Seize Everything
Seize Everything

Card Design: No Honor Among Thieves

I’ve been doing a bit of graphic design for cards lately, because I think I’m at the point where I want to get nice looking decks printed for the game I’ve been working on, No Honor Among Thieves.

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(Images of recent playtest–with thanks to VGC Game Design and especially NJ, Tim, Orson and Adam Who Is Not Me)

With that in mind, I’ve been looking into places to get cards printed, and doing a little graphic design. For the printing, other members of the Vermont Gaming Community have recommended Gamecrafter, and from the stuff that I’ve seen printed from them that seems to be a reasonable recommendation. I checked out a few other printers on the way, but that seems to be the easiest place to get all the prototype stuff I want done.

Card design is the trickier part of this. It’s been a while since I’ve had to do interface design work for a project, and I’ve never made a design specifically for cards before this (or at least not one any more complicated than pen on slips of paper), so the process has been interesting. I’ve done a lot of research along the way.

In No Honor Among Thieves, you’re pitting your crew of thief characters against the defense cards that have been dealt in front of a heist objective. The characters have stats that I’ve been calling “skills,” and the defenses have stats that I’ve been calling “skill challenges,” and if your thieves can defeat any of the challenges on a defense they can get past it (not all, just any one of them). These skills come up a lot in the game, so obviously they were a prime choice for being turned into icons, to help minimize the amount of text on the cards.

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From left to right: Lies, Muscle, Stealth, Tinker, No Honor, and Wound icons. The first four are the skills that characters and defense challenges can have, while the last two are other commonly-used icons. Of the collection, I think the Wound icon still needs work, and maybe a name change, since in addition to actual “wounds” it’s also used to trigger effects on characters. Maybe call it “exhausting” instead of “wounding?” I’ll need to think on this.

Anyway. Those are the icons. Looking at them now, I’m not sure how well they actually fit with the rest of the card designs I’ve been doing. The colors are a little too bright, too clean. I may need to throw some grunge and maybe light shading on there. Nothing too heavy, nothing that would distract from the clarity of the icon and the color, but…

Well, here’s the cards that they’ll be going on.

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This is the character card design I have. Name at the top (though “name” may be something of a misnomer, since at the moment I’m calling them all by profession), blank white space for artwork to eventually be in, lots of room for ability text, a giant coin for the hiring cost. And that blank skill icon, set above the artwork, which I am thinking now might not be the best place to put it.

Hm. Glad I started writing this post before I started laying cards out in these.

The other card types are similar.

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Hidden Agenda and Treasure cards are the easiest, since they don’t have any other keywords that need to be included or special icon associated with them. They just have the name and the ability that they grant, clean and simple. Defenses and Action cards are a little more complicated, as they should be. In all of them I kept the scrollwork along the side of the artwork and the parchment theme behind the names and the text (though I just noticed that the Defense Card text box is different than all the others, and I don’t remember why I made it like that. Maybe because defense cards have less information they need to convey?).

Anyway. That’s the state of the game at the moment. My hope is to have a nice-looking prototype in time for Vermont Comic Con, where I the plan is for VGC Game Design (the local game design group that I’m a part of) to have a table to show off what we’re all working on. Any feedback on these card designs would be appreciated, as well as advice on getting them printed or thoughts on how to get artwork. I could potentially draw all the art for them myself, but I have a very specific vision for the art style I want, and it’s not one that I’m used to doing myself, so unless I can teach myself how to do impressionistic speed-painting in between working on this game, running two roleplaying games and working, I will likely have to turn to a freelancer or two.

  • reply cognimancer ,

    Feedback, having never playtested the game:

    “No honor” doesn’t really roll off the tongue, especially if it comes up with any amount of frequency. Any way to make it one word, or at least ditch the “No”? Backstab, or something?

    I remember you mentioning sometime that characters can get caught and thrown in jail – is that what happens when you max out their Wounds? Maybe it could be Heat or Trail or something?

    I really, really like the coin design for character cost. Only remark is that the black number doesn’t stand out, yet it’s the most important part of that design. Could it be reworked to be a similar golden sheen, but bright enough to stand out? That, or make the coin brighter and drop some of the detail and shading so the numbers are easier to see.

    Any reason why the header of cards doesn’t stretch all the way to the right side?

    I don’t know what the “Moment of Truth” section on the Action example should be called, but it looks niiice.

    • reply Adam ,

      I kind of want to keep the “No Honor” terminology because that’s where the name of the game came from. Having a more convenient name for those abilities might not be a bad idea, though. I’ll consider it.

      When a character is wounded, you just can’t use it for anything until you take a rest action. It’s not a track or anything, and characters who get wounded twice get killed.

      I think part of the problem with the coin is that the number isn’t actually black–it’s a dark grey. I made websites for a living these days, and one of the standard design principles for that is to never use true white or true black. I sort of carried that over to this. I’ll experiment with the color a bit more.

      The header doesn’t go over all the way to the right because originally the coin was on the right side there. After some feedback from another source I’ve decided to move the coin back to that spot, so on the character cards at least the header size won’t change, but I do think I should probably expand it on the others.

      The Moment of Truth thing is the card type. I was checking to make sure it would fit and forgot to replace it with generic text.

    • reply rainawareness ,

      Those icons… just no

      • reply Adam ,

        What’s bad about them? The colors, the designs, the JPEG artifacts? They’re one of the elements I was already planning on reworking before I started laying out cards onto these templates, so any advice for making them better will be of immediate assistance.

        • reply rainawareness ,

          The red one: it’s not fully centered. It looks just like the first image that appears in the Wikipedia page for Raised fist: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raised_fist
          The one on the far left: what’s that?
          Is the purple one a bent wrench?
          All of them look like low resolution images colored black, quite honestly, and you can’t really tell what they mean just by looking at them. You should have a little character “explaining” each one, like have a little character wounded in the wound one, have him walk slowly in the stealth one, have him punch someone in the fist one… because what they try to represent are not really elements of nature or anything that can be fully explained with just one picture

          • reply Adam ,

            The one on the left is supposed to be a mask–it seemed appropriate for the Lies skill. The purple one is indeed a wrench, for the Tinker skill (I also considered a gear, which might read more clearly).

            The resolution issue I have no excuse for: I saved these as a rather poor-quality jpg, at a size larger than they will be on the actual cards, just so I could have an example to post.

            Having figures demonstrating each would be interesting, and I think I will at least try that out to see if I could get it to work, but my concern would be that the icons are so small they can’t have too much detail. I’d have to do busts or something, like the cloaked figure in the Stealth one.

            Thanks for the feedback.

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