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Brainstorm Time_thread formerly known as: Fundamental Flaw with Customizable Card Games?

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NomadArtisan
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I've been toying with card game ideas for a while, and came up with a theory.

Most every customizable card game follows a similar formula. Start with X cards in your hand. Draw 1 card at the beginning of each of your turns.

This means that if you play more than 1 card in a turn, you are lessening your options and abilities in subsequent turns.
Also, many card games are won and lost based on whether you have an answer to your opponent's threat or whether they have an answer to yours.

What I'm getting at is that most customizable card games are won and lost by having more of the right cards in your hand than your opponent has in theirs.
So, players add cards to their deck that help them find the correct cards, through card drawing effects, deck searching effects, etc.

By having cards that get other cards into your hand, aren't you just diluting game play? Why couldn't the card game have base rules such that you don't need to waste card slots on cards that just get you other cards?

I think the biggest issue is the RPS nature of many cards within these games. Would additional card draw or card search become irrelevant if any hand of cards could beat another with clever play?

I don't know exactly where I'm going with this. It has just been on my mind and I'd like to hear others' thoughts.
Maybe we'll come up with a great card game idea.
Thanks for reading all of this!

RyanRay
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I think you're missing the

I think you're missing the options presented to the player in these circumstances.

The first example that came to my head was the Pokemon TCG. There's a card called Pokemon Trader where you get to trade a Pokemon in your hand for one in your deck. This can be more helpful than just having a creature take that card's place in the deck because different creatures are more effective at different times.

If I have a hand of 3 Magikarp and 1 Rattata, I have little to no reason to keep all of those Magikarp when I could just trade one away from a Gyarados, or a strong Basic level creature. On the flip side, if I have 2 Gyarados in my hand and no Magikarp anywhere, I might trade one away so that I can actually use the other one some time soon.

In Magic, there are special Land cards that let you search your deck for Basic Lands, or sometimes tap to use as Lands themselves. This is nice because you're only allowed to normally play 1 Basic Land per turn. It seems unnecessary, but actually can make a huge difference, especially early in the game.

Oddly enough, I noticed that this feature has been completely omitted from Hearthstone. Sure there are cards that let you draw random cards from your deck, but nothing that lets you actively search for what you want.

NomadArtisan
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I'm very familiar with both

I'm very familiar with both of those examples. I played Pokemon when it came out through the first 3 sets, and I've played Magic the Gathering for about 18 years.

The examples you gave are the same as the problem I've stated, you don't have the 'right' cards in your hand. The fact that having 3 magikarp in your hand makes 2 cards in your hand useless could be considered a game flaw in a way.

I'm not downing these games, mind you. I love playing these types of games, but I wonder if something better could be done, where you never have to add cards to find other cards.

The fetch lands you're talking about don't actually speed up your land play, they just help you fix your mana base. The mana base problems of Magic are also what it gets the most flak for.

Do your sort of see what I'm getting at?
I am probably explaining this poorly.

RyanRay
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I think I see what you mean

I think I see what you mean now. Basically you're saying that the fact these cards exist present a flaw in the game?

To put it in very common terms, it sounds like you're looking to make a Minecraft/Lego card game with battle elements. The contents of your hand allow to build something in nearly any instance using multiple cards. The options are so numerous that you'd rarely have to search for something.

Actually... that sounds like a pretty awesome game theme!

Perhaps the cards mostly consist of lumber, metal, bone, etc. and you have a variety of things you can build from those cards. Your building options could be limited to a predetermined set of "blueprints" that you placed in your deck. These blueprints could be placed aside like Commanders in the new Magic series.

You'd build shields, crossbows, catapults, etc. Not sure why I gravitated toward the Medieval theme... This has some good potential for a game.

Was that what you were referring to?

DifferentName
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It seems relatively common in

It seems relatively common in board games with cards (ones that are non-customizable) to draw back to a full hand each turn. I feel like this works really well in those games, giving you several actions you can take each turn. However, it may only work well with really simple cards that you can play quickly. I've tried it in a game of my own with relatively complex cards like magic the gathering, and I think it became a bit overwhelming for new players having to learn so many cards each turn.

Actions like Netrunner can be a fun way to do it, where you have a number of actions that can be used to play cards, use various abilities, or to draw new cards. This way if you don't have many options in one turn, you can use some of your actions to give you more cards(and more options).

