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Getting the right feel for a potion themed card game

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Grissecon
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Joined: 07/12/2010

Hello!
Without going too in depth with the mechanics for the game, it is a potion themed game with unique player powers, as each character has unique skills they can use to help them score. Players compete indirectly by trying to assemble more potions than anyone else: each potion yields Coins (victory points) and Experience (spendable resource for abilities) according to its difficulty (right now divided into three tiers of potions).
So, the question is in the way potions are completed currently. Right now, there are 3 tiers of potions, Lvl 1, lvl 2, and lvl 3. Each tier has different recipes for what will be a successful combination of resource cards. Here is the recipe costs currently:
Lvl 1:
3 of a kind
2 Pair

Lvl 2:
4 of a kind
Full House (Pair and a 3 of a Kind)

Lvl 3:
5 of a Kind
Triplets (2 different '3 of a Kinds')

This abstracts the potion recipes into simple to grok hands of cards; does the player choose to cash in their 3 of a kind now for a few coins/experience and a unique potion power (each potion currently has potion effects you get by completing it)? Or build towards a bigger hand and get more points and a more powerful ability? This is the strategy of the lighthearted game.

The Question/Issue:
Assembling a hand feels very not-potiony to me. Especially with the current use of pairs/multiples. It isn't intuitive that you can bash 4 Newt's Eyes together to make a complex potion without other steps/ingredients in my mind. The mechanic is fun enough, but I would love to represent potion making in a better way. There are other games I don't want to copy either; this is supposed to be lighthearted pickup game with variable powers for replayability.
But it is also much less rewarding to have unique recipes on each potion card as the randomness of the game becomes much greater. The earliest iteration of this had unique potion recipes for each potion, which was very thematic and intuitive but very random in game terms (it isn't enough to have matching cards, you now need to have the right potion available to complete that matches so its double random).

Hopefully I explained the predicament enough! Without giving more details (which I am happy to do if need be) I'd like to see what you all think. What does a potion game need to have thematically? Do I even need to have unique potions at all, instead going with a simple division of 3 types of generic potions? Essentially abstract the theme away somewhat. In my opinion unique potion effects is a really important aspect of potions and alchemy, but I don't know.

Thanks in advance for any input!
Jesse

questccg
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Joined: 04/16/2011
Something inspired by Epic Spell Wars!

In the game "Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Duel at Mount Skullzfyre" (ESW). The idea is to "combine" three (3) kind of cards used to make a SPELL:

  • Source : The originator of the Spell.
  • Quality : An Adjective to qualify the Spell.
  • Delivery : The Final Boom of the Spell.

Look into ESW for more information... But you could do something similar with your "potions". Divide them into three (3) of your own categories...

And see what kind of FUN "combinations" the players can design.

Take a closer look at ESW to get a better idea about how the cards are used.

Cheers!

Note #1: For the "type of container":

  • Vial (Smallest)
  • Beaker
  • Flask
  • Cup
  • Glass
  • Goblet
  • Chalice
  • Jar
  • Canteen
  • Bottle (Largest)

An "adjective for the potion": (You'll need to figure out these yourself).

A "qualifier for the potion": Sleep, Strength, etc.

So you could have a "Flask of Super Strength"... For example...

Note #2: The categories affect the spell too. Like a Flask has more potion than a Vial (for example). A play on quantity and the number of turns that a potion may be used.

Kyle Forrest
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Joined: 05/17/2019
The first thing that comes to

The first thing that comes to mind for me is that playing cards realistically offer 2 variables (number and suit) I do realize that they also offer color, but that is rarely used.

You could add a third option to your cards that sets each set apart from the other.

For example, you could make your four suits something like valuable stones, wild plants, animal parts and noxious liquids. You then make a 1 stone something like a lump of coal, a 1 wild plant a dandilion, a 1 animal part a rabbit's foot and a 1 noxious liquid swamp water. You have a different set of items for each of your four suits making 52 unique items.

This way a pair of 1's is a lump of coal and dandilion. While a straight run of cards may be something more like a rabbit's foot, eye of newt, hair from a wildbeast, splean of a bear, and a ground up rinocerous horn.

The only 2 small problems i see with this is that using normal cards a pair of aces is more valuable than a pair of 3's. According to what you stated, your system does not account for that ... so i don't know how that affects percentages. Also, i have no idea how to achieve 5 of a kind or tripplets with a normal set of cards, so maybe you have something other than a standard deck of cards in mind to base this on.

questccg
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If you want a SIMPLER system...

Look at "Munchkin" (MU). MU uses a single attribute to modify the attributes of EACH card played TOGETHER. The idea is YOUR Level must be Higher than the Monster's Level to defeat it. But BEWARE opponent's may play cards to make a Monster's Level HIGHER (to penalize you) or LOWER (to help you) depending on how that affects them in the game.

There used to be a rigged Flash demo/tutorial which was GREAT in learning how to PLAY Munchkin. Even if it was all pre-calculated, you just sort of followed-along, it showed the "core" mechanics to battles which are the heart of the game itself.

