Monday, December 19, 2011

Summoner's Quest by 4x4 Game Studio

First of all I'd like to introduce the team I was a part of during the making of Summoner's Quest. 4x4 Game Studio was one of 4 teams formed in December for Design Project I at Full Sail University. My teammates were Russell Currer, Joseph Madden, Daniel Rodebaugh. Before getting to the game, I want to talk about the history of the design of the game, which is still in beta right now.

The game started off with us listing off certain aspects of games we liked, which were Tabletop RPGs, TCGs, and Console-style RPGs. We thought of making a game that took a typical board game concept, and added in aspects of more complicated systems to allow the game to be accessible and fun for a novice, while allowing for the expansion of concepts into more complicated games, such as Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons.

The other thing we wanted was to make sure the game would end. One of the biggest issues with games such as Monopoly is that it takes entirely too long (3+ hours) while we wanted a game that could end as early as an hour in. We knew that the game would still take time, but there was no reason to let it take forever. We wanted players to not only fight each other, but to be fighting for a goal within the game as well.

At first we had the game require the destruction of 4 bosses. The meant that we would have to complicate the combat rules, which we wanted to keep simple. So we then took the game to another place, which would be to have the players use Mana to unlock these temples, which would then have a way of allowing them to win the game. We still couldn't quite get it to work, because it negated the other aspect of the game: combat and summoning.

We focused on thinking of a way to make the game about combat only, but we ran into the issue of players dropping from the game, and having to wait until the end before they could play again. We did not want people to just be sitting there. Instead we wanted the point where the game starts to end, to be a point where the game finishes quickly thereafter.

We went back to the Mana Temple, and changed them into a gate that would allow access to the center of the board. The game at this point becomes a king of the hill game, where the winner stays in the middle for 3 rounds. The benefits of this is that it gets the game focuses on one point, forces combat and gets the game to a point of finishing rather quickly.

The change of the cards as well, as we started balancing the combat so that the summoner tokens were powerful yet dangerous to use in combat, while allowing summoned creatures to be useful and have a purpose for being summoned. Summoning monsters requires mana, which in turn is also needed to unlock the Mana Gate. Though a game can be played without going into a Mana Gate, it is the least optimal path towards winning the match.

Within the first incarnation of the game, we had 3 types of spaces a Summoner could land on: Focus Points (where they can draw a card), Teleport Points (to move them across the board faster) and Mana Temples (which reduces the cost of certain cards). When we finally decided to add the Mana Gates, we eventually connected them to the Mana Temples, since it made more sense to do so.

One of the last things we added to the game, was the concept of making the summons to relate to folklore from around the world. We focused on 4 folklore/myth sources: Nordic, Japanese/Modern, Greek and Amazonian/Brazillian.

The board's basic properties have remained the same for most of the design of the game, 8 spaces per section (6 focus points, a teleport point and a Mana Temple). We were using generic tokens for most of the game, at least until we decided on the theme of the game, at which point we created specific summoner tokens.

There are certain aspects of the game I'd still like to develop further, such as the combat (especially the combat). Though that could be brainstormed and thought of later. The following is straight from our Game Design Document:

Game Components
  • Game board with 32 spaces and 13 spaces in the center.
  • 4 Summoner tokens
  • Monster Damage Counters (20 White Counters)
  • 40 Summon, 20 Spell, 20 Equip, and 20 Trap cards
  • Life Counters (40 Red Counters, 10 for each player)
  • Mana Counters (48 Blue Counters, 6 for each player at start and a pool to add from)


The objective of the game is to become the most powerful summoner. Each player tries to destroy all other players and their minions, with the ultimate goal of trying to become powerful enough to enter the Halls of Myth and attain unlimited power. Victory is achieved by either being the last summoner standing or by entering the Chamber of Victory and remaining their for three consecutive turns.

Each player rolls a six sided die (d6). The player with the highest roll goes first, the player with the second highest roll goes second and so forth. If two or more players tie, they roll to break the tie amongst them, while still remaining within the same turn as they originally rolled. Each player chooses a starting space at one of the Mana Temples and places their summoner token on there. Each player gets 10 life stones and 6 mana stones. Play starts when the first player rolls two six-sided dice (2d6) and moves that number of spaces.

