San, Ni, Ichi originally consisted of nine unique cards and three sets of cards in suits, with a Rock, Paper, Scissors meets Magic: The Gathering's 'counter-war' mechanic. Even though it had fewer cards than the current iteration, it was far too complicated for a small card game.
As the game was tested and refined, it became larger but less complex. Playtesting taught us many lessons in play experience while allowing the game to develop organically. Once the game reached a fully playable and extremely fun state, the only thing left was to fine-tune the mechanics and cards to make as smooth a gaming experience as possible.
Art came soon after. Michael, the game's designer, took months creating unique, hand-drawn, artwork to use for the game. The graphic design of the cards evolved to evoke the Japanese theme of the game as well as follow design principles from traditional CCGs.