Something that I thought a lot about while designing Dungeon Quest was the colors. By “color” I don’t mean in terms of what tint the cards themselves should be, but rather I use color as a shorthand way of describing a card’s affiliation. But something that struck me, especially as I started to design playtest cards, was that I needed a way to differentiate the abilities that define what a card’s affiliation is.
Let’s start this by cleaning up the vocabulary and defining some terms. There are 3 “affiliations” in Dungeon Quest. They are Combat, Cunning, and Magic. The earliest playtest cards needed an easy way to know what type each card was, and instead of giving the cards little icons or something like that, I just changed the card color itself. The original colors were Red for Combat, Green for Cunning and Blue for Magic, and those colors just seemed to stick, which means that referring to a combat card as “red” became the default when thinking about game terminology.
In any event, I first started by thinking about the different types holistically, as if I was dealing with archetypes. Asking, “what is a 100% cunning deck look like? How does it win?” and frequently working backwards from there. In other words, figure out what a Thief/Assassin deck would look like. That’s where a lot of the early playtest cards came about.
But, and there’s a reason that this entry is called “Colors” and that’s because the more I thought in terms of color, the more I began to think in terms of ideal. So like, what if Red wasn’t just “Combat” as a concept, but Physicality and Prowess? What if Green less “Rogue” and more board status and synergy? Blue less as the vague concept of “magic” and instead as enchantment effects and long range mayhem.
This in turn got me down a path of defining what the colors aught to be and splitting up how the different colors interact with the board state. Where I got was the following:
Red : is the color of physical combat. Red has the most efficient damage dealing in the game at all points along the cost curve. It’s main issue is that that for Red, everything looks like a nail, so Red’s main answer is just to hit it harder. That means that with Shielded enemies, it uses that efficient damage to crack shields, and for enemies in the back row, it hammers through the front row.
On defense, Red is the color of counterattacking and defending. Red gets the ability to play cards that allow it to hit back after an enemy has attacked. Mixed with Red’s ability to defend allies, this allows Red to create a situation where attacks are coming their way, and enemies are punished for it. In other words, played correctly Red is the color of Action Economy, where efficient damage cards are played on the player’s turn, and damage reduction and counterattack cards are activated on the enemy turns.
Green : is the color of Synergy. Green is the best at creating cards that combo and create opportunity. Green is very good at creating status effects. It is the color that can poison, and stun. It also has cards that allow it to bring down a shield quickly and since “shield broken” is a status effect, it can capitalize on that since Green is the color that is able to interact with status effects (by say, dealing extra damage to a Stunned enemy). Green is also the color of Card Drawing, with many effects that allow Green to pull additional cards on their turn, often as a side effect, allowing Green to string together combinations and deal a lot of damage.
On defense, Green controls the board, but making it so that enemies don’t attack, attack for less, or attack something else. Additionally on defense, Green can “stash” damage into it’s deck, pushing off its effects until later. Green, played correctly will focus on building a deck full of answers and a bunch of cards that let it frantically search up those answers or the pieces it needs for the combo it’s trying to put together.
Blue: is the color of Control. Blue has the ability to do things that change the allied board state, while ignoring the enemy board state. Blue is the color of Long Range attacks, meaning that it can hit any enemy. On offense, Blue also has many attacks that do different things based on position and proximity. Additionally, many of it’s attacks carry the rider of “ignores armor” meaning that damage will be punched through no matter what. In playtesting, it’s common for a player playing Blue to play as the “sniper,” and focus on eliminating high threats before they come online.
On defense, Blue is the shield color. While all colors have access to Shields, Blue is the color that can put them up on other players, is the most efficient with them, and has ways to reuse them. Blue is also the color of healing and life draining. The downside for Blue is that it doesn’t have card draw, and may not always have the tools it needs when it needs them, and while it’s attacks are potent, they are not nearly as efficient as those of Red. A well played Blue deck will be one that focuses on taking out targets while keeping their side up and fighting.
Now, of note, these are the colors as of right now. If you’d have asked me a week ago, Blue would be the only color that can toss up shields period. But that’s didn’t play very well. It created a situation where the game was very stabby. Enemies would basically get in free hits and over the course of a few fights would bleed the players through no fault of the player’s themselves. All of this is to say that since I am talking in terms of color instead of archetype, it’s easy to adjust what does what while keeping the the colors distinctive. And adjust I will.
Also, thinking in terms of what colors can do allows me to define what the weaknesses are. Like, if you play a mono-red deck, you’re going to have a very efficient damage and counterattacking engine. But you’re not going to be able to search, draw extra cards or heal yourself without items (that you cannot guarantee). A good player will play around these issues, but then again it also encourages players to branch out and draft different colors.