Prototyping Cartel – A city building, combat & traitor game

First of all, I’m looking for playtesters! The Print and Play component is being tidied up at the moment, but if you’re at all interested, please get me on my twitter, leave a comment here, or email me at twoplusgames at gmail dot com!

After a couple of playtests, some major tweaks and overhauls, I’m happy to show you my latest card game design – Cartel V3.0! 😀

Cartel is a two to four (tentatively) player game where you play the head of a corporation in a Cartel. On the surface, you’re building a metropolis of thriving commerce, but in the shadows, you vie for dominance against other Cartel lords by racketeering for territories with your hired muscle and manipulating the City by pocketing shady officials… But careful, rely on corruption too much, and everyone may be snitched out by a traitorous member of the Cartel!

Isometric stacking buildings with cards!

The design of this game began with the idea of cards that make isometric, stackable buildings. This idea lent itself to a game of territorial control – and as I’m the BIGGEST Netrunner fan in the world, it had started as a game called Corporate War – the name of a Netrunner card. (How’s that for a piece of pointless trivia :P) I’m not going into the history of this game much more than this 😛

Isometric stackable buildings with cards!

At the heart of Cartel are these buildings, or floors, or businesses, which give you points when they’re A) controlled by your thugs, AND B) placed correctly. There are four types of businesses in the game, each only generating benefits when placed in their preferred spot:

  • A – Anniewares General Stores are worth one point anywhere in the city. They are unrestricted in placement because Seven Elevens don’t care where they are.

  • T – TopTech Technologies are worth three points when they remain at the top of a building at the end of the game, because tech giants need a view.

  • G – Groundhog Coffees are worth two points when they’re on the ground floor, because I’ve never seen a Starbucks on the second storey.

  • D – DoubleDown Casinos are worth three points when they’re connected to another Double Down, because casinos need to be big.

The businesses are set up in the City, and each cartel boss vie for control with…

The Muscle

The thugs are what keeps what’s yours yours, and helps you move into what’s not yours. As you build businesses in the City, you gain more members in your gang, which you use to move around the board and control buildings. Conflict may resolve in the removal of opposing thugs if you manoeuvre a superior number into the right place!

Thugs are also one of the ways that the game may end – when any player reaches 10 thugs in their gang, the game ends because one of the gangs has reached super notoriety, and scoring commences.

The Muscle vs The Muscle

No honour among thieves

There is another set of cards that represent city officials, the proud people of City governorship… that you can get into your pocket to do your bidding. In addition to adding to your score, each personality has special powers when you buy them into your service: Constable Fernandez can call a police raid and force all thugs in one place to evacuate their current location, Senator Johns is less subtle and can pull two thugs outright off the street with a crackdown order, and Warden Manny can keep your thugs from being thrown off the streets entirely, returning them to play as long as you have Warden Manny in your pocket…

Get City officials in your pocket to do your bidding.

…So why would you ever lose Warden Manny? There is more than one copy of every pocket card, so when you hold any pocket personality, when someone else plays another of the same name, yours is immediately discarded. The corrupt are fickle by definition!

Pocket cards also provide the second game-ending condition – The Snitch. When corruption becomes impossible to cover up, one of the cartel lords can turn state witness and rat everyone out, ending the game. The Snitch is worth A LOT of points. How much? I haven’t decided yet – it’ll require a heck of a lot more playtesting to get a feel for the points. It should be a large enough payout that it should win any game outright, but it should also be possible to overcome if a player has a solid enough stranglehold on the city’s territories.

The Snitch

Join me in The City

So that’s about it for the game. There are a few things I hadn’t spoken about like the road cards, which provide a sort of a limit to where buildings can be started, as well as the payment for for building up being discarding of cards, and the way you generate resources (card draws per turn) by occupying a tall building, but those are details that hold the game together while the exciting stuff happens. I LOVE thematic games, and with Cartel my goal was to create a game where you actually feel like a criminal lord jockeying for territory, using every available resource, while the cloud of being Snitched out hangs above everyone’s head.

If you’re interested in helping me playtest Cartel, just get in touch with me (leave a comment here, or get me on my twitter, or email me at twoplusgames at gmail dot come) and I can send you a Print and Play copy of the game when it’s ready! (It’s still quite messy right now despite the clean look it has in the photos)

Thanks for reading!


And thus, Twoplus Games was born

About two years ago, I went to AMAZE, joined MakeGamesSA.
Nine months ago, I showed a prototype (my first substantial one) at a meetup for the first time, Battle Blocks Bear Chuck.
Five months ago, I showed Bear Chuck at rAge Expo.
A month ago, we presented Dead Run to MakeGamesSA.
Today, Dead Run is on its way to completion and release.

It’s been such an incredible journey, and there’s so much more to do, so much further to go:

Much of the wisdom in MakeGamesSA taught us that we needed to take Dead Run to the world under a brand – because no matter whether you make money or not from creating your game, the most valuable thing you can build your act of creation, is a brand. It’s the thing that builds the story and continuity around creations, and not individuals. It allows the games to flow from one to another, and not live or die by an individual.

