The Flexicat: A card game system for new games, or to emulate way too many existing ones

Edit: This system is a proof of concept  heavily under development.  Many of its core systems have been been improved, simplified, and updated, and now under development as The Everdeck. Please follow or subscribe to the boardgamegeek thread, starting from here.

everdeck.png

 


The Flexicat is a versatile card game system that can be used to play many traditional and modern card games. At only 108 cards, it supports a large number of existing game systems, such as:

It also has deep, entirely new card systems built-in, which can be used for building and playtesting new games.  The design is clean, modern, and has pictures of cats doing silly things.

img_samplecards

Flexicat is inspired by many other “extended” decks out there – The Rainbow, The Badger, Glyph, Singularity, Kevan’s deck, K6T, Lecardo, and Green Box to name a few.

This is a long post

This design document shows Flexicat’s features and mapping to existing systems; new game systems and math will be on a separate post (please read that post only after this, if at all). It ends by showing examples of games that combine systems together. Important statements are written in bold blue text. 

  • Parts of a card
  • Ranks and Suits
  • Numeric Systems
    • Basic ranks and suits
    • Getting a 9th and 10th suit
      • 10 suits x 10 ranks (e.g. Arboretum)
      • 100-card sequential deck (e.g The Game)
      • 10-level Pyramidal Deck (e.g. Pairs)
    • Getting multiple copies of small values
      • 6 suits x (3/3/3/3/2 copies of [0..4])
      • 8 suits x (3/3/3/2/1 copies of [1..5]) (e.g. Hanabi)
      • 4 suits x (9/8/2/2/2 copies of [0..4])
    • Flexicat’s multiple-suit system
    • Three-dimensional card decks
      • 72-card Three-dimensional Deck (4 x 3 x 6)
  • Non-numeric Systems
    • Using The Flexicat’s card names
    • Card names and role icons (e.g. Werewolf)
    • Action icons (e.g. Battle Line)
    • Word and letter games (e.g. Letter Head)
    • Using the back of the card
      • Board game grid (e.g. En Garde)
      • Tracking points or resources
  • Putting it all together: Mixed-system games

Parts of a card

Flexicat’s cards have an “upright” position and a “reversed” position.  Cards are easily sorted upright by rotating them so its rank and suit is in a colored box on the upper-left.  Fanned in hand, the cards feel familiar enough to play standard card games.

img_fanned.png

Rank and Suits

Flexicat has 108 cards in eight suits. 1-6 are long suits ranked from 0-10, and have royals (Jack, Queen, and King). Suits 0 and 7 are short suits, with a suited “wild” rank but no royals.

ranks_suits

Ten can be represented by either “0” or the roman numeral “X”, depending on need. “X” also sounds like an unknown variable, which the game can use if it needs an extra rank or wild card.

Suit Themes

Suits are paired by their theme, color, and suit number.  The eight suits symbolize abstract elements, with the colors green, blue, red and yellow. Each color has a dark-colored suit and light-colored suit.  

suits

Suits as Numbers

Suits are numbered 0 to 7.  The dark suits are numbered from 0-3, and the light suits from 4-7.  Paired suits sum to 7 (e.g. HEARTS(2) + FLOWERS(5) = 7).

suit_as_number

Suit icons have been designed to make the suit-number pairing easy to remember.

  • 0 – EARTH is a circle, a zero.
  • 1 – WATER has one point on top and is drawn with one line.
  • 2 – HEARTS have two halves/top points and are drawn with two lines.
  • 3 – FIRE has three points on top.
  • 4 – LIGHTING has four points and four edges.
  • 5 – FLOWERS have five petals.
  • 6 – ICE is a six-pointed snowflake.
  • 7 – AIR is a tornado that looks like a seven.

The two wild cards have a suit guide if needed, but it should only take a short amount of time to be learned.

img_wilds.png

Numeric Systems

The cards in Flexicat aren’t all meant to be played at once (unless you want to), but rather reduced and grouped get the system you want.

Standard deck of cards

Choose any four long suits (Suits 1/2/5/6 looks best to get “reds” and “blacks”). 10=X or 0, A=1. Use the two wilds as Jokers.

standard_deck

6 Suits x 14 Ranks

Use suits#1-6. If higher ranks are needed, use the royals with Jack=11, Queen=12, and King=13.

6_suitss

8 suits x 12 ranks

Use all eight suits without royals. If you need an additional rank, get a King from each long suit and the two wilds, and make this the highest rank.

