Came up with the original game idea and directed the game in later phases, made important game design decisions
Assisted in overall game production and communication
Draw the characters on the card
Kingdom Meow is a four-player tabletop strategy card game. It was the final project for a board game class I took at USC. The game was created by a team of three people. It was my first time being a director for a game project.
There are 8 unique classes in the game, and players each choose one class as their character. To become the king cat, players will use dice rolls and item cards to challenge each other. Click here to read my experience and thoughts on the production.
For more specific rules and what is included in the game box, click here for more details.
The physical copy is available here.
Kingdom Meow Physical Copy
8 Unique Classes
10 Item Card Types
HP Counters + Badges
My Cat Looking at the Game XD
The “cat kingdom” idea was formed when I watched a short video of a cat fight. I started to think that it would be fun to create a game that is about cat’s war. I’m generally very into the idea of different classes/abilities and the use of item cards, but don’t want the game to be super difficult or hard-core. As a result, I decided to make a strategy game with randomness.
My friends Ryan and Olivia expressed their interests when I proposed this idea, and we started working on this project together. Initially, we had another student on the team. Unfortunately due to health issues, he was unable to continue attending school and working on the project.
We had our first meeting discussing the basic idea of the project. We had 6 classes in the beginning, each of them had their unique abilities, attack damage and HP. Players can also recruit kitty army by drawing the kitty soldier cards, each of them having different stats. Four players each choose a class, and two of them battle each other in a round until one reaches 0 HP. In addition to the class card, each player draws three kitty soldiers, and they will use dice roll, kitty soldiers and class abilities to battle. The winning player of this round gets the token from the losing player, and the player who collects all of the token is the final winner and becomes the king cat.
Iteration 1 + Playtest 1
When we playtested the game, we observed several main issues:
1. Players are not using their class card’s abilities. Instead, they are only using basic attack.
- Why: This night because abilities are written on a separate page for prototype convenience. Because players are not familiar with the abilities and they can only see the attack damage and HP on the card, it’s easy to forget to use the abilities.
- How to fix: Write the abilities on the class card for players to see them directly.
2. Players are not using the dice to track HP.
- Why: initially, we thought it would be more convenient to keep track of HP using dice by rolling on the value. However, players are not using the dice to track HP. This might be because we only had two dice in this iteration, and each player only has one dice to track 4 characters’ HP, which is even more difficult.
- How to fix: Use another way to track HP. Maybe write them down on a paper or use another way. Having players to track HP by themselves would leave too much burden on player memory.
3. Players are not using their class cards to be in the battle. Also when players use kitty soldiers to fight, it’s too easy for one side to lose, and the losing side would have no army left for the next battle.
- Why: Players express that using class cards are too risky. Because losing the class card means the player has lost the game, but losing one kitty soldier means they can continue playing the game. Also, when players are using kitty soldiers to fight, because the HP of them are very low, it's easy for them to die.
- How to fix: We could increase the class card strength to make them stronger, motivating players to use them. This could be adding attack damage, increasing HP and strengthening their abilities. Maybe also add more random kitty soldiers for players to refill their army after one battle in order for the losing player to continue playing the next round.
4. Players are taking a long time reading and understanding the rules. Learning curve is steep for new players to remember everything.
- Why: This might because we have too many mechanics going on at the same time, and players need to remember them in the very beginning.
- How to fix: We could change the game to round-based. Ex. adding mechanics every round to give players time to learn the game.
Iteration 2 + Playtest 2
In this iteration, we implemented the item card mechanic as we originally planned. Players draw item cards in each round, and can use them in the battle. We also increased the kitty soldier and made them a deck of cards for players to refill their army after a battle. Also, we fixed some of the issues in iteration 1. When we playtested the game, we observed some new issues and old issues that were not fully fixed. Here are some main issues:
1. The attacking player is always at the losing side because they don’t know who the defending player is going to use.
- Why: When the attacking player is calling out another player (the defending player), they already have what they choose to fight out on the table. The defending player can easily make plans after seeing that by choosing to use class or soldiers.
- How to fix: We could let the attacking player choose whether the defending player should use a class card or soldier cards. Or we could let players to blind choose, not knowing each other’s card.
2. Players are using D10 to keep track of their HP, but this is still overcomplicated.
- Why: It’s difficult to roll and find the correct number every time after an attack.
- How to fix: We could change the HP counter to a slider where there are HP numbers, and players use their class card to show their HP.
3. Players feel less strategic as they don’t have item cards in hand in the beginning.
- Why: Because players only draw item cards in each round, it’s difficult to plan or strategize the fight because players don’t know what items they will get.
- How to fix: Giving players some starting item cards in the beginning so that they can better plan their battles.
4. Onboarding still takes too long. Players take about 4-5 minutes to read the rules, and it’s difficult for them to remember.
- Why: Even though we revised the rule, because we have new mechanics added this time, it’s still difficult to remember.
- How to fix: Revise the rules, and maybe cutting some mechanics.
Iteration 3 + Playtest 3
In this iteration, we changed the HP counter to a slider where players put their class cards on top of it and showed how many HP they have left. We also cut a lot of mechanics to decrease the unnecessary complexity of the game. We cut the kitty army feature, and let the battle be decided only by dice roll and item cards.
We also made an important design change that shaped our game as it is in the final version. Unlike in previous iterations where players roll the dice and compare the number, and directly use the item cards, we decided to make the game a double blind play.
Players will still use dice roll and item cards, but instead, they will roll the dice together. The sum of the two dice determines whether the attacker or the defender may deal damage in this attack. If the sum is greater than 7, the attacker deals damage; if the sum is less than 7, the defender deals damage.
However, item cards are now the turning point of the battle! Both players play an item card on the table, facing down, and they will flip and reveal the item card together. This way, players can change the battle state by using item cards, which are in their control, and they will also need to predict their opponent’s play.
This iteration turned out to be very successful. It kept the strategy and the randomness together as I planned, and it’s also less difficult to learn.
Final Game Production
Our physical copy is produced on The Game Crafter. We have a budget of $25 for the production. To fit into this budget, we decided to decrease the number of dice we have in the game and let players reuse them for different parts of the game. We also decided to keep the item deck to 100 cards, and playtested the game several times to balance the number of each item type.
Physical copy of the game is available here.
What I Learned
The Kingdom Meow project means a lot to me. As I mentioned previously, it was my first time being a creative director, and I never thought I could be the director for a game project as my background is business, not game design. So in the beginning I felt a lack of confidence when making decisions. However, I learned a lot through this experience. As the project went on, I built a lot of confidence as a director because of both the compliment and encouragement from my teammates and the outcome of the game.
It is also important to listen to other’s suggestions. Even though sometimes it’s difficult to listen to the critical feedback as a designer, the feedback is important. As the designer, it was hard for me to see some of the major problems because I was so familiar with the game, but other people could see and tell these critical issues.
Also, don't be afraid to make changes. From iteration 2 to iteration 3 we made a huge decision to cut a lot of features and changed it to completely new try. This could mean that a lot of our effort in the past was in vain, but this design change was actually the turning point of our development process. We stepped outside of our original box, and created something that is more fun and less complex than before.
Last but not least, the team communication and team building are important for a game project. Even though this was a small three person team, our team worked great and we got along well with each other, and we all became close friends outside the project. Even though we might have different design ideas sometimes, we always shared our thoughts and embraced differences. I’m so glad that the project brought us together.