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How do YOU balance?

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Cool Among Camels
Joined: 07/26/2015

How do you balance your game? How do you determine the scaling of different numbers such as damage, health, or gold cost? If your game has effects, how do you decide their power relative to other values or abilities?

I work on a lot of card games. The method I use to balanced my cards is called ABV (Allotted Balance Value). I find a 'base' value in the game, something that I can set at a 1:1 ratio for scaling.

Generally this base is my resource in the game (energy, gold, etc.). I would weigh this negatively against positive effects (as spending your resource is generally considered a bad thing). A positive effect might be attacking, defending, moving, performing additional actions, drawing cards, etc.

Let's assumed that 1 gold is equal to (-1) ABV and 1 attack is equal to (+1) ABV. A card might cost 1 gold but provide 1 attack; 2 gold = 2 attack; 3 gold = 3 attack; and so on.

Also, I tend to use a lot of simple formulas. I especially like [2X-1], as it provides interesting scaling. If I somehow determined that gold should be more important, I might make gold hard to get but allow other effects to scale better. Maybe 1 gold = 1 attack, but 2 gold = 3 attack, and 3 gold = 5 attack.

What methods do you use?

Squinshee's picture
Joined: 10/17/2012
At some point I'll need to

At some point I'll need to make a spreadsheet of my cards to determine balance. Since my game's cards all have the same value in the sense that there is no cost associated with playing them, which in theory should make it easier to do so. Right now cards have three atats:

HP (durability)
DOM (strength)

I'll have to figure out how much value those stats have and make equations so each card has a rough value of 1. As it stands currently, I'm playtesting more for feel at the moment. What kinds of abilities are fun? How strong is this ability? Synergistic abilities are harder to quantify, as their value is dependent on other cards you in play.

This is all new territory for me. I've never had a design at this stage before. It's a whole new challenge!

X3M's picture
Joined: 10/28/2013
Do you know what the worst

Do you know what the worst part is of balancing?

It is completely depending on your game mechanics.
But also on the scale of combat.
And the range of different designsm

The 3 above can be calculated. But often only to be found by playtesting. It gives a start to have a formula that works. But further, only playtesting is possible.

Adding special abilities is something. That I really recommend to play test on.

There is also a distinct difference between board war games and card war games.

You mentioned that damage grows faster than costs? It is more often the way around. Unless it is exponential harder to get that much gold.

Resource managment is also a balancing factor. If you have for example 5 tiers. It is recommended to have a resource speed that compliments tier 2.

Cool Among Camels
Joined: 07/26/2015
X3M wrote:It is completely

X3M wrote:
It is completely depending on your game mechanics. But also on the scale of combat. And the range of different designs.

Sure, all of those things must be factored in, but I always keep the same ABV system. Nearly every game has some resource, whether it's money, energy, cards, health, actions, board position, points, etc. Weighing your additional effects positively or negatively against these resources is where balance comes from.

let-off studios
let-off studios's picture
Joined: 02/07/2011
Numbers & Fun

I agree with the sentiments above regarding numbers and balancing. Added to this is "maximizing the fun." If there's a clear front-runner in terms of actions in a game the players enjoy, I'll see how I can increase the chances or frequency of a player doing that thing. Further testing will let you know if this turns out good or not-so-good for the design.

Joined: 07/03/2013
There it is!

Just as Let-Off Studios said, you try to find the fun, make it more common, and playtest to see whether it was a good idea.

Playtesting is the key to figuring out balance.

However, I tend to have a natural sense of how to balance costs in my head, and I can often create very balanced systems before my first or second playtest, but playtesting is invaluable to figuring out how to make the game more fun and playable.

However, I have a handful of unwritten (now written) rules related to how I figure out balance in my own games. I don't know if I could put them all into words, but I'll try, and it'll probably make a good checklist for myself later (we'll see).

1. What are my "resources" in the game? Money/currency? Tokens? Turns? Available actions? Do I have a consistent value for those individual pieces with relation to one another?
2. Is there any one mechanic that uses a different scaling/value system than the rest of the game? If so, does it work with the other pieces of the game to provide equivalent balance?
3. In what ways can a player harm opponents? With regards to those, what must the player spend to hurt the other player? (Important rule: If a player can harm an opponent and reduce their resources through an arbitrary effect, it's best to make sure that it costs the player who attacked his opponent more resources than his opponent loses, then try to make it not feel that way)
4. What continual (or every-turn) effects are unevenly assigned? Make sure that their values are consistent, and that you playtest with a player who intentionally tries to break those aspects.

I've probably got more, but I just can't think of them right now. Like I said, it's more intuition for me than a checklist, but I hope that these ideas help you.

X3M's picture
Joined: 10/28/2013
ruy343What you have posted


What you have posted is cool. And has made me happy that there are people out there who think like this.

I could expand number 1 into many, many questions for the designer. Since I think that resources is one of the most important aspects to a game. But summarized:
Resource income speeds and growth styles.
Resource replenishment speeds and growth styles.
Limits to the resources in income and replenishments.
And indeed as you described it, the relations between the different resources, but also to the different pieces(cards).

2, I don't understand, how is that even possible? Can you give an example? (I design with the aspect of "everything is linked" and thus build up this way. Perhaps that is why I don't see (yet) that effect that you have mentioned)

3, Yes! "Investment" attacks should give positive feelings to both attacker and victim. Because we want the victim to continue playing. And still have a chance as well. This is very important in war games.

4, 1 big vs several small. Has always been an issue for any war game. This is also the reason why most games are hard to balance. Because the pieces are unequal in the long run. To get this fixed. Either have a limit on the pieces and balance them through play testing. And/or, create mechanics that will straiten this out.

Is there anyone who uses a formula for their cards/pieces? Like an theory of everything?

Joined: 07/03/2013
The Theory of Everything

To provide an example of 2, before I move on to the point of this post, let's say that you have two resources (as I do in my game) - minions and research. If it takes a certain amount of "work" to generate research, and a different amount to generate minions, is it a good idea to allow a player to trade minions for research at their leisure without any additional price? Assuming that they have a different value, I would say no - that's not a good idea, because then you might gain access to research faster than is expected, potentially creating a dominant strategy, or a process that every player must do early on to build up their resources. Unless it's balanced out with other systems, it could easily become a breaking point for the game.

Regarding number 4, creating equation for the value of every resource int he game compared to one another - I try not to commit to an equation, simply because I don't want to make a game that complicated, and I don't like to be restricted like that. It's clear that heavy euro games like Trajan have done so with success (though it's not my favorite game), but when everything can be distilled down to an equation, it's hard to see the advantages/disadvantages of any game effect over another. What often ends up happening is you end up creating more "choices", but often they're false choices, since everything you can choose has equivalent value. Instead, I prefer to provide the player with a choice between situational perks, which can have differing value depending on the situation, giving weight and "realness" to the choice.

X3M's picture
Joined: 10/28/2013
What I have not seen here thus far.

Or in most war games. Even RTS. Is for a variable, a "weakness/strong point" pair. Also depending on players choices.

With those, the game is already a bit self balancing.

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