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Paper Danmaku: a Touhou Card Game design.


Note: Hi there! This time, I´m lending my blog to a friend, Firebrand, who wants to share some ideas for a collectible card game based on the characters and setting of the Touhou Project. Should be fun for you theory crafters out there! (SigfriedLion).

Firebrand reporting in! First of all thank you for taking your time to read this. This idea came from my love for the series, but also my love for card games (mostly Magic The Gathering.) I’m sure many other have tried to make a Touhou card game before, and are probably better than mine, but the real reason I did it is to challenge myself, and for fun! It’s important to notice that this is just a draft, I don’t plan on making the game, just wanted to create a solid idea of how it would be.

Main Concept

Most card games work with the idea, or concept, that you are a god/wizard/king who can summon minions and cast spells, or give orders, to change the course of the battle. What makes card games fun is that you can chose how to create your deck, what combination of cards use, what strategy, what theme, etc. Most card games have many generic cards from which you can create your deck, each with different powers and costs. That is what adds variety. Taking for example Magic The Gathering, every new expansion new cards appear; new heroes, creatures, spells and artefacts. I thought hard about it, and how to apply it to Touhou, but in the end the answer was always the same: “it doesn’t work.” I’m not saying it’s impossible, only that, for me, it doesn’t really work very well. And that’s why I tried looking for a different approach. As I said before, this idea was a fun challenge to take. The next part was looking at Touhou as it is: what does it have that I can use? how can it be adapted? What makes it different or special from other card games?The answer was very simple. There are two things in particular that the series has:

⁃ Many heroines with very detailed powers and backgrounds.
⁃ A spell-card duel system that basically is a card game, in some sense.

In the end the idea of the player summoning the heroines and using spells was discarded, to try something different focusing on the concept of the spell card rules. The players will be playing as one of the heroines and using their powers to defeat the opponent, simulating a spell card duel as the ones in the series. As a I side note this idea, of having multiple different characters, usually works better for games like fighting ones or RPGs. I also thought of an hybrid game, danmaku+cards, but that would defeat the point of making it a complete card game. Now comes the problem of how to apply it. Thinking back, what makes a card game fun is the capacity to build your own deck, different from any other, that reflects your tastes, skills, and personality. To make this possible the game has two mechanics:

⁃ First many heroines each with personal “spell cards”. The spell cards are very powerful cards that add important effects to the battle.
⁃ That gives some variety but not enough. That's why I thought on adding a secondary generic deck called “actions deck,” with cards that every heroine can use, each with different but much weaker effects and less unique than spell cards.

The rules from the game were inspired by:

⁃ The draft for the spell cards.
⁃ The grimoire of Marisa’s description of the spell cards.
⁃ Some mechanics of the games.

Game Rules (In Game Lore)

⁃ Give a name and a meaning to the elegance of each duel.
⁃ Relying on stamina and repeating an attack is not allowed.
⁃ If you are defeated in a naming duel, acknowledge the loss even if you have remaining strength.
⁃ Write down the name of the duel on paper like a contract. With that, all of the aforementioned regulations become absolute. That paper will be called a “spell card”.
⁃ If victorious against a human, you may not kill them. (Spell card battles are for elegance and power, and to avoid needlessly bloodshed. Winners must not take the life of the loser, but they can bet things).

Game Rules (Mechanics)

To win there are 3 deciding factors:

1. The HP of the opponent reaches 0, this does not mean death, only that the heroine can’t continue.
2. The opponent runs out of spell cards. They can’t be repeated. Once you lose them all, is over.
3. If at the end of the game one player has a higher “elegance” by 100 units or more, then that player is considered the winner. This is like saying “I let you win, but everyone saw I was just playing with you.” Elegance Is the equivalent of the points in the game.