8_suits

4 suits x 21 ranks

  • [0..19, X] x (supersuits 0-3)
  • Recommended games: Diamonds

Use all eight suits, pairing them by color as super-suits.  Treat all light suits as having +10 value.

4_suits

It’s intuitive to play this way:

  • The upper-left colored box is the average color between the paired suits, so cards in the same super-suit have the same color (but different icons).
  • [It is currently hard to remember that higher-suited cards have +10 value, and current design solutions distract too much for when you DON’T need the +10 reminder.  Still finding a solution for this. -efofecks]

img_supersuits.png


Extended Suits (suits 8 and 9)

When rotated, the 18 royal (Jack, Queen, King) and two Wild cards can complete two additional suits – TIME (8) and SPACE (9), both ranking from 0 to 9. These two additional suits are colored black and are also drawn to be easy to remember:

suits_89.png

  • 8 – TIME is an hourglass, drawn like an eight.
  • 9 – SPACE has a number nine drawn in the white middle space.

img_royals.png

If you play a game that needs these two extra suits, the “correct” position to hold cards is to rotate them so that the upper left side shows a number.

10 suits x 10 ranks [0…9]

  • [0..9] x (Suits 0-9)
  • Recommended games: 4-player Arboretum

10_suits

These two new suits are distinct from each other and from their original colors, even on the table:

  • Royals/Wilds have a thick dark border.
  • Suit#8 uses royals suits 0-3, and have a light colored border and ribbon; Suit#9 uses royals from suits 4-7 and have a dark border and ribbon.

image_royalsvsnormal.png

100-card sequential deck

Use the same setup as 10 suits x 10 ranks. Read the suit icon as the tens digit (icons are numbers!) and the rank as the ones digit, to form a two-digit number. Use “00” as 100 if needed.

img_suit_as_number.png

10-level Pyramidal Deck

  • [1] x 1, [2] x 2, [3] x 3… [10] x 10
  • A pyramidal deck has unsuited values – one “1”, two “2”s, and so on, until ten “10”s. Rotate three cards – the two wilds and one Queen, and combine it with the correct number of cards from the other suits.
  • Recommended games: Pairs

pyramidal


Multiple copies of specific ranks

Some games need multiple copies of fewer values rather than a large set of unique cards.  Flexicat provides two such systems:

Mechanic 1: All non-royal cards have a roman numeral on the lower-right side. Playing cards reversed gives a “small value” from I to IV on the upper-left.  Distributions of these small values are balanced across suits.

img_smallvalue.png

6 suits x (3/3/3/3/2 copies of [0..4])

  • ([0..3] x 3 copies + [4] x 2 copies) x 6 suits
  • ([0..3] x 6 copies + [4] x 4 copies) x 3 super-suits
  • Treat royals as having zero value.  Combine into super-suits if you need less suits and more copies of each card.

small_value_2.png

8 suits x (3/3/3/2/1 copies of [1..5])

  • ([1..3] x 3 copies + [4] x 2 copies + [‘royal’/wild] x 1 copy) x 8 suits
  • ([1..3] x 6 copies + [4] x 4 copies + [‘royal’/wild] x 2 copies) x 4 super-suits
  • Recommended games: Hanabi / Ikebana

small_value_1.png

Add a royal or wild card to each suit to serve as a “5” or “0” if the game needs it.  Combine into super-suits if you need less suits and more copies of each card.

Mechanic 2: All non-royal cards have anywhere from 0 to 3 dots on the upper right side, below the name. Distributions are balanced across super-suits. 

img_small_dots_2.png

4 suits x (9/8/2/2/2 copies of [0..4])

  • ([0] x 9 copies + [1] x 8 copies + [2..3] x 2 copies + [royal/wild] x 2 copies) x 4 super-suits (Use the kings and wilds to add two copies of an additional rank)

small_dots.png

Flexicat’s multi-suit system

All non-royals except rank zero have two suits. Royals and wilds have three suits. (The suits are called main suit, the secondary-suit, and tertiary-suit respectively).  Suits appear both on the upper-left and bottom-right of the card. The second and third suit can be ignored for games that don’t need them.  The math of Flexicat’s multi-suit system will be covered in a separate post.

img_suitcount.png

The Decktet

  • Basic decktet: (6 single-suited “aces” + 6 single-suited “crowns”) x 6 suits + [24 double-suited cards]; Extended decktet: [triple-suited “pawns”] x 8 + [triple-suited “courts”] x 8 + [“the excuse”]
  • Cool games: Magnate, Emu Ranchers, Jacynth
  • Flexicat can be reduced down to the Decktet, preserving its exact properties.  The suits are mapped in the same numeric order (i.e., Flexicat’s 1-Water is mapped to MOON, 2 to SUN, 3 to WAVE, 4 to LEAF, 5 to WYRM, 6 to KNOT)

decktet.png

How to identify Decktet cards:

  • For the Basic Decktet, choose the 36 non-royal cards with the diamond backgrounds behind the cat pictures.
  • for the extended Decktet, [some identifier will be added, such as a small diamond design on the royal’s ribbon.]
  • Jacks and Queens are pawns, Kings are courts. Use a wild as an Excuse.

img_decktetmatch

Note some quirks:

  • For each card, Flexicat’s suits match Decktet suits, but are not always drawn in the same order. (e.g. in Decktet, a Moon is always drawn above the Sun).   It’s easy to remember which is drawn first though – choose the Flexicat lower-numbered suit.
  • Flexicat ignores person/event/location, as these don’t have any pattern to them.
  • Decktet’s Aces and Crowns are single-suited; in Flexicat, they’re still double-suited, but the main suit and secondary-suit are equal 🙂
  • The Flexicat-Decktet actually has more interesting mathematical properties than the original Decktet, which will be covered in a separate post.

Three-Dimensional Slicing

A standard deck of cards is a “two-dimensional” system – it has a card for every possible combination of ranks (dimension#1) and suits (dimension#2). Some systems have more dimensions; For instance, Set has four (3 [number] x 3 [color] x 3 [shape] x 3 [shading] = 81 cards.)

When played reversed, Flexicat’s color (super-suit), small value, and secondary-suit can be combined into a 3x4x6 three-dimensional card system.  

img_3d_system.png

72-card Three-dimensional Deck (4 x 3 x 6)

  • [0…3] super-suits/colors x [1…3] small-values x [1…6] secondary-suit
  • Use ranks 1-9 and play all cards reversed:

3d_slice_1

Flexicat’s Systems Part 2: Names

Flexicat’s card names and pictures do more than just provide character to the deck, but are fully integrated into game systems as well. To start, the 22 cards of the short suits (#0 & #7) are named after the Tarot Major Arcana.  

img_majorarcana.png

Rider-Waite Tarot Deck 

  • [Ace, 2..10, Page, Knight, Queen, King] x (4 suits) + [0…22] “Major Arcana”
  • Recommended games: Predicting your fortune this year

tarot

Card Names

Card names add flavor to the cards and are thematically grouped both by rank and super-suit. Names are generic medieval archetypes, which can be mapped to social games that require role cards.

names

  • The theme per rank is based on symbolic meanings the tarot major arcana.  While those more knowledgeable will scoff at Flexicat’s interpretations (and I apologize), it’s good enough for game purposes.
  • The themes per super-suit are more abstract, but are inspired by the connotations of the icons and the color pie of Magic the gathering (MTG):
    • Fire/Lighting:  Your typical progressive medieval town, MTG’s {W} archetype. Civilization, colonialism, military, aggression.
    • Hearts/Flowers: Tribes, communes, and roles in touch with emotions or spirits.  MTG’s {G}{R} archetype.
    • Water/Ice: MTG’s {U}{B} archetype, relating to intellect, precision, and tactics. True neutrals who are concerned more about making money rather than loyalty or emotion.
  • All four cards within the same super-rank use the same cat picture, slightly edited to fit the theme.

img_catpictures.png

Game Icons

All four cards within the same super-rank have the same game icon at the lower-left.   These icons can be interpreted as different card game actions.  Icons are thematically linked to the tarot keywords of that rank.

A good mapping of names/icons minimizes the need for reference sheets; please see the Battle Line example at the end of this post.

action_icons

Letters

Each of the 88 card names has one letter emphasized in bold.  Below the name, each card has 0-3 dots to suggest a point value, with rarer letters having more points. 

img_card_names.png

The distribution of these letters approximates correct English frequency and can be used for word games. All letters per tier are spread exactly across the four super-suits.

letter_distributions

  • Vowels don’t have any dots; just assign them a point value of 1 if needed.
  • J, Q, X and Z have three dots but are drawn as stars in case you want to give them more points.
  • The highlighted letter is as close to the right side of the card as possible to be visible while fanning, and aligned when stacked.
  • Adding two wilds makes it a 90-card deck.
  • The intent isn’t to map to word games letter for letter, but plays using their rules using a deck with a similar distribution.

