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Empty hands in CCG

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larienna
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One of the problems that I found in many card games, especially CCG, is the empty hand syndrome. The principle is simple, you draw 1 card per turn but you can play more than 1 card per turn. Consequence, after a few turn, you end up with no cards in your hand. The game stall and becomes less exciting.

I consider it as a bug and a problem that must be solve, some people consider that it is normal. What do you think?

There are various ways to correct the problems. A partial solution can be used like in "Duel Master", when you get attacked and lose a shield, this shield card goes into your hand giving you a supplement card drawn this turn.

OR

You can use a complete solution like in Emmerlaus where at the end of your turn , you draw up to your maximum number of cards in hands. Which mean that at the end of turn, you always have 5 cards in hand.

Having cards in hand makes the game pretty much interesting. For example, in MTG, me and my friend have made the "Draw 7" rule which was.

-At your discard phase, you may discard 1 card even if you have less than 7 cards.
-If at the draw phase you do not have anymore cards, you draw seven cards.

In this way, around 1 or 2 times during the game you have a chance to draw seven cards. It increase the strategic elements since you have much more sorceries and instant to use to attack or defend yourself against your opponent. It makes the game much more exciting. While if you do not use this rule, there is a standoff and you are simply waiting for the card that will make you win the game. So luck is more involved.

Pt314
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Empty hands in CCG

In one of the card games I designed and made prototypes for (I might be on version 4 now, because it is my most popular game.) You always have 5 cards in your hand at the beginning of the turn. If you have less you draw until you have five.

Now this kept the game going, but cards that required you to discard cards in order to use didn't seem so bad. Since you would just get new ones next turn anyway. It also caused a problem with people playing my 'Absolute Chaos' card too often, which forces everyone to discard there hand, and thus get 5 new cards.

VeritasGames
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Empty hands in CCG

I don't consider an empty hand a "bug" in game design so much as a natural effect of certain deck design choices.

I promise you, that if you play Magic and stack lots of larger creatures, you will very frequently have cards in your hand.

If you stack tons of small creatures, they'll fly out of your hand quickly, leaving you with nothing "in hand".

If you stack a deck with a lot of cheap instants and sorceries, then you will have an empty hand. If you stack more expensive cards then you won't.

Consider it the difference between a musket and a machine gun. Two guys each bring one of these weapons to the battlefield with 60 rounds. At the end of a minute the guy with the machine gun has fired 60 times and he's empty. The guy with the musket has fired 4 times and he has 56 rounds to go.

Who would you rather be?

In Magic, you'd often, but not always, rather be the guy with a nearly empty hand but with tons of stuff played out quickly.

Lee

Anonymous
Empty hands in CCG

I think that there are a few ways to look at this:

1) Are hands being emptied too quickly because a player has no reason to reserve cards for use later? Or, to look at it from the opposite point of view: are hands filling up due to lack of options or beneficial moves to warrant playing a card?

2) Should the rules restrict card placement to encourage the single best play per turn (ie, 1 card per turn), or allow maximum flexibility for the players to decide how much of their hands to risk (ie, play a ton of cards but leave themselves short handed)

3) Are there enough benefits to retaining cards in your hand to off set the benefits of playing multiple cards (ie, are there defensive or scoring incentives to keep cards in hand)

I think MTG offers players maximum control over their play style, thus encouraging players to build decks suited to their tastes, be it aggressive and heavy on multiple-card use, or more balanced and patient, rewarding keeping cards in hand for more options as needed.

Some games, like Blue Moon by Reiner Knizia, fall somewhere in between. You draw back up to a standard hand size, but aside from some special types of cards (such as Gang cards or Paired cards) you aren't going to play out your entire hand nearly as often as in Magic. It offers flexibility while still providing a few more boundaries.

I guess the bottom line is, when looking at the empty hand issue from a game design standpoint: how much value do you want cards in hand to have, and what sort of pace do you want the game to have?

OutsideLime
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Empty hands in CCG

I don't play a lot of card games, (except poker, and an empty hand is something entirely different in that game!), but I understand the dilemna of a game "stalling" in this manner when moves aren't available to a player, or trickle in slowly because of lack of cards...

That dynamic could actually be important to the game's flow, and make each decision made become that much more important.

If it's not an intended effect though, then I think that the burden is on the designer to tweak the card acquisition mechanic to compensate... deviate from the 1 card per turn every turn formula, and give the players options whereby they can grab more per turn.

Not necessarily a universal Draw 7 option like Larienna suggested, but a tactic (or tactics) that the players can shift to in order to get draw bonuses, or some risk/reward system where the player recieves bonus cards for attempting something unusual/daring.

~Josh

Anonymous
depends on what you want...