How To Play

Now let’s explain the cards. There are 5 different types of cards in the game: Heroine card, attack cards, slave cards, support card sand spell cards. Each card has different roles in the game. As a note, the numbers I placed on the cards are only to make an example and are not balanced at all. The first step to play is picking a heroine, the one you like the most. Each is going to have a different ability, stats and set of spell cards. Heroine cards have a gold color. With the heroines the parameters to consider are:

⁃ Health points (Hp) is how much damage the character can take before being unable to keep fighting.
⁃ Evasion(Ev) represents her skill to dodge enemy attacks. The higher the value the harder to hit is the heroine.
⁃ Focus (Fc) is the main resource to play cards. You pay it to make attacks, graze, summon slaves etc. this number represents how much focus points the heroine creates every turn. The focus points that are not spent at the end of one turn accumulate in the next. For example, Reimu has a Fc = 9, let’s say you just spend 5 focus points. your next turn you gain another 9, plus the 4 unspent ones of the last turn. So you have 13 focus points to spend in that turn. The limit of focus points is 30, you cannot have more than that in one turn.
⁃ Fantasy energy is a special resource that is gained at the start of every turn, by the elegance you gather, and cards in play. Fantasy energy can be used for 3 different things: play a “minor spell card” (a bomb), use the ability of your character, or draw additional cards and gain more focus points as if you were starting a new turn. There are 3 counters of fantasy energy, but only one can be spent per turn. To fill the counters you need to gather fantasy points, example 10 fantasy points = one star counter.
⁃ Power(Pw) means how strong is the character, not physically but in danmaku (magic-bullets). This value adds damage to the attack cards.
⁃ Graze(Gz) graze means dodging an attack by less than an inch, feel it almost touching your skin. The number indicates how much focus you have to pay to do it. Grazing can save you from taking damage and gives many elegance points to the character. Gracing in chain however is penalised. The second graze costs double, the third triple and like that. For example if Reimu wanted to graze 3 attacks in a row it would cost her: Gz=3; 3+ (3x2) + (3x3) = 3+6+9= 18 focus points.
⁃ Special ability as its name says, is the special innate power of the heroine. It can be activated using fantasy energy. Every heroine has a different one. Can only be used once per turn.

Attack cards, slave cards and support cards are the cards used in the “actions deck.” This deck consist of 60 cards and you can put up to 5 of the same card in one deck. Players may pick the cards for the action deck as they see fit; all heroines can use any of them, but some have better synergy with ones in particular. When a card is used it goes to the discard zone. If a player needs to draw cards and there are no more cards on his/her action deck, he/she then shuffles the cards in the discard zone and puts them the actions deck. Then draws as normal. Repeat this cycle as many times as needed. Attack cards are red and represent, as their name say, the attacks your heroine do at the opponent or any other enemy. Each attack card has different stats and can have abilities. There are 3 type of attack cards: bullet, melee and minor spell cards (also known as bombs) The main parameters of the attack cards are:

1. Hit value (Hv) is the number that represents the precision of the attack. If that number is lower or equal to the opponent’s Evasion, then the attack will miss. If it is higher than the attack will hit and deal damage.
2. Power (Pw) is the amount of damage the attack deals if it hits. The “+” sign means to add the power of the heroine to the final damage. Taking Reimu and the example card. The attack card has a power of “+5” this means 5 and Reimu’s power, which is 5 too, so the final damage is (5+5) = 10. When a bullet hits it deals damage and then goes to the discard zone. But if it misses there is other effect. In bullet hell games (danmaku) there are many bullets that exist only to limit your space to move. Here is where the two other parameters enter in action.
3. Limiting space (Ls), this means how much the bullet hinders the opponent heroine, reducing her evasion by the same value; this takes effect the turn after the attack. For example in this case the Ls= 2, so if the attack fails, the next turn the heroine will have her evasion reduced by 2. This effect adds up if there are other failed attack cards.
4. Dispersion time (Dt) means how many turns the effect of the card’s Ls last. In this case after a single turn the effect ends and the card is placed in the discard zone.

As a final note, attack cards can be chained. Doing this will add more hit value to the next one in the chain (+2 for every attack before it), no matter if it hits or misses, and also if many hit in a combo it will give extra elegance points (just hitting the enemy heroine gives elegance points, but chains give extra).

