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Balancing cards in a CCG

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Anonymous

I'm a new guy in this whole game design stuff, but I have an idea of a CCG that I'd like to complete. I've got all the rules designed and the resouces I'm going to use, but I can't figure out how to start designing the cards! I'm afraid that without a formula for stats (like 1 of a certain resource is worth 1 of a certain stat) I'll make certain cards too powerful. But If I do use a formula the cards won't offer enough variety and the game will dull players. Anyone have any tips on this?

Hedge-o-Matic
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Balancing cards in a CCG

I do. I'd suggest beginning with a concet in your head of what you want game play to "feel" like, and then make the bare minimum of different cards that will support that. Adjust as needed, adn when it works, plays like you imagined it would, and is fun (don't forget that!) you can slowly add more. Take notes on what you might alter in the basic formula for new cards, and make certain that they are different enough from each other to be worth the effort.

Variety is the spice of life, but its a bitter ingredient in testing the basics of a system designed to be expanded later.

zaiga
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Balancing cards in a CCG

I don't think designing all of your cards based on a formula will work in the long run, but it may give you a good start. It's probably a good idea to start designing a few benchmark cards, test and balance those few cards, and design the other cards around that. Make sure that you have a little "slack" to make the cards a bit stronger or weaker, depending on how they turn out.

In the end, it will come down to simply playtesting a lot. As Hedge pointed out, it's much easier to start out with a small batch of cards, balance those first and then add more cards.

Some cards will always come out a little stronger than others. Part of the fun of a CCG is finding out which cards are good, which are merely useful, and which ones are bad. Of course, you don't want to make cards that are so good that they make a whole lot of other cards obsolete.

gpetersz
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Balancing cards in a CCG

Yes. In Magic they for example have Moon Sprite (for 1 green and 1 other mana) what is an oridnary 1/1 flyer (green), while they have Scyble(?) Sprites (I don't remember the name exactly) for 1 green only and that's the same 1/1 green flyer but half the price.... So it is absolutely easy to choose from the 2. :)

Magic designers invented the "drawbacks" to allow more freedom in stats, so something like that might help you later (first: go design the basic cards).
It is because they can lower the price for a strong card but could put somekind of drawback on it what sometimes proved to be an advance in good combos, thus making deck building a real challenge and adventure!

larienna
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Balancing cards in a CCG

In short, here is how I think magic made their evaluation system.

Each ability has a price either as colorless point or colored point. Then they totalise the number of points and determine the casting cost. For example, each mana in the cost could give 10 points. If you want a creature with flying, it might cost 12 points. So you need at least 2 mana to have a flying creature.

This is the basics, now it gets more complicated :

The color : Some ability would cost less if the card is of a certain color. For example, flying in blue might cost 8 instead of 12. Regeneration will cost less in black and green than in red.

The mana color : Maybe each mana color will give it's own set of point and abilities could be bought at a lower price with collored mana or at a higher price with uncolored mana. Or the colored mana give more points than uncollored mana.

Drawback: To reduce the raising of the casting cost, some cards have drawback that give points that can be invested elsewhere.

Rarity: This is where the balance of the game just get wacked up. Since magic card has different rarities, uncommon and rare card will give more points for each mana invested. An uncommon card could give 12 points per mana, while a rare card could give 15 points per mana. This is what make rare cards more powerful.

For example, scathe zombies is 2/2 monster that cost 2B.
The hypnotic spector cost 1BB is 2/2 monster but with flying and a really powerful ability. So is the fact of spending instead a colored mana worth the extra flying and cool ability: NO. This mean that the specter is rare card and receive much more points for the almost same mana cost.

Collections : As the game evolves, new collections bring cards which are much more powerfull for the same mana cost, so it is possibel the the ability price or points received for each mana is changed with time.

So this is how I think magic cards are made.

TruMobius
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Balancing cards in a CCG

Larienna--- is right that is how they did it with mirage and on till Tempest

before that there was no "formula" (there was a point system) nor was there much division of colors

after Tempest block things changed and they started to take things much more seriously (the company growing helped that too)

http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=mtgcom/daily/af89

here is an informative article of the primordial origns of Magic

Torrent
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Balancing cards in a CCG

I offer the following two links from my many horus of surfing over the years.

http://www.agameofthrones.com/designer_journal.php This is a link to a group of articles written over the last few years about the Game of Thrones CCG. If you use the drop down you can go back a long way and read from the beginning. There is some real good info on how that guy and his team thought about card design.

http://www.warlordccg.com/diaries/index.html Similar set of articles from a designer at the Warlord CCG.

This might give you some more insight to the CCG world.

Andy

Anonymous
Balancing cards in a CCG

Thanks for the links,
I am new to this site but have had some ideas for CCG's kicking around for a while. A transformers based one is my favorite pet project, but it has been driving me nuts for a long time.