I know a lot of these types of questions rely on what you want as an experience for yourself and your players, and this one is no different (as already pointed out).

So, personally I like the flexibility to be able to take a risk and empty a hand, vs. only being able to play one card at a time - but this depends on the type of game.

If it is combat related, I wouldn't expect the fight to be one of "you throw a punch on your turn, then I throw a punch on my turn" (although this might make sense is certain contexts). And in negotiation games I like when multiple cards can be played because the "here and now" has to be weighed against the "just around the corner" or what could happen.

But if the card game is Trick-Taking related or more "traditional" (I'm thinking Lost Cities) then the limit on what one card to play is very important.

So if you think that not always having options is a problem, make games that don't include that.

Anonymous
Empty hands in CCG

jjacy1 makes a great point... Your intention and preference has as much to do with the decision as anything.

The type of game has a huge bearing on this, but so does pace, play style, target audience, depth of strategy... There are so many factors to consider, that you've got to start by weighing some of them more heavily than others.

sedjtroll
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Empty hands in CCG

VeritasGames wrote:
If you stack a deck with a lot of cheap instants and sorceries, then you will have an empty hand. If you stack more expensive cards then you won't.

If you watch good competetive Magic players, they will usually have cards in their hand... and not because their deck has expensive stuff in it (usually the opposite). It's because they play with cards that give them more cards.

Card advantage is a big part of that game. It's OK to have an empty hand IF your opponent ALSO has an empty hand. If you're empty and your opponent has cards, then you are at a disadvantage.

So you want cards that cancel out 2 of your opponents cards, so you can get ahead.

And like Lee said, an empty hand with stuff in play is much better than an empty hand with nothing in play. The danger of having stuff in play though is that it might all go away at once.

The benefit of course is that it can all inflict damage.

This is where the different strategies come in.

- Seth

Shellhead
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Empty hands in CCG

Magic is not the only CCG by a long shot. There are other CCGs with more dynamic card flow that you could take a look at. Jyahd (aka Vampire: the Eternal Struggle) allows you to replace each card in your hand as you play cards. Shadowfist allows you re-fill your hand up to your hand size at the start of each turn.

LSJ
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Empty hands in CCG

Right -- it's just another design decision as to how much you want to treat cards-in-hand as a resource.

If you're using cards-in-hand as a "hit point" total, with an empty hand meaning death and game loss (like the runner in NetRunner), then it doesn't make sense to implement a mechanism to avoid empty hand.

If you're set against empty hand, though, then of course the cards and mechanics shouldn't treat cards-in-hand as a valuable resource. Like Vampire: The Eternal Struggle (which, as mentioned, has a replace-as-played mechanic). In V:TES, card "flow" is treated as a resource, however, with some effects restricting or delaying the drawing of replacement cards (either as their effect, or as part of the cost of playing the card).

rellekmr
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Empty hands in CCG

I play Star Trek CCG 2nd Edition. In that game, you get 7 resource points per turn. You can spend those resources on ships and people (which are labeled with different costs) or on drawing cards, at a cost of 1 resource point per card. This means that you can keep a full hand, but at the expense of playing fewer cards that turn.

Gimmy
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Empty hands in CCG

The "empty hand" princeple is a cruisal part of the game, it give's you descsions to make and it resembles the options you have in the game.
replanishing your hand will reduce the hard descisions to make. and as pt314 said, it also make the discarding less heavy priced and less painful.

In the latest set of MTG (dissension), having no cards in your hand can make your creatures\spells more powerful.

Shellhead
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Empty hands in CCG

I suppose an empty hand could be okay in 2-player card game, but more problematic in a multi-player card game. In V:tes, you are normally only playing cards during your own turn, and the turns of the players sitting on either side of you. In Shadowfist, you can play event cards during any player's turn, no matter how many players there are in the game.

Discord
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Re: Empty hands in CCG

Larienna wrote:
One of the problems that I found in many card games, especially CCG, is the empty hand syndrome. The principle is simple, you draw 1 card per turn but you can play more than 1 card per turn. Consequence, after a few turn, you end up with no cards in your hand. The game stall and becomes less exciting.

I consider this problem mostly self-correcting. Whichever way you play, you either have cards in play or cards in hand.

Cards in play are usually more at risk, which counterbalances the surprise aspect of cards in hand.

One bad strategy I often notice with CCG players is the not-quite beatdown....A player in a winning position putting down all their cards to enhance their position. In games like MtG where a single card can destroy multiple others(Wrath of God, etc), this strategy can result in no (useful) cards in play OR hand, and suddenly the tables are turned.

Keeping back cards when you are winning might slow your victory down(which can backfire on its own), but at least you're more prepared to match your opponents surprises.

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