As for using cards to get cards, it can work if it feels like that's part of what's fun in the game. You could make a fun game that's entirely about getting more cards, and swapping out cards. It just doesn't seem as fun when you just want to smash things.

NomadArtisan
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@ RyanRay- That blueprint

@ RyanRay- That blueprint idea sounds very cool!
I didn't have a specific game idea starting this thread, but that's a great idea you came up with!

@ DifferentName- The action system of Netrunner you described sounds like a good way to mitigate what I'm talking about.
You also got me thinking about card complexity compared to the number of cards you draw each turn. Bluemoon is a game I like because it lacks this 'flaw' (again, it may not be a flaw, is there a better word to use?), however Bluemoon has very simple cards.

I've played magic for so long that none of the cards seem complex to me. Perhaps I've become jaded by complex card games.
I think I have become a minimalist lately.

I think the bigger issue isn't so much the card draw and card search, but that there exist cards that inherently counter each other, leading to an 'answers war'. This countering works best in double-blind games like War of Indines, but in a game like magic, I know that if I play swords to plowshares targeting a Wild Nacatl, I will get rid of it, unless they have a counterspell, which circles back around to the problem of 'who has the most answers wins', which means card draw and card search exist to find more answers, but if you didn't need the most answers to win, you wouldn't need to waste cards on drawing and searching for other cards (convoluted sentences rock!).

Maybe there's a way to create a game full of 'soft' answers. Answers that work on a curve against other types of cards. So you might not be able to fully answer your opponent's current threat, but perhaps can 'answer it enough' to still come out on top.

I'm not even pushing for a combat theme necessarily, though I think those themes can be most interesting as any type of game requires some level of conflict for players to compete, and fighting is the quintessential theme for conflict.

Corsaire
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Randomness and resource

Randomness and resource constraints are strategic components of the game. You can outplay your card draw by reducing hand flexibility. Playing cards to get cards into your hand is the game-play if your view is more metagame oriented.

In Magic: Combat cards have partial mitigation when defense and attack are mismatched. Graveyard fetch cards partially mitigate destruction cards. Mana constraining effects partially mitigate card draw advantages. Life points and healing partially mitigate temporary unanswered threats. Tap effects partially mitigate various cards.

I wish threads like this started with: I have a cool idea for game central concept I'd like to try, and I don't see it any other games I'm familiar with. Rather than such and such game is flawed.

So, in this case, I hear: I'd like to design a game where a hand of cards allows for a sufficient range of tactical or strategic options that it could play against almost any other hand of cards. That's an interesting angle.

RyanRay
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IMHO, there's one word I

IMHO, there's one word I describe modern Magic with-

Bloated.

Slowly but surely, one "answer" proved to be very powerful, so to balance it WotC produced the next "answer" (by the way, I'm loving that term for this situation). Then perhaps a new set was released with an ultimate "answer" that you HAD to buy or else your chances of winning was lower.

This is part of why Dominion has had 8 expansions but never seems bloated. You can essentially play with whatever rules you'd like.

Wanna play a game with Goons, Masquerade, and a bunch of Alchemy cards for a super-complex game? Go for it. Wanna play a game with Villages, Quarries, and some simple Attack cards for a simpler game? Have a field day.

That's actually part of why I liked the Blueprints idea above too since you could potentially put them aside to be used as everyone's pool. Rules can be as complex or simple as the players like.

NomadArtisan
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This is becoming a brainstorming session!

@Corsaire- I didn't mean to come off that way. I didn't have any ideas for a game when starting this thread, I only wanted to start a discussion on a mechanical level.
Also, I'm not calling any specific game 'flawed' in the sense that the game is bad. The games I'm picking on are some of my favorite types of games. I'm trying to analyze them in the areas I see as weak. I'm using the word flaw because I'm not sure of what better word to use.
I like how you showed Magic's mitigation effects. I'd like to see if that can be pushed even further. Everything you listed affects a certain area of gameplay. It would be interesting to see how many such areas can overlap. For example, returning cards to your hand from your discard pile overlaps the same area of gameplay that destroy and discard effects work in.

I'd like to see if a web of overlapping game areas could lead to very deep gameplay through optimized use of soft answers. This would mean you'd have to remove hard answers entirely, or else they would always be the superior choice.

