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How to create synergy?

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Whymme
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Joined: 01/25/2009

An important element in card games like Magic: the Gathering and Race for the Galaxy (and probably many others) is the one of synergy. Find cards that work together and build your strategy on that. How well the individual cards combine is the main success factor in the game.

How do you build something like that? Something that I'm thinking about is:
- Define some strategies that lead to victory.
- Create a bunch of cards / game elements for each of those strategies.
- Playtest like hell, to find a good balance.

Is that the formula? Are there other ways to do this?

direpinnacle
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Joined: 06/07/2010
Synergy is natural, balance is not

The biggest problem with creating synergy is actually making sure you don't create any one strategy that overpowers all others. By and large, if this is true and you have some amount of variety, players will figure out for themselves which cards go together, and will find combinations you didn't expect.

That said, though, I can at least break down what Magic: the Gathering did early on, and maybe that'll be a better answer to your question. In Magic, cards are arranged by themes that are color coded to make it easy for the players to understand. If a player wants to directly damage an opponent, use red. If a player wants to stop or control an opponent's cards, use blue. Making simple, easy to figure themes allow the players to find out what's going to work together in direct ways (same colors), and allows players to feel like they've made something new and unexpected by combining different or opposite color cards.

It is also nice to create pairs of cards that you expect to be used together, but in doing this you need to consider 2 things: First, how powerful (how much of a game changer) do you want the combination to be, and second, how easy/likely it is to get the right combination.

Ewain
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Joined: 05/21/2010
One of the links you need

is http://jbdgames.blogspot.com/

It's where I go when I get stuck, especially for the "Game Theory 101"-articles in the right column.
All 4 articles are well worth reading, but I think synergy is covered best in "The Bomb".

Leaving that aside, the basic question you need to answer is Why you want synergy in the game at all. In magic I understand that it's really the game engine -you don't win a game between even players without combining the right cards into a 'superhand'. (Which could also be described as the game engine in chess -win by combining the strengths of the right pieces into a 'superthreat'. Or not...)

So as far as a 'formula' goes; no, defining strategies for victory has very little to do with how your synergy will work, that is pretty much the formula for reverse-engineering a game (why do these cards work so well together?)
Start off with deciding what sort of mechanics you will use, and you'll have a much easier time figuring out how to create a synergy simply because the groundwork is already in place.

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