Another example of a bullet attack card. In this case the hit value is nonexistent, because the card has an ability that makes it impossible to evade. It’s Ls and Dt are both 0, which means that if the attack was dodged with a graze it will instantly go to the discard zone, unlike the first example.

Another example of a bullet attack card. In this case the focus needed to play it is higher than Reimu’s focus stat, that means she has to save some focus points to be able to cast it. Also the Pw of the card is “++5”. The two ++ means that you add twice the power of the heroine, in this case for Reimu is 5, so the final damage would be (5+5+5) = 15

Melee cards are other type of attack cards. They ignore the power of the attacking heroine and have no Ls or Dt. Melee attacks can be used in chain or at the end of a bullet chain (but not at the start or middle) to gain extra elegance. Also melee attacks have different abilities than bullet attacks. Like for example reflecting bullets. For heroines who are expert in this sort of combat, like Suika or Youmu, they deal extra damage and might be much more useful than normal. (The heroine card will specify if this is the case).

Minor spell cards are the third type of attack cards. They do not count as normal spell cards but as attack cards and are placed in the actions deck. Minor spell cards can be used in two ways, as a strong bullet with a very high cost but also high stats; or as a bomb. To play it as a bullet you pay focus and it works as a normal bullet card. To play it as a bomb you have to pay a fantasy energy counter (but no focus). When played as a bomb it has a different effect, detailed on the card, but the power(damage) remains the same. A deck can only contain 3 minor spell cards, and while a heroine has many types of minor spell cards the ones placed in the deck have to be the same card. Using minor spell cards on a deck is not mandatory, a player can chose to have 2 or even none on their deck. The down side of the minor spell cards is that the make you lose the chance to earn elegance points. Is a strong but inelegant attack.

Slave cards represent the familiars or helpers the heroine summons to the battle. Their color is blue. Once summoned they stay in play until killed. The slaves can serve for offensive purposes, defensive or supportive depending on the card. Slave’s attacks can be part of the chain of attacks against an opponent heroine but the bullets disperse instantly. The player choses the target of the slave attacks, the opponent heroine or an enemy slave. Slaves have their own special abilities. The parameters of the slave cards are similar to the attack and heroine cards. They have a hit value, Hp, and cost. The only changes are with power and elegance drop. As a note slaves have no evasion, which means they can’t dodge attacks. Power for slaves is independent of the power of the heroine, each slave has their own PW stat. But just like with melee attacks some heroines, like Alice, have extra damage for slaves and better synergy overall for them. Elegance drop (Ed) is how many elegance points the opponent character gets for destroying the slave. Slaves are powerful allies but they can give much elegance to the opponent, so chose carefully how to use them.

Support cards are the third and final type of cards the actions deck have. Their color is green. As their name implies they are not attacks but serve for more strategic purposes. Support cards can have many effects, like blocking attacks, giving more focus points, buffing an attack, healing a heroine, giving elegance points, etc. When making a deck is important to know which support cards work better for you. Support cards although have powerful effects alone don’t do much. As their name says, they are there to help but can’t win a battle with just them.

Spell cards are the most important cards of all. Before the game starts the player picks five of all the spell cards available for the heroine to use in the duel. Their color is purple. Spell cards provide very powerful effects, different for every heroine according to their background and powers. At the beginning of each turn the player may active a spell card (if there is none active at that time). Heroines can fight without activating a spell card, but only for 2 turns, then, at the beginning of the third is forced to activate one or she loses the duel. (this is to give a little more strategy to the system). Spell cards can be destroyed by 3 ways, taking their hp to 0, when their time ends, or if the player choses to cancel it. When the heroine takes damage the spell card takes the same damage too. (some spell cards reduce the damage for the heroine but the spell card still takes full damage). Also healing the heroine will not heal the spell card. Spell cards have a time limit, this is how many turns they last before breaking. The player can chose at the beginning of the turn to cancel the spell card destroying it. And then active other of their choice. Players chose the order in which they play their spell cards. Once a spell card is destroyed it removes all the slaves and bullets of the heroine, taking them to the discard zone. And also gives plenty elegance points to the enemy heroine. If a spell card is destroyed and the enemy heroine has taken less than 12 damage while active, then she spell card is considered “captured” and that heroine gains a lot extra elegance points. However if the opponent heroine used a minor spell card (bomb) while the spell card was active, then she gains no elegance points at all.

