I had been wanting to do a project for a while, and "niche card games in popular culture" was kind of my thing. I looked around to see if there were any unrepresented card games, and lo and behold, I found Sabacc! At the time, this was before the release of the Solo movie, there were no Sabacc decks on the market, so I thought it would be a good project to take on. I knew my main challenge would be making something that would really hit home with Star Wars fans, I myself am not as enfranchised as some, so I knew digging deep into the lore was going to be one of my challenges.
I didn't want something too detailed, I wanted to go clean and simple, I wanted modern looking imagery and clean minimalistic designs. One of Star Wars' greatest strength is in it's iconic character designs, and because the designs themselves are so strong. I started with the designs for each of the four suits.
I needed to keep the symbols detailed enough to be recognizable, but simple enough that when there were many of them on a card it wouldn't be too hard to tell what they were. Unlike traditional playing cards, Sabacc cards go up to 11. This presented a layout challenge, while for 1-10 I could copy traditional playing card symbol placement for 11 I had to figure out what would look best on my own.
Initially I made the mistake of not drawing enough inspiration from traditional playing cards, and tried to trap the text in these awkward looking boxes. I also just kind of layed out my symbols haphazardly. I got a print produced of my initial deck because I really thought it would be the one!
First draft with the border
Example of another card
The real dealbreaker was the awful colored border, something I didn't project was that it would effectively mark the cards!
Another challenge was the face cards, picking characters for each card was a challenge! And as someone who isn't as well versed in the EU as they'd like to be, I knew I'd need some help. I worked closely with Allison Macrae for design and character consultation. In particular the Mistress slots were hard to fill, but Allison came through with some amazing suggestions!
Mara Jade from the Extended Universe
Hera Syndula from the animated series
The next challenge was the mechanics, the game features something known as a "Sabacc Shift" where cards in players hands change randomly. Allison as my resident rules expert, helped me figure out a good strategy for implementing this! One of the ideas was to have a "Shift Deck" comprised of 12 cards, two of each symbol featured on Han's dice, each turn two cards would be revealed and if they were the same, a shift would occur.
After some workshopping, we decided this was too clunky, instead I decided to include two beautiful metal dice in the kit, each turn players will roll the dice and if they come up with the same symbol a shift will occur! I'm glad I went with this because the dice are just another goodie I can include, and they make the whole package feel so much more fancy!
The next task was setting up the print run, as this deck is kind of a nonstandard size, I had some extra cards to work with, I decided to include some traditional "face cards" so the Sabacc deck could double as a poker deck as well! The last thing to come together was the rules insert, all copy was written my Allison Macrae, and we managed to keep the insert to a nice clean two page 8.5" x 11" that can be included cleanly into the package!
Overall it was kind of a weird experience to work on this project, everything up until this point has been mostly a passion project marketed towards... well me. This one felt a little different from that, while I do like Star Wars, there are many things I am far more passionate about, this was mostly something to test my skills and challenge me in other ways. Also it was my first time working closely with another person on a project, I really enjoyed working alongside Allison, she had some amazing ideas and contributions, and the project wouldn't have come together as nicely as it did without her!Purchase on Etsy Purchase on Ebay