Armchair Game Design – Colour mixing resource system

Undoubtedly like many other table top gamers out there, I am often struck with ideas for games, themes, and mechanics. Many of these fizzle out and go nowhere, but some of them seem to just sit there in my mind, refusing to go away until I pay some attention and think about them for a while.

“Maybe,” my brain thinks at me “this new blog endeavour we’ve started is a good place to write these ideas down.” Not one to rebel against my brain when it has what it thinks is a good idea, here is a random game design mechanic that pops into my head every now and then.

What if a card game used colour mixing as a resource system?

Original image uploaded by Sakurambo, at Wikipedia.

Original image uploaded by Sakurambo, at Wikipedia.

You know how in primary/grade/infant school, you would get the yellow paint and the blue paint, mix them both together, and make green paint? Yea, that kind of colour mixing. The best way to describe the mechanic is probably to put it in terms of a game design document, so let’s have a go at that.

Overview – This is a competitive 2 player card game, where each player is an artist trapped on a canvas battlefield, painting portraits (creatures) and landscapes (terrain) into existence to try and defeat their adversary.

Setting the stage – The gameplay area is comprised of the canvas (a 5×8 grid of empty card spaces), and a colour pallette (a 12-space resource stockpile area) for each player. Each player will have a deck of X cards, representing the ideas and thoughts they draw inspiration from throughout the game.


Starting the game – At the start of the game, players decide who will take the first turn through a method of their chooisng (toss a coin, a quick round of rock-paper-scissors, whoever last did something artistic. Then in turn order, each players draws 5 cards from their deck and places a token marking the position of his painter onto any of their 5 starting spaces on the canvas.

Taking turns – In each turn, a player may take any 2 of the following actions, they can take the same action twice:

  • Move their artist 1 space,
  • Paint a landscape or creature in an adjacent space,
  • Draw inspiration (draw a card),
  • Activate (move and/or attack with) a painted creature, or
  • Load paint onto their pallette.

[Finally, I mention loading paint on to the pallette which is supposedly the whole point of this article]

To load paint onto their pallette, a player may either:

  • Place a primary colour card (red, yellow, or blue) into any of the primary row of their pallette. They can replace an existing colour with a new one, or
  • Spread a colour from an existing pallette space to a neighbouring space. If a colour is already present in the neighbouring space the player chooses if they want to replace the existing colour or merge with it. If they merge, then the space is filled with the colour that is a combination of the existing colour and the spreading colour.

Note that the lowest level of the pallette (with 5 spaces) can hold only primary colours, the second level (with 4 spaces) can hold primary and secondary colours, and the final level can hold primary, secondary, and tertiary colours.

AGD_1_2For example, this picture shows a player pallette at the start of turn 3 (yes they did nothing but load up on paint in turns 1 and 2). They decide they would like to spread their blue paint, to do this they could either spread it over the top of the horizontally adjacent yellow or red paint, replacing them. They wouldn’t be able to merge with these colours as they are on the first (primat) pallette level. On the other hand, they could spread the blue paint into the secondary level, into spaces A or B. If they spread the blue paint into space B, then B would also become a blue paint space. If they spread into space A, they could choose to either replace the red paint with blue or mix the red and blue together to fill sapce A with purple.

Winning/Losing – A player loses when their artist takes X (to be found through playtesting) damage.

There is quite a lot of flexibility here and it allows a player to adapt their resources to compensate for what would otherwise be a poor hand of cards. It gives a nice visual representation of resources a player has available and ties in well with the overall art/painting based theme I was thinking of at the time. It’s quite simple to understand adn get going with but allows a bit of depth in planning. A player will have a good idea of what future secondary and tertiary paint options are likely to be coming and can start to adapt their strategy in advance.

I could be biased (and almost certainly am), but this resource system feels unique to me. It’s entirely possible that something similar has been used by someone somewhere before, so if you’re reading this and thinking that what I described is just like the resource system in that game you’ve played, then let me know! I’d love to see something like this actually implemented in the wild with a real ruleset and proper playtesting.

I had a few other ideas around player interaction with the pallette, perhaps enemy attacks could white-out spaces of the pallette of force colour changes. Maybe there could be weaker “sketch” type cards that don’t require particular colours of paint in order to be played onto the canvas. Perhaps it would be worth fleshing this out and writing a second post about it that goes into more detail on other aspects…

I’m starting to think my brain is tricking me, writing my ideas down is going to encourage spending even more time thinking about them than before!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s