Thursday, November 4, 2010

Dark Lairs

So a friend of mine who follows my blog asked about my own collectible card game, Dark Lairs.

What? You have a collectible card game?

The answer is's a long drawn out yes.

It started almost two years ago. I was having one of those days where I thought, "What the hell am I doing with my life?" At this point, I was already a dad and my son was the most important thing in my life. I was working as a designer and was teaching drawing and design courses at Westwood College. Career wise I was pretty happy (other then the usual bitches and gripes). I think I was having a creative crisis. I felt like I haven't really done anything, creatively, that was worth a damn.

Sure, I've had a few gallery showings, had some work hung up at local joints, pretty cool but nothing to write home about. So I created a creative bucket list. This list is of things that I wanted to accomplish creatively before I died.

The list as of now...
Start my own design company
Do at least one freelance illustration for a fantasy game company
Write, draw, and publish my own graphic novel
Publish my own creative memoir of all my collected work
Do at least some contract work for a videogame company
Do some storyboarding for a movie
Write and Illustrate my own children's book
Sell a screenplay
Have work hang in another gallery
Create my own Fantasy Collectible Card Game

These are some modest goals that are very attainable if I just line up all my ducks in a row. The first one, start my own company, is what I'm currently working on. I'm getting some website stuff accomplished and talking with my new partner-slash-salesman, i.e. my dad, about how to attack the market here in Florida. The last one is what Dark Lairs is all about.

Over the last five or six years I've been doing tons of drawings that I'd eventually want to turn into finished illustrations. I started to use my drawings as demonstrations for the drawing and character development classes I taught at Westwood. Eventually that collection of drawings started turning into a makeshift portfolio. My initial goal was (still is) to use that portfolio to knock off the freelance illustration for a gaming company, off of my bucket list.

Then, one evening as me and the family were walking around Walmart, which we constantly did back home, because Walmart rules, my wife wanted to buy this lame card game called Bandits. It was a very very basic action based card game that win condition involved accumulation. The few games we played I kept thinking that this game should be adapted into a fantasy game.

That was the spark.

I began re-creating the rules to my own liking and slowly changed the rules enough to where I thought it could be super fun as a Fantasy card game. I started creating characters and cards to use with my illustrations. Suddenly this game was creating itself. I kept adding more and more to the rules and came up with new card types and win conditions.

I mentioned the game to one of my other gaming buddies, Shawn, who was also in the process of creating a pen & paper RPG (that's traditional roleplaying to you non-geeky types). Shawn told me to enter the game in a game contest at the Chicago Game and Toy Expo in November. The spark became a wildfire at this point.

Dark Lairs, the lame name I came up with, was now something that consumed me for a while (that and Magic). Luckily the homeboys at Westwood, the dudes in my play group, were very interested in helping me get the game squared away for the contest.

In hindsight, I realize I started to create the game to showcase my artwork, the game itself was a lot more difficult to create. Being an amateur game designer helped but there are smarter people out there to help me. So I sent the rules to my playgroup and some old friends that use to game with me back in the day.

Anyways, while creating the game for the Chicago competition, the oddest thing happened out of nowhere. I moved to Florida. Dark Lairs was shelved for a while. When I finally sort of settled in Florida I figured the game was dead.

Thankfully my wife was adamant that I finish the game and enter the competition anyways. Why not? This was very true. Shockingly, my mother was very supportive of me creating and finishing the game. She thought it could be a way to open some doors for me professionally. It has yet to yield anything just yet but I'm working on it (kinda, building contacts). With the support of my wife and mom, it was on like Donkey Kong.

I immersed my downtime with finishing the game. I contacted the Florida chapter and found out the due date for our region. I created the game and mocked up the shit out of it hoping to win on style points. Unfortunately the contest is based on the actual rules but the main playtester loved the game design.

Needless to say my game was entered into the contest and I scored very low. This wasn't a surprise because I wasn't able to really test the game and I got tons of feedback from my friends on how to clarify and fix the game. When I get the prototype back I'll figure it all out. But as of now, my dreams of having my game published by Rio Grande Games is dead.

That is actually totally okay with me. I knew going into the contest I didn't have a good shot. But I'm glad I entered anyways. How many people can say they created, illustrated and printed their own collectible card game? Not many.

So Dark Lairs has helped me accomplish my goal on the bucket list. Dark Lairs is also in rules limbo right now. I really want to Alpha and Beta test is a lot more and get the rules more refined. Hopefully I can get with my people back home and fix the game and maybe try for next year.

When I finish my website I'll post the card designs and illustrations up there and for sure link to my blog. yah! This experience has been fun and no regrets. I have a cool looking game and needs some work. It has also opened up some creative doors. I can actually put game designer as a title. LOL. Deadpan.

Seriously though...

I'm working on the general rules to expansion sets for Dark Lairs: Pirates of the Caribbean, Dark Lairs: Stars Alignment and Dark Lairs: Portal Wars.

I am also looking to create a fantasy card game based on the rules of football and a game based on Chess. But we'll see what happens.

For now...keep gaming...

...and on that note, I'm pretty sure I'm going to give up Magic the Gathering for a while. Take a hiatus. I just don't have the drive any longer to play. Trying to play competitively here in Florida has kinda killed Magic for me. I'd rather play casually with the dudes back home. Sad face.


  1. I forget do we have a complete card list if so, we could start alpha testing.

  2. Don't worry about playtesting for now. I didn't win the competition due to erratic rules. LOL. I'm going to refine when I get a chance and resend rules and card lists.