Revised Guest Cards for Belle of the Ball

I couldn't resist continuing work on Belle of the Ball last week. I made several changes based on people's suggestions from the last round of design. The primary suggestion? Move all the relevant game data up to the top, so players can fan their cards and see what they have at a glance.

Opinions differed on whether to place data on the left or right. If you go by Hoyle playing cards as a standard, it's obvious to put the data on the top left. If you go by Magic: the Gathering or Pokémon, then it ought to be on the top right. I decided to go with the classics.

So now the nameplate is way up at the top. That left the flavor text block at the bottom of the card, kinda lonely. I would've left it there if I didn't run into another problem.

See, I was never really satisfied with the action symbols being in those white circles in the previous round of design. It just felt too tacked on. All my solutions felt tacked on, really. A bookmark hanging from the family suit? Floating on the flood of color as white symbols? I slept on that problem for a few days.

Finally I saw the obvious solution. Just move the freakin' text block up to the top! Ah, and then the portraits could be a bit larger and overlap the text block, creating a nice dimensionality to each card. Sure, that obscures the fancy version of the family suit in the background, but that was always intended as redundant coding anyway.

Megan said this solution looked like an old-school 8-bit RPG. The ones where the speaking character has a little avatar in the corner and a huge text window where their words crawl onto screen. This is a good thing! This way, the cards use natural, existing visual cues to better serve the flavor text.

With all those elements in place, I got to work coloring the actual illustrations. I've been intimidated by this task for a long time. Mori and Liz gave me great material, and I'm honestly not very experienced at pure coloring in photoshop, so I was just hoping I wouldn't mess up their hard work.

It took some experimentation, but I eventually settled on a cel shading style that seemed to complement the portraits very well. I kept each portrait monochromatic to its respective suit. So, any Crawhole portrait is going to have lots of oranges. The neutral tans and whites are used sparingly to create highlights and bring out the facial features.

Aaaand lastly, I wrote up some flavor text for each card that had an illustration. I plan for each card to have a bit of flavor text. A kind of solo fun for the players to enjoy during and away from the game. Each family has its own quirks and each guest is doing different actions. These in combination help guide how that character talks. I've been writing a lot more scripts for my day job lately, so that practice came in handy here. If I have to self-produce, I hope to connect with a proper writer for these blurbs.

So those are the guest card designs. Next, I'll talk about double-coding in game graphics and how I've used it in Belle of the Ball.


  1. I really like the new iteration, man. Great visual depth, and with the utility of the cards addressed. Plus these don't look like cards in other card games, to me, which I think is a *good* thing here.

  2. Are these the four colors in the game? You've got three warms, and one cool, making the blue pop out and leaving the orange and gold to sort of muddle together a bit. I might look for making one of those two go greenward, unless there's a different role for that color already assigned.

  3. Thanks! I know a resemblance to Guillotine would be one of the big issues to deal with in these designs, which is why I decided to go with cel shading and color-coordinated monochromatic palettes for each guest portrait.

    There are six colors in total, Red, Orange, Yellow, Blue, Green and Purple. You can see the card backgrounds in these old screenshots. I'll send you a PDF of the finished packet before posting it just to make sure it's all working out okay.

  4. BTW, it's my understanding that the Magic designers would *love* to be able to redesign the cards to put the mana symbols on the left. You know, if they weren't trapped by years of design.

    So, the left appears to be the correct answer.

  5. The left hand side is the correct side, since it maks the symbols easy to read when you have a hand of cards fanned.

    These look great, Daniel!

  6. I don't believe that left or right is objectively "correct" per se. You could just as easily fan your cards the other way, as many Magic players do. However, there is such a thing as tradition and it does seem that tradition calls for these symbols to be on the top left. Who am I to fight tradition? :P

  7. That looks great Daniel!

    I've been putting together some notes about playing card printers, for use on some of our back-burner game projects. Would you be interested in comparing notes as we all do prototypes, to find the best printing options?

  8. Absolutely. I'll be posting my results here on the blog as they come. Everything I've heard about Superior POD is that their quality is great, but turnaround is a little slow. That's a fair trade for me, so we'll see how it turns out.

  9. Well... when I hold cards in card games I hold them differently depending on the game. Sometimes I even hold them top to bottom, like with MtG.
    Oh do please share any and all printers, and their info, for cards. And books for that matter. (Daniel, got the link and saved it for the future.)

  10. You got it. For now, I'm going to post some thoughts on the actual design of cards in card games. Look for that over the next couple days.


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