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Differences between Artifacts and Abilities

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Nestalawe's picture
Joined: 08/07/2008

Ok. I making this game right, a Vampire game. One of the central Things about the game, is that you can staunch up your Vampire Liuetenants in three ways -

1) Giving them a Creature to fight under them
2) Bestowing a permanent Special Ability
3) Giving them Artifacts

Creatures are useful because they have a Special Ability of their own which the Lieutenant can Use, they add bonuses to combat, and they can take Wounds that would otherwise have to be allocated to the Lieutenant.

Special Abilities are useful because it lets the Lieutenant do something good, either passively, or which they have to perform a Use Ability action to utilise.

The probelm is that Artifacts are pretty much exactly the same as Special Abilities, as they are used in the same way, except it is possible to lose Artifacts to an enemy, or to trade them between Lieutenants.

Each Lieutenant has a maximum number of Creatures, Special Abilities and Artifacts they can have at any one time.

I hope thats enough info for ppl to throw up some ideas about how to differentiate between Special Abilities and Artifacts. I need to find a way to make players need to choose to either give their Lieutenant a Special Ability or an Artifact, based on the drawbacks and benefits of each.

...gah, have to go, will provide more info if needed, gggrrrrr...

Gamebot's picture
Joined: 07/30/2008
Differences between Artifacts and Abilities

Here are some ideas:

- Artifacts are more difficult to get into play. Maybe, you have to find the artifacts somehow before you can play it.
- Artifacts can only be used once a turn, while special abilities can be used multiple times.
- Artifacts are a one time use, meaning they go away after you use it once.
- Artifacts are more scenario specific (more powerful, but only useful in limited situations), while special abilities are more general purpose.
- Artifacts can be stolen after a battle.

Joined: 12/31/1969
Artifact use

Its not exactly what you were asking for, but what about having artifacts that are only compatible or usable if you have a certain ability? Maybe artifacts are extensions of abilities, and you would only be able to enhance a certain number of abilities this way. In this way of thinking, maybe players must decide whether to get an additional henchman, a new ability, or boost that (already-purchased) blood-sucking ability with an artifact that lets him draw extra plasma per action point.

(I'll stop rambling here at some point, I swear).

So, for example, if a vampire in mid-game is faced with a choice of upgrades, and maybe a new creature is worth x pts, and would 'normally' be an attractive choice. Now they have to think about an artifact that is also worth x pts. - but might raise the worth of an ability x pts + y pts. He'll have one less creature to use, but he's beefed up an ability - its almost like specializing in a certain ability at the expense of others.

Xaqery's picture
Joined: 07/26/2008
Differences between Artifacts and Abilities

You need to make a clear line between them. My thought was that Artifacts could be weapons or other tools. Vampire abilities are things that make them a better vampire, stronger, suck blood faster etc.: +1 speed, can take 1 more action

But Artifacts are tangible tools that can be lost, traded, stolen: All viewing Eye (see three of opponents cards), Jewel of life (skip a turn and gain life points) Sword of Power (+1 to hit)

Also artifacts could be stronger if they are working in conjunction with other artifacts. Let the players create new things that are great than the sum of their parts. like if you combine the sword of power with the jewel of life you now have a weapon that will give the vampire life equal to the life taken from his victims when he hits them.

Just a couple thoughts.

- Dwight

Hedge-o-Matic's picture
Joined: 07/30/2008
Differences between Artifacts and Abilities

Well, the obvious question is why are artifacts neccessary at all? If creatures and abilities cover all the bases, who needs em? It sounds as if an artifact just has too many downsides compared to the others. But, if you really want your artifacts (and who doesn't?), heres an idea:

Have artifacts be more powerful, but with an associated cost or downside to their use or to holding them.

For example, if your avarage creature gives a +1 combat bonus, the Souleater sword might give a +5 bonus on attack, disallow the vampire to act as a defender, and cost a creature in sacrifice every time it is used. Slain defenders count as sacrifices.

With this sort of specific mix of abilities, vampires may stock up on artifacts, if they can take the upkeep, and, while powerful, other vampires may forego the abilites to avoid the cost.

Joined: 07/13/2009
Differences between Artifacts and Abilities

Seems to me that Artifacts are a liability; the downside being that they can be lost... so make them cheaper than special abilities, but less powerful.

If you seperate the special abilities in the game, into two groups: character abilities, and artifact only abilities:
E.G. Super Mega Vampire Jump, would be more of an ability, but saying that you could give him boots of uber jumping...

so, you could shuffle them around, having an artifact version of an ability could be useful, if you max out your special tricks; you can still take the magic boots of Jedi Jumps...

infact: Does stuff have a cost? and what types of abilities are we talking about??

Joined: 12/31/1969
Differences between Artifacts and Abilities

It seems like you went Bass-Ackward into the design. I see what you are looking for, but as has been stated, the two seem to be fairly similar.


1) Artifacts must be activated, and as such require an "Activation" action. This applies even to "always on" magica items such as necklaces and rings which simply must be worn.

2) Artifacts can be stolen, lost, traded, and destroyed.

3) Artifacts can only be activated on your turn.


1) Abilities are a body of supernatural feats which a vampire can acquire as their power increases. When an ability is played, the vampire must meet the requirements listed on the card.

2) Once an Ability card is played on a vampire, it cannot be removed unless specified by another Ability or Artifact.

3) Abilities are considered "Always on" and require no activation, though their effects can be utilized at any time.

4) While a player may use the effects of an Ability at any time, an Ability card can only be placed ona vampire during that player's turn.


