time to go back to school.

At some point in all our lives, we sit back and wish we had a chance to do it over – retry that date, win that argument, even re-do our time at uni.  Would we study a little harder, socialise more, or drop out entirely?  What better way to do it again than through a little tabletop card game?  Welcome to Game of University.

Assuming the role of a student trying to graduate university at any cost, Game of University is a turn-based card game created by Tate, Robert, Ijumaa and myself.  The game’s theme was born naturally through our own struggles to pass out subjects, and many elements of gameplay were influenced by our experiences in an attempt to capture the essence of student life.

The game relies on two key mechanics – statistics and cards.

  • Statistics:  Every player has a set of statistics, each on a scale of 0-10, that affect individual gameplay.  Energy is collected at the start of each turn; players can spend their Energy to play cards and make actions.  Stress affects the amount of Energy players receive in a turn; the higher the Stress level, the less Energy received.  Knowledge affects a player’s ability to ‘pass’ exams.
  • Cards:  At its most base level, this game is a card game.  Players draw cards on their turn and play them in order to progress in the game.  Cards are used to influence a player’s statistics and provide bonuses and benefits, although some cards also have negative effects.  Active cards provide short-term bonuses for one round (e.g. a Coffee card with +4 Energy) and Passive cards provide long-term bonuses until they are replaced (e.g. a Gym Membership card with +1 Energy every turn).
    • Exam cards are a type of Active card that indicates the beginning of an exam, and require a certain Knowledge level to pass.  When an Exam card is played,  every player has one more turn to try and reach the required Knowledge level in order to ‘pass’.  ‘Passing’ an exam drops a player’s stress to 0.

Other mechanics included the use of individual player boards, which are used to keep track of a player’s active card abilities and statistics.  The boards were a concept borrowed from Photosynthesisas was the Energy concept.

Screen Shot 2019-05-15 at 9.35.10 pm
Our player board draft.
Screen Shot 2019-05-15 at 9.48.34 pm
A sample of our draft cards – Active, Passive and Exam

Gameplay was highly debated in the group, as we attempted to keep our rules as simple as possible whilst still being true to the complexities of university:

  1. Players are dealt three cards into their hand to start.
  2. Turns are made up of three stages:
    • Receiving Energy:  A turn begins with the player receiving Energy points (the amount is dependant on a player’s stress level).
    • Draw a card:  The player then draws a card from the draw pile and adds this card to their hand.
    • Play card/s:  The player can then choose to play cards.  Each time a card is played, it costs Energy points.  The player will place the card in either the Active or Passive slot on their character board.  Cards’ abilities will come into effect on the turn after they are played (unless otherwise stated).

To win, a player must ‘pass’ three exams, allowing them to ‘graduate’.

My key role in Game of University‘s development was outlining the mechanics and rules, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  Working in collaboration with the rest of the group allowed me to pitch ideas and simplify them to create a workable rule book.  This resulted in a few mechanics being shelved in the name of simplicity, such as unique character cards and different degrees types.  These are elements that could be introduced at a later stage in order to increase the game’s difficulty, although it is my belief that it is already a relatively complex game.  Then again, university was never intended to be easy!

One thought on “time to go back to school.

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