Introducing TechStack - a card game about the last 40 years of information devices

by Konstantin Weiss on October 10, 2020

Ladies and Gentlemen, it's such a pleasure to finally publicly announce my card game called TechStack. It's been in development for almost two years now, and is now ripe to see the light of a beta for playtesting.

TL;DR:

The game is ready for download. Reach out to get the beta.

A card game about tech?

How come I'm designing a card game? And why about devices? Although that's a story of its own, it all started with a simple question: how do I teach my children about the powers and the costs of digital devices? Initially based on Top Trumps rules, it developed into an own, unique, full fledged card game.

Before I dive into explaining the game, let me say thank you for all the people around me, who endured the endless play testing. They went through the ever-changing rules, at times radical, other times just evolutionary iterations. I have compiled a list of all people, and I am happy about every contribution of every one of them - a big thank you!

Ok, here is a gist of the game. It's not the complete rule book, but shall be enough to give an idea.

The game

TechStack tells the story of information devices of the past four centuries. It can be played from two points of view.

Playing as a maker:
You play a maker of information machines. Starting in 1980, you live through 40 years of creating, developing, and releasing these machines, giving everyday people abilities and powers they did not have before.

To win, release devices with most skill points.

Playing as a user:
You play user of information machines. Starting in 1980, you live through 40 years of choosing, using, and being affected by these machines, being empowered by the machines on the one hand, and trading in your habits and will power on the other.

To win, use devices with most skill points, without losing your will power.

The deck

The deck consists of 32 cards. Each card represents an information machine - a computational device released somewhen between 1980 and 2020.

Each device gives skill points in four different use areas, represented by numbers on the edges of the card.

Placement: When you play, you use the cards by placing them in a 2-by-2 layout, indicating which cards you want to use in which area. Thus, you build a square out of four cards, where the edges of this square indicate the skill points you will get.

Card: Each card has skill points on the edges of the card. Each card Each card is categorised into a technology level, represented by symbols. And each card has a focus of one usage area, represented by color. There are four tech levels, and four usage areas. Moreover, each card states how many will power credits it costs. Additional data on the card is not important for now.

How to play

Setup:
- Every player gets four cards in their hands. - On the table, the remaining deck is face-down, - With one card next to it face-up, creating the discard pile.

Your turn: In your turn, you get a card, decide whether to place a card on the table, or swap one card for another, and which card to discard.

End of game: After one of the players places their last card on the table, there are two last rounds, and the game ends.

How to win

Depending on your placement of cards, and on their selection, you get points. Each tech level has an extra rule to get additional points.

When playing from the user's point of view, you also need to take into account your will power budget. Each device takes a toll on you. It may get you addicted, it may drain your spare time, and your will. The mightier the device, the bigger the cost.

Strategies

Depending on your card constellation at the end, you can win against other card constellations, or lose. There is no single card constellation that always wins. Hence, knowing the strategy of your opponent, you can play a strategy that is going to beat the other's cards.

Iterations

This beta version is version 0.12.01. It's went through eleven actual physical decks, spanning over almost two years, starting somewhen in spring of 2018. The game evolved from a simple intent to make a game about information machines, through a method to teach my children about the human costs of digital devices, to the different play modes, one simpler than the other. Oscillating between being too complex and being too oversimplified, I believe this version is in general the right balance with regards to the game mechanics. It still needs quite some balancing of points and maybe even rule tweaking. But it's surely fun enough to be played.

Get the beta version

Starting today, I have a pdf of the entire deck, for you to download. And of course, I have the rule book written down in English, as a pdf and text file.

If you're interested in trying out the game, please reach out to me via k @ konstantinweiss.com or via Twitter, and tell me in a few words what motivates you. I'd love to share and play the game with you.

In the next days, I will also try to get it to run on digital platforms, so we can play remotely together.

In any case, I'm super looking forward to share the game with you, and to have lot's of play testing sessions. And of course, I am curious about what you'll say and whether you enjoy it.





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