My Improv CCG

Category: CCGs
Last article published: 21 July 2017
This is the 20th post under this label
Some of you may know me through the Unofficial (and now long-abandoned) Doctor Who Collectible Card Game I made 2000+ cards for earlier this century, but it wasn't my first CCG. See, in the '90s, I was a big collector of Decipher's Star Trek CCG and, developing the online persona of Siskoid, wrote tons of articles, dream cards, etc. both on Decipher's fan boards and on their official site. One day, a co-worker and fellow improv player of mine said "You should do 'dream cards' for our improv league" thinking I might do a little write-up in the same style for our then pretty active (e)mailing list. I thought he knew me better than that.

What actually happened is that, almost overnight, I created rules for an actual Improv CCG and a number of graphic cards for it. I then went on to create more, adding new rules with every "expansion", using Java script to simulate opening booster packs, and so on. The Basic Set even had a short print run on cardboard stock, and we managed to play a few games. I'm not gonna make like it's an awesome card game - it was too wonky for that - but it was workable and emulated the "improv match" format used in these parts.
The Improv CCG was entirely based on the STCCG template, which I think is pretty obvious. You built teams of improvisers, color-coded into factions, and sent them on "missions", i.e. themes, where they used their skills to overcome difficulties and penalties (Dilemmas) to hopefully score the point. Players also kept Conditions, Excuse Me But..., and Shots (Events and Interrupts) in hand until they were needed. Just look at the characters above. I decomposed the jack-in-the-box that was the league's logo so that the bells on its hat could be skill icons, and the spring act as the download icon ("springing" cards right into play). The big difference with STCCG is that you had to attempt the Improvs in order, which I think was a major problem with the game play; you could stay stuck for a long time waiting for the right players to get played to your bench so you could finally attempt them. I think that played better in the Solitaire version. Later expansions would add alternate scoring methods, alternate universe teams, and new icons... Just like the STCCG.
While I made sure the game was playable, the point was really only ever to pay tribute to the players, referees, and fans of the league, and to the inside jokes and memorable moments it sparked. Every year, I'd do a premium set so the improvisers could get that year's teams printed, as a souvenir. It was fun, and you can find it all HERE. If you don't read French, you can Google translate the rules somewhat, but there's no easy way to do it for the cards, I'm sorry. And if your French is up to par, you'd then have to understand French-Canadian improv culture to really understand what's going on. And even if you had that, a lot of the jokes are probably nonsense unless you were part of the league in that era.

Still, I loved doing it, and it let to the Doctor Who game, which was equally inspired by Decipher's STCCG, and probably just as wonky. If I had to do the Improv CCG over, you can bet the graphics would be better, but I'd also divorce it from its inspiration a lot more. A lot of the wonk was due to my committing to its basic mechanics. Still, not bad for something I dreamt up in a day and a half back in the late 90s. (And no, I'm not planning on a do-over... except this got my mind thinking... damn it!)


Elyse said...


Siskoid said...

Nothing like pulling images from an audio medium to make a card game that would work how exactly?

Damn it Elyse... the Fire and Water Podcast Network CCG, coming soon from an idiot like me.

Okay, probably not "soon", but you KNOW I'm gonna think about it.


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