Breakfast of Champions: League of Legends DDCG

26 Mar
Disclaimer: LoLDDCG is an independent fan project, it is unaffiliated with Riot inc. or any employee of Riot inc. Use of Riot’s graphics is intended for the purposes of prototyping and makes no attempt to challenge ownership of those graphics. All original graphics, system and design are displayed under a CC-BY-NC licence. League of Legends is (c) Riot inc. 

This is an introduction to my current major design project, not so eloquently titled the League of Legends Dedicated Deck Card Game. It’s a challenge project to convey the feel of a game of League of Legends on the tabletop, an exercise in aesthetic and kinaesthetic design and generally just a hell of a lot of fun.


How does it work?:

LOLDDCG is a primarily two-player game designed for both casual and competitive play. It has many similar properties to major CCG lines, but has enough of its own feel that it can’t really be described in terms of any of them. The game uses three kinds of cards:

Champion Cards:


Champion cards are persistent, remaining in play at all times. They’re double sized and have a variety of abilities and stats that are designed to be easy to use and track. They are designed to mimic the playstyle and strategies that their digital counterparts most frequently employ, sometimes even their more niche builds. Their main resource is tokens, which represent both gold and mana, energy, fury etc. So tokens are used both to buy items and to power abilities, meaning players have some hard choices to make.

Summoner Cards:


Summoner cards are held as a hand and used at specific times in the same way as instants or sorceries in Magic: the gathering. They represent summoner spells, big plays, strategies and gambits. They don’t cost anything to play, but have specific limitations as to when you can play them. You can also cash them in for tokens

Item Cards:


Item cards are used to add stats and abilities to champions. They’re designed to be slotted under a champion card to create an easy to track stats section. They are bought by using resources champions gather over the course of the game.

Playing the Game: 


The game begins with a drafting and setup phase,  then plays out over a series of cycles, each of which contains 10 turns, one for each champion. A champion’s turn consists of selecting an action to perform- farming minions, attacking their opposite number or heading back to buy an item for example. Alone this process is fairly predictable, but every cycle each player gets randomly drawn summoner cards they can use to tip the scales or surprise their opponent. As the game progresses, players earn victory points by slaying enemy champions or completing summoner card based objectives, representing them taking out towers and pushing to victory. The game is designed to be elegant but allow for the depth and colour of play that made League the success it is today. Easy to learn, near impossible to master.

The Game Design:

LOLDDCG’s ruleset is tailored to promote gameplay which matches a digital game of League of legends. There’s constant tension that slowly builds and then climaxes in waves, with a slow upwards trend in how important each major conflict is. Most of the character archetypes remain as they are in the digital game- supports work well without many resources, AD carries need to farm up but become terrifying late game, AP carries are powerful playmakers but are vulnerable if they lack resources or get behind the curve. Everything was designed so smart play in the card game roughly parallels smart play in the main game.

The other key element in the mechanical design was balancing elegance and simplicity with remaining true to the original game. I think I’ve managed this very well at this point. Not perfectly, there are still some mechanics I think I need to tweak, but the game still ‘feels’ very much like a game of League of Legends. Players don’t have to keep track of much in their heads, which is very important when deep strategy is important, and the flow of the game feels fairly intuitive. It’s a little more complex than MTG or Pokemon or the other big CCG formats, but this is compensated by a smaller overall card pool to familiarise yourself with.

The Aesthetics:

LOLDDCG is an attempt to show off some ideas about kinaesthetic design. Kinaesthetics is the merging of visual design and physical mechanics. In this case the primary element of kinaesthetic design is the stat system. Item and champion cards have graphics designed to mate with each other easily, allowing for easy tracking of statistics and scaling damage mechanics. Item cards also have colour tags that indicate their type, allowing a player to page through their library quickly to find what they’re after.

The overall graphic style is based off the season 3 ingame UI, a mix of the store UI and the HUD. I added some unique textures to the background and some contrasting colour flairs that help the design transition nicely into a printed format.

The System:

The overall system is designed to be a DDCG. DDCG is a catch-all term for card games with unique cards that don’t necessarily have a collecting/trading element. While the game could have worked fairly well with a CCG format, removing the CCG model makes balance easier and really suits the goals and ethos of League of Legends more closely. Players will always have access to exactly the same cards as their opponents to build their deck with, so no theoretical ‘pay to win’ model here either.

