Tracy Alan
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Katana

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Head-to-Head
Samurai Action Card Game

You are a samurai in Katana, a tu­rn-based card game designed to evoke the cultural memory of early modern Japanese warriors. Going beyond token use of history as mere fantasy setting, the game synthesizes historical research, communication design methodologies, and interactive design frameworks to create a compelling historical gameplay experience.

Tense, turn-based card play serves to abstract the careful, contemplative nature of samurai combat, but also encourages strategic thinking and role-playing that supports a deeper understanding of historical concepts and cultural experience than other forms of media.

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An overview of samurai action card game Katana including narrative premise, game components, basic set up, battle mechanics, activating kami powers, and kamikaze attacks. Explanation of Daimyō and Rōnin editions of the game.

 
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Katana is designed to communicate historical concepts related to early modern Japanese warrior culture. At its most basic level, it is a two-player turn-based card game in which players fight to become shōgun of Japan using cards to attack, defend, counter, and even reflect damage. Players battle until they run out of armor and health tokens symbolic of material reality. Additionally, supernatural creatures called kami possessing tide-turning powers can be activated through ritual purification cards.

 

Design Process

PROTOTYPING  ➡   PLAYTESTING  ➡   EVALUATION  ➡   REFINEMENT

Achieving meaningful play requires an iterative design methodology. Cycling through this process enables incremental change to design to address specific mechanics so as to move closer to meaningful play. Moreover, iteration is essential for effective evaluation of game design, as the system of rules may result in unexpected interactions.

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Selection of Katana play testing notes

Play testing began the first day of design. A simple prototype deck of cards was crafted using a deck of playing cards and sticky notes. While unattractive, the deck was suited for the temporary function of testing initial concepts. Once I established functional mechanics and a firmer sense of rules, I widened my testing to include individuals unfamiliar with the game.

 
 
Sketches for identity, branding, iconography, and packaging.

Sketches for identity, branding, iconography, and packaging.

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First complete version of  Katana , December 2017

First complete version of Katana, December 2017

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Months of research, play-testing, and visual refinement culminated on June 10, 2019 with the launch of a Kickstarter campaign to acquire funding for mass production of Katana and gauge public interest in historically mindful games.

The Kickstarter campaign was a success, far exceeding the stated goal of $5,000 with $7,772 in pledges from 170 backers.

 
 
 
Katana—Daimyō Edition

Katana—Daimyō Edition

Katana—Daimyō Edition  includes: an Action deck (50 cards),  Kami  deck (12 cards), Shrine deck (24 cards), 10 Health tokens, 12 Armor tokens, Samurai's Guide, Quick Start Guide, Drawer box

Katana—Daimyō Edition includes: an Action deck (50 cards), Kami deck (12 cards), Shrine deck (24 cards), 10 Health tokens, 12 Armor tokens, Samurai's Guide, Quick Start Guide, Drawer box

 
Katana—Daimyō Collector’s Edition

Katana—Daimyō Collector’s Edition

Katana—Daimyō Collector’s Edition  includes: an Action deck (50 cards),  Kami  deck (12 cards), Shrine deck (24 cards), 10 Health tokens, 12 Armor tokens, Velvet Drawstring Token Bag Samurai's Guide, Quick Start Guide, Clamshell box

Katana—Daimyō Collector’s Edition includes: an Action deck (50 cards), Kami deck (12 cards), Shrine deck (24 cards), 10 Health tokens, 12 Armor tokens, Velvet Drawstring Token Bag Samurai's Guide, Quick Start Guide, Clamshell box

 
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Katana—Rōnin Edition

Katana—Rōnin Edition

Katana—Rōnin Edition  includes: Action cards (50),  Kami  cards (12), Shrine cards (24), Health cards (10), Armor cards (12), Samurai's Guide, Quick Start Guide, Tuck box

Katana—Rōnin Edition includes: Action cards (50), Kami cards (12), Shrine cards (24), Health cards (10), Armor cards (12), Samurai's Guide, Quick Start Guide, Tuck box

 
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