I’m thinking that the new game, which has the working title Hands Up! because I’ve reused a load of the art from Shape Up!, could benefit from being lightly themed rather than abstract.
Theming is not one of my strong points, though – so if you’ve got any good ideas, please say!
What I need is a grid of 3 * 3 characters of some sort. So at the moment I have [red|blue|green] [circle|square|triangle]. But it could be eg. [honest|treacherous|cowardly] [mouse|bear|ocelot], or [protoplasmic|silicon-based|humaniform] [telepath|parasite|uplifter], or [gripping|tearjerking|mind-numbing] [novel|screenplay|autobiography]… etc etc.
Each card also has an associated action (which involves manipulating other cards), so I’m thinking that having the entities being characters of some sort might be a fruitful approach. For example, cute animals, or interesting-looking aliens at some sort of galactic convention, or manga-style schoolchildren, could be appealing. They could have individual names as well, eg. Oscar the cowardly ocelot, Geraldine the treacherous ocelot, etc.
(I recently got hold of Love Letter, and found that it has some things in common with my game. Including the theming of the cards as characters matched roughly to their actions. But hey ho, there are no new ideas etc.)
The downside of theming like this is it means having to have text on the cards, which at the moment don’t have any. But that might be a price worth paying if it makes the game more fun. The abovementioned Love Letter is a pretty simple abstract game really, but they’ve themed it cleverly enough that it automatically generates elements of story around the play.