It's MUCH SIMPLER because there is only ONE (1) Stat (the Level). But you can have class cards (like the Fighter) that say things "You win ties in combat" (For example). Or Race cards (like the Elf, Dwarf) and if you have none, you are considered a "Human"...

Anyhow check-out Munchkin:

Munchkin Preview on YouTube

Take a look ... That "mechanic" is simple but also very powerful too! Munchkin is a world of "all kinds of themes and cards"... I just presented to you a single mechanic of the game ... that you could "borrow" for use in your own Potion Making game.

Sample Game of Munchkin on TableTop with Wil Wheaton on YouTube

questccg
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More about the Levels

Grissecon wrote:
...So, the question is in the way potions are completed currently. Right now, there are 3 tiers of potions, Lvl 1, lvl 2, and lvl 3. Each tier has different recipes for what will be a successful combination of resource cards...

You could make a place-mat and have a "tree" which allows you to progress from one (1) Level 1 potion to four (4) Level 3 potions... Something like from each level you have two (2) branches. So Level 1 to Level 2 = 2 x 1 = 2 Level 2 Potions. And Level 2 to Level 3 = 2 x 2 = 4 Level 3 Potions.

A "Binary Tree" if you would... And there would be Seven (7) Potions you would need to complete:

  • 1x Level 1 Potion
  • 2x Level 2 Potions
  • 4x Level 3 Potions

The idea behind the TREE is that the Next Level Potions depend on aspects of the earlier potions. So to make a 2x Level 2 Potions, you must use two (2) of three cards in that potion. And you score the points each time you MAKE the potion. The GOAL of the game would be as you have suggested "Having the most Points" at the END of the game.

So let's take my example (of the "Flask of Giant Strength"). There are three (3) cards used to MAKE this potion and SCORE you "X" Points (towards winning the game).

Once the Level 1 Potion is done, now a player can choose two (2) of the three (3) cards from the Level 1 Potion and try to make TWO (2) Level 2 Potions.

So one could be: "The Flask" and the other "Strength" (as an example). So you are now building those TWO (2) Potions...

Finishing FIRST (all your potions) could give you some kind of +Y Point Bonus (playtesting can help to figure out what works best...) Maybe a per potion bonus like "+3 VPs per Level 3 Potion extra" or "+2 VPs per Level 2 Potion extra"...

REMEMBER it's a TREE... So you don't need to follow an order of completing all the two (2) Level 2 Potions before moving on to Level 3...

Just some additional ideas... Cheers!

Grissecon
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Joined: 07/12/2010
@questCCGThanks! Appreciate

@questCCG
Thanks! Appreciate the links. I don't know about the component idea, where players assemble various snippets into a longer ability. "At the start of your turn" + "Draw a card" etc. It seems very limited in scope and hard to balance. Bespoke/discreet abilities allow me to have more flexibility and theme, at the cost of the creative element. Not sure but thanks for the suggestion!

@Kyle
Not sure I exactly followed, but your ideas were pretty helpful! I can further describe the ingredient deck, so you know what I'm working with. It is a deck of 64 cards, broken into 8 different ingredients. Each ingredient then also has one of 8 different qualities, and each ingredient/quality combo is in the deck exactly once. So a player is looking for pairs currently, either of ingredient cards or of quality cards. As I said, this feels way to matchy (as thats whats going on after all). I had toyed with the idea of numbering the deck and allowing straights to be assembled, but I didn't know how to thematically do it but your example was super helpful: using categories to sort the deck into.
A current hand is something like:4 cards: Beewing/hot : Dragontooth/superior : Beewing/Rancid : Giant toenail/Rancid
This player has a two pair represented with only 3 cards, thus is somewhat efficient and allows strategy of working to assemble strategically

questccg
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No worries I understand your challenge...

Grissecon wrote:
...I don't know about the component idea, where players assemble various snippets into a longer ability. "At the start of your turn" + "Draw a card" etc. It seems very limited in scope and hard to balance...

Your "Container" size that I presented has 10 different "types". Each type could be a "Point Bonus" +1 to +10 Points. But each "Adjective" could have some "rules", like "Super" = "Must be in a Flask or smaller container" (So values 1 to 3 only...) And then Qualifier could have some kind of THEMATIC appeal to the game...

Maybe each Tree level is defined by a "Quest" like "Defeat the Troll", so a "Flask of Super Strength" would be relevant... But ALSO a "Bottle of Deep Sleep" would be an alternative.

Yeah I understand you... What you are saying, coming up with more "thematic" content would be COMPLICATED as opposed to suits and values. I completely agree with you... I'm just sharing ideas with you.

You might find something of value with them (a nugget or two)...

I know with more THEME-related content it makes it difficult to ABSTRACT the Potion Making part of the game...

questccg
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What I PICTURE in my MIND:

Is a COMBINATION of Munchkin (MU) and Epic Spell Wars (ESW). Using a simple Difficulty Stat for the "Quest" (a straight value) like 5 Difficulty for Level 1, 8 Difficulty for Level 2 and 14 Difficulty for Level 3.

