Skip to Content

Event Cards: A disappointing feature

10 replies [Last post]
Triktrak
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969

Please tell me if you feel differently. I find that event cards always seem to take away from the fun of a game. All the careful planning, maneuvering, set-up of your future moves, can be totally wasted and why?... Because someone simply flipped a random event card that stated a change will occure in the game. A totally anticlimactic and unsatisfying effect. If you have examples of where you feel event cards are effectively used, post below.

Also, on the same note, does anyone know of a game with modified event cards? Where you can throw your weight one way or the other to have one card picked over another.

cantos
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Re: Event Cards: A disappointing feature

Triktrak wrote:
Also, on the same note, does anyone know of a game with modified event cards? Where you can throw your weight one way or the other to have one card picked over another.

Event cards that suddenly change the nature of the game certainly reduce the level of stategy one can employ. Even if you try to keep your options open, the player who guesses the next event card (gets lucky) will come out ahead.

A game with multiple event options would be interesting particularly if the players power to effect the choice was proportional to how balanced their position is (or maybe their accumulated event points which slow them down in other aspects of the game).

Kreitler
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Re: Event Cards: A disappointing feature

Triktrak wrote:
Please tell me if you feel differently. I find that event cards always seem to take away from the fun of a game.

I'm sure there are instances where this is true, but that sounds more like a flaw in the implementation of the Event Card mechanic as opposed to the philosophy of the mechanic itself.

If a game has *any* random element, then it's possible that any plan can fall through. Should we eliminate all random elements from our designs or is it better to restrict the scope of randomization so as not to completely overpower strategy?

Triktrak wrote:
All the careful planning, maneuvering, set-up of your future moves, can be totally wasted and why?... Because someone simply flipped a random event card that stated a change will occure in the game.

That might not be inappropriate for some designs. Napoleon's disastrous march into Russia had as much to do with bad luck as it did poor strategy (er...at least I think it does -- but I know almost nothing about it, really). Would you want a Napoleonic wargame to ignore that possible outcome?

Triktrak wrote:
A totally anticlimactic and unsatisfying effect. If you have examples of where you feel event cards are effectively used, post below.

I think the Settlers of Catan card game does a decent job of using events -- mostly because the events are often helpful. The events that feel most broken are those that, as you argue, severely effect one player. Generally, the penalty has the overall effect of delaying their plans for several turns, but that can effectively tip the balance of the game.

For what it's worth, there's a lesson I've learned from computer game design that may have some relevance in this case: penalties that force the player to play in a different manner are often fun, while those that simply impede progress are an annoyance. A computer example is a "mystery pickup" that changes a character's movement--for example, forcing a player that once moved as a queen to move like a rook. This change can be exciting because you can still reach every point on the board, but you have to change your routes. A "bad" pickup is one that simply slows the player's movement -- you know what you have to do, but you have to wait longer to do it. That's just frustrating.

Triktrak wrote:
Also, on the same note, does anyone know of a game with modified event cards? Where you can throw your weight one way or the other to have one card picked over another.

Not exactly, but I changed some of the cards in the Settler's Card Game to work a bit like that. There are two events -- "Tournament" and "Commerce" -- that can come up about every 3 turns. Tournament awards the player with the most knights an extra resource. Commerce allows the player with the most merchant power to take 1 resource from his opponent. In the regular game, there are two cards unrelated to these events whose effects I dislike. One is "Black Knight", which allows you to roll to eliminate an opponent knight. The other is "bandits" which allows you to roll to steal an opponent resource. I changed these so that playing Black Knight after a Tournament event allows you to win the Tournament even if you have under-powered knights. Similarly, "bandits" allows you to reverse the result of a commerce event. These cards give you a way to tip the balance of previously fixed event results which has two benefits: 1) it combats a "runaway leader" problem; and 2) it keeps the players with most knights/commerce points from knowing they have a guaranteed victory during those events.

Mark

jwarrend
Offline
Joined: 08/03/2008
Event Cards: A disappointing feature

I agree with Kreitler; I don't think you can paint Event Cards with too broad a brush. It depends entirely on the implementation.

I've had decent success using Event cards in a couple of games I've worked on. In my GDW game "Disciples", I used events to allow for small situations that I wanted to include for thematic reasons, but that would have been burdensome to expand into full-scale, game-long mechanics. Simple things like "If all players agree to do X, then each receives Y" that don't add much in the way of rules, but they allow for some flavor in the game, which I've felt to be important.

In my GDW game Sands of Time, I originally had events that fell under the nuisance category; things like "Good harvest, everyone receives +1 crops during production" or "Plague; everyone loses a peasant from each territory". They didn't end up adding anything interesting to the game, though, because you couldn't harness them to make interesting decisions. And the game was difficult enough that it didn't need the random setbacks for balancing. It was this game that led my friend to coin one of the most important design maxims I've ever heard -- "A good designer doesn't rely on random factors to balance his game". I completely reworked the Event scheme to be a deck of only 3 types of cards, one of which triggers a scoring round and the other two are "bad events". But because there are only three types, you know what possible events you're going to face and can plan accordingly.

