Fools! Designing and prototyping a new card game


This is Fools! It’s a the latest title I’m working on developing. Now that Ninjas – Silent but Deadly is out in the wild, and Upgrade Wars is ever so slowly being shopped around, I decided it was high time to create something new. I didn’t know quite what I wanted to make, but I did know it wanted it to be light, take less than a half hour to play an entire game, and be accessible to my 7 year old, but just as fun for adults. Essentially, I wanted a deck of cards that could supplement Zombie Dice in terms of a filler game.

From Village Idiot to Fools!

This was going to be a card game. It’s the simplest, most portable form of game that I can think of. Grab a deck of 64 or so cards and run! I had several ideas for some bidding and bluffing mechanics that I wanted to include in the game and from there came a title. Village Idiot. I still love this title! The game was going to be about what would happen if  several villages came together to have a war, and the village idiots ended up being the ones in charge. It was fun, and light, and in the end didn’t match the art style or the game play in any way whatsoever.

Back to the drawing board! I still had the basic game mechanics in hand and I wasn’t going to throw them out, but some tweaking was in order. I ran with the idea that fairies take more kindly too fools an buffoons then they do to us regular folk (and if you’re reading this, or wrote this, you’re not a fool, right?).

The Fools Arrive

I knew that this idea would fly, at least for me and my family, so as I was designing the cards, I took an old card game I had and hadn’t played in years and turned some of those cards into a Fools! prototype. I played it with my wife and both of my kids, trying various methods of playing and fiddling with the bidding and bluffing aspects. This helped me to not only prove some concepts worked (and others didn’t) but to also ensure that it was as much fun for a 7 year old as it was for an adult.



When I had about 75% of the cards designed, I ordered a prototype from The Game Crafter to make sure that my borders were good for the card art and that the box size was what I wanted (a tuck box fitting 72 cards). My kids were very excited when the prototype showed up, and a bit disappointed that it wasn’t fully playable. That was okay though because I now knew everything artistically worked and went ahead and tweaked or finished the rest of the card design. As all this was going on, I was still playtesting my sharpie created prototype.

Then, Total Confusion happend. I was hoping to have a full prototype to bring with me, but that wasn’t going to happen this year. I did bring and show off my concept cards though, and met with general approval.

Shortly after we returned from the con, the fully playable prototype arrived! It came with a new addition, the score trackers (above right) with plastic clips and a summery of the game phases, a newly designed box and a 2.5″ x 3.5″ rule book. It looks and feels great, and I’m going to get some more playtesting in with it over the next month.

There are still things that need changing though. I’ve reduced the number of turn phases from 5 to 4. I’m still fiddling with the bidding, bluffing and card trading mechanics, so the rule book will have to be edited again before it’s finalized. Still, it’s nice to have the prototype in hand and play with the real cards. I don’t think the cards themselves will change much (other than the score tracking card). It’s more a matter of getting the game balanced slightly better and honing down the play so it’s a fast and flows naturally.

Score and phase tracking card.
Score and phase tracking card.

In another month or two, I should have all of this finalized, and then I’m going to start shopping this around to publishers. I really do enjoy using The Game Crafter to prototype, but frankly their prices are a bit high for my liking when it comes to retail. With a deck of 64 cards, the rule book and the clip, it would retail for $15.99. I’d much rather have a publisher who can print, store and ship a larger volume of games take this on, because I see a retail price for this around $12 or less.

So there it is, one more chapter in my hobby as a game designer! Look for more info on Fools! in the next few months, and hopefully more information on Ninjas and Upgrade Wars too!

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