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Buying units in secrecy?

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deFunkt29's picture
Joined: 01/04/2011

Hello all!

Haven't posted in a while, but I'm currently stumped on a mechanic in a medieval-fantasy card-based wargame I've been tinkering with for a while. The game basically involves players battling each other for control of land and kingdoms using small decks of cards that they create using the units they have available. Players create both the content of the decks and card order. Players will flip over cards in deck order, one by one, to determine the outcome of the battle, with certain units being better than others, as well as certain units being able to counter others. Players can also use a seperate deck of units to support in battle, such as ranged units, which they can combine with unit cards flipped over from the main deck. As well, players have certain orders that can be used for a variety of effects, such as to rearrange decks or flee from battle.

There are a few other mechanics but these are the basics. So a lot of the combat is based on bluffing, as players will build their decks in secret to try to counter their opponent. For example, placing cavalry on the top of the deck will give them a charge bonus, but the other player could counter this by placing spearmen on top of his/her deck. Etc. etc.

My current problem lies in player card secrecy. Since I'd like for the players to be able to buy unit cards using resources, the buying phase has to be fairly public in order to make sure that players are buying fairly (ie. not saying they're spending 2 gold to buy a unit that costs 5). But, if it is public, then other players can solely buy units that could counter the enemies deck (like the spearmen to cavalry example above). Hopefully this makes sense. I have a few ideas how to remedy this, like perhaps implementing different tiers of units that are bought, so players will know from what tier the other players are buying from but won't know what cards exactly they are buying. Or perhaps a card drafting mechanic of sorts. Im also not entirely sold on the resource system, so that could change as well. Does anyone have any ideas on how to implement a system so that players can obtain units fairly without revealing the units to every player?

Thanks for any advice, if you need more details just ask.

Joined: 02/01/2013
See Quest CCG

It sounds like you and Quest are having the same issue.

I will tell you what I told him, because I liked his idea. Make the point value visible on the back of the card.

deFunkt29's picture
Joined: 01/04/2011
Yes I noticed that! How

Yes I noticed that! How unusual. I have thought about this plan before but I just don't think it'll work for my game, though it may for his. The problem is that, for example, in my game a cavalry unit will cost more than an average unit, and since all units are placed in a deck facedown, it will be almost immediately recognizable to see what type of unit is on top of the opponents deck, especially after playing a few rounds in a game.

For example, you get in a battle with player A, and at this stage of the game they only have one card that costed three. Now you can immediately see the location of this card in the deck next time you battle them. So it has this problem, as well it is very easy to when an opponent has bought an expensive unit, which is something I sort of wanted to avoid if possible as well for the sake of secrecy. Also it makes them harder to print! Haha

Joined: 02/07/2012
deFunkt29 wrote:Yes I noticed

deFunkt29 wrote:
Yes I noticed that! How unusual. I have thought about this plan before but I just don't think it'll work for my game, though it may for his. The problem is that, for example, in my game a cavalry unit will cost more than an average unit, and since all units are placed in a deck facedown, it will be almost immediately recognizable to see what type of unit is on top of the opponents deck, especially after playing a few rounds in a game.

Two suggestions to deal with that, if you want to keep the cost on the back:

- Make it part of the metagame. Yeah, you know that that expensive card on top has to be a knight, unless it is that other 5-cost card that he bought just to screw with that expectation. So the cost becomes one of the aspects of outguessing and bluffing.

- Make the cost relate indirectly to some generic factor (which you can then print on the back). Say, for instance, units are divided into tiers. The first tier II unit you buy is cheap (but recognizable, since you will only have one). The second is a bit more expensive (it gets you a tier II unit as well as makes it harder to read your moves when you have two different tier II units). The third is even more expensive. That way, the other players can check that you are paying the right cost for a tier II unit, but it will still not be obvious which one you bought.

JustActCasual's picture
Joined: 11/20/2012
2 Solutions

Couldn't players seeing what others buy be a feature? Even if they start buying all cards to counter the other deck, their opponent can buy cards to counter the counter etc: this sounds like good interaction. Playing purely to counter should be likely to leave you with a weaker deck anyway: if you buy all Moats in Dominion, sure you're protected, but you are not wielding a strong deck. You could also make orders that benefit one strategy much more than others, so that players will have reasons to stick to building their strategy rather than going on a all-counter tangent.

