Game Design Contest: Spirit Quarry

Fingers crossed that Holy Press does well for the Cardboard Edison Award contest! Please feel free to stop by and enjoy the pitch video if you haven’t seen it already. This week, I wanted to crank out the initial outline of ideas for the third of the three game design contests: The Thunderglyph Survival game.


That is some cool damn art. I’ll be using Sean’s stuff as filler pieces and inspiration in the rest of this post too!

Two sections from their contest that bear some mention and highlighting:

1. Theme

This first year is dedicated to the “Survival” theme. It could be on a stranded desert, post-apocalyptic or any theme that fits in the Survival thematic. For reference, we are using the Secret Island designed by Sean Thurlow which will be our official illustrator for the winning game. You can get inspiration by his original design or create a world by yourself.

2. Design Criteria

  • Streamlined (A game that is divided in fast turns but with interesting and engaging gameplay)
  • Well-tested (Good built rules without loopholes or mechanics exploits)
  • High Replay Value
  • Originality

For this contest, we got two different design categories:
A) Main category: Euro Game
B) Filler category: Any game type is allowed

The difference between the Main and Filler categories are the prizes:

Main category first prize of 500$ USD + the possibility to publish the game with ThunderGryph Games with a 1000$ USD royalty down payment.

Filler category first prize of 250$ USD + the possibility to publish the game with ThunderGryph Games with a 500$ USD royalty down payment.

Second and third spots for each category will receive every game ThunderGryph Games publishes during 2017.

Might as well shoot for a Eurogame in that case! Quick recap on the definition of a Eurogame, courtesy of BoardGameGeek:

Most Eurogames share the following elements:

  • Player conflict is indirect and usually involves competition over resources or points. Combat is extremely rare.
  • Players are never eliminated from the game (All players are still playing when the game ends.)
  • There is very little randomness or luck. Randomness that is there is mitigated by having the player decide what to do after a random event happens rather than before. Dice are rare, but not unheard of, in a Euro.
  • The Designer of the game is listed on the game’s box cover. Though this is not particular to Euros, the Eurogame movement seems to have started this trend. This is why some gamers and designers call this genre of games Designer Games.
  • Much attention is paid to the artwork and components. Plastic and metal are rare, more often pieces are made of wood.
  • Eurogames have a definite theme, however, the theme most often has very little to do with the gameplay. The focus instead is on the mechanics; for example, a game about space may play the same as a game about ancient Rome.

As before, I’ll be picking the general idea from a Boardgamizer set of generated ideas and continue the primary design under the break!


Definitely loving the almost Venus Fly Trap appearance of this weird thing.

Unused Parameters


So, firstoff I think I actually love this prompt the most out of all of the prompts, because the theme and the constraint seem to be perfect for some sort of steampunk/Iron Sky type of nihilistic story. Unfortunately, the Theme also seems to run against the Forbidden Island art, and so I’m going to stick a pin in this one to take another look at for a later non-design-contest game design.


What is with Boardgamizer and ballerinas? In any case, I refer again to my lack of familiarity with ballet as a pass on this one, although the juxtaposition of the Monument theme means it might make for an interesting arthouse/indie sort of “collect the world wonders” thing, like Sushi Go but with pyramids and statues.


This is an amazing theme set, but the mechanics and theme set it against both the art, the Survival theme, and the eurogame styling. Again, going to stick a pin in this one, and bemoan how all the cool prompts always seem to crop up when I’m working within yet more restrictions for designing.


This one is interesting, but the player elimination immediately sets it against Eurogame stylings. Again, for the third time this contest, I want to revisit this game design but will have to pass over it for the purpose of picking a winning parameter set.

Winning Parameters


Given the art and the theme, I’m thinking that this could be maybe a single character for each player, and a single monster that they stalk or that stalks them. Players can negotiate for resources to improve their characters as well as strengthen other players’ monsters. They’re also working to try and uncover the weakness of their monster so they can defeat it once and for all, winning the game in that case.


Will you set a trap for the monster, or will the monster set a trap for you?

Brainstorm: The Mechanics

So, I think there’s going to be a few distinct systems in this game: the Weaknesses and discovering them (Clue/Mysterium-inspired), combat by a Hunter and their Quarry (Prisoner’s Dilemma-inspired), Upgrades (Scars, Spirits, and Memories), and Gathering (resource acquisition).

