I made a terrible battle card game

13th June 2021

Some of the cards from my as-yet unnamed card game.
Now, before you say anything, I know you were waiting on tenterhooks for the day that somebody would make a shit knockoff version of Top Trumps. Don’t worry - that day is finally here.

It’s currently pretty rough - right now the game exists as just a deck of handmade cards with quick fineliner illustrations. I’ve had a lot of silly fun coming up with cards to include so far and I’m planning to add a bunch more in time.

But what’s the story here, you might ask? Well, as it turns out, this (as yet untitled) game isn’t exactly like Top Trumps. Let me show you...

How the game works

For anyone who doesn’t know how Top Trumps goes, here’s a quick rundown.

Top Trumps decks are always focused around a singular theme (Star Wars, sharks, cats, etc) and generally include 30 to 50 or so cards full of statistics. Players are dealt equal numbers of cards each and then they compare the stats on them in a series of ‘battles’ (eg. “My Spider-man card has got a Power rating of 45!” “My Hulk card has got a Power of 40!”) to see who has the best score - at which point the victor adds the opponent(s)’ cards to their own pile and play continues.

Marvel Top Trumps card
An example of an actual legit Top Trumps card (from the Marvel Comics pack).

This goes on until every player but one has run out of cards, at which point a winner has emerged (unless, of course, everybody has gotten bored already and wandered off to do something else).

So how does my version deviate from this formula?

Well, whereas in Top Trumps the categories of statistics are always consistent from card to card within each themed deck, I wanted to make a daft version where all of the categories are completely different and don’t make any sense.

Each of my card’s statistics are designated with one of four symbols (★ Star, △ Triangle, ◯ Circle, or ♦ Diamond). My hope was that this consistent pattern would allow for the comparison of otherwise wildly different statistics scored out of 100.

Spider Dice card
Thus, each round would see you (for example) comparing your ★ Star value or your △ Triangle value to your opponent’s score, and only discovering later what the actual attributes were that you were competing on (perhaps learning that your Beefshark’s “Swole” score of 100 utterly trounced your opponent’s Battle Bottle due to them having a “Trousers” rating of 0).

My partner and I have played the game a few times already, and it’s pretty fun! The category symbols worked as expected and we had a reasonably entertaining time.

We did, however, run into a bit of an issue in that every time we played, we’d always seem to have roughly the same numbers of cards in our hands even after multiple rounds, and it was seemingly quite hard for anybody to ever gain a significant lead over the other, let alone actually win (the games had a tendency to basically just keep going forever).

I can only assume this was due to a balance issue with the cards, and I have no idea how the makers of actual Top Trumps avoid this. I will need to think about it.

Swarm Of Pissed Off Smarties card
One other thing I envisaged was that the finished game - if I decided to go all the way and turn it into a proper Thing - would ideally have a very large selection of cards (like, hundreds), and then the act of sitting down to play a game would entail dealing out only a small portion of them to each participant (a dozen each, or something). This would hopefully mean that every game would have a different feel as you would get a different roster of silly characters each time.

The entire deck of cards
Anyway, that’s my stupid card game. I might handmake a load more cards yet, and if I can sort out the game balance I might at some point work up the cards as a proper printed thing that looks a bit nicer - or not.

For now, it’s just a whimsical little thing I made to experiment with the question of what would happen if you tried to do a version of Top Trumps where all the statistics were just incoherent nonsense.

It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it.

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