1) Abilities and Artifacts whose effects are the same (Both provide flight, combat bonuses, etc.) automatically negate the lesser of the two. The card that provides the greatest boost takes effect, though it does not remove the lesser.

2) If a vampire dies, all special abilities are removed as well. Artifacts are immediately dropped and can only be recovered on the player's next turn.

3) While you may target an opponents vampires with the effects of an Ability or Artifact, you may not "give" them the card. (For example, you may not allow an opponent to use your artifact, unless they have successfully taken it from you. Also, you may not use a Special Ability from your hand on an opponents vampire, even if they meet the requirement.)

This being said, I think it would be interesting to impliment a Curse card into the game as well. Basically it would allow for random detrimental effects to take place. Being a vampire can't be entirely beneficial.

Curse cards could be something like Unnatural Decay, Blood Lust, Tattered Wings, etc....

These cards would be a part of your deck, though they are made specifically to place on your opponent's vampires. Despite this, you may opt to use a Curse upon your own vampires. Basically they are Abilities that have a negative side and can be played on any Vampire on the field.[/i]

Joined: 01/28/2009
Differences between Artifacts and Abilities

It seems to me that abilities simply give the players a starting set of things they can do, and they help to differentiate them from other players. They also give players a set of balanced advantages that may add interest and excitement to the beginning of the game. Artifacts however, offer the players upgrades to there characters in a logical thematic way. Giving these upgrades drawbacks is a one way to balance them out, and to offer complications and risks to using them.

Nestalawe's picture
Joined: 08/07/2008
Differences between Artifacts and Abilities

Hey Ya'll,

Thanks for all the good thoughts. Glad to see my first post wasn't too rambly, being sent on the run... But it looks like this one is, if you can make it through!

A bit more info first -

Netwolf - This is a boardgame, not a cardgame, but all the stuff you wrote relates to what I am working on. And yes, when a Lieutenant is Slain, they lose all their Abilities and Creatures (if not already Slain) and any Artifacts are taken by their Slayer, or dropped.

The way I approached the inclusion of Special Abilities etc into the game is that I wanted to keep all the 'Effects' outside of the basic rules. The rules cover how to get and how to use the Abilities etc, but not what they actually do. The other consideration is that I wanted to keep the amount of time players have to go through their available choices to a minimum, so keep the descriptions etc of each Effect simple.

Also, though I always wanted to have Creatures, Artifacts and Abilities, I wanted the Effects of each to be similar in a way that players wouldn't have to remember three different ways of doing things.

So, I made it that each Creature, Artifact and Ability has an Effect.

These Effects have the following properties -

- Either Mental or Physical
- Either Passive or Useable
- Either Combat or non-Combat

Mental and Physical is mainly used when Effects affect eachother. i.e. the Psychic Vampire Player will have a range of ways he can affect the Mental Effects of other Players.

Passive Effects affect the Lieutenant all the time.

Useable Effects need the Lieutenant to play a Use Ability action to be played on them.

Combat Effects are only used on Combat, non-Combat Effects are used outside of Combat. Combat Effects are either Useable or Passive. Useable Combat Effects need a Lieutenant to 'Activate' them during a combat round, whereas Passive Combat Effects always affect them.

Ok, so thats the framework I set myself when designing the Effects of the Creatures, Artifacts and Abilities. It feels natural, easy to remember and I could apply them to each different Thing. I also wanted to have a flexible definition system so that I could model a wide range of Effects to cover a wide range of Creatures, Artifacts and Abilities, useufl in some situations, but not in others. Players are then able to develop their forces in a variety of ways.

Also, because this is a Boardgame, I want to make it as easy as possible for players to remember or look up all the Special Things they have access to, but at the same time have access to a wide variety of Cool Stuff...

Some examples -

- The Winged Serpent Creature has the Flight Ability which is Passive Physical and has the Effect of 'Lieutenant may move through Swamp and Forest territories for 1MP and may move through, but not end their movement on, Mountain territories.'

- A Metamorph Vampire Lieutenant can gain the Shimmer Ability which is Physical Useable Combat and has the Effect of 'Treat this Bead as 2 Evasion Beads this Round' when activated by the Lieutenant during a combat round.

- A Sorcerer Vampire Lieutenant can gain the Dust of Ages Artifact which is Useable and has the Effect of 'Player may add any two unused Action Tokens to the Lieutenant immediately. These Actions may be used later this Lieutenant Phase'.

This is just a few examples, but at the moment, the definitions of the Effects are the same for Abilities and Artifacts. Creatures are fine for the moment, as they give other bonuses as mentioned previously.

Different Players will have access to different types and amounts of Creatures, Artifacts and Abilities. Creatures, Artifacts and Abilities can be 'bought' from their individual supply by Players at the start of each turn and allocated to their Lieutenants. There are also Neutral locations on the map where Lieutenants may Recruit Creatures and there are Lairs where Lieutenants may slay the defenders to gain a powerful Artifact.

As a side note, this game was originally planned to be a play-by email game and I did want to include 'Curses' or detrimental Effects, which would be similar to Passive Mental or Physical Abilities. These could also be gained through receiving Wounds etc. But as this is a boardgame I don't want to verload players with Effects that that will have to manage too much and keep track of.

Anyway, I will read over the posts that have come through so far and see what route I take. I think I will work towards making Artifacts a lot more powerful than Abilities, and try and make them more Useable than Passive, whereas I will make Abilities more Passive than Useable.

Sorry for the ramble!

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