can equip spells to units to gain repeating value and effects out of them
2: A control deck where you can always find the card you need, save others til later, and counter all of your opponent's threats

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