Tuesday, December 23, 2014


Sometimes I really get ahead of myself.  I have not yet taken any particular steps to publish Camp Nightmare and yet I find myself extremely involved in planning new expansions for it.  I feel like I have to pour out my ideas somehow, to turn them from buzzing noises in my head into cards and tokens and real things I can touch.  I know that one of the things bad game designers are most guilty of is sticking absolutely everything into their games so I must hold myself back and leave the base game alone but the ideas must go somewhere so expansions it is.

There are some real tricks to expansion design though.  In Camp Nightmare there are plenty of different Disasters and they vary widely in how terrible they are.  Crunch Oops for example is usually pretty innocuous while Poor Planning is really nasty.  Also Disasters determine the length of the game since you have to use all of them.  Given that I can't just print more Disasters and add them in because it would throw everything completely off.

New and more interesting Gear cards is another possibility and it is easier because the size of the Gear deck is not so important and Gear cards are all balanced.  Unfortunately this still constrains my design pretty seriously because the game is based around certain effects being available.  I kind of expect people to get a card that increases their Wood production, have access to a lot of Food cards, and have ways to boost Energy.  Unfortunately if I just create a bunch of new random cards to add to the deck people are often going to lack some of the standard effects and that will throw the game off.

Sleeping Bag
When any player Naps they gain +3 Energy.

For example, I have the card Sleeping Bag which lets the players regain Energy from Naps very efficiently.  I need cards that increase Energy production so I don't want to remove it entirely.  I also don't want to just replace it with an identical card from an expansion called Blankets or something like that - Sleeping Bags are iconic!  I could just make a list of cards that always stay in and put Sleeping Bag on that list but it is a giant pain in the ass to sort through all the cards before each game.

The other difficulty is that some Gear cards interact directly with specific Disaster cards and if I change either deck both of them cease to work as well as a unit.  Dull Blades causes the players to lose 1 Fun for each Axe, Saw, Knife, or Kukri in play and that doesn't work if those cards don't exist!  Unfortunately the only way out of this dilemma seems to be to rebuild both decks completely and in tandem with one another.  Essentially this would mean replacing all of the cards in the game with new ones which unfortunately requires either abandoning a lot of the flavour of the original game, having a big list of cards to take out and put in, or having many of the expansion cards be the same as the original.

The best way around it as far as I can see is to make expansions that include standard cards like Sleeping Bag but which are completely self contained.  The idea would be that you simply choose an entire set of decks before play, either the standard game or one of the expansions.  In theory they are balanced the same as the normal deck but in practice that would be very difficult to achieve precisely.  Not that perfect balance is necessary in a cooperative game mind you but it is definitely something I would like.

My current plan is to make a horror expansion where the players are not only trying to survive mosquitoes and food shortages but also a maniac in the woods who wants to kill them all.  After that it is time for alien invasion and a new mechanic where the players have to keep the aliens from getting a fix on them or they risk being pulled up into a UFO for some bad times.  I can't imagine anyone else playing a camping game with aliens tacked on top of it is going to take the balance as seriously as I will but that has never stopped my obsessions before so I can't see why it would now.


  1. I realize I'm late to the party here, but at least the problem you discuss with "Dull Blades" can be easily solved by just giving cards labels with no game meaning. Put a box on Axe, Saw, Knife and Kukri that says, "Blade" in it and then make Dull Blades cost 1 fun per blade.

    I mean, clearly if you shuffle three expansions together then it's going to have a very different effect depending on what cards you draw, but at least it offers some compatibility.

  2. Yeah, I actually did exactly that in some cases - like I labelled all the critters as such for the purposes of taking pictures with cameras. I didn't with blades though, and could have.