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Bug in CCG card design

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larienna
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First, by CCG in this thread, I mean more : Customizable card game than collectible card game.

There is something anoying which is bugging me in making the design of the cards for some form of CCG. It's a bit hard to explain, I think I will use some example to illustrate the situation.

Let's take 3 different games which are all card games where you must customize your deck.

1-Spell casting game : You cast attack spells that has a number of damage, special spell ability, casting cost.

2-Mecha game : Each card is a weapon that you can add to your mech. A weapon contains a number of damage and special effect ( like blast, armor piercing ).

3-Card fighting game : Each card has the number of damage, a letter to make chains and combos, and special abilities.

Now for all these games, each attack type of cards has around 3 variables which can each have different values. If there was only 5 values for each variable it mean that there is 125 possible combinations.

Now let say that the rules of these games works perfectly. I am now at the card design step. My big problem is that when I design the cards, it does not require any creativity. In fact, I only select any of the combinations possible and place a name on the card. Which mean that I could make a computer program that generates cards randomly and it would give the same result.

For most of all these games, there is only a little portion of the cards that contains unique text, all the other are permutations of stats. Not only it creates stupid and boring cards but it also makes the game more boring, reduce the interest in the game and makes the deck creation boring too.

I tried to compare it with some other games. For example , in emmerlaus, each spell has the damage strength and a maybe special ability ( drain life, acid effect). But the cards are basicly made only of a name with the dice to roll and a type of resistance. So the permutation problem is still possible. But the major difference with this game is that first it is a NCCG, so everybody draw from the same deck, and second, there is a lot of randomness in the game.

Another comparison I have made is with duel master. You only have the color, casting cost and creature power as information with sometimes a special ability not available on all creature. But it is fun to play and to configure your deck. Sure in recent editions, it becomes more complex since the original permutations has already been exhausted.

Now can somebody explain to me what's going on and how this kind of problem could be solve. If you don't understand the problem I'll try to illustrate, think that you have your own card editor and feel limited in the cards you can make since you can see that there is a limited number of possibilities.

- Do I have the wrong game mechanics?

- Maybe the game is not complex enough to be able to make unique rules for each card?

- Maybe I don't go deeper enough in the game to come up with unique rules for each card.

- Maybe I must add some random elements.

- Maybe the NCCG for is better adapted for the of game I illustrated above.

- Is it just a matter of creating more variables and possible values for each card.

- Is it the rules of the game that does not offer enough opportunities to be modified by unique card rules.

- Is it me who just lack of creativity to come up with interesting cards.
(I created MTG card recently with the editor, and I don't seem to be lacking of creativity )

- I realised that all the cards illustrated in the example above are direct effects. If the game is more favorable to indirect effect, maybe there is more unique rule possibilities. ( ex: In magic, you summon a monster that will damage your opponent instead of damaging it your self. You place cards on the table that will be used to do something instead of doing it directly )

- Another element is that most of these cards are played and discarded instead of being played and stay on the table.

Anonymous
Bug in CCG card design

This is why I choose hardware technology over software programming in college.

If you use a random generator with no specific range, you card stats will be all over the place. For a specific range of card stats, customize the range. A high range for good cards and a low range for junk cards. If I understand that that is what you are trying to do.

Kreitler
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Re: Bug in CCG card design

Larienna wrote:
Let's take 3 different games which are all card games where you must customize your deck.

1-Spell casting game : You cast attack spells that has a number of damage, special spell ability, casting cost.

2-Mecha game : Each card is a weapon that you can add to your mech. A weapon contains a number of damage and special effect ( like blast, armor piercing ).

3-Card fighting game : Each card has the number of damage, a letter to make chains and combos, and special abilities.

Hey Larienna,

This is an interesting topic!

I don't think there's any single "missing component" -- you could "fix" the bug a number of ways.

1) Mechanics of card play.
In games like rummy, the cards are very boring, but the mechanics of playing cards provides interest. Matching sets forces you to carefully discard and pick up. It also forces you to watch your opponent's moves in an attempt to figure out what they're holding.

So, for the spell casting game in your example, you might introduce a "play based" mechanic to add spice. For example, mana from expended spells can help boost new spells of matching color (assuming all spells come in one of 'n' colors). So, as my opponent plays red spells, I might choose to cast fewer spells in exchange for picking up his red cards. This allows me to "boost" a future red card by laying his expended reds on a future turn.

