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A Simple Card Game Mechanic question

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Nestalawe
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Ok, this Pirate Cannibal card game I am working on is coming along fairly well, and I have started playtesting.

I would like some feedback on card play mechanics though.

Basically, the game combat is played like so -

- Each card has either an Attack Action, or a Defense Action in the top half of the card.
- Each card also has either an Attack Item or a Defense Item in the bottom half of the card.
- Attack Items could be on Defense Action cards and vice-versa, its all mixed up.
- If a player wants to use a particular card as its Action, they keep it in their hand.
- If a player wants to use a particular card as its Item, they place it in faceup in their Player Area in front of them.
- An attack is made by the attacking player choosing an Attack Action card from their hand, while the defending player chooses a Defense Action card from their hand. Each player then simultaneously places their Action card on an Item card they already have placed in front of them. The number of the Item card is added to the number of the Action card and the higher total wins.

(thats very basic, there is more to that of course, such as types of attacks/defenses, but thats the basic structure)

Now, the question is of card balance. Because each card in the game has an Action and an Item, they can be used for either purpose, but not both, so players must decide to keep a card in their hand to use as an Action, or to place it in front of them to use as an Item.

Each Action and Item has a number relating to to how strong it is.

To keep things balanced, I thought it would be best to try and keep the numbers of these as equal as possible, i.e. if there was a card with an Action-6 on it, then there would be an Item-2 on the card. Likewise, if there was an Action-2 on the card, there would be an Item-6 on it, etc.

After a few quick plays, it is obvious that any player will use a card whereever it is stronger. If its Action is better than its Item, they will keep it in their hand, if the Item is better, it will be placed in from of them.

So, in a long-winded way, what I am trying to ask is whether I should keep the cards balanced as above, or whether a 'low' card should be low and a 'high' card should be high, i.e. have cards that are Action-6/Item-6 and Action-2/Item-2 instead.

That would mean that is would be possible for players to get bad runs of low cards, or good runs of high cards, but would also mean that they had to think more about where to use their card.

Does that make sense? After writing all that out I think I have come to the conclusion that it would be better to have Action-6/Item-6 cards etc, rather than Action-6/Item-2 cards. But I will leave my reasoning till after I hear other peoples thoughts...

Thanks for reading ;)

aaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!

zaiga
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A Simple Card Game Mechanic question

This is a problem I have run into myself as well. The solution depends on what you are trying to achieve and what kind of game it is.

If you are designing a CCG then it is important that most of the cards are somewhat balanced against eachother. A powerful card should cost more, or its power should be compensated with a drawback, otherwise it would make deckbuilding a bit too obvious.

If you have a game in which players draw cards from a common draw pile then you also want to somewhat balance the cards against eachother, otherwise a player can get screwed if he draws all the crappy cards, while another player draws all the good cards. I do think that balance in this case is a bit less important than in case of a CCG. After all, if you are playing a card game you have to accept a bit of luck.

However, if players all have their own deck they draw from, then you don't have to balance the cards against eachother, you just have to make sure that the decks themselves as a whole are balanced against eachother.

If there's a compelling reason why you want the cards themselves to be balanced then you have find some way to add an incentive for players to play a card for its weaker number. Perhaps in certain cases the lower number wins an attack? Or maybe you could give each card a color, then when a player wants to play an item card he may only play a card of a color of which he hasn't yet have an item card in his play area. Or, when you play an attack card on an item card with the same color, their total values are doubled. I'm sure you can come up with something more fitting for your game, but the bottom line is that you either want to "force" a player to play a card in a suboptimal way by restricting what he may play, or you want to encourage players sometimes playing a low number by adding some incentive for doing that.

Good luck!

Nestalawe
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A Simple Card Game Mechanic question

Hey Zaiga!

