Wow, it's been a long journey. Going on three years now.

I've been digging through some of my old backup files for Manaforge, and it occurred to me that the game I have now looks almost nothing like what I started off with. Aside from the basic concept (roll dice to get resources, spend resources to get cards), it feels like just about everything in the game has gotten changed in some way.

My first iteration of the game looked something like this:
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Version 1
This was 'version 1' of my game, more or less, code named "Dots". (I say more or less because this is the first real backup version I had, made when the rules were first stabilized.) The players rolled dice to get red, yellow, green, and blue resource dots, and spent those dots to buy cards like this. The cost of the card is in the top-left. Every card was worth some number of points, as indicated in the top-right. Resource cards like the "Green" one on the left gave additional dots each turn. The card in the middle gives a one-shot infusion of coins, which were dots that could be stored for later turns. The roman numerals in the bottom-right corner were deck phase numbers; the deck was arranged with the 'ones' on top, followed by the 'twos', and the 'threes' on the bottom. Overall, the cards were pretty primitive, but they worked.

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Version 6
Several versions later, the cards looked more like this. The concept of card 'colors' was introduced. The dots had been given shapes to help differentiate them. (Even back then, making the game color-blind friendly was a consideration.) The area in the bottom-left was an attempt to make certain cards only usable with specific numbers of players. Also the concept of card powers was introduced, giving the players a second source of points as well as additional outlets for any extra dots they may have.

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Version 9
The next couple of versions were very busy. Two more concepts were added. 

The first new addition was tapping the cards. In playing the previous versions, players would often get confused about whether or not they had used certain resources or card abilities already. So in with the 'tap' concept, made famous by the Magic card game. Used a card? Turn it sideways, that way you know you can't use it again until next turn.

The second addition was upgrading the cards. Many cards now have levels, with only the top-most level unlocked at first. In order to unlock additional levels, the player had to pay the cost to add 'Charge' counters to the card. Each 'battery' added to the card opened up a new level, granting access to stronger abilities. But adding a Charge taps the card for that turn, so it's an either-or proposition. A couple of cards also went the opposite way, starting with Charges but expending a Charge each time the card is used. When the card runs out of Charges, it becomes useless.

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Version 15
Fast-forward a few versions. At this point, I had started calling the game "Facets" and giving it a sort of a business feel. The players were professionals in different occupations, competing to see who is the most successful at their job.
The card names changed to reflect the color of each occupation. (Red: construction, Yellow: banking, Green: gambling, Blue: teaching)

'Charges' became 'Upgrades'. Cards didn't automatically have point values anymore (though many cards still explicitly give points). The resource cards became stronger, and the point-generation cards became more important.

Also around this time, I switched from using GIMP to making my cards with a script-based utility called nanDECK. Fantastic tool for anyone with any coding experience. (Not quite as much for those with more of an artist bent, but the tool has made some recent improvements for those with that mindset as well.)

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Version 19
(Placeholder artwork. I don't own the illustrations shown above.)
Around this time, I noted that the business theme of the game wasn't sticking well. Since the rules were stable enough, I decided to do a retheme, changing to what I know best: high fantasy. Resources to mana, cards to spells, points to prestige, card colors to elements, coins to crystals. This revision was code named "Conjurers". Even if the theme itself wasn't very well thought out, just having something to bind the game together helped tremendously. And, of course, having some cool pictures on the cards helped to get attention, even if I couldn't keep the art. Mechanically, this is the same game as before, but it's amazing what a fresh coat of paint can do. :)

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Version 21
And the rest, as they say, is history. :)
 


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