# The Appearance of Complexity

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cedrick
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Joined: 12/31/1969

I am working on an Expandable Card Game in which cards represent various worlds that the players travel to. Each world card has quite a bit of information listed on it:
1) Which of the 7 available terrains are present in the world. A given world can have 1 to 7 terrains available.
2) Which of the 3 available technologies work in the world. A given world can have 0 to 3 technologies available.
3) An inhabitant type, either "None", "A", "B", "C" or "D".
4) A number representing its economic value, expressed as a number from 0 to 5.
To give you an idea about how these values are used in-game, terrains, technologies and inhabitant types are matched against other cards, indicating which cards can be played in those worlds. For example, you can't play a card that relies on a particular technology if that technology does not work in that world. Similarly, terrains and inhabitant types must match creature cards played in those worlds. Economic values are totalled and affect how many resources the player can muster.

My basic question is this: does this seem overly complex? I would think that since I've avoided numbers and relied on just matching, I could be forgiven a bit of extra "stuff" on the card, but I'm afraid that just having big lists of descriptors on the cards will make the system seem more complex than it actually is.

Johan
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Joined: 10/05/2008
The Appearance of Complexity

I think that the possibilities are not over complex, but the cards will be (at the same time that will be static). You will have 7x7x4x5x6= 5880 possible variants of cards (just in the basic) but you will maybe use only 100 or so.

I don't know that you are using the cards for so I can only guess. One way to reduce the complexity and have all the options, is to split the cards into several different (similar cards). Split the cards and build the planet:
- When you arrive at a planet (play the planet card that shows how many other cards that can be on the planet and if there are some restriction). Next person can now play 1 or several cards on that planet to build it up, next can do the same to nobody wants and can play any more cards.
Example: The first player plays a read planet. This has a restriction that no water terrains can be played on it and only 5 cards can be added. The second player plays a desert terrain card (Economic 0) and a mining base (Economic +3). The third player plays Alien A and tec.level stone age (combined you must have some protection and it will reduce economic with 1). No more cards are played at this time (but one more card could still be played).
You can then add any number of expansions on this with new variants, without violation the base.

// Johan

cedrick
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Joined: 12/31/1969
The Appearance of Complexity

Actually, the number of possibilities is greater than that.
1) Terrain = 2 ^ 7 - 1 = 127 possible combinations of 1 to 7 terrains
2) Technology = 2 ^ 3 = 8 possible combinations of 0 to 3 technologies
3) Inhabitants = 5 possibilities
For a total of 30,480 combinations. But you guessed correctly; I'm only using about 100 of them.

I'm not sure if splitting the different aspects into different cards actually reduces complexity at all. I think that having everything written out on the card is simpler than modifying it on the fly with other cards. Since I'm partial to deep or complex systems, often what seems like no big deal to me is often daunting to potential players, so it's good to get feedback early on in the design. This may be something that I can only vet in playtesting, but I'd like to see what other games have done with similar mechanics.

Emphyrio
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Joined: 02/10/2010
The Appearance of Complexity

You might want to reduce the number of terrain and technology descriptors that appear on any single card, so that the total averages about 3 or 4. This seems typical based on the CCGs I've seen.

That would still give you a reasonable number of combinations (120 combinations of 3 + 210 combinations of 4 = 330 total). For expansions, you could add more terrain and technology types -- if you added one of each, you'd get 165 new combinations. Of course, multiply those figures by 30 for the inhabitants and trade variables

If the cards don't have any special abilities, but only the descriptors, you could probably increase the total number somewhat.

Hedge-o-Matic
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Joined: 07/30/2008
The Appearance of Complexity

I think that having numerous descriptors is fine, as long as players won't need to manipulate a great number of them at any given time. I'd use symbols and icons as much as possible on the card design itself, so that "processing" the card is faster and more intuitive.

VeritasGames
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Joined: 08/01/2008
The Appearance of Complexity

Reduce the total number of terrains on a give world to the dominant terrains. Our own world might have 7 terrains, but that's really not important in most SF games.

I recommend no more than 2-3 dominant terrains per world.

Next, what you want to try to do is to divide up your card world card logically so that different pieces of information are in different locations on the card. Color code this information as much as possible so that people can determine what they want at a glance.

http://www.veritasgames.net/images/terra.jpg

Has a sample of what I'm talking about. Different pieces of information are in different sections of the cards. In my example, economy is in the upper right, population is in the lower left, tech is in the left middle, and terrain is in the right middle.

There's also a spot for card traits and game text.

This type of card is not that busy.

cedrick
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Joined: 12/31/1969
The Appearance of Complexity

Thank you all for your input.

I liked the idea of color-coding, but not sure how it will look on the card, so I may stick to icons. I am working on a prototype which I will post someplace eventually, but I'm still tinkering with my system.

As I looked at my distribution of world cards, I noticed that the way that the terrain distribution was working out was such that I had a concentration of cards with 1, 3, 4 and all 7 terrains. Since no world could have zero terrains, I could put in a rule that says "If no terrains are listed on a world card, then that world has all 7 terrains available". This would solve the problem because then cards would never have more than 4 terrain descriptors on them, and my mechanics could still work the same. This would have the unfortunate side effect, however, of potentially confusing players.

What do you think?

VeritasGames
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Joined: 08/01/2008
The Appearance of Complexity

cedrick wrote:
Thank you all for your input.

I liked the idea of color-coding, but not sure how it will look on the card, so I may stick to icons.

Color coded icons is what I was talking about. So that every icon is a different color, and you can tell, at a glance, what an icon is without looking at it closely.

Go to:

http://www.starchamber.net/spoilers/harbinger.html

For an example of a game that uses colored icons well.

Quote:
"If no terrains are listed on a world card, then that world has all 7 terrains available".

I wouldn't do this.

The other alternative is to create an omni-icon. Put it on all other cards in the game (other than terrain). On terrain that would nominally have 7 icons, just put one -- the omni-icon. I suggest this, because I'm assuming that most of your other cards have just 1 icon on them normally, so this would just make a second icon.