Skip to Content

Deckbuilding: Prime for material? Or over-saturated?

9 replies [Last post]
acdcatino
acdcatino's picture
Offline
Joined: 04/06/2012

This is a question about the state of deckbuilding games in the current market.

My current design project is a deckbuilding game. I consider it to have a unique theme and new twists on the mechanic that I haven't seen in any of the other contenders. As time goes by, and I continue to work on my game, I keep seeing more and more news of upcoming deckbuilding releases. Just recently, there's been announcements that Lord of the Rings, the DC Universe, and Capcom properties will be releasing deckbuilding games THIS YEAR! This, I find, is very discouraging because it shows the inevitable flood of titles into the market that I fear will wash independent games out.

Now, I know that, just because a big property clones a popular mechanic for their game, that doesn't mean that it's going to be a smash. However, my concern is that it will still garner the portion of the crowd that may have picked up my independent deckbuilder otherwise. Is my concern valid?

The bottom-line, and in short, my question, is this:

Are deckbuilding games coming into full swing and in a prime state for new releases, despite big companies tossing their hats into the ring? Or is it something that is better left to sizzle in the pan longer so that my game comes at a time when their is a lull in the deckbuilding market?

SlyBlu7
Offline
Joined: 03/15/2012
I'll preface everything that

I'll preface everything that I'm about to say with the simple fact that I am not a deckbuilder. I find the idea of deckbuilding to be fundamentally asinine. I don't understand what it adds or corrects in the standard card-game. Some people have told me that because you are "building your deck" from a pool of cards shared by all of the players, it prevents players from creating an unbalanced deck like the types you might find in a game of M:tG. No, it doesn't. A player can still put together an excellent winning deck, simply on the basis of luck by drawing out the right cards to take in subsequently better cards or force players to take in exceptionally poor ones. Furthermore, by the time you would normally get to the point of playing said M:tG-equivalent game, you have already played a full-length game (just to build your deck) and now probably already have a good idea of what's to come. Thus, most games don't go this far, they build the deck and stop.... making the entire exercise feel quite pointless.
Again, this is just personal preference. I had no idea what deck building was for the longest time (I'm a developer by chance, not design) and had to go and look it up when I came to this site. The day that someone presents me with a game that makes this mechanic seem worthwhile, I'll buy their game. Simple as that.

Furthermore, it's becoming over-used, and if it's like any other game mechanic, it's being applied to situations where it just doesn't fit. Look at companies like Newline Cinemas (the guys holding MOST of the LotR rights). It would be nice to think that a developer like ourselves came up with a game, sent it to NewLine, they reviewed it, liked it, and shelved it. But that's not exactly how they operate. What *most likely* happened, is that they looked at the rising popularity of deckbuilding card games and presented their own development team (or hired a game company) to create a deck-builder with a plastered-on LotR theme, so that they could have a slice of this delicious market pizza.
Over saturation of the market with poor games that are simply trying too hard to be TI or Ascension, are going to bring down the overall novelty of deckbuilding. The "newness" will wear off just like the gimmicks they packaged into kids games (moving components al'la 'Dizzy Dizzy Dinosaur' and other Parker Bros abortions) and people will refer to it as "just another deckbuilder" rather than "that cool new deckbuilding game!"

My suggestion - if you can get it into print, get it out now. Hopefully you can get in before the big-guns come in and ruin it for the rest of us, or anyone else drives this fad farther into the ground. I'm sorry if my post seems more cynical than my usual musings, but it's 3am and I'm still awake because my room is crawling with centipedes right now. Your game may do very well, I truly do wish you the best - it's hard enough getting ahead in any industry, without established names coming in and populating it themselves. If there is a way that you can perhaps alter your game to rework it into a non-DBG, you might be better off in the long term. Ask yourself, what does being a DBG explicitly add your theme? My two-cents is on the "nothing you can't do without it" pile.

acdcatino
acdcatino's picture
Offline
Joined: 04/06/2012
In response...

SlyBlu7 wrote:
... but it's 3am and I'm still awake because my room is crawling with centipedes right now...

I had to stop reading right there and check my own room, in broad daylight, because that is terrifying.

