Card Game Design: How to make a card game?

What are the things behind a card game?
card games
Here are the steps to create your own fun card game.

Among all game genres, card games have a unique place. It’s fun, engaging, and perfect for playing with friends and family. After being a fan of the genre for a while, you may want to make your own card game.

This article will discuss making a card game, step by step.

Setting a strategy

If you want to design a card game, you should set a strategy first. This stage consists of three parts.

The Idea

Before anything, you should decide what you want to tell. What is the story? How is the atmosphere? Is it a thriller or a mystery? Like any other game, card game design is about creating an experience. Be sure about the story you want to tell. It will help you to decide on how the game folds.

The idea makes a game great. It is a subjective and abstract concept that solely depends on your creativity and expression. Still, your game should at least offer something unique. While game mechanics are important, it’s not the only aspect your game part from others. There are games with similar mechanics that feel vastly different.


This step often cooperates with The Idea step. Considering that you decided to make a card game, you should know the genre, but being a designer is different from being a player. Continue enjoying great card games but be more of an observer. Understand why they succeed and how they differ. Be a player before a designer: Making a game that people love is only possible when you understand what you love and why you love it.

While being a player, don’t hesitate to be a student. There are great books about game design, some exclusively about card games. The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses by Jesse Schell is a good book filled with valuable insights. Scott McNeely’s Ultimate Book of Card Games: The Comprehensive Guide to More than 350 Games can be a good handbook for new ideas. 

You can also educate yourself by watching/reading online. Reddit’s Tabletop Game Designers is a niche community for designers like you. Understand what makes a card game great. Do you like Magic The Gathering? Why are they successful?

Interviews of successful card game designers and their journeys can also inspire you. You could backtrack their success to the vision behind.

Finding the right type

IIs your game a trading card game (TGC) —or collectible card game (CCG), but it’s considered outdated—, or is it a strategy card game? Maybe it’s an online version of one. Decide how you distribute your cards.

It will come with random decks if it’s a trading card game. A strategy card game has fixed decks. You may see strategy card games called expandable card games or living card games (LGC). It’s all the same.

For further knowledge, the difference between LGC and TGC is explained in detail by Reddit user ZzyzxExile:

Design is how you communicate your game to the audience.

Game Design

Designing the game is the most time-consuming part. You likely revise it multiple times.


Setting the rules and creating the core game loop are your tasks in this step.

Rules set the boundaries of the game, and the game loop defines the set of actions within. These are very different aspects of the game that enhances each other. The challenge should be identified and balanced: All players should strategize to win.

Your core game loop is the chain of actions covering one round of gameplay. It is how your game flows. Blend your ideas and research into this faze: Decide which types of cards do what, which action counters which, and the right of movement for players. Writing on a spreadsheet is highly recommended. Decide on how many cards for your initial deck.

Try writing down your game loop with if causes. After all, it’s all about logic.

Rules are the restrictions of your game. Try optimizing them to give the players freedom while preventing them from breaking the game. Remember that this freedom goes beyond the feel of individuality. It means there’s a space for different strategies to win it all.

One pit that game designer falls into is creating a rulebook more complex than it needs to be. A solid card game is one with appropriately challenging. All players love a decent challenge if it doesn’t feel like homework. Games with complex mechanics are welcomed, but they shouldn’t deter new players. There is only so much that one can learn and memorize to play a game. Let people get into your game.

Also, know your audience well. Shape the rules of your game concerning your audience.

I find the duration and pace valuable aspects of the game that aren’t discussed often. Those will affect who plays your game where. You are also creating a social environment. Mind the scenery you are after.

Art of Card Game Design

Your cards are the way you communicate with the world. The art of your cards is vital. Alas, I don’t have a universal design template that will make you print beautiful cards. I have, though, a few ideas for approaching the art of your card design.

Open the spreadsheet I highly recommended before. If you didn’t work on a spreadsheet, it’s OK. I’m just joking. Visualizing the data from earlier will help, however. This part is primarily an artistic expression of core game mechanics. You should be able to tell the audience your lore through your cards.

Decide this: Where will the text be on your card? If you plan to design your cards like in Yu-Gi-Oh! or Magic the Gathering, you opt for heavier lore/written skills than the focus on art. The choice is all yours.

Create a framework. The emphasis on your card is your call, but the card should be fragmented into parts. Visually differentiate different classes of cards. Different colors for various card types will work. This article can teach you the essentials of choosing colors. The only thing is that you should be consistent about your choices.

 You may choose big size cards for your card game. There are a few default card sizes with one that fits your design.

You should highlight anything related to actions in your core gameplay —if players attack opponents in your game, cards “attack point” and “defense point,” or “health” written parts shouldn’t be missable—.

Last but not least, be sure that you are content with the artwork. You may outsource the artists, but the game is only finished after having its style.

Going full online with your card game is another option.

Card game design software

You might consider using suitable software for your online trade card game.

Photoshop, CorelDraw, and Gimp are usual candidates to do the job. You can also try Magic Set EditorNan DeckCardMakerCard Creator, or Dulst. Your choice will vary regarding your needs.

Be open to trying other software.


Test your game as soon as possible, as much as possible. After all those steps, your game needs to be tested and eventually changed. Don’t hesitate to try new things and mess with the core gameplay mechanic, as well as your design choices. Giving your game a try with your friends will help you immensely.

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