And thus, Twoplus Games was born.

Twoplus Games site
@TwoplusGames on Twitter
TwoplusGames on Facebook

What does Twoplus mean? Besides the obvious link to my name (let’s just get the pun out of the way, it had to be done :P), it means several important things to me.

Twoplus players

I’ve always loved the old days of gaming – do you remember Bomberman? Tetris Attack? Super Puzzle Fighter? Those games on your old SNES, where you spend hours perfecting that perfect move so you can beat your buddie/s one more time in those 5am marathon sessions? When you screamed and groaned when your perfect strategy was foiled by either dumb luck or superior play?

I loved the spirit of what I call couch versus gaming. Two people, or more, duking it out. I wanna make THAT. Modern examples like Towerfall and Samurai Gunn really captured the essence of that, and I wanna make experiences like those.

Twoplus ideas

Then I’ve always wondered about genres and mashups. Bear Chuck came from mashing Angry Bird style tossing of things with my favourite versus game genre, the arcade puzzler, as well as throwing platformers for good measure. Alchemically combining two or more ideas together? That’s also what Twoplus is about.

Twoplus spirit

There’s also a bit of a philosophical thing going here – I’ve never believed in being number one. I wanna be number two. Being number one often means playing dirty and doing “whatever it takes”, and the idea of it to me lacks “balance”. I’d much rather be pretty damn good and not have to be unnecessarily perfectionist, as diminishing returns guarantee that your time will be better spent on creating something else than to take that 99% that you’re working on to 100% with another 2 years of your life.


Come visit Twoplus Games on our (under construction) site, on Twitter and on Facebook :)


A toast – to gaming excellence! :)

An interview with me, to be sung *with feeling*

The good people at 925Rebellion (there’s a story behind that hard-to-remember name) did an interview with me, and how I got into making games :)

There’s a singalong, I challenge anyone to actually sing it with me :) Here’s the excerpt:

Gundams, Evangelions and Lars A in Tekken
Super Nintendo and my iPad and iPhone
Brown suits and brown shirts and brown pants and shoes
These are a few of my favorite things :)

Android Netrunner and BSG the boardgame
Cut-throat deception and lying for my own gain
Stabbing friends in the back and taking their loot
Only in games will I enjoy these dick things :)

Girls who read smartness and dress like fine lasses
Sushi and ramen and well-made tempuras
Making all kinds of stuff with art and code
These are just few of my favourite things :)

When the bugs bite
When the game’s bad
When the client moans

I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad.

Full interview here:

Dead Run Beta release!

OK guys, unfortunately we were not able to get a beta iOS build out due to some performance and framerate or something issues (and time), but in the meantime, here’s a beta WEB build :) It’s hosted on a different location than the previous one so do take note:




1. All the spiffy pretty day/night cycle stuff
2. Zombie head juice
3. Misc communicative juice
4. The swing is WAY faster
5. The game’s harder with the inclusion of… Something. You’ll see. But not much yet 😉
6. Delays and things work properly now
7. Basic instructions!
8. You’ll notice… decorative elements :) They’ll be earned and have certain effects come the final game.
9. Various other things.
10. Player will use the bat unless there’s something to shoot, where it’ll attempt to use the gun.
11. Bat-spam removed.

Known issues:

1. Difficulty ramp is still to be tweaked, will get harder, at the same time give the shotgun a better reason to exist, hopefully. I’d talk about it but it feels like it’s better tested than talked about.
2. Pause causes crash in one scenario. Don’t find it 😉
3. Achievements still need to be added.
4. Sharing to be implemented (only works from iOS)
We’re almost there! Last mile is always the hardest, really… Thanks for all your input!

Enjoy the beta! 😀


One last thing:

As we’re nearing the finish line (last 90% of time spent on the 10% of the stuff), we want to ask you guys’ honest opinion on monetisation. Should this be a $0.99 paid app or a free with ads?

The original plan was to make something quick and toss it out as free with ads as an experiment. But with research and reading I find that there are two points of views to this all:

1. These days free apps fall into two categories – crazy IAP things or throwaway Flappy clones. That means the perception of free apps fall under those two categories too. The original intent with free with ads was never to “mint it”, but more to try and reach a big audience and gauge response. But if the impression of free apps are poor, then even before it gets into people’s handsets it’s already gonna be labelled as being an unworthy game. Thoughts on this?

2. If going as a paid app, we’ll drop the ads naturally, but the barrier to entry is higher. Even though a dollar is not a lot at all, we’re now competing against other dollar games like Cut the Rope, PVZ (even if IAP infested), Bad Piggies, etc, which obviously out-trump us. Obviously the app store doesn’t work like that, with only the top games getting all the attention, but is it worth trying to play in that arena with such a delicately small offering? I do think that going paid ups the perceived value of the game and may get it more attention than if it were free.

Overall, rather than a money-making exercise, this is more about learning how the market works, an experiment with real results, however it goes. We’d rather maximise it one way or another (exposure mostly), so it would be great if you could help us with valuable insights!