When a player acquires a Summon card, they may expend the designated number of Mana points to place the card on the board at their location, after that, they control the Summoned card similarly to how they control their own token. A player may not cast a summon if there is another player or summon on the same square as their player token.

Cards (Your Hand)
The player can hold up to 5 cards in their hand. If they have 5 cards and want to draw a card, they must first discard a card so that they have, at most, 5 cards in their hand.

Discarding Cards
Cards may be discarded for any number of reasons. Certain cards, like spell cards, are one-time use items. Once they are used they must be removed from play by means of the discard pile. The discard pile may not be interacted with until all cards have been drawn. Once there are no more cards in play the discard pile must be shuffled and used as the new drawing deck. Once the deck is shuffled, a new discard pile is formed.

Mana Temple (Start Point)
Every player starts at their own Mana Temple. Whenever a summoner token lands on the Mana Temple space, they are able to use cards from their hands at a minus 1 Mana cost, to a minimum of 1 Mana cost. When a summoner token crosses over the Mana Temple space that they started from, they gain two additional Mana Stone. If at any point, a power or ability causes the player to go backwards past a starting point and they go through it again, they only gain additional Mana Stones while going in a clock-wise direction.

Focus Point
There are six focus points per side of the board. When a summoner token lands on the space, they draw a card unless they have 5 cards in their hand (see Cards above). Drawing cards occurs as a Space Effect, and therefore occurs after equipment, traps and combat effects (see Order of Operations below).

There are four portals on the game board. Portals are used to move to the next portal when a Summoner token or a summon lands onto a portal. If you land on a portal you have the potion of using it or not, but must move in a clockwise direction to the next portal if you decide to use it.

Mana Gate
Mana gates are unique type of space on the board. There are four of them, attached to the portal spaces and are essential to one of the two victory conditions. If a player wishes to open a gate, they must spend 10 mana points to open a single gate. Once a gate is open, any and all players or summons may cross through the gate freely. Each one of the spaces counts as one movement space.

Halls of Myth and Chamber of Victory
The halls of myth are the spaces directly past, and including, the mana gates. Each space counts as a single move space. This is a one-way path and may not be backtracked unless under the effect of a spell, trap, or ability that reverses movement direction. The chamber of victory is a single, large space that must be held for 3 turns, starting at the beginning of the following turn. Once on the space, the player, or any residing summon, may not leave that space unless evicted. If a player or summon loses a session of combat while occupying the victory space, but not the halls of myth, are evicted from the chamber of victory and placed back to the portal just outside of the gate that the player who initiated combat entered from. If a player in the victory space has a monster with them and the monster loses, the attacker moves one space outside of the victory space. On the next turn, the attacking monster may reenter but the defending player stays in the victory space. Players must still roll for movement for their summon if they have any outside of the chamber of victory. If evicted by any means, the amount of turns that they must hold the victory square is reset and they must hold the center for an additional 3 turns.

Movement is determined by the roll of 2d6 dice. The player has a few options when deciding to move. The player moves the full roll of the die when moving only the Summoner token or a summoner. If a Summoner token and a summon that player owns is on the same space, the player has the option of halving their roll and moving the Summoner token and their summon at the same time. Round down when halving the roll (if an 11 move 5). Summons have the option of moving backwards instead.

Combat (Attacking)
A player attacks when they move their token or summon onto a space occupied by the token or summon of another player. In the event that the contested space contains multiple player tokens or summons, the attacker chooses which one to attack, unless the defending player chooses to use a summon to defend their Summoner token (see “Combat (Defending)”, below). To resolve combat, each player involved rolls a d6; the one with the higher roll wins the combat and deals damage. If the attacker is a summon card, the damage dealt is specified by the “Attack” entry on the card. If the attacker is a Summoner token, the damage dealt is a base of 2 plus any modifiers from spells or equipment. If a Summoner token attacks a summon card, they deal damage equal to their current number of life stones, instead.

Combat (Defending)
A player defends when another player moves their token or summon onto a space occupied by the token or summon of the defending player. If the defending player’s Summoner token is being attacked and they have a summon in the same space, the defender may choose to defend using their summon, forcing the attacker to attack the summon instead of the Summoner. Combat then proceeds as stated in “Combat (Attacking)”, above.

