This is an archive of a past course's class materials from 2011. Present "Games & Society" students should look elsewhere to find their coursework; consult your current syllabus for more information.

The designer and intstructor of this lab course, Jason McIntosh, has written notes and commentary about this course which may be of interest to other teachers. You can contact the author at

GAME1111 week 8: Design exercise (week 1 of 2)

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GAME1111 Week 8: Design exercise (1 of 2)

Your Dominion play group from last week transforms into a design team this week. Together, you will design one or two new, original cards that work with Dominion. Next week, your designs will be put to the test by some of your classmates – and your own team will playtest another team’s card designs, as well.

Design Guidelines

Your team must submit the design of at least one new “Kingdom Card” for Dominion. (Kingdom Cards are the ten purchasable cards you choose before play.) The new card can be an Action, a Treasure, or a Victory card. It must have a name, a cost, and a succinct description of its effect when played. It doesn’t need to have artwork.

New Action cards can be a plain Action, an Action / Attack card (like the “Militia” or “Witch” cards in the base set) or an Action / Reaction card (like the “Moat” card).

Your can also try combining two of the main card types in your design. For example, you could design an Action/Victory point that is playable like an Action, and is also worth some number of Victory Points to the player who owns it.

You have the option of submitting two card designs, if you wish – for example, you might create two cards that interact with one another in some interesting way. Submitting two designs won’t automatically give you a higher assignment grade than one, however: I’ll be more impressed with one solid, thoughtful card design than I will be with two mediocre ones. If your team feels it can submit two great designs, though, feel free to do so.

On originality

Dominion has been around for a few years, and so the web already contains lots of fan-made card ideas for you to find. Feel free to browse other folks’ cards for ideas and inspiration. If your team ends up submitting an idea that builds on another person’s work, I’d be most impressed if you gave that person due credit in your submission.

Alternatively, you might want to specifically avoid browsing the web for custom cards at all, instead seeing what your team can come up with all by itself! The goal of this class is to get some experience thinking like designer, and (next week) a playtester. If your design submission happens to resemble someone else’s web-published idea (without being an obvious copy of it), and it’s clear to me that your team tested and polished your design in-class before submitting it to me, I’ll accept it.

Before class

Ideally, you should communicate with your teammates before class about some card ideas you’d like to try out in this week’s lab meeting. Otherwise, arrive to class with one or two card concepts of your own.

In class

Your team has the whole period (from 3:25 to 5:05) to develop the design of either one or two new Dominion cards. Develop and test your ideas any way you wish, but by the end of the period you must hand in a full description of your new cards to me. (At the start of class I will provide you with a sheet to fill in, for this purpose.)

Yes, this means that if your team sits down at the start of class with five card ideas among yourselves, you’re going to end up throwing away most of them. And you’re going to have to do it quickly, since you only have 100 minutes to submit an internally tested and polished card specification to me.

Welcome to game design!

Testing your designs

Each Dominion box will have two new sets of blank cards in it, each card of which is labeled “Custom 1” and “Custom 2”. Use these cards as placeholders for your one or two design concepts, treating them just like any other Kingdom Card during play.

Do not write on these cards. Your final card design text is to go only on the design worksheet that your team will hand in at the end of class.

Things to keep in mind


For your reference, here’s a list of all the cards in the Dominion base set. Dominion has had several official expansion sets published, and you can browse those cards too, if you wish. However, we will restrict our in-class play and testing to the base set, plus our own new designs.

What happens next week?

Playtesting and followup. Read all about it.

No quiz?

No, there will be no quiz this week or next. You’ve got enough work to do as it is.