Wow. So, uh, I never thought I’d be writing a developer’ diary, no joke. A group of people not my close friends and family thought an idea I came up with was pretty good, and now we’re making a tabletop card game called “Twilight of the Gods.”
Honestly? It’s a position I imagined myself in as a kid, busy mocking up my own Magic the Gathering cards with carefully cut out lines of text, or writing down my brilliant (not really) D&D ideas in a lined notebook, but not one I ever imagined I’d be in as an adult.
Yet here we are. It’s still kind of surreal.
But enough about that. We’re making a game, and it’s gonna be awesome, so let’s talk about Twilight of the Gods!
So what is Twilight of the Gods?
Twilight of the Gods is an expandable card game (a game that comes with exactly the cards you’ll get when you buy a box), as opposed to a collectible card game (where you’re purchasing a pack filled with random cards). In Twilight of the Gods, you assume the role of a powerful deity from one of a broad variety of cultures, and then battle other deities (your friends) to see who will survive the upcoming Age of Rationality. You also get to learn about history and mythology, since we’re basing the game around 500 AD, so that’s neat.
Why did you make it an updating card game, as opposed to a collectible card game?
A couple reasons. One is that updating card games are a bit easier for a group of players to invest in. You know what you’re getting when you buy the box. Also, they’re easier to balance (as long as you have a long term plan in mind, which we do). In addition, as a designer, you know exactly what every player will have access to, and you can playtest to those assumptions. Finally, Twilight of the Gods is... different, and in order to make that difference work, we decided that an updating card game was the better choice.
And what makes Twilight of the Gods different? Why should I care?
Well, the main reason is how the game plays.
See, my original motivation for designing the core system of what would become TotG was based on two fundamental things:
- I love playing Magic, but I hate getting mana-screwed. For those who don’t play Magic (and it’s an awesome game, there’s a reason it’s been so successful), ‘mana-screwed’ is what happens when you don’t get to play any cards because you run into a bad series of draws and don’t get any resources. It’s a horrible feeling, because you’re essentially watching the opponent play the game while you do nothing. It sucks. You don’t get to play with your toys.
- Building off that, I realized I wanted to design a system where both players were playing against each other, and not against the percentages in their deck. Getting mana-screwed is one facet of a larger issue that can make games unfun - not getting to play with your toys. Watching an opponent take endless extra turns, or suddenly win with an infinite combo you had no chance to react to is generally considered not fun. Why? Because you’re no longer participating in the game. Instead, you’re watching your opponent have fun. In addition, you and your opponent aren’t really playing against each other. Instead, you’re playing the percentages of your deck composition, hoping you hit your winning combo before the other player hits theirs.
So I came up with something new.
In Twilight of the Gods, you’ll never have a resource problem, because you and your opponent rely on each other for your resources. In order to get the power you need to do the things you want to in the game, you trade cards from your hand to your opponent, in exchange for cards from their hand, which you can each then use for resources (there’s some more technical balancing stuff in the actual rules, but don’t worry about that for now).
The funny thing is, at the start of the game, you’ll want to cooperate with your opponent. But only until you feel like you have enough power to start to fight them, and that power threshold is different from player to player. Different from game to game, and hand to hand. Fun!
You’ll also never feel like there’s a lack of options, because you’ll go through almost the entirety of your deck in every game.
Your deck is your life. Every time you take damage? Cards get discarded. Find a way to heal yourself? Cards shuffle back into your deck. Every card you include is useful, but if you run out, game over.
Oh, and one other thing.
In the world of Twilight of the Gods, power comes with a price.
The cards you trade can be revealed, often multiple times, throughout the course of the game, and more often than not, they do a negative effect to the person who controls them. In essence, you’re not just trading resources with each other.
You’re also trading traps.
Whoa. What does that even mean?
It means that while you and your opponent rely on each other to generate resources, you can also never trust each other. Does your opponent really have your best interests in mind when they propose a trade? Or are they setting up a fiendish backstab several turns down the road? It’s up to you to try and read them. When you’re playing a multiplayer game, should you let the other player block for you? Or will it allow them to entrench their own position more securely? Again, you, the player, have to make a choice, and what worked in one situation might not work in another.
This is where I addressed the second problem - people not actually playing against each other. In Twilight of the Gods, you’re always playing against your opponent. When they offer to trade, when they play a card, when a creature attacks, you’ll always have a meaningful choice to make. You affect your opponent’s game, and vice versa, and no win condition will ever be exactly the same from game to game. Offer a horrible trade, or appear too threatening too soon, and they might change their entire playstyle, leaving you to adjust.
This sounds complicated. Do I have to be Neil DeGrasse Tyson to enjoy this game?
Not at all. If you’ve never played a tabletop card game of any sort before, we made sure to include two basic tutorial decks for Twilight of the Gods to help give players a gentle learning experience. It may take a game or two to feel comfortable with the flow of the game (when I was a kid, I think it was about a year before I realized ‘sorceries’ in Magic were different from ‘instants’), but once you have it down, you’ll be ready to start exploring the deeper layers of strategy lurking within.
How many layers of strategy are we talking here, exactly? Neopolitan? Triple stack lasagna? Can I play this in a tournament and not feel like I’m praying to RNGesus?
Absolutely. One of the big things I wanted to make sure the game had was the opportunity to pull off extremely high level plays, the kind where you convolute your way through the mechanics like a garden snake through a kaleidoscope, and oh boy does it have those in spades. It’s actually one of my favorite things about TotG, and one we discovered early on in playtesting. You can play it as straightforward as you want, or you can go full 5D-extreme-hyper-chess-mode-activate and string together some stuff that would make a savant blush. It’s all up to how you want to construct your deck, and how you react to your opponent (and also when you draw your cards, I had to put some RNG in).
Ok. I’m begrudgingly intrigued. How do I get my friends to play Twilight of the Gods with me?
Tell them you get to be a friggin’ god, controlling legends out of myth and history! You want Hercules? We got Hercules. You want barbarian hordes and mystic Druidic rites? Meet us by Stonehenge. You want ancient Mesopotamian deities who were old when humans first considered the concept of time? Play as Enlil, and lay waste to all who oppose you.
Not to mention, the god you choose to play as has a very real effect on the game. Each one has a unique power, based around the faction they represent (more layers!), which can swing the tide of battle in your direction if you use it properly.
Seriously, what more can I do to sell you on the game? IT’S LIKE GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA. BUT WITH GODS.
You sound super excited about all this.
Well, yeah. We’re making a a game, and it’s gonna be awesome!