Brainstorming Time...
Every card game uses zones. The zone a card is in determines what effect that card has.
For instance, a creature in play (in play being a zone) can attack, block, use abilities, etc. while a creature in the discard pile cannot. You could consider 'tapped' being a zone that cards more frequently enter and exit. Your hand, deck, and 'removed from the game' are all zones which interact differently. Cards in your hand have immediate relevance while cards in your deck can be thought of as potential energy. Removed from the game is just a more restricted discard pile.

Cards have 4 possible orientations. Upright, upside down, tapped left, tapped right. What if there were four zones of play in addition to the deck and your hand. Cards can move other cards around between these zones and each card has different effects depending upon which zone it's in (the effects could be simply numbers that add together, or more complex depending upon the zone).

Now, the reason I think this relates to the whole 'answers' issue is that by giving every card potentially 4 different options for play, every card could potentially be a soft answer to just about any other card though they would all vary in effectiveness per situation.

@RyanRay- I do like this blueprints idea. What if the cards in your deck were slightly more complex than simply being resources. They could have an effect OR be combined to build something from your blueprints.
Perhaps their inherent effects are all soft-answers and the blueprints are stronger answers?

What if we combined both of our ideas.
Each card in your deck can be played to one of 4 zones, having a different effect per zone (I'm thinking 3 of the 4 zones only look at a number value on the card). One zone might effectively add to your life total, one zone might work similarly to mana, etc.
Perhaps on your turn, you can either play a card from your hand to one of the 4 zones OR take cards from your 4 zones (or from certain zones only?) and combine them to create a blueprint.
In this way, you can see what your opponent is trying to build and counter their maneuvers. I like where this is going. Perhaps I need to change the thread title.

RyanRay
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NomadArtisan wrote: Perhaps

NomadArtisan wrote:

Perhaps their inherent effects are all soft-answers and the blueprints are stronger answers?

Now there's a real possibility. Or perhaps the two work together? Here are some possibilities, attempting to be as genre-vague as possible:

Housing- The pool bp include something like "Two-Story Building" or "Below Ground Building", but then the players can use more specific bp that correlate like "Infirmary" or "Wine Cellar", respectively.

Vehicles- The pool bp include "Small Watercraft" or "Treads", allowing players to use "Pontoon" or "2-Person Tank".

Armed Units- The pool bp include "Heavyweight" or "Stealth", allowing players to use "Battering Ram" or "Assassin".

This system, however, would require that each player bp has multiple options for pool bp to go off of, otherwise a player may have cards in their deck that are totally useless if the one correct pool bp isn't in play.

ex: The "Infirmary" bp used above could be used in conjunction with either "2-Story", "Medical", or "Professional" pool bp.

ex: An "Interplanetary Freight Ship" player bp could be used in conjunction with either "Cargo", "Heavyweight", or "Long Distance".

There could be a whole web of ways that different cards correlate to others.

NomadArtisan
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I was picturing players

I was picturing players building their decks as well as selecting their blue prints.
So blueprints are common knowledge, but only available to be used by the player that chose them pre-game.

I made up a theme a while ago that I've been referring to as 'bio-code' that would work perfectly for this. I suppose it's borderline Cyberpunk. The idea is that technology has evolved to the point that we can program matter.
So I could use earth, earth, and force to play my 'Earthquake' blueprint.

Maybe earth can also be used as a defensive shield, and force can be used as a light attack.
I'm Intrigued. If I get time, I'll sketch up a card mockup to try and illustrate more of my thoughts.

RyanRay
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NomadArtisan wrote:So I could

NomadArtisan wrote:
So I could use earth, earth, and force to play my 'Earthquake' blueprint.

Hmm... but now we're getting into a mana system like Magic, which could then lead to the problem that this thread first addressed at the start.

Would the earth and force elements be in the form of cards in the player's deck? What happens when they're used? Are they discarded for good, left on the table to be used again next turn, or discarded with the rule that once your deck is out you reshuffle the discards and keep going (not to be confused with actual deck-building)?

There's definitely something here, though. I like the way you've got me thinking about streamlining this CCG process as I'm always a fan of games that are more simplistic and straight-forward than overly tactical and with lots of options. Seriously, I'll play Walk the Plank over Caverna any day.

NomadArtisan
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I used to be very much into

I used to be very much into the complex games, but as I've gotten older I look at those games and just feel like I'm spending more time learning the rules than playing.