Resources and Strategy

The resources for the game are:

⁃ Cards in hand.
⁃ Spell cards.
⁃ Focus points.
⁃ Time (turns).
⁃ Health points.
⁃ Fantasy energy.
⁃ Elegance.

It’s up to the player chose how to use them to win. About the elegance points. Elegance points can only be gained, not lost. Gathering certain amount of them gives rewards to the player, as drawing an extra card, gaining fantasy energy points or healing. This happens every 50 points, and the player choses the reward. To clarify some things. The “Limiting space zone” is the zone where the bullets that miss but are hindering the heroine (reducing her evasion) are placed until their dispersion time ends. The attacks in effect are the attacks that the heroine is taking in the order they were done. In this example they are forming a chain.

Game Flow

1. At the start of the game each player draws 7 cards and then decide who has the first turn. Attacks can’t be done in the first turn, so the second player will the first one to be able to attack.
2. At the beginning of the turn the player can chose to cancel and/or active a spell card, and draws 3 cards.
3. Then there is the action phase in which slaves can be summoned and attacks dealt. The attacks are resolved in this same phase.
4. Finally an end phase to discard the used cards and make choices for elegance prizes (if possible).
5. Then the cycle repeats until a player wins.

Extra Details

Some abilities I had thought for the game are (for bullet cards):

⁃ Spread – attacks more than one target.
⁃ Homing - ignores enemy heroine’s evasion.
⁃ Destructive - can be destroyed with other attacks
⁃ Piercing - adds extra damage to the next attack
⁃ Slow - takes effect at the next turn. Has high Dt
⁃ Fragmented – even when it hits it goes to the limiting space zone.
⁃ Beam - can’t be blocked by slaves or support cards. It disperses instantly.
⁃ High speed - can be used in the enemy turn. If there is a chain of attacks it is placed as the first card.
⁃ Appearing - can be used in the enemy turn.

Some abilities I had thought for the game are (for melee cards):

⁃ Blocking - this attack can also be used to destroy an attack (bullet) with less or equal power to it.
⁃ Reflect - sends and attack (bullet) back to the user. Needs to have power higher or equal to that attack.
⁃ Bullet tail - leaves bullets in the limiting space zone.
⁃ Stun – lowers stats of the heroine or slave if it hits.
⁃ Finishing blow –if it is at the end of a chain it deals extra damage.

Some abilities I had thought for the game are (for Slave cards):

⁃ Shielding - the heroine can’t be hurt until this slave is destroyed (some cards ignore this)
⁃ Limited life – dies the next turn after being summoned.
⁃ Vengeance – makes a special attack to the slave or heroine that killed it.
⁃ Inside bullets – leaves bullets in the limiting space zone after dead.
⁃ Gatherer - at the start of the players turn it gives him/her some points of a resource (like Hp, fantasy, elegance, focus, etc)

This are just some examples of the common abilities I thought for the action cards, the support cards will have other effects and there could be action cards with unique non-generic effects, like an attack that if it misses lets you draw a card. Also it is important to remember most of the special effects will come from the spell cards, like making all of your bullets homing, gain elegance every turn and make all of your attacks produce elegance. etc. With this I hope the purpose of making a game that can allow for unique decks and play styles that fit the players is fulfilled, but also giving it the Touhou feeling.

Finally, once again I have no plans on making this game, this was all done for the challenge and fun. But in my mind I see it working only as a PC game, because it has too many numbers to count with just your mind. Also if made a videogame it could have special effects for the heroines, like for example Reimu’s bullets are seen as amulets while Marisa’s as stars. This would give even more personality and identity to the game, but as it is now is only fantasy. Well once again I hope you enjoyed reading about this, and also hope you liked the game. This is just a draft but still it was very fun. Thank you for reading!

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About SigfriedLionone of us since 4:55 PM on 01.25.2011