The Two-Sided Mirror: Interview with Creator Alan Cross

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Posted March 16, 2015 by Chad Waller in Nerdy Bits

As someone working on his own card game (no, I won’t shamelessly plug it despite wanting to (I am pretending to be a professional, after all)), I’ve grown very interested in the ones currently on the market or the ones seeking market exposure. From a purely gameplay perspective, card games offer more variety and interesting gimmicks than I could have ever imagined, and that’s just really cool. When I stumbled upon Alan Cross’s Kickstarter Page for a new card game titled, Two-Sided Mirror, I was intrigued despite the, at the time, overall lack of information. I wanted to know how this played and what set it apart from the hundreds of other card games out there. With an emphasis on characters, equipment, and actual dodge mechanics, Two-Sided Mirror is quite different from other card games I’ve come across.

Below is my interview with Alan Cross. You can find more information about him and his game on his website, http://www.lombergames.com/

WeTheNerdy: Can you explain how Two-Sided Mirror is actually played? I get that there are three characters/heroes to choose from alongside item and energy cards, but could you tell me how they all work together? How does Two-Sided Mirror set itself apart from other card games on the market, such as Magic or Yu-Gi-Oh?

Alan Cross: Two-Sided Mirror is played on a on a 5×3 rectangular grid. Each character has an attack range (where they must be in order to launch a basic attack), attack and defense points, and most have ultimate attacks called “Mirror Breaks” that usually deal a major amount of damage or have some other strong effect. Think of these abilities as trump cards. Most characters also have one or two passive abilities.

You use energy to use skills and mirror breaks, both of which have a range where the attack will hit on the target player’s grid. You can use horizontal or vertical movement cards to simply side step attacks; however, not every attack can be side stepped, and not all attacks hit in a single space. Many skills hit in a pattern where only a vertical OR a horizontal card will save you, and some skills even hit in a wider range, forcing you to use multiple movement cards to escape the attack.

I feel that Two-Sided Mirror stands out in that most card games games focus on having a lot of monsters and attacking the player directly, but in my game you have a team. This allows you to focus your deck on how to compliment your three characters and removes the hope of drawing that one monster card that will save you. You also have the dynamic of moving and dodging out of an attack instead of having to helplessly take the damage because your trap card only activates if a certain card is played. Even with basic attacks (which cannot be dodged), your defense will reduce the damage, meaning a high defense can make a character basically immune to basic attacks. Skill damage must still be dodged though, so even very high defense characters can be taken down relatively easily. There are also ‘Team Attack’ cards that can change the tide of a match but require specific characters to be alive on your team, so selecting the right characters can make a big difference too. You win by either:

– killing all other teams
– destroying all 15 spaces of the enemy’s grid
– if the enemy draws from an empty deck
– if a card says you win

There are four ways to win, so not only do you have to decide which characters to use, you need to decide how you will arrange your deck. This format lets you set up many different–yet effective–strategies. I don’t know of many battle card games that allows you to simply destroy the battlefield itself to win. It’s not as easy as it sounds either.

WTN: You say you can win if, “a card says you win.” What does this mean exactly? Are there specific, “You win” cards?

AC: Not exactly, but there are cards that have a condition you must meet in order for you to win. Examples are, “If you have cards X, Y, and Z active at anytime during your turn, you win the match,” or “If this card remains active for X turns, you win the match.”

I don’t think I will have a straight up ‘YOU WIN!’ card but cards that do have the ability to end the match will have some kind of hard-to-meet task before it lets you instantly win the game. I made up a few yesterday, actually. They won’t be released anytime soon, but it’s like, “Place this card on your grid. If this card remains active for 10 turns, you win. This card has (various stats) and can be targeted and destroyed.”

WTN: One of your selling points is that any number of players can play at once. How does this go about working? I’ve played Magic with three people, and it was kind of chaotic. Furthermore, how did you go about balancing a game that can support so many players?

AC: I was thinking along the lines of a multiplayer Magic game. The balancing, I believe, is that almost all the cards specify who or what can be targeted, and very few actually target all other players; most cards only target one character or one player’s grid. If you find Magic multiplayer chaotic, I would envision that this would be the same way.