2) More base mechanics.
In the three examples, the games seem to consist of "play cards to reduce your opponent's strength to 0". That's a time-honored goal, but there aren't many supporting mechanics. In M:TG you've got to manage Mana. In the Settler's Card Game, you have resource production systems. These extra game systems provide more ways for cards to affect the game.

Try adding another "degree of freedom" to the combat systems. How about "morale" for the fighting game. Now you can introduce cards like "In the Zone" which increases your damage as your morale goes up, or "Desperate strike!" when increases it when it goes down. You could have "taunt" cards that affect only morale. Now, as I customize my deck, I can formulate a meaningful strategy: do I balance my cards or focus on either damage or morale?

3) Persisten cards that record long-term game-states.
You mentioned that the 3 example games all involve laying attack cards and immediately removing them. This does limit you. If you can introduce some cards that stay on the board and can change state (via tapping, flipping, etc), you will have even more interesting possiblities. You don't have to do this with your attack cards.

For example, in the Mech game, the "Mech" cards themselves could have a "status" word on each border: OK, Overheated, Gyros Out, Shutdown (turn to this whenever you are both Overheated and have your Gyros Out). Now you can make cards that force status changes but do less damage. This goes back to #2 and building a deck around a particular strategy.

The themes of tradeoff and strategy buildings form a common thread through all of these examples. If the cards seem flat, you probably need to introduce a new mechanic around which cards can be split: "do I pick cards that interact in manner 'A' or manner 'B'?" Defensive cards double the permutations as you have to decide whether to protect yourself from 'A' or 'B'.

Enough rambling. I hope you'll share your final thoughts on this topic as you read through the replies.

Good luck.

K.

larienna
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Bug in CCG card design

Now that I am thinking about it over and over again, I think I have found the problem. The problem is the direct/indirect thing.

Most of all CCG (Collectible) currently available on the market have all indirect strategies. By indirect, I mean that you place cards on the table that will be used as a tool to win the game while for direct, most of the card used goes to the discard pile. The Direct CCG are almost inexistant. In fact I only found one : WWF Raw Deal.

Now that I realised this, I took a look at the raw deal cards(1st edition). Most attack cards have a type (strike, submission, grapple), a damage and a fortitude (min dmg inflicted to play card ). It's not much information and it could lead to a permutation limit. Many cards does not have unique rules. Some have unique rules, they are generally related to either your cards in hand, deck, discard pile, or played.

Which has made me realise something else, the possible area of effect of a cards. In my Spell casting game a spell card can affect the cards in hand, in the deck and in the discard pile, the Hp level, MP level and the spell being cast. This is the area that a spell card can hope to influence with a unique rule.

In MTG, beside the list above, you can also affect the creatures, Land, Other Permanents and special event like combat. But it does not end here, because the cards in play can also be used to do the same effect than a spell cards which also has the same area of effect. So there is a multiplication of the possibilities here which you don't have in a direct CCG.

So as a general rule, we could say the a CCG with unique rules on most of all cards MUST have an indirect strategy.

Since Raw deal is a direct strategy CCG which seems to work, my new question : what are the elements which can make a direct CCG work?

Gogolski
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Bug in CCG card design

I read this thread very quickly, so I might be mistaken as for what you are looking for, but I can see a way to combine the three given exaples of card games.

If you have cards as you described ("magic/spells", "technology/mecha-stuff" and "fighting-skills/special-combo-attacks"), you could assign them to creatures/persons. Each creature has a couple of stats, which determine how good it is at using magic/tech-stuff/martial-fighting.

You can then add cards that these creatures can use. (their ability to use certain attacks can modify how well they do at these attacks with other dice or a fixed bonus to a die roll) More powerfull attcks do more damage; less powerful attack can be combined to get maximum effect (yep, loads of playtesting to eliminate balance-issues...)

It certainly could make for a deeper game, as you try to decide which attacks you play or combine, or which ones you will want to save to assign to another creature or to combine with another attack-method.

Just an idea, though... (must go to bed, too tiring a week and somewhat drunk... I love weekends...)

Cheese!

(PS: On a far sidenote: your post about the space-race-game (something about tile/battlemap-issues) some months ago, has sparked ideas that are slowly shaping into something more concrete... More about that later or on demand...)