I was thinking that when you used cards to make a blueprint, those cards go under the blueprint. Should the blueprint card every be used up, the cards are shuffled into your deck maybe?

Also, keep in mind this 'mana system' would not have the normal problems. It would work exactly like the examples you gave with buildings. And your entire shuffled deck of cards can be used for 'mana'.

The idea has a lot of work before it's a game, but this all seems interesting.
I drew up a card mockup. When i get to a scanner I'll upload it.

RyanRay
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NomadArtisan wrote:I was

NomadArtisan wrote:
I was thinking that when you used cards to make a blueprint, those cards go under the blueprint. Should the blueprint card every be used up, the cards are shuffled into your deck maybe?

Now THIS is sparking something in my brain! Let's say for now that there are a collection of blueprints in your deck, and, say, 10 blueprints in the pool that can be taken by any player, but there's only 1 card per blueprint.

ex: If I have a wood-wood-metal, I can build a trebuchet from the pool bp, move that bp from the pool to my play area, and place the needed materials underneath it.

But then, let's say that at some point my trebuchet is destroyed. Perhaps I can salvage some parts from the materials underneath the bp? Thematically, the trebuchet didn't just vaporize into thin air, I could potentially use the parts to build something else, or help build another trebuchet!

I get to add 1 wood from the first trebuchet to my hand and discard the rest for good.

Shuffling discarded bp into your deck sounds like a good idea. Thematically, your team has the knowledge to build it, but it will take a while to find the bp to build another.

This is great because the game essentially has 2 different card types: Materials/Mana to create with, and the blueprints. Perhaps add an Instant/Sorcery card type as well for flavor. Makes for a very streamlined game in my head.

NomadArtisan
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I think there's one thing

I think there's one thing we're missing.

There exist card games that don't NEED card draw or search because the game mechanics inherently mesh with a randomly shuffled deck of cards, not because every card provides so many options.

Games that involve bidding and bluffing only work because players each have random hidden information in their hands.

I think this blueprint idea can still work with bidding or bluffing. You can bluff by starting to build the requirements for a blueprint, getting your opponent to think you're building one thing, then switching to something else.

Perhaps players double-blind select their 'mana/resource' card each turn. On revealing, if adding this card completes the requirements for any of your blueprints, you build that blueprint immediately, using up the required resources from your pool.

RyanRay
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So then, are blueprints

So then, are blueprints always common knowledge? Otherwise there wouldn't be any real "bluffing" unless everyone has the same deck components (which could very well happen).

OR! What if you chose which blueprints would be added to the pool bp, but both players could then use them? One player may strategize around 3 particular bp in their set of 6 or 7, but they could also be used/taken by other players?

But at that point it's a little weird if one person gets close to finishing a machine, the other player takes it first, and then they can't finish it. They both had the instructions, and they both have the materials... hmm...

At that point it makes more sense to treat the bp as recruits instead, since there is a limited supply of them, but then that would negate the need for materials to build things.

You would need multiple cards of each bp if you go that route, or tokens whose shape/color matches the bp so you don't need multiple cards.

In my head, either the pool bp or the player bp have to go. Also, would this then be a CCG like Magic where your deck is purely your own, or like Dominion where everyone gets to build things from a pool?

NomadArtisan
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I'm more just brainstorming

I'm more just brainstorming mechanics, theme being irrelevant.
I think it could work with a shared pool of blueprints or with individual blueprints.

RyanRay
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So I've percolated on the

So I've percolated on the idea for a few days now and bounced what we've discussed here with my closest gamer friend, and here are some ideas:

-Player bp seems a necessity, otherwise the customization aspects of the game are slightly lost. However, they should generally be weaker than pool bp.

-Pool bp should be limited to 4 or 5 cards per item. Once they run out players have the opportunity to build the next technological advancement (e.g., once the 4-5 Trebuchets are built, no more can be built and the Catapult card is introduced).

-Certain resources are only provided by certain blueprints. For example, a Steam Engine or Hydro-Electric Dam could be built to provide energy, or electricity resources, depending on the theme.

-This mechanic seems viable for many different themes. My friend suggested a technology race theme, we mentioned city-building, I still see it as a magic-style battle game.

-Is there a way this could be a co-op game? It might negate the need for a customized deck, but the mechanic at its heart might work.

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