WTN: You’ve got three types of energy that all act differently, which sounds pretty cool. Mechanically, how do they work and what do they do?

AC: Yes there are three types of energy: Core, Spirit, and Plasma. When you play an energy card, it goes into your team’s energy pool which is charged with everyone on your team including any ally Monster cards.

Core energy behaves like Land in Magic. Once used, it is drained (tapped); however, it does not recharge (untap) by itself. Once at anytime during your turn, you may roll one d6 in a recharge attempt. If the roll is equal to or lesser than the number of drained cores, you untap that number of drained cores. If your roll is higher than the number of drained cores, all the drained cores are overcharged and are discarded. A very good idea is to simply wait until you have six cores drained before attempting to recharge, but after many play tests with friends, I learned that early on if energy is being drawn too slowly, you might want to risk a recharge for a chance at that vital skill that could win the game for you or give you some breathing room for later.

Spirit energy and Plasma energy behave very similarly. Once they are used, half (round down) are discarded into the Junkyard (discard pile), and the other half are returned into your hand. Now the big difference between the two is that half of the Plasma energy used is returned into your energy pool (instead of your hand) if the attack dealt any damage. This is a big deal because it saves you vital turns from having to restock your energy pool in order to use another attack, cutting the turns it takes to restock in half.

Another big difference in the energy types is what they fuel. Skills that use Core often have a very small attack range and are easily avoidable, but Core energy makes it easy to spam those skills if you can recharge them. Spirit-fueled skills often hit in a row or column and often inflict a mild amount of damage or add some type of status ailment. Plasma skills usually deal low damage and add ailments but hit in a larger area. All three energy types can be used to power equipment cards that might have some type of ability once used.

WTN: Have you considered doing a print-n-play version of this game?

AC: I’ve never thought of that. That sounds like an awesome reward, actually! I will have to add that to the lower reward tiers. Maybe the reward right above the one that offers actual cards. I’ll have to figure that one out.

WTN: Let’s talk lore. Where did the idea of the “TWO-SIDED MIRROR” come from, both conceptually and historically in the game’s world?

AC: The “Two-Sided Mirror” is something I made up back when I drew my comic with the same name (the comic is not available). When I was little, the idea of a two-way mirror (being able to see someone but they are not able to see you) seemed really cool, and since I didn’t know the proper name for it back then, I thought it was called a two sided mirror. Thus, Two-Sided Mirror was born. It seemed cool, so I kept it.

I was going to make the card game from the comic, but the comic idea slowly died as I explored other ways to tell the story. In the game’s world the Two-Sided Mirror is a legend that grants anyone who put it together a total of three wishes (hence the three-man team). Think of it like a genie or maybe even Dragonballs that have to be collected, except there are only five parts. In reality, the mirror is a portal to another universe. All…well most of the characters are searching for the Mirror while others are just joining groups for the adventure or for other reasons.

WTN: All of your character bios seem to involve an orphanage. What prompted that as a backdrop to your game’s story?

AC: The start of the comic revolves around an orphanage, so I wanted the first two decks to feature the characters that are linked to it. I picked an orphanage because it helped set up the conflict a few characters will have in the future, like Powder’s orphanage bullies or the mother that abandoned Kine. The story and cards released will be relevant to the part of the story that I will emphasize. A large bulk of the story will take place on Toh, which is a desert wasteland and thought of as Alcatraz island due to the harshness of the land and creatures and the low probability of escaping once there.

WTN: Is there anything else we should know about the game that hasn’t been covered yet?

AC: As I release cards, the character’s bios will have additions onto them to follow the story as it progresses. If all goes well, I will release actual playing mats for the game as well as many more cards! I have about 200 cards made and ready for print. As of right now, I have over 1000 cards in my spreadsheet ready for future releases. I want players to read the lore, pick their favorite characters to fight with, follow the stories as they unfold, and have fun. It would be pretty cool to see players reenacting battles from the story with their cards.


About the Author

Chad Waller

Chad Waller is the cofounder of Dual Wield Software, a two-man video game company that just published The Land of Glass on Steam. You should check it out! You can follow him on Twitter @DualWieldSoft and find his company page on Facebook with a quick search.