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Deck Building in a co-op dungeon crawl

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Zag24
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Joined: 03/02/2014

I'm somewhat stuck on my "London Underground" game that I've mentioned here in the past. It's a steampunk-themed co-op dungeon crawl with a new and (hopefully) interesting mechanic (not mentioned here, though). Each player plays a character such as Knight Templar, Musketeer, or Aetherographer.

My current combat system uses special dice. The way that the players improve is by replacing parts of their weapons. For example, the Musketeer starts with a long gun, that has parts stock, trigger, barrel, and bullets. They might find a treasure "Flame-thrower" which is a barrel that gives +1 damage for every flame icon you roll. The base (white) dice only have a flame icon on one side, but if he were also to get the treasure "Incendiary bullets" he would convert 2 white dice to red dice. The red dice have 3 sides containing a flame. A big part of the game is to put together these device synergies, so you do enough damage to take on tougher enemies and ultimately the final boss.

My issue is that I'm not a big fan of rolling a big handful of dice each turn. Also, if I actually consider manufacturing this thing, custom dice are pretty expensive. I would need at least 20 dice (8 white, 4 each of red, blue, black) to fulfill all the combinations players might put together, so I think I start to price the game out of its market.

I'm considering, instead, a deck-building approach. Each player would have a deck of attack cards that he adds to by adding different devices to his weapon. Each turn he plays some number of cards from his hand and the synergies work or don't. A smart player will put together a lean deck with only cards that go well together.

I'm not sure I can make this work -- after all, when he swaps out a part, does he have to hunt for those cards that part added and remove them? Awkward, but does it make sense that he keep them? If the cards from lower-level devices tend just to clutter up the deck once you've moved on to higher-level devices, then just leaving them creates some interesting trade-offs, but it doesn't really make sense. Is that important?

So, what do people think? Is the basic idea of combining deck-building with a co-op sound appealing at all? Do you like the dice approach better?

let-off studios
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Joined: 02/07/2011
Trash Some Cards

The way a lot of deck-building games solve the issue of lower-powered cards from earlier in the game cluttering up the player's deck is the existence of a trash pile. Allow players to move cards from their deck/hand/discard to this Trash area, and it's no longer part of their deck.

The use of dice mitigates this by stacking the odds in favor of a result the player wants. There's still a chance it won't pay off, and that's the chance one takes when they're rolling the dice. In a card game, it's down to the luck of the draw, but there are all sorts of hand-management decisions that can help strategic players plan for these situations.

I think there's a lot more control available to a player when you base a game on cards instead of dice rolls - even if the dice used are customizable based on player choices. I'm no mathematician, but my gut tells me you'll give players more control if you rely on cards instead of dice. Players most often rely on tactics (making the best of the current situation) in a dice game, and on strategy (long-term planning) in a card game.

Which do you prefer for your game?

I do not recommend trying for both, as the possibility of not satisfying either group is quite prominent.

Zag24
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Joined: 03/02/2014
Thanks for the feedback. I'm

Thanks for the feedback. I'm a Dominion junkie, so I know the value of card trashers. :-) Assuming I went with the approach that the lower-level cards stay to clutter your hand, I would include some (though not enough to make the trade-off a trivial decision).

What do you think about the idea that the cards you gained when you attach lower-level devices to your weapon stay around after you remove those devices? That doesn't feel weird to you? I think it makes for the better gameplay, but it seems like sort of an odd concept. After all, I'm removing the device, so why wouldn't I remove the cards that came with it when I acquired the device?

let-off studios wrote:
I do not recommend trying for both, as the possibility of not satisfying either group is quite prominent.

Yeah. Trying to incorporate both was never on the table (it being a terrible idea, and all). But thanks for reinforcing the point. :-)

killerkilroy
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Joined: 10/04/2012
Pathfinder ACG

Have you seen how the Pathfinder Action Card Game system works? I think something along those lines might work for what you're wanting to do.

