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Best and Worst Trading Card Game Mechanics

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radioactivemouse
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I know this post hasn't seen

I know this post hasn't seen the light of day in some time, but this is such an interesting subject I just had to say something.

Here are a list of my favorite and least favorite TCG mechanics:

Least Favorite:

-Resources as part of the deck: I mean games like Magic: The Gathering where you have to pull the resource as a card and ONLY that card can be used as a resource. It lends itself to things like "not enough resources" or "too many resources in hand" (of course in Magic terms, it's "Mana Flood" and "Mana Starved").

-Not really a bad mechanic, but the fact that "tap" is copyrighted. Designers are forced to use terms like "bow", "kneel", "exhaust", "use", "boot", or "bend over and give it to me". We all say "tap", it's dumb that someone decided to copyright it.

-Rock/Paper/Scissors reveal: This is used in games like Yomi where players place down their card and reveal. It's not really what I call...strategic as much as it's called "dumb luck". Yes, there's an element of luck in conflict, but making it so obscure as rock/paper/scissors is dumb in my opinion. Games like War of the Indines feel better; it's not as simple as rock/paper/scissors and it give more of an element of strategy.

-Overly complex mechanics: I love games like Legend of the Five Rings, but there are times when it got so complicated, I just soured on the game. They've streamlined it since then, but just streamlined enough to get me interested again. "Keep it simple, stupid" is what my mentor would say.

-Extremely beautiful card art, but the gameplay is too simple/lacks depth. I've seen this in games like Exodus and Blue Moon Legends. The art: amazing, but the art doesn't match the gameplay. It's almost as if the art is more important than the game itself. In Exodus, most creatures are the same, there's no difference between creatures statistically other than what you put into it. Blue Moon is just a one-up game at its core. If you have the wrong cards to one-up the opponent, you lose.

-Draw 1 card at the beginning of your turn: I don't like this one bit. It lends itself to top-decking (using up all your cards to the play field and you're relying on the top draw card to play every turn) and that's a bad position to be in. Have players redraw to a hand size...or at least draw 2 cards. It severely limits the amount of options a player has. Yes, I know there are card powers that mitigate this, but drawing only 1 card is too limiting.

-Deck Building: I only say this because it's what I don't like at this moment. The idea of deck building is pretty smart, it's the fact that EVERYONE AND THEIR BROTHER IS MAKING A DECK BUILDING GAME! I'm going to wait a long time before I decide I want to make a deck building game.

-Rares: While a great way for card companies to make money, having rares in a card game has opened up a whole middle and black market on card games. Of course, this is something that's evolved over the course of time; I don't think Wizards of the Coast had this in mind when they made Magic: The Gathering. But it's an inevitable truth nowadays: you CAN buy your way to victory.

I know some of these things aren't exactly "mechanics", but it's stuff I find really irritating.

Now onto my favorite mechanics in TCGs:

-Fully customizable but randomized deck: We can engineer our decks any way we want. it's the order in which these cards come out that make each game exciting.

-Instant cards: Cards that make you say "a HA!" These are surprise strategies that can turn the tide of battle. It's that wild card you save in your hand that keeps you alive for that one turn you can beat your opponent.

-Multi-purpose cards: Not only are certain cards used for 1 singular task, but a secondary task as well...even a tertiary one. It gives versatility and options to the player. It can be as simple as "do X or Y" or "Do X, but in another situation, it can do Y".

-Tap or "use"; reorienting a card to utilize its power. Yes, I said the word tap is messed up, but the usage of a card by reorienting it is a brilliant mechanic. Some have taken it to the next level by giving meaning to which orientation the card is turned.

-Any card can be used as a resource: If there's anything that stalls some games it's resource acquisition. When any card can be used as a resource (a la World of Warcraft TCG), then it's up to the player whether or not they want to create a resource or play a card. It gives more control to the player and that's a good thing.

-Event cards: This is really evident in Game of Thrones LCG. It creates a scenario in which the players have to conform to, which forces the players to rethink their strategies constantly. Both players may know what cards the other player has in their deck, but the event cards really change things up.

-Character Cards: This is really great for the designer. It forces the player to conform to a set stat structure that the designer has put forth. It's more control for the designer, but forces the player to be more creative in their execution. Pathfinder ACG is a great example.