Zaiga wrote:
Perhaps in certain cases the lower number wins an attack? Or maybe you could give each card a color, then when a player wants to play an item card he may only play a card of a color of which he hasn't yet have an item card in his play area. Or, when you play an attack card on an item card with the same color, their total values are doubled

Yep, after writing my post I realised that it may be best to go with the same (or similar) strengths on the cards for several reasons -

- There are four types of attacks (slashing, bashing, shooting and stealing) and to make an effective Attack Action you need to play it on the same type of Item, otherwise the Item strength does not get added.
- Having a strong card makes you think twice about how you should use it - one you play a card down as an Item you can't return it to your hand to play as an Action. This makes it a harder choice. With a lower strength card you can always save it as the type it is may come in more useful - it is more flexible because if you use it one way you are not losing out too much on how you could have used it in the other way...
- Players will be better or worse at various things, so getting staunch cards may not help them out so much, hmm, actually this may just increase their staunchness if they get the right cards...
- Cards used as Actions get discarded, whereas cards played as Items are kept. But players may make Stealing Attacks to steal Item cards, so it will always be possible to take away a players staunch cards and they won't have them for too long.
- I could always also make low value cards more flexible, i.e. A 'Rune-Encrusted Captain's Hat' may be a Defensive Item Bashing-6, whereas the 'Cabinboys Kevlar Trousers' may be a Defensive Item Bashing-3 Slashing-2 which would provide more flexibility...

There will still be balancing issues though...

What other ways do you use to balance cards?

And yeah, this is no CCG, and everyone will be using the same decks...

Nestalawe
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A Simple Card Game Mechanic question

Zaiga wrote:
I'm sure you can come up with something more fitting for your game, but the bottom line is that you either want to "force" a player to play a card in a suboptimal way by restricting what he may play, or you want to encourage players sometimes playing a low number by adding some incentive for doing that.

Yep, definately. Players Must make an Attack on their turn, so if they only have one Attack Action card, they must use it, otherwise if they have no Attack Action cards then they are going to have to use a Defensive Action card which won't do them much good when attacking...

There are lots to think about aren't there ;)

I also need to consider -

- When drawing cards players get to draw three cards and also choose whether to draw Attack Action or Defensive Action cards.
- Players also have limmits to how many cards they may have in their hand and in their Player Area. So a player may choose to have a low level Defensive Item card that lets them defend against two types of Attack Action types, rather then one high level Defensive Item card that only lets them defend against one type of Attack Action type.

zaiga
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A Simple Card Game Mechanic question

I think that this:

Nestalawe wrote:
- There are four types of attacks (slashing, bashing, shooting and stealing) and to make an effective Attack Action you need to play it on the same type of Item, otherwise the Item strength does not get added.

...plus this:

Quote:
I could always also make low value cards more flexible, i.e. A 'Rune-Encrusted Captain's Hat' may be a Defensive Item Bashing-6, whereas the 'Cabinboys Kevlar Trousers' may be a Defensive Item Bashing-3 Slashing-2 which would provide more flexibility...

... will give you enough room to balance the cards, and it will provide the players with plenty of tough decisions. Again, I don't think you have to perfectly balance each card in the game. It's OK to have a certain degree of luck in the game.

Another way to balance cards would be to introduce some kind of cost to the cards. Perhaps cards cost gold to play, where more powerful cards cost more gold. However, this means that you also need a kind of economic model in your game, some kind of way to get gold, and that might mean re-engineering the core model of your game.

An easier way would be to pay for powerful cards by discarding other cards. Or, when you play a weak card you may immediately draw a new card (like "cantrips" in Magic). This only works when drawing a card, or cards, costs an action, or when you draw a fixed number of cards per turn. It doesn't work when you may refill your hand each turn.

Nestalawe
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A Simple Card Game Mechanic question

Zaiga wrote:
Another way to balance cards would be to introduce some kind of cost to the cards. Perhaps cards cost gold to play, where more powerful cards cost more gold. However, this means that you also need a kind of economic model in your game, some kind of way to get gold, and that might mean re-engineering the core model of your game.

Yep, know what ya mean, but yeah, am keeping it 'simple' and not having any kindof economic model for this one. Plus I only want to have cards in the game, so no other tokens or the need to write anything down.