If you're not familiar, the basic gist is that the players have individual decks that serve as their gear, skills, spells, etc. (as well as health, but that's not relevant here). Most of the gear (weapons, armor, etc.) are kept in hand until needed. Players can choose to reveal, but not discard a weapon to get a basic attack, discard it for a more powerful attack, or "exile" for super-bonus power. As you play your party finds new equipment cards that can be added into the deck later. A hard limit on deck-size means that you have to discard some items for new, often a weaker weapon for better one.

let-off studios
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Zag24 wrote:What do you think

Zag24 wrote:
What do you think about the idea that the cards you gained when you attach lower-level devices to your weapon stay around after you remove those devices? That doesn't feel weird to you?
Maybe indicate in the rules or card(s) that you discard the card if it's used and you have the required equipment, but "exile" (to use the Pathfinder term) the card as a free action or something if you no longer have the equipment, drawing a new card as soon as the obsolete card is exiled.

This removes ineligible cards from a hand based on current equipment, but doesn't slow down gameplay too much. It also allows a player to not be penalized for upgrading. If you allow a player to exile the card as soon as they notice it (instead of a "you snooze, you lose" the opportunity), then they can exile it whenever they notice they need to and not suffer for it.

You could even require that an obsolete card be exiled before upgraded cards can be drawn. In other words, whenever a player exiles an obsolete card, they draw only a corresponding upgraded card (obsolete barrel for upgraded barrel, obsolete stock for upgraded stock, etc.). Of course, that's only if the cards correspond to equipment pieces, which I don't know if that's the case.

HPS74
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Joined: 01/06/2009
Custom dice aren't that expensive

Yes...I said that! Many factors determine the price of dice. Material used, size, silk screen or engraving, moulds and set up fees.

One of the things I've been doing in recent editions of Pocket Sports is multiple use of a die face when something (a 'penalty' in my case) occurs. It then 'activates' or turns on the added word/action.

Custom laser engraved dice, no tooling required may go around .20-.25 (maybe cheaper) each (depending on volume and intricacy of pattern).....just sayin'......

ElKobold
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Joined: 04/10/2015
Random idea, might not fit the theme, but i'll share it anyway

What if your gun actually shoots parts. So you build your gun and then fire the old/unnecessary cards at your opponents as projectiles?

Zag24
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Joined: 03/02/2014
Thanks, all, for feedback.

Thanks, all, for feedback. I'd heard of the Pathfinder card game, but have yet to play it. I'll have to check it out.

Thanks, also, for the tip on custom dice. I hadn't realized that they could get that cheap in bulk. Of course, I doubt I'll ever get to that kind of bulk. :D

Kurjen Rahija
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Joined: 01/25/2016
Timing the Upgrade

You seem to be debating the idea of having the player keep some or all of the old cards from their old equipment when they upgrade. Much like you point out, while it does add more clutter to a players deck/hand it does create a more interesting situation. The player must be more thoughtful about what he upgrades into.

My proposition is this. Much like other deck-builders have a trash mechanic, whenever a player decides to upgrade, they may trash some or all old cards from their hand. This will not only get rid of unwanted clutter, but will also have the player think about the timing of their upgrade.

This may possibly be too restricting to the flow of the game, as I'm not entirely familiar with all of the rules/mechanics available and how this would affect them.

P.S. - The dice upgrading mechanic sounds really neat. I myself hope you can work this into another game if not this one.

Zag24
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Joined: 03/02/2014
Thanks, Kurjen Rahija. It's

Thanks, Kurjen Rahija.

It's nice to see that someone, at least, likes the dice mechanic. :) I've tried a little prototyping, just with spreadsheet and scribbling, making a deck builder, and I don't think it really works. I'm going to stick with the dice approach, even though 20 custom dice @ $0.24 adds almost $5 to the manufacturing costs, it's better than I had been calculating, over $8.

Anyway (and this goes for everybody), if you're interested in being kept up to date on the progress of London Underground, send an email with "London Underground" in the title to zag .at. zag .dot. net (with the obvious modification). I promise not to send you anything else -- just, at most, 1 note a month if there is any significant progress. I expect to be at least another year on this project before starting a kickstarter, but it's never too late to start drumming up interest. :-)

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