Layers -a 3D cardboard universe

One aspect that I really enjoy about card games is the possibilitty to have those small pieces of art framed in the style of a game. It could be compared to a small window, where it’s possible to have a look into that game’s world. Depending of the game, we can find us seeing the ungoing battle or enjoing the landscape of a distant palace, facing one of the heroes or villains, or just making a pause to see the smallest details of the universe.

Lately I’m enjoing and experimenting a lot to work with Magic the Gathering cards to use the “bulk” and spare ones, making an enphasis on the nice art that can be found in some of the cards that won’t normally make it to the playing table. There’re a lot of fragments of the game’s story that can narrate something about the game’s universe.


The Art department from the game is doing a pretty good job in bringing this deepness to the game’s universe. “War of the Spark” does an amazing work showing us the resolution of the last battle against the evil dragon Nicol Bolas.

The narrative in the cards is pretty well achieved, from the scenes captured and the texts, showing also some narrative elements through mechanics. The main problem with 3D in Magic it’s the way the game works: There are usually no cards outside your deck in most of the game’s formats, which makes the 3D cards unplayable.

On the other side, other games have separete cards that can be easily extended with layering, because they don’t go inside of the player’s deck. Android: Netrunner (FFG) was a good example of that, proposing a more “digital” layout that works really good with the 3D effect. The design of the 3D pieces I have made for that are normally focusing in the Characters, or proposing collages to divide the layers as “windows” from a computer experience. Legend of the Five Rings with its Strongholds shows us always amazing landscapes that scream to be put into layers.




How many layer is enough? And which one will be the purpose of them? That brings us -finally- to our main topic. I was experimenting with layers trying to achieve three goals: give more protagonism to the amazing art that can be found on commons and uncommons from MtG, use cards that won´t be the stars of your deck and finally, create some elements that can be use as un upgrade for the playing experience.

After some sketches and research I ended up cutting some cards. A lot of cards.




I have been already fooling around with commander cards and tokens before. That brought me to try something different this time: life counters.

The first version was focused on the possibility to sleeve the counter.hat’s why I used eight layers to messure the feeling of the weight and the way the die sticked to the pattern. It was pretty ok, but I got the feeling of something’s missing. The second one improved the amount of layers. I realized that some extra layers of “bulk” in between helped a lot to give extra size and a heavier feeling to the final card.




The first piece with a satisfactory result was the Behemoth, a very unique piece of art and flavour. That kind of card would never-because of mechanics- find a place in a deck. But thanks to its new size, it will be along a deck counting the life points of his owner. And it has now the weight of a Zombie Hippo! I will left the card speak for itself.


But this is not the only one to emerge from the box of cardboard! Keep an eye in the Flatline’s site, we’ll post more of the Life Counters during this week!


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