Firstoff, this is going to be a 2-4-player game. That’s not ideal for larger playergroup sizes and such, but it allows for locking down the # of cards and components needed for what could otherwise be a very expensive gamebox (see: most eurogames that support 6+ players). Each player gets a Weakness deck, with each of the, say, 3 Weaknesses listed twice with the backs in that player’s color (so 6 cards per player, 24/53 used), and each player places a Weakness face-down on each enemy Nemesis to their left and right (so each Nemesis has 2 cards). Players need to uncover both Weaknesses in order to win the game.

Uncovering Weaknesses is done through combat; the Hunter player selects a Strength card  (each player has a hand of Strength cards valued 1-5 in their colors, so that’s another 20 cards and we’re now at 44/53 cards) and each enemy player picks a Strength card as well. If the Hunter Strength plus any bonuses/penalties from their Scars and Memories is greater than the highest of the two other Strength cards plus the Nemesis’ Scars/Memories, then they may reveal one of the Weaknesses. If they tie, the nemesis and the Hunter both get a Scar, and if the Hunter is less than then only they get a Scar. Once a player is down to one Strength card, they must lock out the card, placing it under any Nemesis card as a bonus to their Strength, and draw back all other Strength cards (including previously-locked-out cards).


Maybe this Nemesis type is a “Tower,” with lots of Scars and Spirits that make it tough and able to mess with its Hunter from a distance

Scars are a bonus, penalty, or other game effect, typically more bad than good. Players mark with a token which they choose from for their own Hunter, while the enemy player who played the highest Strength card picks for a Scar on a Nemesis.

Nemesis can be upgraded with Spirits, and Hunters can be upgraded with Memories, and they’re both sort of the reverse of Scars (bonus or penalty or other game effect, typically more good than bad). Both require some amount of resources from the resource pools: Energy, Shards, and Souls. Shards are needed to upgrade your own Hunter, Souls are needed to upgrade the Spirits on any enemy Nemesis, and Energy is a combination of hp and stamina; some Scars can cause Energy loss, and you need to be at a certain threshold of it to initiate Combat. You also use it for additional resource collection or Memory/Spirit upgrades in a single turn, at the cost of then reducing your Energy by some amount, and if at 0 energy you’re forced to Gather for your next action.

Lastly, Gathering mechanics for the resource collection. Let’s have the remaining 9 cards be for the resources deck: +1, +3, and +5 for each resource type, or players can elect to draw a card, keeping it face-down, and just draw 2 of a given resource instead. After getting resources, players keep the last resource card they draw locked-out, and return it to the resource deck after they draw from it again.

Finally, the Hunters and Nemesis boards; these could be unique and personalized, but that adds a lot of playbalancing that would be needed, so for now let’s just have 3 each of 3 variants of each


Hunter’s Hut? maybe there are some neutral Locations where players can spend resources for special effects or to cycle/trade resources

Brainstorm: The Story

Firstoff, let’s set the name in stone: Spirit Quarry. It ties both into the resource-gathering bit, but also the whole hunter/prey aspect as well.

I’m thinking that players are the spirits of the dead, each haunted by a Nemesis: a combination punishment and conscience for something weighing on the spirit that they need to face and overcome. The Hunter can overcome it gradually, wearing away at it until they triumph, but it is a slow process, hampered by the disruptive efforts of other untouchable shades attempting to do the same. They draw energy and concentration from the shadowscape they find themselves in, in an effort to overcome and escape this purgatory.


Side note: is there a name for genres that are at the telegraph-wire-stage of tech? Like, midway between Victorian steampunk and WWI dieselpunk?

Brainstorm: The Elevator Pitch

Caught in the land after death, unable to move on, you take the role of a Hunter attempting to overcome the physical manifestation of their guilt, consequences, and violence of their acts while alive: a Nemesis. With concentration and careful skill, a Hunter can see their memories reform, their skills renewed, and overcome the Nemesis before it grow too powerful from gorging itself on the energy of the souls surrounding you.

Can you redeem yourself from this curse?

Closing Thoughts

I’m excited by the flavor of this one; the resource/scar/memories/spirits part might need some tweaks to make sure it’s very euro-gamey, but I think by making it more of a Munchkin-sans-helping interaction between players, the level of engagement between players is almost passive-aggressive more than anything else, like blocking roads or refusing to trade in Settlers of Catan. Either way, I have high hopes that this one will be a great game.

So, what did you think of the prompts, and what would you have done differently? Let me know in the comments and reblogs below!

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