[NGDM] Card design

Designing Yūgen means designing an aesthetic around an aesthetic, and so all of the little physical details become an expression of the game’s feel and ethos as well as of the actual play. To that end, each specific aspect of the cards must serve both of those ends.

Due to cultural exchange, most people in the West are now visually familiar with the look of Japanese calligraphy, which makes it a natural choice for the representation of the images on the cards in a game inspired by Japanese aesthetics. Simplicity is a watchword, and the cards are kept to a simple black-on-white scheme both to reinforce the desired feel and to make the games more accessible: no color differentiation is necessary, no text is included. Another type of accessibility comes into play here: black-and-white cards are cheaper to print, lowering the cost of the game, either on my end as a producer or for a print-and-play version.

Because the cards need to connect, the strokes terminate at the center of one or more sides on the card, so that strokes merge into contiguous lines when cards are placed adjacent to one another in correct alignment. Not every side of the card has a connection, however, and as I experiment with scoring schemes, that may become a relevant gameplay issue: all cards have from 0 connections (the strokes on the card are self-contained) to 4 (a brush stroke leads to every edge of the card). Having too many cards with 3 or 4 connections in the deck creates an expectation in players that they have to create large images with their cards, or will inevitably result in players creating images with cut-off parts where brush strokes leave the card without another card to continue the image. This is not aesthetically pleasing! Thus, they will constitute a minority of cards, with most of them having 1 or 2 connections, preferring simple flowing designs over branching or spreading designs. In the cases of cards with 0 connections, they are special scoring elements that carry a risk: their inclusion can either increase the value of your image, or ruin it altogether!

As I finish the cards and move into playtesting, I’ll have a bit more on the scoring in future updates; as implied above, the actual mechanisms of carrying out play are fairly stable, but translating those activities into scoring is proving more complicated. But a few runs at the gaming table should help solve those problems!