-Turn Order Card: This isn't really a mechanic as much as it is a great reference. Star Wars LCG has it but Lord of the Rings LCG doesn't? Weird. Sometimes we get so caught up in the game that we forget there's a turn order we must abide by. A game could go in a very weird direction when someone misses a step, which is almost imperative a turn order card for reference is needed.

-Reshuffing, then putting it on TOP of the deck. This is evident in Pandemic. It forces a timer on the game and it's designed so that the trouble areas only get in more trouble. Brilliant.

I'm sure there's more, but I'm going to keep it at this. I hope this will get the discussion going again as card games are my favorite.

Stealthpike
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Luck (or lack there of) of the draw

I think the biggest thing I don't like about TCG or really any game that uses a deck is that moment where you're looking at the table and thinking, "Alright, I NEED that one card to win." and then you either draw, grin and win or draw, weep and lose. I've played Magic the Gathering, WOW TCG, LOTR, etc. and I always get annoyed when my deck decides to misbehave. I know that's just part of the game, but I still don't like it when I know what my deck is supposed to do, and it won't do it.

The thing I like the most about TCG is the deckbuilding. It's a lot of fun to sit down and figure out ways that different cards can combo and trying to build a deck that is unique. I know a lot of people complain about games like Magic the Gathering because a lot of "professionals" post deck builds online and some people will just copy them because it works, but for me, it was more fun showing up at a tournament and having people look at your deck in surprise because they hadn't thought of that before.

radioactivemouse
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That's the appeal

Stealthpike wrote:
I think the biggest thing I don't like about TCG or really any game that uses a deck is that moment where you're looking at the table and thinking, "Alright, I NEED that one card to win." and then you either draw, grin and win or draw, weep and lose. I've played Magic the Gathering, WOW TCG, LOTR, etc. and I always get annoyed when my deck decides to misbehave. I know that's just part of the game, but I still don't like it when I know what my deck is supposed to do, and it won't do it.

I believe that's part of the appeal. You know that if you get that one card that you're looking for, you'll win, but it's the way you use the cards you are dealt that forces you to think a little outside of the box.

Stealthpike
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Yeah, I know it's how the

Yeah, I know it's how the game works, and I think it's also part of the appeal, but at the same time, the worst moment is when you have a really high chance of getting the card you want, and it doesn't come. I'm mainly thinking of getting "Mana screwed" In Magic. (For those of you who don't play Magic, it means you didn't draw enough "mana" to pay for your cards) On the flip side of the same coin, I also feel bad when something like that happens to my opponent, because it's not a matter of "i'm more skilled" it's just bad luck. Like you said, it is part of the appeal, but it's annoying when the cards misbehave ;)

radioactivemouse
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I see.

Stealthpike wrote:
Yeah, I know it's how the game works, and I think it's also part of the appeal, but at the same time, the worst moment is when you have a really high chance of getting the card you want, and it doesn't come. I'm mainly thinking of getting "Mana screwed" In Magic. (For those of you who don't play Magic, it means you didn't draw enough "mana" to pay for your cards) On the flip side of the same coin, I also feel bad when something like that happens to my opponent, because it's not a matter of "i'm more skilled" it's just bad luck. Like you said, it is part of the appeal, but it's annoying when the cards misbehave ;)

That's the whole reason I made my card game. Not only did it "fix" issues like mana burn/screwed, but it also fixed top-decking and the "tap" mechanism makes sense now. However, on the flip side, my combat system (even though it's more thematic), has been criticized as being more luck oriented (based on a lottery-like system).

But I get it. I've been playing card games for over 20+ years and I've seen/experienced the faults of card games. Still, for this medium to last for over 20+ years AND new innovations are being discovered, I think the card game has yet to be fully explored.

kevnburg
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Thanks for mentioning War of

Thanks for mentioning War of the Indines, radioactivemouse. I'm currently designing a tcg-like fighting game about Robot Ninjas with a RPS-like element in the action cards (most cards move a certain amount and then either melee, do a ranged attack, or evade a certain attack type). I'm very interested in looking at ways to potentially spice up the combat strategy, and War of the Indines is seeming like a great potential source for inspiration. Currently looking into it. Seriously considering picking it up to study further. The cooldown mechanic in conjunction with all the different card types is particularly interesting to me.

radioactivemouse
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Something to think about...

kevnburg wrote:
Thanks for mentioning War of the Indines, radioactivemouse. I'm currently designing a tcg-like fighting game about Robot Ninjas with a RPS-like element in the action cards (most cards move a certain amount and then either melee, do a ranged attack, or evade a certain attack type). I'm very interested in looking at ways to potentially spice up the combat strategy, and War of the Indines is seeming like a great potential source for inspiration. Currently looking into it. Seriously considering picking it up to study further. The cooldown mechanic in conjunction with all the different card types is particularly interesting to me.

