Battle Monsters is the prototype for a collectible card game I conceptualised in 2016. Two players try to reduce each other’s life points to zero by summoning monsters and casting spells on them to either weaken or strengthen them. Most monsters also have special abilities which can be used to gain a strategic advantage.

The turn and game board

At the start of his turn a player receives crystals which are the most important resource in the game next to the player’s health. Crystals are used the game’s currency and need to be spent in order to summon monsters and cast spells. The player can either save crystals in order to summon stronger monsters or decide to play more smaller cost cards in one turn. If the player decides to summon a monster they need to carefully decide where they put in on the board. While the board has a fixed shape it does not have a fixed position which can change where monsters can be placed throughout the game. Here is how that works:

  • The game board allows for four creatures to be placed next to each other in a row for every player.
  • Placing a monster leaves uncertainty as to which spot the monster occupies.
  • That means that only be placing monsters on the outer most spots the game board is fully defined.
  • When there is uncertainty as to where the game board is placed monsters can be placed on any spot that would theoretically still be on the game board.

Example: You already placed two monsters on your side of the board with one empty spot between them. The next monster you play could be placed in three positions. But if you play it in one of the outer spots that fully defines the game board which only leaves one empty spot for the monster you want to play after that. When monsters get removed from the board that creates more uncertainty again which allows you to change the relative location of monsters to the board by cleverly placing new monsters.

The monsters and combat

Monsters have four basic stats:

  1. Their defence value
  2. Their attack value
  3. The crystal cost
  4. The awakening time

After a monster has been played it remains passive on the board for as many turns as its awakening time. During that time the monster can not initiate attacks but can defend itself and be killed. To successfully attack another monster the attack value of the attacker needs to be higher than the defence value of the defender. Since monsters can attack other monsters on the spot opposite to them and those adjacent to that it is possible to combine the attack values of multiple weaker monsters to take down a larger monster.

If a player wishes to attack the opponent’s life points, they can only do so with a monster that has an empty spot on the opposite side. When a monster dies it usually drops a corpse which blocks the spot it occupied for one turn. This means that a monster apposite to the corpse can not directly attack the player’s life points but that player also won’t be able to summon a monster into that spot.

Spells and special abilities

Some monsters have special abilities. Like for instance the “Trickster of Clubs” which gains one more attack for every other “Clubs” card on the board. Or the “Raging Soulstorm” which can move across the board.

Monsters can be also be buffed or weakened temporarily using spells. Some other spells might cause a monster to fall asleep, which means it goes passive for how many turns it takes to awaken it. Some spells might give bonuses when a monster is in a certain spot of the game board or have an effect depending on how many corpses are on the board.

I designed roughly 90 cards for this paper prototype over the course of six months. Each card belongs to a faction which has its own theming. It took me a lot of time to figure out how to properly balance new cards and special abilities and when the number of cards grew it became a big challenge to keep track of all the possible synergies. But after a while and with a lot of testing I got a very good intuition for the game’s balance and could create new and more interesting cards much easier.