Zaiga wrote:
An easier way would be to pay for powerful cards by discarding other cards. Or, when you play a weak card you may immediately draw a new card (like "cantrips" in Magic). This only works when drawing a card, or cards, costs an action, or when you draw a fixed number of cards per turn. It doesn't work when you may refill your hand each turn.

This could be interesting, and I have been thinking about the possibility of adding something like this to low-level cards, some sort of compensation like this.

I also have 'Misc.' cards which have random functions, like the 'Golden Spyglass Item' which will let players perve at other players hands etc. So there will be other equalisers like this in the game.

All a bit of a balancing act eh wot ;)

Cool Zaiga, I'll be able to get another more complete version of the draft rules up soon thanks to these ramblings ;)

seo
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A Simple Card Game Mechanic question

I think the Attack-6/Deffence-2 idea can lead to a more interesting and balanced game, as long as you manage to produce the right overall balance in the distribution of the values through the deck.

The one-value-for-the-card instead of the two-values criteria can lead to one player receiving a bad hand and another receiving a good one, which might result in a dull game. I feel the two-values idea, if well implemented, can produce more balanced situations.

There is something I think might help while designing a two-values deck (this is just what popped at first thought, so they might be totally wrong): try to keep the total card value (deffence + attack) the same or very similar for all the cards.

This reasoning might help you decide: think first of a full deck of identical cards, say all D4-A4. This would produce the dullest game of all, but also the most balanced. You have two ways of unbalancing it to produce a more interesting game, think of them as two axis. The X would be modifying the balance of each card (but keeping the added value fixed at 8): D7-A1, D6-A2, D5-A3, D4-A4, D3-A5, D2-A6, D1-A7. The Y would be modifying the total value of the cards: from D7-A7 to D1-A1.
You should find which values for X and Y turn your game interesting without upsetting the overall balance too much. Other elements of the game might be used to keep the balance when using more extreme values for X and Y.

HTH,

Seo

Nestalawe
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A Simple Card Game Mechanic question

Hey Seo!

That is exactly what I started with!

My initial set of cards were consisted of cards where I had twelve cards for each of the four Attacking and four Defending types, for a total of 96 cards.

The values of the cards were - 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5, 6, 6. After working out a grid to get all the different Action/Items semi-randomised I had most cards being equal, i.e. 6/2, 6/2, 5/3, 5/3, 4/3, 4/3, with some cards having both Attack Actions and Items, or both Defense Items and Actions, or mixed up.

That seemed pretty good, pretty randomised but still balanced. But when playtesting I always chose to say, use the 6/2 card as the 6, and I doubt it would ever get used as a two, unless I enforced some viable play for it, i.e. having a 6/2 card where the 2 was a Defensive Item, and you had no other Defensive Items of that type, it may be tempting to use it... But that 6 is still high and I would want to be able to use it...

Its a tricky one, and hard to work out without actually playtesting it where the problems lie. Its also tricky playtesting without including all other other types of cards that may affect game play...

How do people usually playtest their card games when so many numbers are involved?

zaiga
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A Simple Card Game Mechanic question

Nestalawe wrote:
How do people usually playtest their card games when so many numbers are involved?

I shuffle the cards, deal them, and start to play. You can theorize about your design endlessly if you want, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

markmist
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A Simple Card Game Mechanic question

Nestalawe wrote:

Its a tricky one, and hard to work out without actually playtesting it where the problems lie. Its also tricky playtesting without including all other other types of cards that may affect game play...

How do people usually playtest their card games when so many numbers are involved?

Hey, I have been following the thread for your pirate game and it sounds interesting. The mechanics have some similarities to Bang!, are you familar with that game?, but still very different with more bluffing opportunities.

Concerning your question, I would decide on a numbering system and stick with it while you test the other mechanics of the game. The number tweaking should be the last thing you fix after you know all of the other mechanics work.

