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Thoughts on Pirate Combat Mechanic

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drktron
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Joined: 07/18/2010

I recently took my pirate game design off the back burner and revamped the combat mechanic and would like some feedback.

In the game, each player controls a pirate ship and crew sailing the seas seeking plunder.

In the old system, players had a hand of wind cards for movement and when combat was initiated (vs player or npc) they would draw cannon and maneuver cards from central decks equal to their ship's ratings and resolve the combat. I've come to believe this is too random and too time-consuming/fiddly having to draw so many cards each battle, then analyse and then play them.

In the new system, each player has their own deck of cards consisting of sail, cannon and maneuver cards mixed together. Each card type has its main function and a weaker alternative function. For example, a Broadside card (cannon type) is powerful in battle but could be used to sail one space. A "strong wind" sail card allows your ship to move far but used during battle it provides 1 maneuver. This way all cards have a use in battle or non-battle situations. More powerful cards are acquired over the course of the game (replacing weaker ones) through purchase with gold or by experience.

When combat is initiated, players first optionally play sail cards to gain the "wind" advantage. The player with the wind advantage get to roll a bonus combat die which may add to their cannon or maneuver total. Next, each player has 2 card plays to gain the highest cannon and maneuver totals. Some combos of cards may allow more card draws or additional card plays, or bonus to totals. Cannon icons are compared to maneuver icons(adding any icons from gaining the wind advantage) to determine the number of hits. A "damage" card is added to the hit player's deck. Whoever scored more hits in the exchange wins.

For battling a basic NPC, the NPC ship has target values that must be beat. Some NPCs have special keywords that give them bonus die rolls or require extra hits to defeat or other special powers.

Players also have crew and upgrade cards that can be used to enhance combat. These are not part of the deck.

Any feedback is appreciated. Would a deck building combat mechanic like this be strategically and dynamically satisfying enough without being overly complex and time consuming?

My other big concern with this system is its use of zero sum deck building. Each ship type specifies the composition of the deck by card type. So a fast,agile ship like a sloop has more sail and maneuver cards and less cannon cards while a large galleon has many cannon cards but fewer maneuver cards. If I allow culling like most deck builders, the ship type and flavor becomes meaningless and tiny decks of power cards would break the combat system. Instead, when a player purchases an upgraded card they must remove a card of the same type from their hand (searching the whole deck is too fiddly). Most players have preconceived notions of what deck building should be and enjoy slimming their decks to well oiled machines. Zero sum deck-building may not be palatable for many. This game has a larger scope and is only using deck-building as mechanic in a broader game; not sure if that makes this system acceptable.

kos
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Joined: 01/17/2011
Complexity and Deck Building

My first thought is that the system seems a bit complex in that it uses multiple mechanics in a single combat. Card play + dice roll + crew and upgrade cards + combos.
I wonder whether one or more of these mechanics could be translated into the others.
For example, I like the initial "wind advantage" concept, but perhaps instead of translating into a die roll it translates into an extra card play for the advantaged player. Or perhaps the winner of the wind advantage keeps his card on the table which he can add to his 2 cards for a single combat round. Obviously I don't know the rest of the mechanics of the game, but taking the combat system in isolation the die roll seemed like an unnecessary tack-on.

With regards to the deck-building element, I like the idea of pre-built starting decks for the different types of ships. I don't see a problem with zero-sum deck building. I'd even go so far as to consider a strictly additive deck building; that is, the upgrade cards are simply added to the deck. That way no matter how many extra cannons you put on your sloop you're never going to get the same firepower as a galleon.

I like the way that each card can be used both in and out of combat with a strength and weakness in each. In fact, I had already started formulating a response in my mind along those lines as I was reading through your "old system", and then saw that you'd already beaten me to it in your "new system".

Just some thoughts,
kos

Toa Lewa
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kos wrote:With regards to the

kos wrote:
With regards to the deck-building element, I like the idea of pre-built starting decks for the different types of ships. I don't see a problem with zero-sum deck building. I'd even go so far as to consider a strictly additive deck building; that is, the upgrade cards are simply added to the deck. That way no matter how many extra cannons you put on your sloop you're never going to get the same firepower as a galleon.

I echo kos's thoughts about having a pre-built ship deck and adding cards to the deck. Maybe you can have a deck limit based on the size or level of the ship. Once you hit the deck limit, instead of adding cards, you have to replace a card in the deck. However, you could have the option of replacing a card or adding the card before hitting the deck limit.

drktron wrote:
Most players have preconceived notions of what deck building should be and enjoy slimming their decks to well oiled machines. Zero sum deck-building may not be palatable for many. This game has a larger scope and is only using deck-building as mechanic in a broader game; not sure if that makes this system acceptable.

Don't worry about what is currently out there. It sounds like you are onto something new (I think it sounds cool). Maybe players will think the mechanic sounds strange initially, but if the game is fun, people will play the game.

zmobie
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Quick idea. An example... The

Quick idea. An example... The sloop, being a lighter ship, should not be able to equip heavy cannons, so on the card describing the sloop, it says, whenever you add heavy cannons to your deck, you also add 2 cards that are a penalty to maneuverability, and you have to play them the turn you draw them. Or conversely you could make it so that when you buy heavy cannons, you automatically get 2 bad maneuverability cards, but certain ship types allow you to prune those cards from your deck when you buy heavy cannons.

drktron
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Joined: 07/18/2010
Thanks for the input :). I

Thanks for the input :).

I agree the die is a bit complex.
Originally the wind advantage gave the player an additional card play. I really only changed it to the die for the NPCs who don't play cards but have target numbers. I could just use the die for NPC combat and a bonus card play for human players but then the combat resolution would be inconsistent.

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