Map-Building Game?

Game designed by Fenrislorsrai (with help, particularly with food chain mechanics by Naturalismus).
Initial notes in the Phylomon Forum (link) | Food chain ideas can also be viewed here.

– Work out a good number of cards in starting deck (per player)
– Suggest an initial set of cards (including number of species, number of habitats, number of environmental challenges, appropriate terrain/climate stats). This one is especially important, because here we can canvas the web for appropriate images.
– Suggest “special attributes” and their play mechanisms for Species cards. This is what ultimately will appear in the middle text box of the cards.
– Suggest play effects of Environmental Challenge cards.
– Define movement more clearly (i.e. what’s the point? To block opponent moves? To create better linkage? Pollinator for plants?)
– Beta test these general rules and leave feedback.
– In case, there is a move to print cards professionally (so that they do become collectable), is there a way to develop an analogous game where card sets are kept separate?

– – –
You are part of a team of biologists. Each biologist chooses a habitat he/she thinks will lead to the most complete scientific survey. Here, you will identify species in the habitat, as well as adjacent habitats to convince the other scientists the next project should be in your area. Will you gather enough data to convince them your area is the most important and interesting area to study, or will one of the other scientists convince you his area is even more interesting?

Set Up

NOTE the following keywords: Habitat, Species, Climate, Terrain, Food Chain Rank, Diet, Scale.

Pick who will go first. Select any two cards from your deck. One must be a Habitat card, the other can either be another Habitat card or a Species card that can be placed alongside. Moving clockwise around the table, each player places both their cards in a zigzag pattern (see diagram).
Note that during the initial setup you do not follow normal placement rules below.

Draw 5 cards from your deck.

Start the game.

Turn order
All players act simultaneously during each step. The steps are:
1. Everyone draws a card
2. (optional) Anyone who wants to play a species onto another area does so*
3. Everyone takes any 3 actions*
4. Check for victory

* If you take the optional move of playing a species to another person’s area, you only take TWO actions during step 3.

(Optional rule: if you have trouble keeping track of how many actions each person has taken, use a group pool of tokens. When you draw your card for the turn, draw 3 tokens from the shared pool. Then return them to the group pool as you take each action)

Actions in step 3 are as follows:
1. Discard 1 card to draw 2 cards.
2. Exchange one card in your hand for one on top of your deck (place the card from your hand on the bottom of your deck)
3. Play a Species card on an area you control
4. Play a Habitat card
5. Play an Environmental Challenge card
6. Verify a sighting of a species you don’t control
7. Move a species you control
8. Pass and do nothing

The basic placement rules apply to ALL cards. When you play a card to the table you can place it either long side to long side OR long side to TWO short sides. If there’s only one short side available, you can’t place a card there. You only need to have ONE side follow legal placement rules. It does not have to match on the other sides so long as it’s placed legally on at least ONE side.

(see diagram)

Species and Habitats
Both Habitat and Species cards list a terrain/climate zone on them. Species cards also list food chain rank and diet information (this is the number shown inside a coloured circle), as well as a number depicting scale. All cards may have additional information on them that refer to special moves.

Habitat cards can be placed into play alongside other Habitat cards as long as there is one climate match. For example, a habitat card Temperate Grasslands belongs to the grasslands terrain and is part of the cool/warm climate. It can only touch a habitat card that share at least one of the climate keywords. You can’t play it next to a habitat card that has only the cold or hot climate keywords.

As well, Habitat cards can be placed into play alongside a species cards as long as there is one climate match as well as one terrain match.

Species cards can be placed into play whenever there is a climate match as well as an appropriate food source (as defined by food rank/diet indicator). Briefly, a species with carnivore status (red circle) and a rank of 3, would require contact with another species that fulfills the carnivore diet status (for example a creature with Animalia classification – simplified classification can be defined by cards available in the deck when playing), as well as having a food chain rank that is equivalent or one lower.

Whenever you place a Species or Habitat card, put a token on it indicating it’s yours. Species can have more than one token on them. Habitat cards cannot have more than one token on them.

Verifying a species
Sometimes you will have a Species touching your Resources or Species that you don’t have a token on. Another scientist has seen the Species, but you need to verify their work before you can claim it! To verify a Species, you need to discard cards with a Scale value greater than or equal to the value of the Species.

