While designing what would become House Rivalry, I knew I wanted to include some elements of chance, some elements of choice, and potential for strategy play. After all, going to magic school feels like it shouldn’t be a one-style experience since there’s so much variability in play.
I spent countless hours designing cards and how they would interact with each other and set up mock games on the coffee table. At this point, nothing made sense to anyone who happened to see this process. I *lived* this game, for months, and trusted a few friends to help me with the process by “playing” with me–which mostly looked like well-intentioned, confused folks with a flurry of lightning behind them as I tried to explain to them what their scribbles and chicken scratch and really, really bad drawings might represent.
But the feedback was clear.
My friend Pat Jarrett was the first to tell me, “You have to get this out of copyright.” And, he was right. I couldn’t possibly expect to have a game in the universe of The Boy Who Lived. The hoops I’d have to jump through, as a brand new designer, would be a nightmare.
So, with hundreds of hours already in this game, I went back to the drawing board. I mapped all of my characters, spells, items, events, and houses in a spreadsheet and quickly realized that there was nothing about this game’s premise that mandated it be in any particular magical school setting, so long as there was magic, evil forces at work, and a school with a mind of its own.
With my fully created game in hand, I began the painstaking process of rebranding every card into an entirely original world. My world swam with magical artifacts and dark wizards and the constant rush to complete my game….again.
A little while later, I had a new version of my game–shiny, partially typed bits of paper glued to playing cards this time–and was able to sit back and watch folks give it a whirl.
It was still overly complicated for what I wanted it to be, but it worked.
I shut my mouth and watched four folks I knew play this game from start to finish and have fun doing it. I didn’t have to explain how to play or describe what I was thinking or watch someone break the game–everything was (relatively) balanced and it *worked*.
I didn’t need a Harry Potter game, as much as I loved that universe. I just needed a magic school game–with hijinks and mayhem and boring professors and house rivalry and so much magic.
At a little under one year from my start of this project, I began self-teaching Photoshop (I’d touched it in high school journalism and never since) to design and lay out the Foxcroft School of Sorcery cards for printing.