Because I Never Throw Anything Away I Can Share With You The Crappy Card Game I Made 24 Years Ago

BREAKING: I’m a nerd.

I know. To many of my friends and family that admission will come as a total shock, but there it is. And, the horrible truth of it is, I’ve always been a nerd. Heaven help my sons, let us all hope they take after their mother.

Being a colossal nerd I’ve been into colossally nerdy things, often well before being a nerd about said things was cool (See: comic books, role playing games, wearing glasses). Among those nerdy things I got into was gaming. And not video games, oh no, that’s too cool for Young Jason.

No, Young Jason was into tabletop gaming involving chits and hexmaps (Avalon Hill games), robot figures dueling a millennium into the future (Battletech), and, once the genre existed, trading card games like Magic: The Gathering (which pushed out my other nerdy pursuit at the time – baseball cards).

Of course, my nerdery didn’t end with playing these games. No, see, I was going to be the guy that invented the Next Great Thing in gaming. There are scraps of assorted ideas and games lying all over the place, but one I still happen to have in a dusty box on a shelf with a bunch of other games is my aborted attempt at creating my very own trading card game based on the comic book universe based on the heroic adventures of the incredibly originally named Jason Tenney and his amazing friend…s. Friends.

hero rules
“Quick Rules”? These were the ONLY rules!

The game was amazingly enough named HERO! because why not? The exclamation point was probably so it could be trademarked. I considered those things back in the day.

The rules are a bit of a mess, but the gist is this puppy is no Magic: The Gathering. Nuh-uh. *slaps hood* This baby sucks.

Account Record? What does that even mean? How does that fit the theme? Hell, what IS the theme?

I’m pretty sure this whole “regions” thing was a concept stolen from another game. Magic was hardly the only TCG on the market at this time and I’d picked up a LOAD of the other games. They were also mostly terrible. Just not as terrible as this.

Yes, I did just go back to roman numerals for giggles. “Quick Rules” also denotes the time and effort I put into them. Also, yes, that picture of a card does look like a Magic: The Gathering card, thank you very much. And, yes, “char” is a hip way of saying “character,” very astute of you.

Oh, cool, basic math.

Wait. *Flips back through the rule book* So how exactly does someone win? Maybe it’s after these absurd “Card Types”…

Not yet. Also, why did I feel the need to abbreviate everything? “Sac” instead of “Sacrifice”? Was my writing hand getting tired?

There it is! The win condition! And it’s… I don’t know what it is other than more math. Not very thematic. But at least I give myself design and rules credits so I can’t deny it 24 years in the future when I dig it up again and mock my younger self. Also, “Wildfire Unlimited”? Young Jason, hang your head in shame.

But wait! There’s more! I actually put cards together for this!

The first prototypes were index cards cut in half and written on (or in some cases typed on because, yeah, sure, using a word processor on an index card was SO much easier). This is actually something that’s stuck with me. Because, yes, I’m still a giant nerd, which means, yes, I’ve tried to design other card games since. Half an index card is firm enough to be shuffled around, small enough to hold a hand, and has enough room to get basic information out. Very useful low tech for initials drafts.

If you want to go one step further you can slip them into a sleeve with another game’s cards and have full size cards to shuffle around and play with. But that wasn’t an option in 1995. Card sleeves where cheap, slick, flimsy things that no one used, so there was no tucking this into anything. If you wanted to play with close to the real deal, you could just write on the real deal. And write on the real deal I did.

Yup. I defaced a pile of Revised basic lands from Magic: The Gathering and made my own cards. If I were a smarter man I’d have used a Sharpie instead of a ballpoint pen, but this still worked.

But I wasn’t done. No. You see, not only was I a budding game designer but I was also a budding artist (No, I didn’t get out much or have a girlfriend until well after high school, why do you ask?).

So I made my own cards by cutting up poster board and drawing.

I can’t even.

Look at those abs! What on earth! Rob Liefeld would mock my sense of anatomy! (Inside nerd joke, bonus points if you get it.)

Why am I sharing these publicly? I’m lucky I’m already married…

Then there’s the crown jewel. The hero of our story. The one, the only, the all powerful: Jason Tenney

“Intellegance”? Jesus, kid…

Now, HERO! wasn’t the only game I made back in the day. It probably was the one I put the most amount of work into. I don’t remember why I walked away from it, exactly. Probably discovered girls or something. But I don’t think it was because I realized it was a bad idea or anything. No, I kept this because I knew some day, in the distant future, it would be worth something.

Like a blog post.

I’d like to believe I’m older and wiser now. I know a little more about game design and theory. I’ve certainly played more and tried a bit more in the way of designing, though to no measurable success. But part of me just wants to shuffle these puppies up and play a game or two, in part for nostalgia, but in another part because maybe, just maybe, even if just a little bit, maybe it’s not all bad?

No, it’s going to be bad. But maybe that’ll be half the fun.

I’ll keep you posted.

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