Anonymous
Balancing cards in a CCG

These are some awesome tips and links! I'm really glad I found this site! Thanks to everyone who has contributed and any others who have more to say. All of you are awesome!

Anonymous
Balancing cards in a CCG

Well you certainly aren't alone in the "make your own CCG" world. I've been at it for years, creating parodies of Magic, celebrity battles, and almost anything else imaginable.

Of course balance is the key, and what I've found is that when you're starting (And this will sound very obvious, but it's vital) you should keep it very simple. For example, there was a CCG popular a few years ago called Yugioh, and instead of having all the fires and waters and mana that was found in games such as Magic, they replaced that with a star system. If the card was four stars or less, you could play it without any problem. If it was 5+, you had to sacrifice a number of your monsters already in play to play that one.

What I've done on some of my CCGs (Which were more like card games, since they didn't have many cards to collect) is just keep a very simple number system where each player starts with X money/mana/whatever. When they want to play a card, they have to spend that much (as indicated in the top right corner of the card) to put it in play. Every turn after that it collects money/mana/whatever for you to spend more of. If a monster is somewhat strong and thus hard to defeat, it earns little resources but costs a lot. If a monster is weak and easy to defeat, it typically can pool more resources each turn it stays in play.

When in doubt, remember Thomas Paine's KISS rule: Keep it simple, stupid (and I don't mean to call you stupid in saying that, it's just the way the phrase is).

=)

larienna
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Balancing cards in a CCG

If you want, you can remove the casting cost in order to make the game more simple. This mean that each card will have a equal value. You then limit the number of cards played in a turn.

Emmerlaus work like this. You can play 1 card per turn either to attack or boost yourself and all counter ability cards can be played as you want.

Johan
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Balancing cards in a CCG

The main problem with a CCG is not to calculate that each card get its right value. It's more that the complete game works. I suggest that you divide your cards into 3 groups:
- Week
- Normal
- Strong
Give all cards in the same category the same casting cost. Then you start to test, test and test to correct those costs.

If the cards have other abilities then attack and defense, then can a card combinations be devastating. If we take a look at Magic, here we have a card cost but also a type cost. Then they have put some abilities to be more frequent in some colors.
To get an effect that is built on 2 colors you need mana from both. In Magic, that is a huge disadvantage (it takes time to build something). When I played magic (10 years ago and 3rd ed.) it was not to recommend having more then 2 colors.

There are CCG that are build on other ways to calculate the casting cost:
In Overpower (a Marvel hero game), each turn you take 8 cards from your deck. Then you have to remove all duplicates (you can not only use strong cards since you will then need to remove these cards). Overpower has also a point value to get the main characters.
Middle earth (old Lord of the Ring CCG (I think that this is one of the best CCG)). The cards itself has no point value to cast. You have a start point value of the power of your characters. When the characters disappear, you can replace them. To get some cards you have to visit some places and do missions. There are no casting costs.
Knightmare chess (Steve Jackson Games) is not a CCG but is used in the same way. Both players build there deck from the cards. You set a point value for each player and then the player can bild a deck with cards, up to that point value.

// Johan

Anonymous
Balancing cards in a CCG

Don't worry, snipy3, I definately have the idea of keeping it simple. I've got 2 types of cards and about 3 variables that affect the game. I'm kind of keeping it simple for a few reasons other than easier to design:

1. I want this game to be easy enough that as long as a kid can read and count, he should be able to play. But the key to the game will be deck design, so it will appeal to older players as well.

2. When I played the Dragon Ball Z TCG, I was kind of ticked when they introduced a large amount of new rules and banned a fairly big amount of cards. That basically ruined the game for me so I stopped playing.

Something else that bothers me is a few of the trading card games I got hooked on (Especially DBZ) started to annoy me because they kept on making cards stronger and stronger so all the cards I bought early on became obsolete to these new cards. I know it's a marketing trick to get me to buy more, but I'd like to see more CCGs where the person who hasn't spent much money has as much of a chance as a person who has.

It's a problem that is hard for me to deal with, but if the game turns out as well as I hope, expansions are going to have specific cards in them. Of course, the person with the money will likely have more approaches on how they design their deck, but cards won't be rare so casual players can always get them.

larienna
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Balancing cards in a CCG

Quote:
I definately have the idea of keeping it simple. I've got 2 types of cards and about 3 variables that affect the game.

Since you are making a CCG with, I imagine, UNIQUE rules for each card, it might be complex to design those rules due to the lack of possibilities and stats permutations.

I have found that there is 2 kind of CCG : Direct(use a card against your oppoent) and Indirect(place a card in play that will be used against your opponent. Most CCG are indirect.

Each card has an area of effect. Which is: what can a card can influence in the game. In a indirect CCG, you will have more cards on the table and so more target possibilities for a played cards. If the cards on the table can be USED, then each of these card has also an area of effect for their used abilities.

So if you make a simple game. Consider these points just to make sure that you do not run out of card ideas easily.

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