I believe that you have many valid points in your argument against deckbuilding games. I, for one, am not a fan of the father game of this genre, Dominion, but I'm enamored with nearly all of the "sons of Dominion" that have come out of it (Rune Age, Nightfall, Ascension, etc). My reasons for liking these games, and this mechanic, I feel are fairly simple. I only have to buy the initial game itself (expansions are optional). I don't have to buy extra cards, multiple copies of the game, or trade for anything to add to my experience. Also, there is no disappointment in not getting "the good cards".
I've played CCGs all my life. A few years ago, a close friend of mine from the FLGS in town finally talked me into playing MtG because it was the ONLY game anyone played. Within weeks, I was already far past the point of being aggravated by the booster/draft/collectible aspect of it. I hadn't spent money on a CCG unless the game was long dead, and $20 bought me a BOX of boosters, not just ONE starter deck! I promptly started to buy MtG singles online from older sets. My younger brothers (who did the same thing) and I found this to be very enjoyable, having a much wider pool of cards to choose from, and we played against each other often. When we took our decks to the our FLGS hangout to play against our friends there, we were promptly rebuked. No one would play with us! We were told that, because our decks were not tournament legal, no one could learn anything from playing us, so it was time ill-spent.
So, to cut this point off, colour me jaded, but when I learned there was a new style of card-based game that was sold in a box, full of around 200+ cards, AND they didn't require me to buy anything else (expansions, promos, etc) if I didn't want to? I was delighted.

I agree that there can be an imbalance in any game, especially card-based ones, but I'm not making a claim that one is better than the other. I've played competitive deckbuilding games (Ascension) and cooperative ones (Rune Age), and I love that there are many ways to enjoy this genre of game. While it's true that if you are playing totally competitively, buying cards from the same pool as your opponents, you are bound to run into some situations where luck/turn order drops the right card in the right person's lap. But what if you are buying the majority of your cards from your own, personal pool that you choose at the beginning of the game? Isn't it all just part of the strategy of making the right card choices for your own deck, and utilising your own resources well? I'm not saying MtG is perfect (far from it in my opinion, but that's irrelevant), and I'm not saying any deckbuilding game is either. In a sense, I still like what CCGs offer, but I feel that deckbuilding is a natural progression (the other being fixed-deck games) in the card-based game field for someone who is tired of the CCG model.

I also definitely understand what you're saying about it becoming an overused mechanic, and that's what I was afraid of. The guts of the game are being sown into the big IP monsters sooner than I anticipated. While I don't think they will be especially BAD games (the Resident Evil deckbuilder has garnered pretty favourable reviews so far), I do feel that they will flood the market, and shut out the potential for new, independent designs to shine. I may be wrong, and that may be the opposite; new designs may shine because they aren't tied to a big name with recycled mechanics.

SlyBlu7 wrote:
If there is a way that you can perhaps alter your game to rework it into a non-DBG, you might be better off in the long term. Ask yourself, what does being a DBG explicitly add your theme? My two-cents is on the "nothing you can't do without it" pile.

This is something that I may end up doing. I had been toying with the idea of removing the majority of the deckbuilding mechanics and leaving just a unit-purchasing one in its place. I may give this further consideration now.

sedjtroll
sedjtroll's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/21/2008
I'll offer a less cynical

I'll offer a less cynical response...

If "the big-guns come in and ruin it for the rest of us," then I submit that already happened. Dominion came out in 2008. It's 2012, and there are a lot of Dominion clones out there - and more on the way.

Then there are the newer games that use deck building as a mechanism - such as A Few Acres of Snow, Mage Knight, Core Worlds, or my own Eminent Domain. These are *significantly different* than Dominion, Thunderstone, or any of the other games in which you build your deck for the sake of building your deck.

In my opinion, that's the future of the mechanism - Dominion was ingenious, but it's just a mechanism. Dominion-the-game has been done, and I wouldn't personally want to revisit it.... but there's no more wrong with using a deck building mechanism in your game than there is anything wrong with using Worker Placement, or an auction, or Action Points.

Slyblu7: Have you tried EmDo, AFAoS, Core Worlds, or Mage Knight? Or has your entire experience with deck building been with the games that are just more Dominion?

Orangebeard
Offline
Joined: 10/13/2011
I'll go...middle of the road cynical

Anymore I find myself *expecting* the CCG to show up on the market for any popular franchise. Pick a theme or popular movie/setting/genre and there is almost certainly a CCG to go with it. Game of Thrones? Warhammer 40K? Harry Potter? If you build it...they will come!

However, please don't let this discourage you from developing your idea. New card games are released all of the time and some of them will develop quite a following. Even if you don't invent the next M:TG, you may be sitting on the next Fluxx, Munchkin or UNO.

Good luck with your designs!

UncleDragon
UncleDragon's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/12/2012
From a player...(that is new to design)

IMO while mechanics are important the theme or game world I'm being transported too is even more so. The mechanics are only the tools to get me there. So while deck building may be growing in popularity it doesn't mean that the market is going to be saturated and ruined. Just look at your theme, and you may find yourself to be original and appealing.

