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Negative Game Effects (or Double-Edged Swords)

5 replies [Last post]
ErnstFourie's picture
Joined: 06/18/2014

As the title (might) suggest, I am looking for input regarding negative effects, or double-edged effects(like spells with a life-cost attached in magic)

I know some designers shy away from having only negative effects on cards, but some use it to great effect to offset otherwise imbalanced cards.

Players ussually don't like playing with cards that have begative effects?

Does anyone have any advice when regarding design of negative effects?

Any good examples of negative (double-edged) design?

Sliverik's picture
Joined: 02/27/2015
There are a lot of ways to

There are a lot of ways to make a negative effect seem "not so bad" or even "good".
-For example, if it's a weak side effect compared to the main consequences of playing the card, most players won't mind, because they don't feel that they lost anything: the card is still very good.
-If your negative effect can be reverted, it adds depths to it, and a layer of strategy. For example, if doing some action makes you lose a turn, but an item makes you heal your character every time you lose a turn, the negative effect seems... not so bad any more. (You still may want to keep your turn, but sometimes you won't mind any more, or will even want to do that action only because it will heal you afterwards!)
-If the negative effect is the cost of a card, it can be an interesting alternative to playing it. You talk about life-cost cards in Magic, and there are special ones, where you can pay mana or life points, in function of what you like the most. (Phyrexian mana, if you see what I mean)

To give you ideas of designing negative effects, we would first know a bit for what kind of game it would apply, but think that anything that another player would want to happen to you can be a negative effect of a card you play.

X3M's picture
Joined: 10/28/2013
A double edged sword depends

A double edged sword depends on the game mechanics. I think I can only give an example:

In one of my games. When 2 forces are standing really close to each other. Short ranged units may fire first. Longer ranged units fire last. (In a normal situation, you try to keep the maximum range between the forces, thus one force cannot fire back)

Now the double edged sword here is an Event Card that gives +1 range to a selected unit. This card can be played on your own unit or on the enemy unit.
When having a battle very close to each other. This card is actually bad for your own unit. Thus playing it on the opponent, to keep one of his units from firing first, is the best way to play that card.

Of course this means that if he/she chooses to retreat that unit. He/she has now a better unit for combat over a bigger distance.
If the card was played on your own unit, then the opponent actually might try to make close combat.

One might say that this card is 100% positive when applied at the right time and place. Yet can backfire 100% when one is not careful enough.

ErnstFourie's picture
Joined: 06/18/2014
good points

Thank you for your comments. Both are valid points.

I'm still hashing out a lot of things, but the premise (if you like), is that you have 4 elements. Like rock/paper/scissors, each is strong to one element, weak to another and can be, for a bit of design space, strong or weak to the last element.

The game uses attack dice, different dice for the different elements.

You can play cards to strengthen resistance to certain elements, while weakening resistance to another

I'm not sure i want to have the cards remove or add different dice, or just augment the results.

DifferentName's picture
Joined: 09/08/2013
Thoughts and Examples

I love double edged sword mechanics. I'm not completely sure what it is about them. Maybe it's the gambling aspect of it, or simply the faster more aggressive play it usually uses. I think they also tend to be more unique game mechanics, and less common strategies that allow me to throw off my opponents game.

Hearthstone has a lot of these. The warlock can damage himself to draw an extra card, and has creatures that are very powerful for the cost, but that damage the warlock. There are a few cards that are powerful but make the opponent draw a card, to help balance things out. I had a lot of fun making a deck with all of those cards in it, with the idea that they would have more cards than they're prepared to handle, allowing me to take advantage of the situation.

Puzzle Strike is a deck building game, where you're frequently shuffling chips (instead of cards) back into your deck. Each character has 3 unique chips that tend to be pretty powerful. You can get wound chips that do nothing, and making your hand less useful. But one character has an ability that gives herself a wound and a powerful attack, and an ability that she can use when she has a wound in her hand. Another character has a chip that gives her a wound if she doesn't play it (playing it does nothing but prevent the negative effect, and use up her action), but her other 2 chips are really powerful to make up for the one weak one.

Joined: 03/27/2015
I quite like double-edged swords

Double-edged swords are one of the basic ways to make combos.
You take the example of Magic, so I'll keep it. If you design a card that allows you to draw cards, you can face many problems:
- If it's really powerful, every one will play it (Ancestral recall).
- If it's not, noone will play it.
As drawing card is something that is interesting for every game, it's nearly impossible to balance it precisely. You will always end up with a card that is not played in more competitive decks, as it adds not enough, and always in less competitive games, as the effect benefit to any deck.

Now, you can add a double-edged part, or combo variable part. You draw cards depending on your number of creatures (combo part) or for every card you draw, you have to sacrifice a creature (double-edged).
So, instead of having a card never played or always played, you have a card that is played only in certain decks, the one that can sustain the combo or counter the double-edge.

So, for me, double-edged swords or combos must be in every card games.
(technically, double-edged swords and combos are the two edges of the sword. A double-edged being a card very good with drawbacks, a combo being a card not very good with bonuses. Both rely on the ability to maximize the combo or counter the drawback.)

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