Designing a tabletop card game

Main Concept

Wild Hunt is a strategic, addictive, and easy to learn 2 to 6 player card game where you are a Bounty Hunter that must race against other players to collect the most valuable bounties while sabotaging them along the way.

Since the very beginning, Wild Hunt was based on one simple concept. Playing cards will cost energy and passing on cards will not only give you 1 energy but represent it as well by flipping over the passed on card. Cards will cost anywhere from 0 to 2 energy to play, and it’ll be up to the player to decide which cards to pass on as they come up, not knowing what’s to come.

The First Iteration

The first iteration of the game was just that. Each player would flip over 1 card at a time from a shared deck and decide whether to hunt that card or pass on it. Of course, they couldn’t hunt cards the majority of the time, because of the lack of energy and they would be forced to pass on a card and end their turn. Players would need to intentionally pass on 2 cards to even have the opportunity to hunt a level 2 card. The 3 levels of cards you can pull from are evenly divided and shuffled into the shared deck, so even if you tried to lineup hunting a level 2 card there is only a 33% chance it will happen. This was the main pull of the game, the small bit of risk/reward factor.

After some playtesting, it was very clear how robotic and simple game was at this point. It was just barely 1 step above the card game War. Half of the time your turn’s decision was already made and the other half of the time it was a simple choice. There was a simple mathematical formula to follow to achieve the best chance to win.

Card Abilities

Every card was given a special ability that would trigger at different times. They would either trigger as soon as the card was hunted, after the card was hunted and positively affect the player so they can perform combos of the sort, or after the card was hunted and negatively affect an opponent. After a card was hunted it would be placed on top of a player’s score pile. If that card was red or green it’s ability will continue to apply as long as it was the topmost recent card played. These abilities would allow the player to get extra energy, get another turn, or just lower the cost of a future card.

Adding the card abilities made the card game start to feel like an actual card game. Although when it came to the decision to either hunt a card or pass on it oftentimes the same mathematical formula would make the decision for you and not what the ability of the card offered. The game required the same amount of interaction as before, the only difference now is that players are reacting to what the abilities do.

Strategic Planning

The player would now draw 3 cards one at a time in a turn and place then in a line reading left to right. Players would need to interact with each card individually starting with the leftmost one moving right. They would still be required to either hunt or pass on cards, but now they can see the next couple of cards ahead to better plan their next moves.

The game felt pretty complete at this iteration, but after a lot of playtesting something else became clear. The game was too balanced. Matches were often won with all other players having a very close score. Throughout entire matches scores were almost always neck and neck. The only thing that really helped you win a game was drawing a card with an amazing ability. More changes were needed to make the game more interesting.

Item Cards

Adding Item cards created the chaos the game needed. Players would periodically receive item cards throughout a match. They could play the cards right away or sit on them until an opportune moment came up. Item cards could be played during any player’s turn to either benefit the player or ruin an opponent’s turn. When that opportune moment finally shows up the player would excitedly lay down their item cards and complete a string of combos that would give them a lead.

This was the final iteration for a long time. Matches felt satisfying, winning felt satisfying, and the game was interesting. I wasn’t satisfied with the development of the game yet though. I felt there was still more I could do to make the game more fun. That mathematical formula of choosing what cards to play to get the best chance at winning was still there, albeit those chances were less after recent updates.

More Risk for Better Rewards

Uniquely marked dice were added to the game. Players were required to roll 3 dice for each card they attempt to hunt. Depending on the energy cost of a card the more successful rolls were required to hunt a card. If a player failed a dice check they would not only lose the energy they spent on that card, but also the card itself. This added a lot of fun chaos to the game, just because a player was lucky enough to draw a certain card and they have enough energy for that card doesn’t guarantee that they will successfully hunt it.

Many Iterations

There have been dozens of small tweaks and large iterations, many of which were already mentioned. To this day small balance tweaks to card abilities and wording are pretty regular. For the latest and most recent information on the Wild Hunt tabletop card game, please take a look at its official page.

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