Once you have discarded the correct number of cards, place your token on the Species. The Species card will then have two (or more!) tokens on it and all scientists who have verified it can count it toward their points.

Example: To verify a Species with a Scale value of 2, you need to discard 1 Species with a Scale value of 2 or more or 2 Species with a Scale value of 1.

Move A Species
Many species will have a move keyword on them. Ones that do not cannot be moved. The Move keyword will generally suggest how far the Species can move.

The Species can only move to a new location if it could be placed there as if it came from your hand.

You score points only for Species that are “linked” to a Habitat you control. To be linked, it must touch another card of your control.

When you play a species on another person’s area, you put a token on it but don’t score points for it. You can then try and place cards later to join it up to other areas you control.

(see diagram)

You check for the number of points you have at each turn, which depending on the actions of all players will tend to increase each turn, but could also drop. A standard victory is 15 points, but if you want a longer game, you can pick a different goal.

Various species will have different abilities that do special things. Some examples of possible keywords:
Seed Disperser/Pollinator– This Species gives any plant touching it +1 move. (normally plants have Move=0)
Invasive– This Species can be played on top of another Species of the same type (plant, animal, etc). Discard the Species it was played on.
Parasite– This Species is played UNDER another Species card of the same type. (example: Animal) It will move with it. Place the token on top of the Species with the parasite, and place the parasite card underneath the other Species so that just the name shows.
Saprophagous– when this species is played, take a card from your discard pile and place it on the bottom of your deck. (Sometimes you find other species because they’re growing on or in another species remains!)

This is just a quick sampling of possible keywords. More can be added to reflect common roles or traits of species. Games commonly add some new keywords over time.

It would be great to work out cards that have strong habitat effects (therefore necessitating changes in the map being built). These could be presented as environmental challenges. i.e. Flooding, Forest Fire, Climate Change, etc. Possibly, the number at the top of such cards signifies number of turns?

Aside from teaching kids how to identify various species, this also teaches kids some other things without beating them over the head with a lesson. Some examples of the educational aspects

· Not every species can survive in every climate or habitat
· Some species can’t exist without other species
· Some species can’t exist WITH other species.
· Some species are rare because they need a lot of resources
· Sometimes a species can’t live in an area because one small thing is missing.
· There’s more to a habitat than just animals
· Little animals and plants can be important, too
· Even gross or ugly species can be important. Cute and pretty species may not be able to exist without them.
· Scientists can share credit for discoveries
· Science works by verification of data
· Science works by collecting data to support your argument
· Sometimes scientists find data that isn’t useful to what they’re working on, but can help someone else

Additional explanation:
To make this simpler for younger kids, the Movement aspect could easily be left out… though it’s surprising how much complexity kids can handle in their games. Pokemon is a HELL of a lot more complicated than it looks. It’s got over 3500 different cards to build a deck from. So before you can even play, you have to narrow down your your choices of playing pieces from around 3500 to 60… but also be prepared to counter your opponent who could be using any of those 3500. Collectible card games are waaaaaaaaaaaaaay more complicated than they initially appear.

Side note:
why is the play simultaneous?
Kids hate waiting for other people to take their turn. (so do adult gamers, I often fold laundry while waiting for slow opponents to make their move). This means that kids don’t get antsy waiting for their turn since turns occur at the same time. The only area where there could be argument, playing a card on someone else’s area, occurs as its own separate step to prevent arguments of “But I was gonna…” “you waited too long!” “I was thinking!”

how do you keep cards from mixing?
CCGs both keep cards physically separated AND mix them together in many cases. The primary way to keep them from walking off is to use card sleeves. Since Phylo is NON collectible as it’s prints and play, marking them on the front (NOT the back) is also a perfectly good way to keep track. Front marking cards if frowned on with most CCGs because it destroys the value as a collectible, but since they’re free to download, that’s not an issue. If kids want to mark ’em with a marker or a sticker, it doesn’t matter. It’s not like sticking a sticker on an out of print Pokemon card.

DIAGRAMS (note that in these pictures, the word Resource is used in place of Habitat).