Card Building

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Actions that modify the gameplay effects and mechanics of individual cards.

Many games make use of cards. However, some let players upgrade or modify these games during play. Such games have Card Building.


The card game Mystic Vale provides each player with starting deck of cards. The cards have transparent sleeves and the game is built around players upgrading these cards buy acquiring upgrades which are most transparent sheets that can be put inside a card's sleeve to upgrade the card.

In Gloomhaven, players that have unlocked the possibility of enchanting ability cards can spend money to do so. Mechanically, this is handled by players placing stickers on cards that represent the abilities. Interestingly, one player enchanting a card may do this for another since players in different groups that have the same class shared abilities cards.

Using the pattern

The main design choices regarding Card Building is how modifications of Cards can provide Improved Abilities or New Abilities. An alternative to Card Building is providing actions that affect the effects of Cards without modifying the Cards themselves; the game Innovation does this through letting Cards partially covered by others affect the covering Cards through splaying. Illuminati and Illuminati: New World Order instead use the position of Cards to show how organization controls each other, and those controlling or being controlled can affect each other with specific effects.

Theoretically it is possible to have games with Card Building that support that building as Extra-Game Actions in the way some games allow Deck Building. However, no examples of game design doing this are currently known.

Interface Aspects

Permanent changes to Cards as effects of Card Building make games with this pattern be Legacy Games.


As long as Cards are used to make Decks in a game, the use of Card Building in practice means that that game also have Deck Building. The effects of Card Building are similar to those of Deck Building. That is, it supports players with a Freedom of Choice regarding Construction of the Cards and creates Gain Competence goals. The Card Building is also like in Deck Building a form of Investment with an associated Risk/Reward. Deciding on how to conduct Card Building also spawns Stimulated Planning and Strategic Planning. Like Deck Building, the pattern can provide both Varied Gameplay and Complex Gameplay, and handling this can be a form of Gameplay Mastery.

When card modifications are permanent, Card Building creates both Legacy Games and Meta Games. Card Building does not as easily as Deck Building lend itself to making Meta Games without also being a Legacy Games since Decks are easily to do non-permanent changes to between game instances.


Can Instantiate

Complex Gameplay, Construction, Deck Building, Freedom of Choice, Gain Competence, Gameplay Mastery, Improved Abilities, Investments, Legacy Games, Meta Games, New Abilities, Risk/Reward, Stimulated Planning, Strategic Planning, Varied Gameplay

Can Modulate


Can Be Instantiated By


Can Be Modulated By


Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With



New pattern created in this wiki.