Three weeks ago I posted the design for a card system called the Flexicat, a “universal card system” – a thought experiment about how many game systems can be stuffed into a small deck without overloading it.
It trended on both r/tabletopgamedesign and r/boardgames, resulting in feedback both good and bad. I’ve taken this feedback and this post shows how I try to improve on all the issues raised. If you haven’t seen it, please feel free to jump to the original design post.
The deck design is so different now that it’s being developed as a totally new system, called the Everdeck. It maintains the Flexicat math while improving the aesthetics and usability of the whole system. Please follow or subscribe to the BGG dev thread here.
The picture below shows a Flexicat card vs an Everdeck card; this image will be repeated throughout the post to avoid the need to scroll back up.
This post is structured by first a) bringing up an issue, then b) discussing the proposed solution. I’ve also pointed out c) negative effects from implementing these solutions, with the hope that the benefit outweighs the changes.
Flexicat Problem: Flexicat has 108 cards, so two suits are missing royals. This is confusing, and means it can’t be used to build two full standard decks.
Everdeck solution: Remove wilds, and add royals to increase the deck to 112 cards. This allows the Everdeck to map to two standard decks, a “double standard deck” (e.g. Canasta), or even a standard deck with four distinct suit colors. This increases symmetry and intuitiveness.
Sacrifice: 112 cards is an awkward number for printing, since it does not match a multiple for print sheets (9, 18, 54, or 55, depending on who you ask). However, if we need 126 cards for printing purposes, it’s easy to add a generic “clubs” suit of 14 cards as a bonus.
Flexicat Problem: The “0-100 sequential number” mapping is almost impossible to use. To use the sequential numbers in Flexicat, you have to “read the suit as a number”, which is difficult to do in hand, and impossible to do on the table.
Everdeck Solution: Add another element, a big number on the upper-right side. This big number is consistent with the suit-as-number naming convention (e.g. ice = 6th suit; so “62”), but much more practical, both in hand and on the table.
In fact, this number can also be used for a “11 suits x 10 ranks” mapping; for example, above, “62” is the 2nd suit of the 6th rank.
Sacrifice: Will lose the letter at the upper right, which will have to be moved.
Flexicat Problem: The highlighted letter is too small to be of any use for word games. Also, words with random bold letters look ugly. Word games benefit from having bigger text, as they’re usually tiled in some central area to spell words.
Everdeck Solution: Highlight the FIRST letter of each card name, make it bigger, then put it at the bottom left side.
The combination of the number on top and name on bottom calls to mind the design of tarot decks, which also have the number on top and a name at the bottom.
Sacrifice: The letter is moved to the bottom left, which isn’t easy to fan in hand. This is a pretty big sacrifice, but something has to be at that corner, and this is the least damaging among all options. But more importantly, this means that we have to….
Everdeck Solution 2: Change the names so that their first letters are distributed in the correct English Lexicon frequency. Plus, these have to still retain thematic sense within the row and column. This was a challenge!
Sacrifice: Had to use “The Aeon” from the Aleister Crowley deck instead of the Rider-Waite “Judgement” to avoid the double-J with “Justice”. “Death” is also frequently called “the card with no name” so that’s where the letter X was stuffed.
Flexicat Problem: It’s VERY confusing to have to rotate cards to play games. The “small-suit” mapping and “3D card system” mapping require you to play the cards reversed. The worst offender is the “10 suit” mapping, which requires you to rotate ONLY the royals while keeping everything else upright!
Everdeck Solution 1: The rank and suits are now mirrored both on the upper-left and bottom-right (including the royals). This allows games to be played without needing to sort card orientation. The royals lose the ability to be rotated, which is more a good thing than a bad thing.
Sacrifice: We lose the “small value” roman numeral on the lower right side (“III” for the hunter), which can be solved another way by….
Everdeck Solution 2: The “small values” on the bottom-right are now drawn as a set of 0-4 black dots rather than as a roman numeral. (In the example above, the wolf has a small value of “1”.) The card is also more balanced aesthetically – UL and DR corners show an “icon – number – icon”, while UR and DL corners have big black text.
Notice that the dot coloring matches the color of the card borders – this also unlocks a new tile-laying game system.
Sacrifice: The math has changed, which means dropping the “3x4x5 3D system” mapping. No one cares about that anyway.
Flexicat Problem: There is demand to map to a Hanafuda/Hwatu deck (to play Go-Stop/Koi-Koi, etc)
Hanafuda (“Flower cards”) are a set of 48 cards popular in Japan, Korea and Hawaii. It’s a strange deck: At its core, it’s just “12 suits x 4 unranked cards”, which sounds easy… The problem is that the cards are all categorized and named! There are categories like “junk” and “poetry ribbons” , and it has many uniquely named cards like “boar”, “rain man” and “sake cup”.
Everdeck Solution part 1: Transpose the deck by assigning months to ranks instead of suits; special categories are classified per suit. Hanafuda’s 12 “suits” (months) are assigned to the ranks of the Everdeck – so the “January” cards are rank 1, “February” cards rank 2 and so on.
The special categories are assigned to a particular suit. The red ribbons (red, poetry) are on red cards, blue ribbons on blue cards; “Animals” and “Brights” are Gold and Yellow respectively. All “junk” cards are black.
While some Hanafuda games only care whether a card belongs to a particular category (e.g. “ribbon” or “junk”), the “Animal” and “Bright” cards all have special names. What’s worse, we can’t just drop these names, since some games give special bonuses to explicitly named combinations of cards, (e.g. ” boar, deer, and butterfly.”) How can we now match the Everdeck’s cards to Hanafuda without explicitly drawing those pictures?
Everdeck solution Part 2: Change the deck to an animal theme. The Everdeck’s animal theme isn’t just for show, but was made partially to match the Hanafuda distribution. Distributions were pushed slightly to match an appropriate picture to suggest the Hanafuda card name, even if some of them are a bit… weird 🙂
Sacrifice: We lose the cats. It’s fine. 😦
Sacrifice: How do we know which cards to select if we want to build a Hanafuda deck?
Problem: Decktet and Hanafuda have weird distributions. Users will find it hard to remember which cards to comprise which deck without a reference sheet. Flexicat tried to solve this problem before by adding a diagonal background behind the cat to identify Decktet cards, but it’s inelegant and wasn’t really used anywhere else.
Solution: Integrate the Hanafuda/Decktet filter into the border system! By the power of math, we can do the following:
- If you choose all cards in the deck with a black right border, you get a Hanafuda deck (with a few extra 0s as jokers)
- If you choose all colored cards in the deck with a black left border, you get a Decktet!
Sacrifice: People have to remember Right = Hanafuda, Left = Decktet. (“eastern” and “western” card system, maybe?)
The Lunatic is not part of the Decktet nor the Hanafuda. Remove it.
The result is a system which is nicer-looking, cleaner, and SIGNIFICANTLY more practical. Many of the loose systems have been dropped, leaving a deck of cards that punches way above its looks.
The Everdeck is a system under continuous rapid development. Follow its development by subscribing to the BGG design thread!
Contact: reddit.com/user/efofecks, bgg:inaytaobako
Cat icons CCBY3.0 Denis Sazhin; animal icons Saeful Muslim