This is kind of like the event structure in Game of Thrones, which I think works really well. In that game, the event cards indicate what actions players will be able to take: mustering more troops, reevaluating their troop capabilities, jockeying for political power, etc. It's nice because you know what events are possible but not the order they will come out in.

I agree with you that event cards that amount to nothing more than a random monkey wrench can be less than exciting, but I do think there are ways to utilize event cards in a way that doesn't feel to the players like a random monkey wrench has just been tossed into the game to annoy everyone.

Could you give some examples of the games that inspired this thread?

-Jeff

VeritasGames
VeritasGames's picture
Offline
Joined: 08/01/2008
Event Cards: A disappointing feature

My current game design, Powerstorm, is a superhero CCG with "News Stories". Each player plays a set of them. There are stacking rules for them. In general, you play cards that will help you or hurt your opponent. Each guy gets his own stack. I think this is a reasonable use of this type of game element -- stacking rules, each player picks his own, etc. They just come up at quasi-random points of the game (but never a whole bunch at once).

larienna
larienna's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/28/2008
Event Cards: A disappointing feature

When you make event cards, there is many factors you must consider to change the balance of the cards :

Occurence : how many times in the game does an event occurs. If a different event occur each turn, it will have more influence on the game.

Power : Does the event have a minor effect on the game, or does it completly change the position of the players in the game.

Area of Effect : Does it affect only one player or everybody. A bad event for a player could become good for another player.

Nature : Are they all bad event event or is there an equal proportion of bad and good events.

Target : Are the target of the event selected randomly or does the players decide who get targetted by the event. When the player select their target, it means that the leader of the game will be the first target since they don't want him to win.

Planification : Is it possible to know in advance what event will occur. In dune, it was possible to view the few top cards on the event pile so that you can plan you moves in consequence.

As you can see, there is many elements that define an event card, rebalancing these can make your events better. So you cannot say that event cards in general are bad, there can be a really good implementation of these, and personally, it is a mechanic that I like a lot.

Triktrak
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Event Cards: A disappointing feature

Jwarrend asked: Could you give some examples of the games that inspired this thread?

I was recently playing a game of "Friederich", It seems like the odds are really stacked against the Prussians, after the sixth round however event cards start coming into play, which mostly benefit the Prussians. So the strategy seems to be to play defensively, cut your loses until you can take advantage of the event cards. In the game I played the event cards only helped the Prussians very modestly and they got their butt kicked. Some possible events include, entire countries getting taken out of the game (ie. France has another war to fight with England and leaves the fight with Prussia).

This got me thinking about event cards in general. I couldn't think of a game that I like that uses them. To be clear I'm talking about cards that are randomly flipped up from the table, not ones played from your hand.

larienna
larienna's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/28/2008
Event Cards: A disappointing feature

I have experience something similar in battle master. There is 2 armies which has all their card shuffled in the same deck. The cards are flip one after another and the card fliped determine which army can move which unit.

After 30 cards, the imperial army opened 6 cards, and the chaos army opened 24 cards. So you can guess who won the battle.

Shellhead
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Event Cards: A disappointing feature

I believe that a certain degree of randomness increases replay value, by making the activity more gamelike and less like solving a set of quadratic equations. Too much randomness does detract from a sense of strategy.

Verseboy
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Event Cards: A disappointing feature

I'm going to go with shellhead here and say some randomness is good. It does add to the variability of a game. The key is in having exactly the right balance in the event cards. Too powerful and they wreck the game.

One example of a randomizer from a party game that absolutely destroys a game is Odds'R. There is a lottery in the game. If you win the lottery when it is at its largest, regardless of anything else you have done to that point, you'll win the game. The comments about this game all come back to the same thing: The lottery is bad, and it ruins the game. Of course, in this example, the lottery is easily fixed with a house rule.

I've been working on a game this past week (that I'm trying to get ready for Protospiel and doubting my ability to have it done by then) where you draw event cards from the deck or from either of 2 face-up cards. This is one of several options on your turn. You can see what 2 of the event cards are, and so can your opponents. Do you pick one up that doesn't help you, knowing how much it would help the next player if he got it? Do you draw from the deck so no one knows what event you could thrust on them later? Do you skip the event cards and draw resource cards or one of the other turn options? I like games where you despearately want to do 3 things but can only do 2 of them.

Anyway, by having a couple event cards exposed at one time, it allows for more tactical playing. My current problem is I don't have the balance right, making the whole issue moot.

Steve Bennett

Ska_baron
Ska_baron's picture
Offline
Joined: 08/02/2008
Event Cards: A disappointing feature

Just throwing out an example of a semi random event card implementation: Wallenstein.

The game is 2 years (rounds) with each season being a turn.
At the start of the round 4 event cards are drawn and placed so all can see them.
Before each turn the 4 events are shuffled and one goes into effect.
They can range from mild (bonus for building a trading post) to more plan changing (you cant attack any province with a church in it)
Similarly they can be either beneficial to recipients or harmful.

Also, each card has a grain loss value 1-6. During the Winter (4th) turn the event does not take place, and instead the appropriate number of grain is deducted from everyone's total.

So you can see which events are potentially going to happen (knowing one definitely wont) and also plan how much grain could be lost at the end of the year/round.

Just another example of what I think is a good job with event cards.

Syndicate content


forum | by Dr. Radut