Hot Air is a collectible card game where you build a deck of absolutely terrible cards, and then give it to your opponent. Use the cards to customize your ship and race your opponent through treacherous terrain!
This game was made in Eric Zimmerman’s Game Design 2 class. Hot Air is a collective effort from 6 Game Center students.
Hot Air was originally conceived as a card game where players would have to build decks for their opponents. As such, even before prototyping we wanted the cards to be terrible, but for players to need to play them anyway; our first rule became “You must play a card every turn”, which we discarded quickly because it felt forced and inelegant.
Our first prototype was a race with ship-building mechanics, in which you had a Captain card that had Money and Orders, which allowed you to play other cards and perform actions, respectively. This first prototype also had a simple track to race through, and Crew cards that would create your ship, each of which had an Attack, Defense, Movement, and Special value. The Movement values were arrows that let your ship move, and the Special values allowed you to gain more cards or money during play.
We wanted to address several problems with this first prototype. First, the attack mechanic did not feel right; a declared attack would have both players reveal the top card of their deck, which added its Defense or Attack respectively. If the Attack value was greater than the Defense value, crew would be destroyed. There was no reason for anyone not to attack, and so the game felt more like a fight than a race. Making the Attack mechanic work became a common problem through our iterations; we felt that attacking was the best way to make players interact with each other with spiteful intentions.
The first iteration also felt very flat, since the maps were unremarkable and we were simply throwing down cards without care. To fix this, with our second iteration we constructed map cards that had two tracks (one slow, one fast) that the player in the lead would reveal once they had gotten past their current track. We also created a system where the total Attack, Defense, Movement, and Special values of each ship were the aggregate total of each crewmember on a specific side of the ship.
The maps still felt flat, and the ships became huge and unwieldy. This led us to make detailed map grids that had special bonuses and terrain on them. Mountains, for example, would destroy whole columns of cards, whereas canyons affected rows. We also added special abilities to crew cards that gave players incentives to kill off or discard crew, keeping ship size from being gigantic.
The next major iteration of the game let players perform 3 actions out of a possible list of: Attack, Repair, Fire, Rouse, Hire, Move, and Collect Gold. We removed Orders from Captains (too similar to Gold), added Repair to cards instead of Defense in order to revamp the attack system, and changed the game so that placing Crew down in a certain column or row of the ship would trigger all the possible Actions in that section. For example, playing a card down on the rightmost column of the ship would immediately perform an Attack Action with all of the Attack values of the ship’s rightmost Crew cards.
Our final iteration tweaked deck construction; we added Factions, which are specific types of cards that behave in unique ways. For example, food cards don’t like being played together. Pirate cards are good for stealing opponents’ resources. Players are required to select 3 out of the 8 cohorts to make a deck which would go to their opponent, leading to tons of interesting setups.
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