The result is a game system that is really quite versatile. There’s the ability to share cards when playing with friends, or stick to a clearly defined formal ruleset for competition. It’s quite capable of accepting newcardsets of any of the three types and integrating new mechanics without much difficulty.

I think at the moment perhaps the weakest element of the system is the game length. A projected game may last 40-60 minutes, compared to the 5-20 minutes for most CCG formats. Admittedly this is giving generous time for each move, so I think expert players may be able to cut that down significantly. However, such a time commitment for beginning players means it will take some time to achieve comfort and basic mastery of the cardsets. This is mitigated by the DDCG format, which isn’t as fluid as CCG norms, but it’s still not optimal.

Where things are at: 

The game is currently in pre-alpha stages. This means that the ruleset is largely complete, as is the initial cardpool. Most of the work between now and the first testing will be actually building the cards from the templates I have developed, which may take a few months. I’m hoping to begin some testing by the end of may, but I’m still wrangling with both how I’ll go about it and the insecurities that messing with someone else’s IP brings. If anyone from Riot ends up here, I’ve been knocking on your IP folks’ door for ages now! Tell them to kick the door down if you don’t like this, mk? I don’t want to piss off the company that’s allowed this project to happen, so I’m hesitant to open up the project beyond what is necessary for the time being.

Still, I thought people might enjoy this attempt to bring a wonderful game to a new medium. I’ll be posting new progress from time to time, including how to get involved if you want to here, so subscribe or bookmark or write the URL in blood upon your forearm, however people these days get things done ^^.


Posted by on March 26, 2013 in Design Practice, Quick Reads


36 responses to “Breakfast of Champions: League of Legends DDCG

  1. James

    March 26, 2013 at 9:57 am

    This looks very interesting, and it defiantly looks like you’ve got mechanics that represent and correctly convey much of the source material.
    My biggest concern from what you’ve shown us here is wordiness. My recommendation would be to make sure the rule set is solid, and remove from cards text that is already a game rule. In the “Flash” card you’ve shown, it looks like the second half of he text box is reiteration of what looks like game rules- not something unique to this card.
    Just my suggestion having played Magic the Gathering as they’ve made this sort of change and stopped including game rules as card text.

    • thereisnosaurus

      March 26, 2013 at 10:10 am

      It’s definitely something that will be tweaked and polished as the project develops. At the moment though it’s important that cards are unambiguous during playtesting as it saves me having to field Q&A from prospective playtesters every other minute XD. Thanks for the advice, will keep it in mind.

  2. Random Guy.

    March 26, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    I came.

  3. Judson

    March 26, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    How will you be distributing the Alpha? Not gonna lie, I’d love to help test this. I know you have copyright to look out for, some I’m not terribly hopeful that this will be a limited Alpha distribution, but a guy can dream, can’t he?

    The idea is solid, and as an MtG fan, I would be very excited to throw down some offline Leauge with my friends. I would assume you’ve approached Riot about this, and I can only hope they say, ‘Why yes, we’d love to have this.’

    Good luck on propagating this concept to a full-fledged reality.

    • thereisnosaurus

      March 26, 2013 at 1:49 pm

      I will put out a formal call for testers with specific capabilities (a few different people to play against, the time to play a few games in a session, trustworthy and willing to enter an NDA with said play partners etc) in a month or so if all goes to plan. Stick around and join in when the call goes out, you seem like the type I’d bring into the tests. Existing MTG players are great because you have cards and sleeves which you can slip printouts into for a more comfortable testing experience.

      • Judson

        March 26, 2013 at 2:13 pm

        Awesome! I can’t wait!

      • canpan14

        March 26, 2013 at 3:16 pm

        Yeah I would love to test this. Me + friends play league and MTG all the time and this seems perfect. Can’t wait to hear more about it.

