Design Challenge 2: Hold the Gates #1

Hold by Tom Garrett

Hold by Tom Garrett

Hold the Gates! is a 2-player tactical defense card-game. This is a first draft rules outline, and the game is a work in progress.


Damage Tokens (approximately 25)

33 Cards, specifically

  • 10 Defender Units
  • 20 Attacker Units
  • 3 Settlement Cards

Example Card:

Example HTG Card Layout

A rough example of the layout of a card in Hold The Gates! The top section is sideways for horizontal placement.


The Orc army has attacked your settlement without warning. Only a small group of local Militia and the sturdy town walls stand between them and the destruction of your home. The King’s army will be here in a few days to rescue you, but it may be too late. There is only one thing you can do: Hold the Gates!


Choose the Settlement type, which determines the difficulty for the game. There are three settlements with different values – City: 5, Village: 3, Shrine: 1. The Defender loses the game if the Settlement card has Damage Tokens equal to or greater than its value in the Victory Check phase.

Separate Attacker and Defender cards. Defender uses all 10 cards immediately.

  • 2x Militia Captain
  • 3x Militia
  • 2x Archers
  • 3x Townsfolk

Attacker, separate cards into their Tiers (marked on each card for reference.)

  • Tier 1 = 4x Grunt, 2x Skirmishers, 2x Armoured Grunt, 2x Shaman (10 total)
  • Tier 2 = 2x Beserkers
  • Tier 3 = 2x Chieftain
  • Tier 4 = 2x Turncoat
  • Tier 5 = 2x Catapult
  • Tier 6 = 2x Warbeasts

Players shuffle their opponent’s starting deck of 10 cards each, and pass the deck back.


Phases of a Turn: Preparation, Battle, Victory Check, Escalation.

Preparation: Each player draws 5 cards from their deck. Attacker first, players take turns playing one card at a time. Cards may be played in two ways: Deployment or Action.

  • Deployment: Placing a card horizontal is deploying that unit to the Battlefield. Deploying units must happen outwards from the imaginary ‘Gates’, a line between the Attacker and Defender cards.
  • Action: Each card lists an Action Ability for that card. Instead of deploying the card as a unit on the battlefield, you may play it to immediately activate its Action Ability. If the ability allows the placement of Damage Tokens (DTs), place them immediately. If an action causes a unit to receive DT’s equal to or greater than their Combat Strength, remove the unit from the Battlefield. If an action has a continuing effect, leave it placed vertically (ie in portrait) beside the card it affects.

Battle: Once each player’s hand is exhausted, Battle begins. Battle consists of several Combat Rounds, until one side has withdrawn all of their deployed units.

For each Combat Round, the following steps occur simultaneously for both Attacking and Defending units.

  • Ranged Attack: If a unit has a Ranged Attack value, apply Damage Tokens (DTs) to the opposing unit.
  • Check for Withdrawal: If a unit is marked with DTs equal to or greater than their Combat Strength, they are defeated and are forced to Withdraw. When Withdrawing, place the unit on the discard pile, along with any action cards played on them this round.
  • Melee Combat: If both units remain, apply DTs equal to the Combat Strength to the opposing unit.
  • Check for Withdrawal: (as above)

Withdrawing Units: When a unit is forced to withdraw, the current Combat Round is over (If withdrawal is due to Ranged Attack damage, the Melee Combat stage is effectively skipped.) The next unit in line moves into the front rank. If neither unit Withdraws at the end of a Combat Round, the Round begins again.

When new unit(s) are moved into position at the ‘Gates’, a new Combat Round begins, following the same steps as above. Combat Rounds continue until one side is unable to fight due to the withdrawal of all of their units.

Breaking Through: If, at the end of a Combat Round, there are Attacker Units still on the Battlefield, these units are considered to have broken through the gates and damaged the settlement. Surviving Attacker units inflict their Combat Strength (but not Ranged Attack) damage to the Defender’s Settlement card. Mark the card with DTs.

Victory Check: Check the number of DTs on the Defender’s Settlement card. If the DTs are equal to or greater than the listed number, the Attacker has won the game. If not, continue playing.

Escalation: The Defender’s deck consists of exactly 10 cards. Since 5 cards are drawn per round, the Defender deck will be exhausted every two Turns. Whenever the Defender’s deck is exhausted, Escalation occurs, meaning that the Attacker gains access to all cards of the next Tier. Shuffle those new cards into the Attacker’s deck. The Attacker will still only draw 5 cards, but more powerful cards will now be available to be drawn. Once Escalation has occurred, commence a new Turn.


If the Defender’s Settlement is destroyed, the Attacker wins, scoring 13 points. The Defender scores points equal to 2x the current Tier of cards the Attacker is using. Eg, If the Attacker has Tier 3 cards in their deck, the Defender scores 3×2 = 6 points.

In the Escalation Phase of Turn 12 (ie when the Defender’s deck is exhausted after the Attacker has access to Tier 6 cards) the King’s Army arrives and drives off the Attackers, resulting in a Victory for the Defenders. In this case, Defender scores 15 points, Attacker zero.

I’ll keep it short – this post is already a monster! This game has gone through many revisions and I am very happy with its current state. I need to playtest to see how the game plays out, and the individual Action Abilities need to be detailed and refined. This game seems more complex than I intended. Read more about my design goals and the process in my next post.

Featured Image Credit: Hold by Tom Garnett

(Note: Image was cropped)


One response to “Design Challenge 2: Hold the Gates #1

  1. Pingback: Design Challenge 2: Hold the Gates! #2 | Dan Scale·

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