Flexicat’s Systems Part 3: Back of the Card

Board game grid

Flexicat’s card back can be tiled to serve as a board game grid.  They’re not exactly square though, so orient them all in one direction, and overlap cards to tuck in extra squares.

img_tiled.png

Tracking points or resources

Each suit appears twice at the back of a Flexicat card.  Since suits can be read as numbers, plastic clips can be clipped on the back of the card to track points or resources.  It’s a bit crude and prone to bumps, but three cards can also be used to track any value from 0 – 99.

img_back_scoring.png

Putting Everything Together: Mapping Games

These mapped games that showcase the deck’s flexibility.  Rules for the game are linked when possible.

  1. Tichu
  2. Incan Gold / Diamant
  3. Battle Line
  4. Hanamikoji

Tichu (4 players, climbing, rules here)

Tichu is one of the games that Flexicat sorta cheats on because it specifically tweaked its drawings to match the needs of the game.

  • Standard 52-card deck + “Phoenix”, “Dog”, “Dragon”, “Mah Jong”
  • Use the angel and demon wild for the phoenix and dragon respectively.
  • Use Earth-1 for the mah jong (the card is usually drawn with either a “1” or a picture of a small bird)
  • Since this is a cat deck, the devil (Air-5) is a literal dog.

img_tichu

game_tichu

Incan Gold / Diamant (4-8 players, push your luck, rules here)

This example demonstrates separating cards into nonstandard breakdowns.

  • 8 “torch” + 8 “camp” + 15 “treasure” + 5 “artifact” + [3 “hazards”] x 5
  • Treasure distribution is 1, 2, 3 ,4, 5, 5, 7, 7, 9, 11, 11, 13, 14, 15, 17

game_diamant.png

  • Choose the appropriate cards for treasures, treating light-colored suits as having +10 values.
  • Red and Green suits can be used for “stop” and “go” respectively.

Battle Line (2 players, set collection, rules here)

This example demonstrates a thematic mapping of tarot card names.

  • [1..10] x 6 suits + 10 “tactics cards” + 9 “stones”

game_battleline.png

  • Use ranks 1-X from suits#1-6 for troop cards.
  • Use 9 face down royals for stones. Turn royals face up and point them toward the winner when claimed.

Hanamijoki (2 players, Card Drafting/Hand Management, rules here)

This example demonstrates using appropriate action icons for cards.

  • 7 ‘geisha’ cards + 21 item cards + 8 action markers + 7 victory markers
  • The key insight to the mapping here is that the item cards don’t actually need matching numeric values, but only that they match the center geisha’s color!

game_hanamikoji.png

  • The 7 geisha have correct number values from 2..5.  Arrange these at the center, in relative rainbow color order (blue..red).  Place them horizontally first, then turn them upright toward the favored player during the game.
  • Use the 6’s and 8’s of suits#0,1,7 and 6 as action cards, with the nice bonus that one person gets green cards and the other gets blue.

Contact: reddit.com/user/efofecks, inaytaobako@boardgamegeek. Cat icons edited from Denis Sazhin

 

Advertisements

20 thoughts on “The Flexicat: A card game system for new games, or to emulate way too many existing ones”

  1. So….. i need to know the moment this comes out. Such an awesome idea, ive always wanted to bring a single deck with me that can play lots of different games!!

    Im sorry if ive missed somewhere where im supposed to click to receive updates, but can you let me know when this gets further along into production?? I would GLADLY Kickstarter this idea and pitch it to as many people that would listen to me!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’d say you’re onto something, I’m not totally sold on the cat aesthetic but the system itself is very intriguing! Looking forward to seeing how this continues to develop. Once you polish off your final designs I bet this could turn into a marketable project. Nice work!

    Like

    1. Thanks. The funny thing is, the cats are the least important part of the whole thing. 🙂 it’s mostly math, I spent 90% of the design staring at excel spreadsheet numbers. If I was a better illustrator I would have definitely wanted to make something else. Thanks for the comment!

      Like

  3. I would love to see this on kickstarter, I know I will be sharing this with everyone I know.

    Love the concept, love the cat asthetic. Can’t wait to carry this deck around instead of my bag of card games.

    Like

    1. Hi Sam, I’ve received so much good feedback, and there huge changes coming to the deck, most of which are aimed to make it much more intuitive and playable. 🙂 Feel free to follow or subscribe the design thread here, starting at this post: https://boardgamegeek.com/article/30978646#30978646

      I use CC4.0BY art, so art isn’t an issue. I can easily throw this on Drivethrucards or something, but I hope to get enough momentum eventually (e.g. kickstarter) to make a single print run and reduce costs.

      Thanks for the support!

      Like

Leave a Reply to Sam Schick Cancel reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

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

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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 )

Connecting to %s