  4. Sebastian Almlöf

    March 26, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    I have some questions about the current combat. From the image it seems each champ can attack exactly one other champ and be attacked by only one champ. I’m guessing there are cards like ‘gank’ that modify this behavior but I wonder if ‘lane swaps’ are also available cards? I think that might provide some interesting strategy as you might notice your opponent itemizing perfectly to either defend or attack a champ something which you then could counter by ‘swapping lanes’ i.e. let two cards change position. I think your project sounds awesome and I’ll follow it closely! Good luck to you!

    • thereisnosaurus

      March 26, 2013 at 1:53 pm

      champions can perform a basic pool of actions without needing cards. This includes holding, which gives a token and a small heal, farming which gives a few tokens but ‘commits’ the champion which stops them using certain abilities and actions (some summoner cards require a champion be uncommitted to be used for example), engaging which stats a kind of ‘subgame’ where the two champions in that lane duel until one runs or dies, and roaming. Roaming commits a champion but lets them go back to heal and buy, attack an adjacent (a basic gank) or switch lanes with another friendly champion, committing them as well. There are cards for more involved ganking tactics like teleport and just plain go anywhere type ganks.

      So yep, all this is perfectly possible, and you don’t even need fancy cards to do it XD.

  5. OmegaRage

    March 26, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    would love to play this both on PC as on a real life deck. 🙂
    go for it man!

  6. Burany

    March 26, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    One of the best features in league is how the champion changes depending an the way you build them. For example My favourite champion to play is Kog’Maw but I exclusively play him in the mid lane and build AP. Will your trading card game allow me to play ap kog’Maw?

    • thereisnosaurus

      March 26, 2013 at 11:35 pm

      There’s definitely openings for different builds, but ‘niche’ ones are tricky given the streamlining that needs to be done. The only champ with a significant niche build in the champion pool so far is AP yi, which is still definitely viable though he ends up being more of a trolltank than a snowbally finisher. Kog is going to be a tricky one when his design gets done, but it’s possible at least…

  7. The Batman

    March 26, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    I’ve certainly been toying around with an idea for a table top game with lol Characters. Think Star Wars, Epic Duels, but with an expanded rule set for more characters per game. I like the design of your cards, and it seems pretty cool so far. Look forward to seeing some updates

  8. Michael

    March 26, 2013 at 6:13 pm

    I have been playing around and engaged alot in CCG on an amateur level, you might know the lackeyCCG community (if you dont, it is basicly a platform to make your own cardgames and play them online).

    Anyways lets get to the point, I made my own cardgame about 2 years ago ( and it died of because of rule-problems and I never commited enought time to work on it again, but I managed to learn a lot of programming from it, and i programmed a card generator, that makes cards from simple information and a template, to avoid siting in image editing software all of my time. So if you are interested hit me up, and i could look into my old folders, I need a project to spend time on on the side, also I love game design and would gladly test and discuss it with you aswell 😉

    MVH Michael

    • thereisnosaurus

      March 26, 2013 at 11:38 pm

      Sounds cool, but the way the cards are built for this game is a little tricky given the use of custom graphics to represent values and so on. I have some really solid templates built in photoshop, so building a champion card only takes about ten or fifteen minutes, less for the other ones. Still, being a complete failure of a programmer myself, people with hacking experience are always great to have around, so don’t go anywhere, there may certainly be some interesting things to do around this project in the coming weeks.

      • Michael

        March 27, 2013 at 2:15 am

        My engine used pictures to write out text so you can have any kind of design at it should work, but yeah if your current system works no need to change it and use time on making it, especially since it is a closed card game and not meant to expand constantly. Will be following your progress.

  9. Andrew

    March 26, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    Honestly, I think this is an incredible idea and looks to be a great addition to the League of Legends world. Have you considered doing a public beta test? Maybe not making and distributing the cards (for monetary reasons, obviously), but at the very least allowing the specific card templates and rulesets available for download (so they can be printed), a la Cards Against Humanity. I think it could provide some fairly decent feedback, and could go a long way towards pushing development. You might also consider a Kickstarter campaign specifically devoted to the physical manufacturing, after the testing is said and done. All-in-all, though, you’re doing a great job and I can’t wait to see some more updates on how this is coming along.

    • thereisnosaurus

      March 26, 2013 at 11:40 pm

      The endgoal of this project is a fully fledged ruleset and package of cards for download. I’d also release card templates so people can design and add their own champions, with some kind of community program for voting on the best implementation to be made official. This really all depends on Riot’s take though.