If I were you, I wouldn't do a straight RPS system, but try something else...something different. Maybe expand to an RPS 7 or even an RPS 9. Maybe don't do RPS, balance based on mechanics you can exploit individually.

If you want to do an RPS, put a spin on it. Don't make it so obvious. Other games to consider that uses unique combat include: Puzzle Strike (research their "triangle"), Yomi (which is straight RPS 3), and even Pokemon (which uses an RPS 17) have that quality to it.

Of course you can check out MY game (Conquest at Kismet)...but that's more sci-fi space combat and not actual fighting combat.

Good luck!

lewpuls
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The patent on Magic (which

The patent on Magic (which includes, peripherally, the "tapping" bit) has expired, I have read. Patents are normally 20 or 26 years, so this makes sense.

Fortunately, the word cannot be copyrighted, as copyrights last "forever" these days.

radioactivemouse
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What does this mean?

lewpuls wrote:
The patent on Magic (which includes, peripherally, the "tapping" bit) has expired, I have read. Patents are normally 20 or 26 years, so this makes sense.

Fortunately, the word cannot be copyrighted, as copyrights last "forever" these days.

Yes. According to the actual patent, it expired in 2015.

I'm not a patent person, so I don't know what that means...can people make a game using a tap mechanism, call it tap and use a card to turn to indicate use? It's not like someone can use the tap mechanic as it's be worked around for years (kneeling, bowing, exhausting, booting, etc.)

Can anyone clarify?

himvais
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Let's talk the digital angle of it, shall we.

Not sure about what are the consequences of the patent expiring about tapping, but I don't consider it a big issue.

The mobile/portable/digital gaming is at it's best nowadays. Most of the CCGs are designed keeping the actual physical card play in the mind.

What are the additional game mechanics methods or changes that we can include in a game, if it's being designed solely to be played digitally.

I was thinking in the direction of creating a game where the cards can be mined like bit coins. Each card is unique and thus can be traded.

X3M
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Questions popping up in my head.

I find it odd that there was a patent on "tapping". How can you patent a game mechanic?
Is it even worthwhile doing so?
How to keep track of others, not "borrowing" this mechanic?

***

I also find it odd that most RPS systems have an odd number.
3, 5, 7, 9 etc. Pokemon with "17".

What about the smallest possible even number? 4.
Or 6, 8 etc.? Any games where this is or has been feasable?

What about infinite expandable RPS systems?
Where you start with 3, but can expand to whatever you want. And the RPS keeps working on several scales.

himvais
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RPS Controlling

I think the higher RPS just prevents the users to immediately getting Overpowered cards in action.

Also, I really love the enhancement/artifact/augmentation or reusable weaponry concept. All players starts with same token cards (1 toughness, 1 damage, 1 resource production) then it's up to users to give right tools to balance attack and defence and win the game.

ruy343
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On topdecking

You know, I think that it would be interesting to play a game where you made a 60 card deck, but set aside 5 cards of your choice every game. During the game, if you were going to draw from the deck, you may instead choose to draw from the cards you set aside, allowing you a greater degree of flexibility with your deck's design, but guaranteeing that a handful of cards are more likely to show up.

That said, it would make some set collection strategies broken, but it would certainly reduce the overall luck factor.

JewellGames
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Check out Jak and Poi for an

Check out Jak and Poi for an interesting take on RPS3 card game systems.

Black_Cockatoo
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Awesome thread, I have found

Awesome thread, I have found it very helpful.

I think balance has been addressed, but a pet peeve of mine is bomb rares in Magic limited. I think limited would be more fun if it were just the commons and maybe uncommons.

Also, anybody complaining about first-turn-wins in Magic should stop playing vintage and play limited, pauper or standard. The former two especially if you're also complaining about the cost.

Or build better decks with Force of Wills, etc.

I've never been beaten on the first turn in what is probably over 1000 games.

And if you can't do enough research to find Relic of Progenitus to run against reanimator, I feel sorry for you because Magic is probably not for you.

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