Milling for 53
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Milling for 53

Designing a Pokémon TCG Set #00: Research, Scope, & Vision

I want to design a Pokémon TCG set. I’ve never done so before.

So, where to start?

1. Research (Game Mechanics)

I started playing the Pokémon TCG when the first set, Base Set, released. I stopped early into the Neo sets era. Then missed a WHOLE bunch of sets.

Unlike with Magic: The Gathering, I don’t know a lot about what the Pokémon TCG has done before in terms of game mechanics.

I’d be wise to learn the game’s history before or while I find my set’s mechanical hook(s).

The following are my two primary references for this task:

2. Research (Flavor)

It’s not enough to know what’s been done before in the TCG. I also need to familiarize myself with the “source material” of the set’s flavor theme.

By now, I’ve determined the set is based on the Safari Zone, thanks to the help of a Twitter poll’s results:

My primary reference for this, which is a wiki page that leads to a wealth of information across other pages:

The idea here is to find all the monsters and events that are related to the Safari Zone. And not just one instance of the Safari Zone. Across multiple permutations of this region. This includes the video games, anime, manga, etc.

This will help me create a set that FEELS like the Safari Zone flavor.

3. Scope

I can’t expect others to spend time thinking about what to build for a Constructed deck using my set’s cards.

So, I want to design for a Limited format. Limited is also my preference, anyway, because I want to see these common Pokémon cards you see in booster packs get used more often.

Specifically, I want to design a four-person draft format. (After drafting, you play 1-versus-1 as normal.)

I’d like to print out the cards, and I’d like them to look like Pokémon cards do. This means using a tool to render Pokémon cards (I assume I’ll find one that suits my needs — a preliminary search shows me there are some out there).

Rendering cards means that any mechanical themes I design should be able to reuse existing assets/templates. (At this time, I’m not interested in learning how to create new graphical templates to support the gameplay I design.)

4. Vision

For mechanical hooks, given that I defined a scope of draft, I want to tap into the nature of that format.

While I’m researching, I’m brainstorming. So far, I’ve gotten excited by one possibility: make at least one mechanical hook be… draft abilities! I’m a big fan of Magic: The Gathering’s Conspiracy sets. This means you might see rules text that say things like:

  • When you draft this,…
  • …your drafted cards…
  • You may draft an additional…

And so on.

Conclusion

So, to sum up the design direction I’m pursuing:

Pokémon TCG meets Conspiracy draft mechanics”

’til next time.

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Magic: The Gathering game design

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Bradley Rose

Bradley Rose

Magic: The Gathering and card game design.

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