Kreitler
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Bug in CCG card design

Larienna wrote:
Since Raw deal is a direct strategy CCG which seems to work, my new question : what are the elements which can make a direct CCG work?

1) Support 'pacing' as a mechanic
Indirect strategy games allow you to trade off damage versus time: you can summon lots of little creatures to attack and wear someone down; you can build huge mana reserves and deliver one crushing blow; etc.

Direct strategy games could do the same: allow players to deliver a "combined spell" by simultaneously playing cards of a like color or suit as a single attack or defense. If I combine strengths 5, 3, and 1 into a single attack, a lot more damage is likely to penetrate my opponents' defenses than if I deliver them in three volleys.

This forces me to choose between holding and playing my cards, and encourages me to build a deck out of fewer colors. This gets even more interesting if, as with M:TG, special powers break down along the lines of color.

2) Make sure you have at least 'rock-paper-scissors' strategy options
Attack and defense are necessary for combat, but not sufficient (as the math geeks might say). "I attack, you defend" is a bit too predictable. Introducing a third mechanic can shake things up because it forces a player to guess what his opponent will do.

Example: in the Mech game, introduce the concept of distance. "Move" cards have the same number range as the other cards. Weapon cards get an additional number that shows their effectiveness at various ranges. Now, when I attack, I can also play move cards. My opponent can play defense cards and move cards. Whoever plays the higher move total gets to either close or retreat one range bracket (of point blank/short/medium/long) before the attack lands. Now when I build my deck, I have to decide -- do I build a "fast" mech (lots of range cards) at the expense of attack and/or defense strength? Do I build a tank that rarely has a move advantage?

3) Define multiple victory conditions
I know I can win by reducing my opponent's health to 0 -- but what if I could also win by reducing his draw pile to 0, or by exhausting his hand and then delivering a "1 hit kill" card (Dim Mak?) with a normally ridiculously easy defense ("discard any card")? This encourages players to experiment with different decks ("can I win with the 'deck destroying' strategy?").

This thread just gets more and more interesting...

K.

Sgraffite
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Bug in CCG card design

This is very opinionated and fairly general but I'm hoping you can get something out of it...

Some games attempt to balance by mathmatical and probabily means and may seem somewhat lacking in creativity to some... Other games, such as MTG for instance, have so much variation it is impossible to balance so they depend on people's ideas and creativity to achieve the balance for them... Please remember this is a matter of opinion and how I see it...

Mathmatically balanced games seem to have a more stategical/statistical/logical element to them where as variety balanced games have more of a user creativity/variation balance to them. To me, I guess it depends what audience you are seeking and what your strategic goal is for the game. To the extreme some prefer variety/randomness and some prefer the game to be based purely on skill and consider randomess a cover for the player'(s') weakness or the reason for a winner or loser. (I have no idea how to show ownership with apostrophe's with a sentence with parentheses by the way!) My best guess as what would be best for both worlds is to try and take them both into consideration as much as possible...

Have randomness, but when using dice use some sort of bell curve dice rolling method as the foundation for expected values when you mathmatically balance it. For example 2D6 is random... however it has much much greater predictability than a 1D12. Most values produced by die rolls realistically should not be totally random and would have some sort of average values. A D12 would have 1/12 as all probabilities and thus be susceptible to the "randomness is a cover for strategic weakness" idea, but 2D6 you could use to you advantage in this area.

Try to take all possibilities into consideration that you can think of, such as the casual player. What will they come up with for their strategy or stategies? What won't they ever think of? In my opinion having a big audience is better in the long run, but appealing to both casual and harcore gamer is even better! The problem is finding a compromise in the gameplay that is acceptably deepstrategically, yet simple enough for the casual gamer to comprehend, come up with ideas and be comptetetive with.

I hope this helps!

Respectfully,
Sgraffite

Essence
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Bug in CCG card design

I believe that everything Krietler said is very insightful, and you should follow Krietler's advice.

Additionally, there are a few mechanics common to all card games that can always add to the available strategies.

1) Card drawing. Assuming you're limited to one draw per turn in most circumstances, and not limited to one played card per turn in most circumstances, any effect that allows you to draw cards, either as part of an attack/defense or entirely on it's own, is going to have to be considered in people's strategies.

2) Return-To-Deck effects. Magic made a whole new game out of the "return this card to the top of your deck" effects, as it not only keeps an attack from being used immediately, but it means the opponent doesn't see any new options on his next turn. It can also combine well with...