So this means that if this "Quest" is drawn for Level 1, you ONLY have ONE (1) Potion to make and it's score must be HIGHER than "5"...

But that same "Quest" means that for Level 2, you have TWO (2) Potions to make a score HIGHER than "8" (3 + 5). And for Level 3, you have THREE (3) Potions to score HIGHER than "14" (3 + 5 + 6)...

IDK if you can "picture it" or not!?

Anyway I can "feel" the possibility of a GREAT game along these lines. Each player DRAWS three (3) Quest cards at the start of the game to determine what potions they need to make (in terms of points and thematic connexions too...)

It's a completely DIFFERENT game than MU or ESW. But the combination gives something UNIQUE and I can really "sense" that IF you like the idea, you could work out something LESS "Abstract" and more "Adventure-like"

Cheers!

Kyle Forrest
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Grissecon

Grissecon wrote:
@Kyle
Not sure I exactly followed, but your ideas were pretty helpful! I can further describe the ingredient deck, so you know what I'm working with. It is a deck of 64 cards, broken into 8 different ingredients. Each ingredient then also has one of 8 different qualities, and each ingredient/quality combo is in the deck exactly once. So a player is looking for pairs currently, either of ingredient cards or of quality cards. As I said, this feels way to matchy (as thats whats going on after all). I had toyed with the idea of numbering the deck and allowing straights to be assembled, but I didn't know how to thematically do it but your example was super helpful: using categories to sort the deck into.
A current hand is something like:4 cards: Beewing/hot : Dragontooth/superior : Beewing/Rancid : Giant toenail/Rancid
This player has a two pair represented with only 3 cards, thus is somewhat efficient and allows strategy of working to assemble strategically

Okay, that gives me a slightly clearer picture now. If i understand correctly then, given your example, if my next card was a Beewing/superior i would now have 3 of a kind (beewing)and 2 pair (superior & rancid)

I could now either throw down any of my sets, with either the superior or rancid being worth a Level 1 Potion of a fixed value (say 5 points) while the beewing would be a Level 2 Potion worth more (say 10 points).

If this is the case why not make a round be about putting ingredients into making a potion, rather than making multiple potions. You could then make players be the first to play something like 18 cards. That way every 'potion' is made up of multiple ingredients, and players can either go for lots of small scoring pairs (9 pairs x 5 points = total of 45 points) or larger point hands (6 triples x 10 points = 60 points) and then give the first player to finish their potion some bonus points.

This might also allow you to say something like 'No potion may use the same ingredient twice'. So what your really doing by making larger hands is putting in stronger ingredients.

Now, if this is not the case... and i worry a little that i have strayed a little too far from your original idea. You could have 64 different items each with 2 qualities. That way you end up with different ingredients every time.

Example:

Dragon Heart: Plant / Thorny
Whisper Weed: Plant / Poisonous
Harpy Tongue: Animal Part / Hallucinogenic
Crushed Opal: Precious Stone / Poisonous

That way you still end up with 2 pair with 3 cards (plants and poisonous) and different ingredients. Mind you, i don't envy you trying to come up with 64 different ingredients.

wob
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Joined: 06/09/2017
hi. when you say your current

hi.
when you say your current recipes are too random i presume you mean the chances of it being completed by any players.
the way i would solve that is having substitute ingredients for each recipe that gives lower points/resources. either unique to each recipe or a general rule.
so i may not have the green eye of newt but i do have a green bat wing and a red newt eye, that i can substitute. this would also give another point of immediate gain or waiting for a possible better gain.

Grissecon
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Joined: 07/12/2010
That was removed but

That was removed but previously in the game: a potion would cost say beewing, superior, rancid. You could use as few as 2 cards (Beewing+superior or beewing+rancid would each count as 2 of the 3 components in the final recipe so its more efficient to match the cards.) The problem with this is that now there is a double random layer: you need to draw a hand of cards, then based on what potion recipes are visible to you (a queue of potions you can complete) you assemble hands. It was very swingy - a player would get a big potion very early out of pure chance, and likewise could find yourself screwed by random chance. When switching to generic recipes: 3 of kind, etc, it became more strategic because you can just optimize based on what is in your hand regardless of potions. So it makes the game a bit easier cognitively, faster, and also less thematic.
TL;dr your suggestion was so good it was an earlier iteration of the potion recipes in the game! I like the idea, I just migrated away from it and it did make the game better if a bit simpler.

I'm going to lean towards something in the middle I think. Toying with ideas: A player trades cards in hand for potion Components (miniature bottles, beads, cubes) of certain colors: Dragontooth and hot cards make red, so you can essentially try to get hands of multiple pairs and cash them in for a lot of matching potion components. Then, maybe at end of round (3 rounds in game?) players "brew" their potions into as many potions as they can, each with semi specific recipes: Red, Red, Red (this scoring potion ultimately represents 6 of either dragontooth or hot cards, so is somewhat difficult/investing to pursue); blue, yellow, green, green ; etc. Or something freeform, letting players combine colored components for various potion effects. Or simple score per colored Component token at end of game (the Shelf of Potions game type lol)

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