  10. Coopdeforce

    March 26, 2013 at 7:01 pm

    As a long time league and MTG fan, i personally would love to test this game out for you when the time comes, and I’m sure my three room mates would also love to as well.

  11. Chris Henderson

    March 26, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    *Throws money* Shut up and take my money! Lol.

    I am slightly saddened though as there was no ‘Buy It Now’ button on the page. :/

    Cannot wait for this game. Thank you for the brilliant idea and work that you are putting into it.

    • thereisnosaurus

      March 26, 2013 at 11:41 pm

      Never will be, in all likelyhood. The upside of that is of course that, if you get it, you get it free ^^

  12. mhylands

    March 26, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    The design is wonderful, and the overall style sounds rather exciting. Never played a DDCG, but played most of the big TCGs over the years. I definitely agree that the smaller overall pool of cards should make for an easier learning curve to become introduced and start enjoying the game, as my issue with some games was starting several sets in and being unaware of 90% of cards when I began play. The concepts of the game were simple enough, but the constant introduction of new (to me) cards made it difficult to immediately get into.

    Also, just curious, do you plan on incorporating some form of turret/nexus play?

    • thereisnosaurus

      March 26, 2013 at 11:43 pm

      Sort of. Turrets and nexus kills are represented by victory points, and there will be certain victory point oriented summoner cards that hint at that. Pushing strategies, turret sieges, inhibitor kills etc will all be scenarios that a card can trigger and will give victory points if their conditions/objectives are met.

  13. Charlie Kelley

    March 26, 2013 at 7:45 pm

    This Look like a really cool game man, i want to know when i can get some cards once you get all the stuff established

  14. Charles Olson

    March 26, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    I have experience designing, testing, and balancing table-top and card games. I would like to be involved in the testing and development of this project. Please contact me if you have any room in your dev. team!

  15. B4y4rd

    March 26, 2013 at 10:54 pm

    I would love to test this, i have 6 siblings, and multiple groups of people i play cards/miniatures/board games with, i can take polls, see enjoyment levels, see what people like or dislike. I would love to help with this project in any way you need me to, i love the idea. Email me with ideas, or starting decks and such and i will commence testing.

  16. Mike

    March 27, 2013 at 2:25 am

    This looks pretty sick. As a MTG player as well, i would love to test this out.

  17. Michael

    March 27, 2013 at 11:18 am

    AS a game designer you proably want to see the reactions of people playing it; fun, bored etc. but if you want to go for a open beta kinda thing you could if you got time you could make your game playable online with I used it myself in my testing days.

  18. Timo Granacher

    March 28, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    I think this game will be really interesting i will wait for it 😀

    • Anatoli Brill

      March 29, 2013 at 5:33 pm

      Suddenly a random Timo 😀
      I think nearly every TCG interessted LoL gamer will wait for it.
      But we clearly need more informations about the gameplay.

  19. Daniel White

    April 30, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    I love this! Literally I just googled league card game to see if anyone was working on one, didn’t expect something as polished as this is starting to look. As an avid SW:CCG player that still plays I am very much looking forward to see how this develops. If there is anything at all I can do to assist or help you along I would be more than happy to. Good luck!

  20. Cho'gath items

    June 22, 2013 at 5:46 am

    This looks interesting. Has the game been launched and where can I download it. And I just want to know what is the full form of DDCG.

  21. stefsot

    July 1, 2013 at 5:33 am

    I’d like to help on this project. I have some programing experience and I’d like to help you digitalise this.
    I have already created the basics (gui controls, dynamic server) and I’m ready to program the actual game core. The game is server based and it will allow online dueling.

    Contact me if you are interested.


  22. tiffany123

    August 11, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    I want this to happen so bad I’ve always thought it would be a cool idea and you actually took the time to do it. I hope someone from riot sees this. 🙂

    • thereisnosaurus

      August 11, 2013 at 2:50 pm

      They have already ^^. I had to talk to them for quite a while to get the go ahead and make sure everything was ok. As ususal they’re total dudes.

  23. FL0ww

    September 7, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    Awesome dude… I will be buying these ship them to The Netherlands for me! 😉


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