Sven Uilhoorn

Interaction- and Game Designer based in Groningen, the Netherlands
Back to homepage Logo of the Card Race Series forum card game, showing 5 of the game's cards with 'Card Race Series' in text in front of them.

Card Race Series

A motorsport card game previously played on the forum of my international sim racing community. This is a simultaneous action game that takes about twenty minutes every week to play, at any time and day the player wants.

Every week players decide which skills to train, how much risk to take in battles, which race goal to choose for an extra training point and when to go out for next week's qualifying, all affecting the race results.

Roles and Responsibilities

I did all the work on this project;

  • designing and balancing the game mechanics
  • the visual design of the cards and tracks
  • the implementation on the forum
  • processing of results and standings
  • setting up the player feedback surveys

Final Product

An example of a race thread:

Qualifying results sheet. Every driver on a row with his total and scores per sector, as well as the bonuses for his qualifying strategy.

Qualifying result. Tracks are divided into three sectors, with each sector being of a type (straights, mixed or corners). Drivers can score bonuses by going out multiple sessions (early + late for example), but this can slow them down in the race. Equal "time" scores are sorted on order of entry or championship points.

A track map with information about sector type, error and damage ratings. Below are six cards with those details in small for every one of the six series tracks.

Track information. It shows sector types, damage and error multipliers for both the current track and the upcoming tracks on the calendar.

The vertical starting grid with decks of cards for each player, as well as their position and rank on the grid, training points and focus displayed.

Grid for the race with the decks of three drivers pictured here. Training points determines how many cards they can upgrade. Focus drops if a player choose to go out for multiple qualifying sessions and affects error and damage draws.

A form that shows choices in rows and columns.

Playing form, players choose which training cards to upgrade, their race goal, battle risk, next week's qualifying strategy and have to enter their forum name.

Nine different training cards and six different race goal cards lined out.

Training cards and race goals. Race goals are chosen separately per week.

A spreadsheet showing entries with time and forum name.

Confirmation sheet that only shows the time of entry and the player's forum name (or name of fictional drivers). This way no-one knows what others entered, so there's no advantage on playing earlier or later in the week.

As the game is currently in it's first week, there no results sheet available yet.

Process and Methods

The project went from a Google Spreadsheet powered manager-ish game to a more visually pleasing and strategically interesting card game running within forum posts and an embedded Google form.

Spreadsheet with driver characteristics and race strategy choices.

First Beta, then called ETCC Life, simulating the racing part of the life of a race car driver. Abandanoned the project because of study projects, no clear plan on how to actually simulate races and my lack of Excel formula skills.

Spreadsheets showing driver skills and finances, with another sheet having input options for driver strategies in racing situations.

Second prototype, still ETCC Life, more polished, again abanoned for no clear plan on how to actually simulate races and lack of Excel formula skills.

Cards and an explanation infographic.

The first Card Race Series (CRS) used a % as score to determine pace, green cards to improve. A rock-paper-scissor system was used to decide battle outcomes, with the blue cards being bonuses for battling. Lasted exactly one race.

Season 1 cards and results sheet with 16 drivers and their scores on the fictional tracks.

The first season of the "current" Card Race Series. Fictional tracks, lots of randomness and barely any strategy involved. The %-system was ditched for a randomly drawn score based on the colored rectangles (green being +1, orange 0, red -1)

Season 2 cards and track map of real life track.

Second season of current Card Race Series. Introduced real tracks, new cars and styles, qualification, approach cards and improved racing calculation. Also the first level 2 cards. The graphics were only redesigned for effectiveness.

Season 3 cards and grid with player decks.

Season 3 brought improvements like a playing form, new and level 3 expansions, automatic qualification, race goals and rivals. Also the first time the cards were actually designed to fit in a starting grid. Major graphic overhaul as well.

Season 4 cards and grid with player decks.

Season 4. Mostly a rebalanced and refined update of Season 3; introduction of sector damage and errors, embedded calendar among others. Slight graphical overhaul as well, including most importantly: the font.

Season 5 cards and grid with player decks.

Season 5, a big change! Removed the randomness of pace draws, Racing Style cards left because they didn't add anything meaningful that couldn't be done by (two) skill cards. Introduced race strategy; drivers now choose if they push, average or ease on sectors. Upped the skill card count to 18 different up to level 4, with 6 new race goals added as well.

Grid of a season 6 race with decks for three players.

Season 6. Sadly cancelled because the back-end proved more difficult to develop than first imagined. The number of players also dropped after we moved to a new website for the racing community.

Toughest Challenge

Creating a game that has meaningful and interesting choices while staying within the limits of the forum software.

Other tough challenges have been writing the game rules and attracting new players. Although I've read a lot about writing the rules and made these a lot better, it's hard to test the rules without being able to sit next to a player and ask them to explain how they interpretate them.

What I'd do Differently

Getting the core mechanics right first. I didn't really start to test game mechanics for ETCC Life at first; the theme and idea were there, but no real idea of how races would be calculated at that point. That's where it almost stranded three times.

A lot of the current evaluation points are about making the game more elegant, simple but still deep in strategic and tactical decisions, all while keeping it a simultaneous action game that's able to run in a few forum threads.

Tools Used

  • Pen & Paper: sketching mechanics, card designs, result sheets, page lay-outs and rule systems
  • Notepad: documentation, writing game rules and mechanics
  • Excel: card draws and scores, result and standing presentation; lots of formula's doing work for me
  • Photoshop: card designs, track polish and grid lay-out
  • Illustrator: basic vector track lay-outs
  • Google Forms & Sheets: providing embedded playing forms and displaying confirmed entries
  • Typeform: player feedback surveys

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