Game from a Dream: Retake Dominaria

September 12, 2008

I had a dream last night about a board game / card game / rpg hybrid that you played with Magic cards. It went something like this:

There are some players, who have a sealed deck from some Magic set, doesn’t matter which. There is a GM who also has a sealed deck, probably from another set.

The players open their deck and spread all their land out on the table, arranging it so that it forms the shape of a continent or large swath of land, complete with a chain of islands in the sea, clusters of mountains and forests, etc. Any special lands are major cities or centers of political, economic, and social power.

This is the last stronghold of the free forces of Dominaria. The rest of the world has been overtaken by Cthuloid dark spirits from out of space, who have turned the rest of the planet into a corrupt parody of what it once was. All the empty space on the table surrounding the free lands is owned by Azathoth, basically.

The characters play members of the squabbling remaining nations, which are trying to get their shit together and hold back the darkness. From all the creature cards in their deck, they each pick one to represent themselves. They can be dragons or lowly skeletons or what have you, since there are mechanical advantages to both being 1) easy to cast, and 2) powerful.

The players also each build “microdecks” of about 12 cards each from their remaining cards, but have a limit on building these decks based on the mana they have available: the territory that remains free from the darkness. I don’t think there was a strict correlation here, in that every spell you possess had to correlate to sufficient lands to cast it, but there was some sort of relationship. Generally your microdeck is made up of cards of the same color as your character, colorless cards, and perhaps one other color. It’s good if, between the entire group, you have all 5 colors represented, but based on your sealed deck or personal preferences, you might decide on some other configuration.

The players start by picking the point from which they will invade the Cthuloid territories and try to win back more territory (and the associated mana and resources) from Azathoth. The GM plays a land from their deck in that space, but face down, so it’s not clear what it is.

Then the GM and the players duke it out over the territory by playing a few turns of Magic, until one side retreats. This was the most confusing part of the dream, but I think players tapped their “homelands” turning sections of the continent sideways, while the GM did something else, tapping face-down lands played from their hand, representing corrupt territory. Sharing the same lands with the other players made for interesting play, as someone could, for example, tap the last island when you really needed it for something else.

All of the GMs cards were played face down, actually, so players could only deduce what they were (or what they used to be before Azathoth came) by their effects. I also think the players had special ways to enter the battle themselves, using their own character cards. Perhaps your character always counted as being in your hand, but there were good reasons you didn’t want your character to die? Unclear.

In the end, if the players win, the new land is flipped over, joining the free territory. Also, the players win whatever face down cards the GM ante’d up. If the GM wins, you flip one of the existing cards over, representing another territory gained for Azathoth, and the players lose one or more cards.

The GM’s cards are from another set to represent how much Dominaria has changed from the corruption, even once the conquered territory has been freed. So gaining some of the formerly corrupt cards is interesting because they may have special mechanics or abilities that make it interesting to try to work them into your microdecks.

Also, there were some opportunities for roleplaying in the middle, but I’m not sure how this went in the dream, because I don’t think I actually experienced any of that. One idea is to have roleplaying be how the players make changes to their microdecks, either swapping out cards or reincorporating captured cards into their “armies.”

Anyway, it was really, really fun in my dream, but I don’t actually have any Magic cards anymore and I’m not sure I know enough about how all the new cards work to really recreate this and make it work in real life. Perhaps if I can recruit some folks to help out…

5 Responses to “Game from a Dream: Retake Dominaria”

  1. misuba Says:

    You can probably pick up some old theme decks for cheap. I’d totally play with this concept with you some.

  2. Sweet! Where do you live, again?

  3. Yeah, that makes it hard. Dreamation, by any chance?

  4. ignotus Says:


    I linked here from the story-games thread on what to do with magic cards.

    Conveniently enough, recent magic sets are perfect for this purpose. Wizards recently released back to back “blocks” about a world that cycles between peaceful ages of perpetual midsummer and cruel and deadly ages of perpetual night (called “Lorwyn” and “Shadowmoor” respectively) that would work perfectly for the “normal” world and the “dark reflection” of azathoth or whatever – the players would have Lorwyn starters, and the GM would have a Shadowmoor one.

    I have waaaaay too many crappy magic cards lying around, so this idea seems awesome to me.

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