My first project in the Digital Futures fall Atelier is a game called Card Operas.
Card Operas is a card game where four or more players act as characters in a soap opera. In order to gain Reputation, players join to tell stories based on the cards they have, attempting to accuse and defend themselves of often ridiculous crimes.
In more detail…
The game consists of Character cards and smaller “experience” cards. Character cards are partly a platform on which players can build their own stories- they have small details about the character which players can incorporate into their accusations or defences. The other purpose of these cards is to keep track of Reputation, which is represented by dots on the side of a card.
Players are dealt hands of 5 of the small cards, which include Accusation cards, Motivation cards and Evidence cards. Any of these can be used to make a story more believable, and the amount of cards used on either side of an Accusation case contribute to which side will win the case.
While there is only one Accuser and one Accused, other characters can add to the story using their own cards. By doing so, they will risk losing a smaller amount of Reputation, but can also gain Reputation depending on whether they supported the winning or losing character of an Accusation case.
Every player gets a chance to add to a case as well as do their own Accusations. The first player to get nine Reputation points will win.
Card Operas is a fairly social game and is intended for groups of friends or even strangers. While with friends, the game might spiral off into drollery, it also endeavours to create a friendly environment where people who might not necessarily know each other that well can bond through a shared imaginative and creative experience. No knowledge about soap operas is required. The narrative of the game is created according to the players’ own knowledge bases and imaginations.
During the week we had to work on the project, I conducted three play testing sessions to test the game at various stages of it’s development. The game evolved greatly, but what was common between the sessions was that it was really easy for players to come up with ridiculous stories and create an environment of joviality.
A predicament in making this game was choosing the best rules. During development, the rules changed a lot, so it was difficult to figure out what exact kind of cards I needed to put the time into making. I wanted story telling to become the main element of the game- an actual part of gameplay where you needed to try to tell the best story you could with the cards that you had in order to win. This was a pretty big challenge because the only way (at least in this age) to really judge the convincingness of a story is to get other people’s opinions. However, the other players are biased judges, especially with the dynamic of accusations being such an offensive act. Therefore, the game morphed and was no longer about telling the best story, but about quick improvisation. If a player can quickly tie the subject matter of their cards into the story that is being created, they will have more influence over how the game plays out.
I worked in a team of one for this project and drew the cards using a Wacom tablet as well as ink and watercolour. My first play testers were Sabaa Bismil and Eva Plesnik. The game was also played by various fellow second year Digital Futures students/instructors during the Thursday play testing session.
Making the game, I’ve become excited about its possibilities. While considering many different versions of rules, I discovered interesting opportunities to add more strategy into the game, which is something worth exploring.
I’ve also become excited about the idea of games that use a combination of logical thinking and creativity. These types of games could bring new players into the world of tabletop gaming, and are socially engaging forms of entertainment for people who want to do things together.
Trying to bring something as intangible as story telling into a game was a really difficult challenge, but something that I believe can make a game really unique and replay-able and something that I’d like to try to incorporate into future game projects.
Try the game
If anyone is interested, here are some files you can print to play the game.