Magical cards and productivity

Despite all of the posts around here about Killing Monsters and Taking Their Stuff, it's not actually the game I've been spending the most time with recently. Instead, that's been an entirely different game, Wozzle. And that's been a story of serendipity and collaboration.

I started following Grant Rodiek due to a contest he participated in a while back, and then forgot about it. Towards the end of last year, I had run out of stuff in my RSS reader, and turned to Twitter for entertainment. I was only an occasional reader at the time, but this time I had the bright idea to cull out most of the people I was following who weren't gaming folks, and Twitter suddenly became a lot more interesting. During a slow day at work, I answered Grant's call for feedback on a card game he was working on. I exchanged some email, gave him what I hoped was useful feedback, and then headed into Christmas break.

About a month ago, Grant reached back out to me about a different game he had started working on. This one started with the premise of wondering if you could take Poker and add special actions and magic to it and get a fun game. He asked for my thoughts, saying it was was a simple print-and-play project to put together. I read through the rules, provided some feedback, played some playtest games, provided more thing I knew, I was in a conversation basically daily with him on the game. I've now become involved enough in the game that I'm co-designing it with him.

There is a lot about the project that appealed to me. The first is simply that I've always had an affinity for games played with a traditional deck of cards. From learning Cribbage at a young age and playing with my grandfather, to my friends and I teaching ourselves Bridge and Pinochle in junior high and high school, traditional cards have been a part of my gaming life longer than just about anything else. Any time I encounter clever, new things to do with cards, I'm instantly intrigued. Foresight was my first real, complete, professional design, and it's based on a deck of cards. I read things like The Penguin Book of Cards Games for fun. I'm a card nerd, I suppose. So, seeing spells added to a traditional card game had me on board right away.

The second was a bit harder to pin down. It had been a long time since I'd worked on a game like this. I had certainly created things in my spare time, but I hadn't really gotten my teeth into a creative pursuit related to gaming in quite a while. Having the opportunity to contribute to a design, to flex my developer muscles and edit rules, to stretch my imagination in finding solutions to issues in the game, it was all a joy. I enjoyed the dialogue back and forth with Grant and I enjoyed very much contributing to a card game again.

What I found was that working on the game was giving me another, unexpected benefit. Having the habit of working on this game most nights meant that I was suddenly in the habit of working on creative stuff in my evenings. I found myself making progress on my own designs. I started blogging again. I started having more ideas for new designs to work on. I found myself in the zone, basically.

There were two big lessons for me. The first was simply that good habits can reinforce themselves. By having this project that required my focus, I was finding myself getting more done across the board. My positive work habits were sticking for my other personal projects. The second was the value of getting involved. Offering help, seeing what other folks were up to, and trying to get plugged into a larger community got me working on fun stuff again. I'm trying to stay in that habit as well, seeking opportunities to engage with other game designers.

Grant also asked me to think about designing a companion game for Wozzle, something that could be part of the same package for an eventual boxed game. I started experimenting with ideas for making more use of mana tokens with traditional cards, leading me to start thinking about what a magical Cribbage variant might look like. More on that design next time.