One of the big things that sets Twilight of the Gods apart from other games, is the idea of trading cards with your opponent in order to get resources. It’s an interesting dichotomy. On the one hand, you both need to cooperate in order to succeed, and the starting phases of most games play out fairly amicably. On the other hand, there comes a point, and it’s a different point every game, where that cooperation morphs into competition, and all of a sudden, the game shifts.
What was once a simple decision of “I need this resource and they need that resource, so let’s trade” turns into “I need this resource, and they need that resource, but they also have that creature on the field, and if I trade this kill spell I might not draw another way to deal with it for a while, but it’s the only way I’m going to get my creature out on the field, but then what if they’re trading me a trap, do I have a way to counter that later, and what if...”
It’s a fascinating interaction of power dynamics every time it happens, and it happens every game.
In addition, there’s also the spicy cherry on top known as “risk/reward”. See, in order to play the more powerful cards, you need equally powerful resources, but there’s a catch. The more powerful a card is as a resource, the more likely it is to do something nasty to you if the other player finds a way to reveal it. Timeo Danaos et dona ferentis.
And the best part is, you have no choice but to accept those Trojan horses. You need those cards as resources. Your opponent needs those cards as resources. There’s a constant baseline tension of deceit thrumming through the game, and it only gets more intense as the game goes on. It’s not a question of “Will my opponent screw me?” It’s a question of “How will my opponent screw me, and how will I react to it?”
Do you trade away your epic card for a devastating reveal later on? Or do you save it to play from your hand, and take control of the field? Do you remember which traps your opponent has revealed, and can you find a way to use that against them? At all times, a choice to make, and always meaningful.
In a lot of the card games I’ve played over the years, the assumption of power has mainly arisen from a player’s struggle against their own deck. Do they draw the appropriate cards they need in order to build up their threat posture against the opponent? Or does their deck not cooperate, and do they remain stuck at a lower power level while their opponent grows stronger?
In both cases, the player isn’t actually playing against the other person. They’re playing against the odds they’ve established in their deck, and while deckbuilding is definitely part of the skill set needed to excel at card games, I knew I wanted this game to be something more. I wanted it to be a constant tension between the players, not as they played against their decks, but against each other.
I wanted it to be a struggle of minds, not necessarily of odds (though there’s still plenty of that). A chess match of infinite possibilities lurking beneath a deceptively simple surface.
One of my favorite books is called “The Player of Games,” by Iain Banks. It’s a sci-fi novel, and the reason I mention it, is because one of the central conceits of the book I’ve always found fascinating. In the book, there’s a society built around a game, but not just any game. It’s a game that reveals who you are as a person, depending on how you play it, and the best players understand and embrace that. Their philosophies, their ideologies, what they value and why - all revealed by the game.
That’s what I wanted TotG to be like. A game that players win and lose based on how they react to their opponent, not just to the randomness of shuffled pieces of cardboard. A game where you have to strategize not only deck construction, but also negotiation, and bluffing, and how your actions now might affect your opponent’s reactions later on. A game where players are inextricably intertwined, and what you reveal about yourself, either knowingly or not, is just as much a part of the game as the cards you play.
A game where players play each other, at all times, and every choice matters.
I think I’ve succeeded in creating such a game, and I hope you’ll be just as excited to play it as I am.