Dev Diary: From Senses to Fortunes

So, you’ve got a group of wizards sitting around the table, trying to show off their skills in a non-lethal manner. What do they do? They try to screw with each other, of course.

This was the original premise that inspired Cursed! and it is still intact, but lots of the details have changed. We started with each player trying to preserve their senses: Sight, Smell, Taste, Touch, and Hearing. In order to cast a curse on an opponent’s sense of Touch, your own sense of Touch must be curse-free, so you’d want to bless your own fortunes while cursing others and trying to take down everyone else before you are left without any perception of the world around you.

After playing a few rounds with our alpha prototype (a.k.a yellow index cards with illegible scribbles), we learned a few important lessons:

  1. Having just two plays to make, one offensive and one defensive, made the gameplay simple and too luck-based for our taste
  2. The ratio of bless cards to curse cards is the main component in determining game length
  3. It is really hard to think of multiple exciting ways to say “I curse your sense of smell!”


We worked on the complexity issue by adding choices to the game without changing the fundamental mechanic. We created a third card type (Neutralize) to allow for a bit more flexibility. They are fairly rare, but since you can use them both offensively (remove an opponent’s blessing) and defensively (remove a curse from yourself), they’re good cards to keep for a rainy day.

The other element we added is the sacrifice. In addition to its major action (Bless, Curse, Neutralize) each card has a sacrifice effect and every player must make a sacrifice each turn. The sacrifice cards change the rules of the game with varying degrees of magnitude roughly corresponding to the card type (Curse cards have small effects, Bless cards have medium effects, and Neutralize cards have large effects). We really enjoy playing any of the Fluxx games from Looney Labs and the extra strategic element that comes in when the rules of the game can change at any time.

Game Length

We decided that a two-player game should take roughly 30 minutes, with less being better than more. Cursed! is a casual card game, so anything over 30 minutes for just two people would be a bit much. We took a brute force approach to the problem: play the game a few times, change the ratio of cards, play again. We think we’ve reached a sweet spot of about one hundred cards supplying the right proportions for between two and six players, but that is not set in stone. We’ve done plenty of small group play testing, but those six player games have been harder to organize.


Since the senses weren’t great for trash talking, we brainstormed for a while and came up with fortunes as something with a bit more variety and a topic that we think people will find more engaging. At this point, we were far enough down the balancing and rule refinement that we wanted to keep with five categories, so we chose Luck, Love, Wealth, Fate, and Health. Coming up with a unique curse, blessing, or neutral saying for each card was a community effort and a bit of fun (though that last curse could be challenging sometimes).

Leave a Reply