3) Deck shuffling. Forcing another player to shuffle his or her deck can be anything from a waste of time to totally crippling, depending on how many effects you allow that let you perform...

4) Deck Delving. Looking at the top X cards of your deck and choosing what order to put them back down probably isn't worth not attacking, but it would make a great addition to an attack card in exchange for a point or two of attack bonus.

5) Discard effects. This is a no-brainer; removing options from your opponent's next attack is always good.

6) Card-restoration. Taking a key attack/defense out of your discard pile and putting it on your deck (either on top or shuffling it in) is an option that only gets better as these secondary abilities are added to cards.

7) Insight. Allowing you to look at your opponent's hand or deck can give you great insight on how to beat him. (Possibly not applicable if the game plays with hands face-up, or doesn't have hands at all.)

8) Reusable effects. Cards that have a lesser effect but aren't discarded after use form a double-edged sword: on the one hand, you'll always have the tool available to you, but on the other hand, it permanently occupies a slot in a hand that is presumably limited in size.

There are other options specific to "drop your opponent to zero life" games that can also increase the variation between specific cards:

1) Self-inflicted damage. Attacks that deal more damage than normal to your opponent at the cost of dealing damage to the player, or forcing the player to discard another card.

2) Variable-amount cards. Cards that deal/prevent damage based on the player's or target's life total; the cards in the player's or target's hand, deck, or discard pile; or the last attack/defense played by the player/target.

3) Combined cards. Cards that can be played as either an attack or a defense, but aren't as effective as either as a single-purpose card would be.

With all of these, the rulebook doesn't really need to be changed; all of the relevant rules can be printed on the cards, and the interactions between them can be robust enough to make the game quite interesting without having to add new rules or secondary mechanics.

Larienna wrote:
Since Raw deal is a direct strategy CCG which seems to work, my new question : what are the elements which can make a direct CCG work?

The same elements that make any otherm game work: it's fun, each game is distinctly different from the game before it, there are multiple possible strategies and each interacts with the other, and the rules are simple but interact in robust ways.

That said, the problem you seem to be having is that, with the cards you have already, there isn't that much difference between one game and the next, because the cards are mathematically balanced with little "fun stuff" attached to them. and, the difference between one strategy and the next seems to be "what defenses does my opponent have, and do my attacks counter those defenses"?, which is actually one strategy available through a number of different routes. If you can eliminate those issues, I think you'll have a winner.

larienna
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Bug in CCG card design

Thanks for the information. It always help.

One of the solution I found for some games, here it would apply to the fighting game, is to have a predefined set of cards that contains many permutation (like a normal deck of 52 cards) and then the player make a controled random selection of the cards to form a deck. When his deck is formed, it will not necessarily contains all the card he want, but he will have to learn how he can fight with these cards. ( Of course, the palyer can cheat and customize his deck like he want it, but it is less fun )

So with this method, there is the "learn your character" which is interresting. You'll have to find what combos you can do with this character. There is not really unique rules and the list of cards is not infinite. So it point more toward math than creativity ( to take Sgraffite's idea ).

Kreitler
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Bug in CCG card design

Essence wrote:

Additionally, there are a few mechanics common to all card games that can always add to the available strategies.

That's an excellent list of effects, Essence. Very comprehensive and well-explained.

The only other system I can think of is "reserve piles". The Star Fleet Battles Card Game uses this to moderate effect. You basically have a secondary draw pile consisting of at most 'n' cards (2 for SFB). You can draw from this instead of the main pile, and you can discard unused cards into it instead of into the discard pile. You are also allowed to draw from it to play a defense in the case where you have exhausted your primary hand. As they've implemented it, it's not as useful or as "smooth" as it could be, yet it still works pretty well.

K.

Essence
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Bug in CCG card design

I don't know if you want to add this layer of complexity and extra time to the game, Larienna, but you might consider something like letting the players 'control' the cards they obtain by having them bid on each card, like a M:tG booster draft. It would add to the playing time, but it would also add an interesting element to "character creation" as each player could attempt to build-in combos during the drafting stage.

larienna
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Bug in CCG card design

Seem a good idea. I might also come up with other selection techniques.
The one I tought so far is done by aligning face up cards and selecting rows or columns of cards to add to your deck.

The time factor is not important since you do that alone in your free time and keep you deck for all game you want to make until you want to change character.

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