Post Combat
If the attacker loses combat, they must move back one space from where they initially landed and initiated combat, and then can activate the space effect on the space they are pushed back to, as specified by the “The Order of Operations”, below . If the attacker wins, the defending summoner token or summon is moved backwards one space, but it does not activate space effects.

Summon Abilities
Most summons have a unique ability along with their base stats. In most cases these abilities require mana to cast. The cost of the ability is noted on the card. The effect of an ability is clearly denoted in its description as well as its range and damage. If for some reason, an ability has an effect that would affect another player or a summon and it does not have a denoted range then it is assumed that the ability must be used on a summon within the same space or must be used during combat. All abilities must be activated prior to rolling the dice to determine a winner in combat.

Traps cost no mana to place on the field and can be placed on any space on the field. When placed on the field, they can be tripped by anyone, even the player that placed it. When a Summoner token or summon lands on a trap, that player must roll a die which decides if the trap is activated or destroyed. The roll required to successfully negate a trap is depicted on the card. In many cases the roll is depicted as a greater-than-or-equal-to statement. Therefore, a requirement of 3+ means that the player must roll a 3 or higher on the 6 sided die to negate a trap’s effect. If a player is traveling with a summon and they land on a trap they may choose which one of them is to receive the effects of the traps. Some traps effect summons differently than they would a summoner.

Casting Spells
Spells are “at-will” cards that may be used before or after movement. They have a specific mana cost and a set range at which they may operate. A number in the range section denotes how many spaces away, starting at the edge of the occupied space, that the spell may affect or reach into. If a spell affects only a single target as opposed to the whole space it will say so in the description. Cards without a range or a range of 0 may only affect those in the same space that is occupied by the player who is casting the spell. Once the spell has been cast, the card is expended and is sent to the discard pile.

Equipping and Using Items
Equipment follows a unique set of rules. Each item has the potential for unique effects that are depicted in the card’s description. Each equipment card has a required cost to use. Some are expended upon their use and take effect immediately while others are perpetual. A player may choose to equip an equipment card before or after their move. The abilities that a card bestows (such as Mjolnir’s lightning bolt) may also be used before or after a move. Only one equipment’s “at-will” ability may be used per turn, but does not prevent circumstantial effects (such as evading one trap) from activating. After an equipment card is expended, destroyed, or the player simply wishes to remove their currently equipped item it is sent to the discard pile. Equipping a monster requires the summoner token to be at least within one space of the monster.

Mana Stones
Players start with 6 Mana Stones. Whenever they use mana for any reason, they take mana from their active pile and move it to a used mana pile. At the beginning of a player’s turn they recover two mana stones from the used pile into their active pile. Whenever a player’s summoner token crosses over their starting space they gain two additional mana to their maximum mana count into their active pile.

Life Stones
Players start with 10 Life Stones. Whenever they lose life they can discard that many life stones. Life stones can not be gained past 10. The player can recover life through card affects or summon abilities, but in no other way can you regain lost life.

Monster Damage Stones
When a summon takes damage, put a white counter on the card for each point of damage received.  When the number of counters reaches the amount of life of a summon, that summon is destroyed.

A player may only equip up to 3 items at any one time. In order to equip a new item once a player currently has 3 equipped, 1 item must either be destroyed by an opponent, or discarded by the player.

Status Effects
Status effects may be accumulated by spells, traps, or monster abilities. A player may only be affected by up to 3 effects at once. Once an effect has ended, a new effect may be applied up to the maximum of 3 at any one time. Monsters may only be affected by one effect. Any new effect will override a previous effect on a monster.

The Order of Operations
Events play out in a specific order as a player moves. The order of operations is as follows: Equipment Effects, traps, combat, and space effects. This is the set order of operations to ensure that equipment will first negate traps, combat, or other circumstances if it can. Traps are then sprung as though any residing creature is lying in wait. Combat then resolves after traps are sprung or equipment is activated. Once the summoner resides on a space the benefit may be experienced.

Also here is the card list of possible cards to draw.

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