Example, I typically try to own no more than one game of a given mechanic type. (my group will get others and we try not to overlap games, being liberal w/ borrowing and lending to eachother.) So when I purchased Agricola, my filter for worker placement games became very picky. Come Pret-a-Porter, for a man who has 4 daughters a fashion themed game no matter the mechanic is going to perk my interest because it means potential fun for the whole family. Learning that it was worker placement made the game more appealing because I knew I liked the mechanic.

Likewise, the deckbuilding game that I have currently in my collection is EmDomain. However much I enjoy the game, I am not a huge Space themed fan. I could easily be lured into adding another to my collection if I felt the theme was new and interesting.

At any rate, the mechanic itself is just a tool, a single piece of the whole, and if the rest of the game is individual enough the mechanic being popular may be a plus more than a negative because many people already like how it plays.

SlyBlu7
Offline
Joined: 03/15/2012
Sorry - finally got some sleep.

acdcatino wrote:
My reasons for liking these games, and this mechanic, I feel are fairly simple. I only have to buy the initial game itself (expansions are optional). I don't have to buy extra cards, multiple copies of the game, or trade for anything to add to my experience. Also, there is no disappointment in not getting "the good cards"...
...So, to cut this point off, colour me jaded, but when I learned there was a new style of card-based game that was sold in a box, full of around 200+ cards, AND they didn't require me to buy anything else (expansions, promos, etc) if I didn't want to? I was delighted.

There are ways other than deck-building to balance out a game. Look at Munchkin, where each player has a deck. Or even look at starter-box draft tournaments for L5R, where players get the current starter for their clan. The starters are all assumed to be roughly balanced to one another. Would you have a problem packaging a starter-box for every player in your initial release? Starter box may not be the right word, since you said that you didn't want to have to buy expansions, but essentially just giving a sealed deck to each player to use in the game, based on faction.

acdcatino wrote:
But what if you are buying the majority of your cards from your own, personal pool that you choose at the beginning of the game?
...I feel that deckbuilding is a natural progression (the other being fixed-deck games) in the card-based game field for someone who is tired of the CCG model.

Believe me, I feel you on the CCG model. When I was younger, my parents didn't just hand me money, and I was too young to get a job. My friends parents all bought them whatever they wanted though, so they always had the $150 bought-off-the-internet Magic decks that would just trounce mine every time.
If you have players buying the majority of their cards from their own personal pool, how is that different than playing a game with pre-assembled decks? The problem with CCGs isn't the fact that you are assembling your deck before the game, it's the fact that there are no balances in how you assemble your deck. Cards have varying power levels, but usually the only limiting factors is the mana/sacrifice/etc cost of bringing them out. If the cost/power level is unbalanced, it creates an advantage to the player who has that card. If you adopted a "deck building from individual pool" or just pre-assembled decks, you as the designer are still responsible for making sure that each card is balanced to every other card as much as possible.
M:tG intentionally left the cards unbalanced to create a demand for those cards and encourage trading and haggling. This is well and good if you want that kind of away-from-game hype, but it's bad for game balance over all, as you and I have both seen.

acdcatino wrote:
I had been toying with the idea of removing the majority of the deckbuilding mechanics and leaving just a unit-purchasing one in its place. I may give this further consideration now.

That's the route that I'd go, personally. Perhaps yes, there is a deck-building aspect to bringing units onto the table, which would help to add further balance to the game. That would be a design choice left up to you to make, whether or not you want a pure deckbuilder, or a game with only a limited deckbuilding mechanic.

acdcatino
acdcatino's picture
Offline
Joined: 04/06/2012
Thanks, everyone, for your feedback!

sedjtroll wrote:
In my opinion, that's the future of the mechanism - Dominion was ingenious, but it's just a mechanism. Dominion-the-game has been done, and I wouldn't personally want to revisit it.... but there's no more wrong with using a deck building mechanism in your game than there is anything wrong with using Worker Placement, or an auction, or Action Points.

I couldn't agree more with this. Thank you, sedjtroll.

Orangebeard wrote:
... please don't let this discourage you from developing your idea. New card games are released all of the time and some of them will develop quite a following. Even if you don't invent the next M:TG, you may be sitting on the next Fluxx, Munchkin or UNO.

I'd settle for a game that people enjoy playing, even if it only holds up for a few years, or develops nothing more than a cult following. Not looking to get rich (is anybody?), just to make something people will enjoy.

