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Making a solo card game? Start with Dvorak...

A few times in the last year, I've received e-mails from readers who are trying to create their own solo "collectible" card game - not a solo version of an existing one, but what they hope will be an original solo CCG concept. Too often, though, they're dismayed by the realization that the developing project looks a lot like a solo variant of a watered-down Magic or Yu-Gi-Oh! game.

So, here's my blanket advice to anyone making a solo card game, collectible-style or otherwise: mercilessly strip the concept down, leaving only its most essential thematic elements, and then build it back up again. The best way to do that is to use the Dvorak card game system at the beginning of your design process.

Dvorak has been around for quite a while. It's a creative multi-player card game in the make-it-up-as-you-go-along vein. Dvorak is useful as a design guide because the core game consists of only two types of cards - Things and Actions - and, more importantly, Dvorak is played with the simplest of rules. It is from this fundamental place that a truly satisfying and potentially original new homemade card game can be born.

Since Dvorak was meant for two or more players, you'll need an immediate modification to make it solo-playable. Two starting suggestions:
  • For a one-handed solo game, create "enemy" Things and Actions that would sabotage your ability to play your Thing and Action cards when you draw them by forcing you to play the enemy's over your own.
  • For two-handed solo games, direct the automatic opponent's play of Things and Actions with prioritization, such as by numbering them or giving them special instructions that impose an obvious order of activation. While employing either method, you'll find that the theme of your game will guide your choices. 

Dvorak is flexible and open to any level of customization, so, as you build your game up from the ground floor to something much more complex, your design objectives will become easier to make a reality!  There's even a deck creation wiki template which will allow you to design a basic deck-in-progress or print it out.

It really will help!

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