My suggestion is that since there are 4 different attacks, I would make every card balanced by adding up to a certain number. For example, some cards would be a 6-slashing, but others might be 2-slashing, 2-stealing, 1-bashing, 1-shooting. You hinted at this, but I don't think you went as far as to say that all cards could be balanced in this way. Are the items broken up this way, or do they effect all attack types?

Some other ideas: After the feeding, the dead player is eaten. So, shouldn't he come back as some sort of ghost and not a cannibal? Maybe you should extend the pirate fight until there are more "ghosts" (Half the number of players - 1). This way the final war is more of a team game, but the original players that are still alive will always have a slight advantage.

Slashing and Bashing sound awfully similar, have you thought about simplifying the game down to 3 attack types? This will aid the bluffing component and make the game less random as it is more likely that you can guess the type from 3 instead of 4.

I could see this game working well for 6-8 players as long as you make it simple and the fighting is fast.

Good luck with the playtesting and I look forward to an update of your rules.

Mark

Nestalawe
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A Simple Card Game Mechanic question

Zaiga wrote:
I shuffle the cards, deal them, and start to play. You can theorize about your design endlessly if you want, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

Hehe, yeah there are limits to theorising and I hit them all the time ;) Its good getting to the stage where you know the only way to go forwar is to mock it up and get stuck into it...

But I rather meant are there any efficient ways, when making a game with lots of cards and lots of numbers on them, to do any testing without making up a whole new set of cards for each tweaking? Or is it just down to the grind, and a lot of paper cuts?

Markmist wrote:
The mechanics have some similarities to Bang!, are you familar with that game?, but still very different with more bluffing opportunities.

Hey MM! I have read a lot about Bang! and though I have not yet played, am keen to check it out... What are the best bits about the game? What makes it fun and quick to play?

The way I am thinking of breaking up the card numbers is that Attack Actions/Items only have one number, whereas Defense Actions/Items have more than one. That was a Defense Action/Item can be used against several different Attack types. The reason being that when a player makes an Attack, they declare what type of Attack it is (though they could be lying). If it turns out they are telling the truth, they get a bonus to their Attack Strength. This gives the defending player a chance to actually defend. If they have no idea what type of Attack it will be, it doesn't really matter what they play. If however, the Attacker tells him they are going to use a Shooting Attack, then the Defender can then decide which Defense to play. i.e. if the Attacker says they are going to make a Shooting Attack, the Defender could choose whether to play their on their big Shooting Defense-6 Item, or their smaller Shooting Defense-3 Bashing Defense-2 Item. If both Defense Actions and Items can defend against multiple Attack Types, Defenders can use cards to cover themselves against whatever they may be attacked with.

Also, I am thinking of making the numbers of Defense Actions/Items higher than the Attack Actions/Items numbers, as the Attacker has a big advantage in knowing what Type of Attack they are making.

Does that make sense?

Yeah it may be good to only have three types of Attacks, but I would like to playtest it first. It would kinda make sense though - having three would be more like Melee Attacks, Shooting Attacks and Stealing Attacks... But I don't see players making as many Stealing Attacks compared to the other types. I will probably not have as many Stealing Attack cards as well...

Definately want to keep the fighting fast. I am also making players draw cards after they attack, which should speed things up, as they do all their organising while the other players are battling.

Ghosts eh ;) I see what you are getting at but my idea was always to have an eliminated player take over a new very playable role, which could concievably win, thus the slain character takes over the Cannibals. The end Cannibal War is definately a team game, with the survivors teaming up against the Cannibal player.

Nando
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A Simple Card Game Mechanic question

Nestalawe wrote:
Players also have limits to how many cards they may have in their hand and in their Player Area. So a player may choose to have a low level Defensive Item card that lets them defend against two types of Attack Action types, rather then one high level Defensive Item card that only lets them defend against one type of Attack Action type.
I think doing something similar to this except limiting the played cards based on points might be interesting. So maybe the Item Area can have a total of 8 points in it. Maybe all the points are on one card (and therefore one color) or maybe they're spread out.

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