UncleDragon wrote:
IMO while mechanics are important the theme or game world I'm being transported too is even more so. The mechanics are only the tools to get me there. So while deck building may be growing in popularity it doesn't mean that the market is going to be saturated and ruined... At any rate, the mechanic itself is just a tool, a single piece of the whole, and if the rest of the game is individual enough the mechanic being popular may be a plus more than a negative because many people already like how it plays.

Thank you very much for that, UncleDragon. That puts it into a very enlightening perspective.

SlyBlu7 wrote:
Believe me, I feel you on the CCG model. When I was younger, my parents didn't just hand me money, and I was too young to get a job. My friends parents all bought them whatever they wanted though, so they always had the $150 bought-off-the-internet Magic decks that would just trounce mine every time.

Don't you wish you could say this like it's not still happening? Before I stopped playing Magic at my FLGS, I remember hearing players talking about how they had just spent upwards of $40 on a SINGLE CARD, simply to win a tournament prize of a handful of booster packs. I'll never understand it.

SlyBlu7 wrote:
Perhaps yes, there is a deck-building aspect to bringing units onto the table, which would help to add further balance to the game. That would be a design choice left up to you to make, whether or not you want a pure deckbuilder, or a game with only a limited deckbuilding mechanic.

The more I tinker with this project, the more I realize that I'm actually in favour of making a game WITH deckbuilding elements, and not a pure deckbuilding game. I appreciate all of your input, SlyBlu. (I am still terrified at the thought of a late night centipede invasion. Thanks for that.)

jwarrend
Offline
Joined: 08/03/2008
You're always going to do

You're always going to do your best work designing the game you want to design. I wouldn't worry too much about whether the market is saturated on a particular mechanism -- that's really a concern for the publisher, not the designer.

Having said that, I do think there's an excess in the market of games that are advertised as "deck-building games" or "worker placement games", as if the inclusion of these mechanisms is intrinsically appealing. A mechanism is just a mechanism. Look at Puerto Rico to see this -- PR was never advertised as a "role selection game", and although its role selection mechanic was part of its appeal, PR is a great game because all of its mechanisms hang together so tightly. So if deck-building or worker-placement or whatever enables you to evoke your theme in a unique and compelling way, great! Or if you can use a flavor-of-the-month mechanic like these in a way that integrates well with the other systems of your game, and that provides interesting player decisions, great! But, probably/hopefully you can't get a game published simply by virtue of deckbuilding being one of its mechanisms.

SlyBlu7
Offline
Joined: 03/15/2012
acdcatino wrote: I'd settle

acdcatino wrote:

I'd settle for a game that people enjoy playing, even if it only holds up for a few years, or develops nothing more than a cult following. Not looking to get rich (is anybody?), just to make something people will enjoy

I am. I'll put that out there now. I'm not necessarily looking to "get rich", if I was I'd have to say that game design is the wrong industry for that. But I would at least like to walk away with a profit that I feel is roughly commensurate with the effort that I put it - whether I take my game ideas to a publisher, publish them myself, or just put them up for PoD. I feel that you should never put money into something that you won't get back [i]if you could get money back for it[/i]. Maybe I'm just competitive like that, or I drive too hard a line.

acdcatino wrote:

Don't you wish you could say this like it's not still happening? Before I stopped playing Magic at my FLGS, I remember hearing players talking about how they had just spent upwards of $40 on a SINGLE CARD, simply to win a tournament prize of a handful of booster packs. I'll never understand it...
The more I tinker with this project, the more I realize that I'm actually in favour of making a game WITH deckbuilding elements, and not a pure deckbuilding game. I appreciate all of your input, SlyBlu. (I am still terrified at the thought of a late night centipede invasion. Thanks for that.)

Absolutely - I agree with Dragon and Jwarrend. Build a game that you enjoy, and a game that you would like to play, and don't worry about the others. If you build something that you truly love, it will be of higher quality than anything you could ever force yourself to just "churn out". Whatever mechanics that requires, or whatever theme that fits, is all going to fall into place.
As for the M:tG scene - never look at prize support for the shelf value. Those guys will rip open a few boosters and trade up to rares and sell them off for profit. I have a friend who still does it. It's like high-stakes poker, he travels to tournaments up and down the East Coast to play, and he can actually manage to cover his hotel stay, food, gas, [i]and[/i] make a worthwhile profit. I managed to do the same with Warhammer for a few years, although my profit margin was a bit lower and I didn't travel as far. As for the centipedes, sorry, but trust me - they bug me out as much as they do you. Disgusting little critters.

Syndicate content


forum | by Dr. Radut