If you're set on the information remaining secret you could make a "cheat" mechanic: players can pay whatever they like as long as they don't get caught. When a player wants to buy a card they simply announce how much they're going to pay, and the other players have the option of calling them on it: if the other players call and the buyer was paying equal or more, then the callers have to pay; if the players call and the buyer was trying to pay less, than the buyer has to pay the callers and doesn't get the card. If the callers don't call, then the buyer gets the card for whatever they announced. This mechanic keeps the players engaged during what would otherwise be downtime and solves your issue.

deFunkt29's picture
Joined: 01/04/2011

Thanks for all the ideas everyone! I like the suggestions about perhaps making the fact that unit types boughten or the cost of units bought it part of the game, though it would require some possible changes to the combat system (which I'm not opposed to)! I also like the idea of some creative orders to try and remedy this. Great analogy with the Moats in Dominion, a good point

I think the 'cheat' idea, although it would be really fun, might just be weird thematically. For example, lets say you cheat-buy a unit of mercenaries for half of the usual price. It just doesn't make a ton of sense that they would fight for the player without being properly payed... Haha. But I do think the system is interesting, I'll have to experiment with it.

One solution I thought of was perhaps if the unit cards were in three or four seperate decks from the start depending on cost, and when a player went to buy a card they would pay the cost, then go and pick a card from that respective deck. Not a bad idea, but still not purely secretive. Though to be fair, the secrets only last until combat starts anyway.

Joined: 06/07/2012
You could simply use a marker

You could simply use a marker board to represent payments and resources.

On one side are the resources of the players, or cash funds.
On the other side is an expenditure record.

Each card has a cost on the front side and when a player buys a card the cost is taken from their total resources and added to their total costs.

In this way the total cost section of the marker board will always give an accurate account of the total value of cards being held by the player. It could even be split into sections, cost 1 cards, cost 2 cards etc.

When a player looses a card the value of the card is removed from the expenditure counter record (probably better to name it something else like deck value counter).

When the player has no cards in their hand then the deck value counter should be 0 and if it isnt then they cheated somewhere.

Its not totally secret, since the other players will know when the 'watched' player adds a high value card (or a card from a particular category) and where it will be placed in their deck. However, if multiple cards have the same value - say value ranging from 1-4 - then an element of secrecy will remain.

The secrecy could be increased by including combination affects. A 1 value card and an associated 2 value card, combined, could have an 'active value of 5'. This combination approach wouldnt alter the expense tally, but it would disguise the actionable value of the players cards.

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
I did not read through all

I did not read through all your post, but in magic the gathering, there were morph creature where you paid a fixed cost of 3 to get a 2/2 creature when it was face down. Then to flip it, you had to pay it's cost.

Maybe you could use a double payment system like that where there is a minimum cost for all the cards, and to reveal/use the cards, you need to pay an extra cost.

deFunkt29's picture
Joined: 01/04/2011
BubbleChucks, you offer a lot

BubbleChucks, you offer a lot of interesting ideas actually, and I especially like the idea presented by your last paragraph, as well as the idea of players entire wealth being calculated together in some way. Though it does seem like a lot of work just to thwart possible cheaters, a system like this may be necessary. I just don't like this way of only finding out if a player bought a card that they weren't actually supposed to only at the end of the game, when players will have to tally up bought cards, it just seems odd that the only way to thwart player cheating is after the game is complete.

Larienna, although the idea is neat, it doesn't really work with my problem, as my primary issue is to keep buying units secret and not actually playing the units in secrecy. In my system, a unit is never in battle face down, so the idea isn't overly releveant. Though, your idea has inspired a way to make my stealth system work, so thanks for that! I think your idea may be better suited to Quest's post (which I noticed you commented on as well).

I'm starting to think this problem really is unavoidable while using a "exchange resources for cards system", and the monitoring for cheating that has to be done might push some players away from the game, as it will seem as though they are constantly being accused of being untrustworthy! I'm starting to think there's really only two solutions, either avoiding secrecy all together, and having this knowledge be part of the game, or having the act of getting cards be more random and less where player's directly have the ability to buy certain cards.

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