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ChrisAMazur(ing)

CCG patterns and antipatterns?

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Hello, and thanks for reading. I've been lurking around, trying to find some sort of comprehensive list or

collection of patterns and antipatterns - both in overall game design, and more specifically, in cardgames.

 

I can't seem to find much with my google-fu; there's some good posts on overall game design and the

occasional detailing or explanation of a couple relevant patterns or antipatterns, but nothing comprehensive

or encompassing.

Is there something I'm missing on this?

 

Some context, if you want to know about what I'm doing - not entirely relevant to the question, so it's spoiled.
[spoiler]

I'm working on a Cardgame/Adventure-Battle for an App, as well as for learning/experience. It's fairly ambitious

for being my first project, but the point is to build it up from small modules using what I know and what I can

learn quickly enough to incorporate it.

 

The overall outline for the game is that you've got a commander or leader of some kind that determines a lot of

your base stats for the game - health, toughness, strength, resource income, certain spells or abilities, etc. The

rest of your deck then gives you the ability to 'cast' various allies or creatures, spells, equipment, castles, and

battlefield terrain. Battles would be fought on a grid reminiscent of Heroes of Might and Magic, with your Leader

beginning on the field somewhere on your side, and your opponent's leader on his side.

 

Eventually, the ability for a number of different games - from single player vs AI, to PvP, to team battles and

teams vs AI would be playable. Games would give players points based on a number of variables, and players

would then use those points to buy-into drafts, purchase boosters or individual cards, unlock stronger AI battles,

or increase their PvP rank.

 

What I'm most worried about is falling prey to simple mistakes that would turn players off of the game after a few

battles - things that can be avoided before I even begin playtesting.

 

Are there ways to tell how long for a battle is 'too long', given the play style (I usually get frustrated with HoMMesque

battles after 10 minutes, or with MtG games after 15.)?

 

Do players enjoy more 'free space' on a field, or do they enjoy creating terrain before a game starts, or do they

enjoy pregenerated maps that feel 'balanced'?

 

These are the kinds of questions that I'm concerned about at this point in my process. Well, these and "ohgod I've

got to code all of this, how do I reduce the number of booleans I'm going to be using and what kind of system can I

use to keep track of all of them!"

[/spoiler]

Thanks again for your time. If there's somewhere better I should be posting this, let me know! As well, if I can elaborate

more on anything of if I've been unclear, please point it out so I can improve.

Edited by ChrisAMazur(ing)

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The overall outline for the game is that you've got a commander or leader of some kind that determines a lot of

your base stats for the game - health, toughness, strength, resource income, certain spells or abilities, etc. The

rest of your deck then gives you the ability to 'cast' various allies or creatures, spells, equipment, castles, and

battlefield terrain. Battles would be fought on a grid reminiscent of Heroes of Might and Magic, with your Leader

beginning on the field somewhere on your side, and your opponent's leader on his side.

This seems extremely incoherent.

 

- If you want a card game in which the Commander deploys units and does useful things by playing cards, both sides should start out on an equal footing, with nothing on the battlefield but identical Commanders differing only in the contents of their card deck. Commander experience should give only cards, not troublesome advantages.

 

This is the Magic: the Gathering approach: everybody begins with 20 life, 7 cards and nothing else, any difference between players would be an almost unheard of handicap match, and a disadvantage of 1 or 2 cards often means defeat regardless of decks and player skill.

Fixed starting conditions allow players to optimize decks for a single scenario, rather than being forced to do everything (badly). For example, suppose you want to make an all-in aggressive deck (i.e. one that forfeits defense and runs out of resources to kill the opponent with cheap cards before he does much): should it reliably do 15 damage by turn 2, 20 damage by turn 3 or 30 damage by turn 4? Starting at 20 life means that the first deck is too weak, the second is the right target, and the latter is too slow; starting anywhere between 15 and 30 life means that all-in aggressive decks cannot operate properly against most opponents. 

 

- If you want a grid-based, turn-based tactical combat game in which "health, toughness, strength, resource income, certain spells or abilities" of the Commander matter, the Commander is only one unit in the player's army and there's no reason not to begin the battle with more units, their equipments, already cast spells, etc. Cards could still have a role, for example to determine which special combat actions are available, but the CCG aspect would be limited.

 

A recent particularly pure example: Chaos in the Old World, a strategic game in which Chaos Gods conquer and corrupt regions of the Old World. Every turn, each player spends resources to place units in some region and to play cards from a god-specific deck,  which have local effects (one region, or even specific units in that region) and are aligned with that god's specialty and victory conditions (e.g. Khorne, god of slaughter, who scores points for killing others' minions, has many cards to fight more or to win fights).

There is no "commander" (major demons are merely middle-late game expensive units, not leaders) and no deckbuilding (the four gods are already very specialized, while selection and placement of units is the backbone of strategy); cards cause uncertainty and offer an opportunity to make the difference with dirty tricks, putting the right amount of Chaos into what would otherwise be a small scale hybrid of Risk and Diplomacy.

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Hey, thanks for your reply. You offer some excellent insight with Chaos in the Old World; I like to keep up with Warhammer related products, but this one slid by me. As well, as you point out, I was fairly incoherent and unclear.

Erghk. I'm looking down at my post and I don't know how it's going to pan out. I'm sorry if this isn't a response robust enough to reply to - the basic gist of it is: Commanders should be balanced, and are dynamically balance-able because of updates and data tracking.

Because Commanders are theoretically balanced, and provide direct information about the 'style' of deck your opponent will be playing, and because objects and spells don't necessarily require hard-counters to deal with, a static beginning isn't as necessary as traditional cardgames. This introduces a small amount of "unclear optimization" in deckbuilding, in favour of more player interaction during actual gameplay.

 

(As a sidenote, the game Card Hunter has an excellent way of mitigating Burden of Knowledge; The game begins with a strong, preconstructed deck that the player gets to know over a couple mock battles, with a handy guide to show you what to do. As new cards are introduced to the player, they're tagged with a "NEW!" bubble. Players can right-click cards to view them in detail.)

 

Starting with more than the commander on the field is definitely an option to tinker with, though "use resources to buy more cards for your hand and then play equipment and creatures from it" is still what my gut is telling me.

 

In regards to commanders granting unfair advantage:
Commanders are cards, similar to MtG's Commander (Elder Dragon Highlander). Their difference in stats is not due to experience, but should be fairly balanced out - rarer commanders will be more specialized, rather than more powerful in raw numbers.

An example might be "Kingdom: Human Ruler" - It would a decent body for attack and defense, have a good income, and would gain income from having more guys on the field.

A specialized "King" might be (for a historical example) Arthur, who sacrifices some base Income income from ability to start play with a combat-boosting Magical Item, Excalibur. While not as combo-y as YuGiOh, you could then throw in something like "Kingdom: Merlin Human Archwizard" who can interact with an Arthurian deck in certain ways.


In regards to experience, as well;
There is no experience; players would gain points from playing games, and spend points on booster packs, specific cards, and draft entry. Think MtG online's drafting, but able to buy-in with in-game money instead of needing to purchase virtual packs in real life. A "pseudo" experience system could be implemented based on ladder rankings, but I'm not quite at that point in design yet.
 

In regards to Static Beginnings:

An Issue I have with MtG's 20-life 7-card start in eternal formats is that it doesn't encourage player interaction. It's not as much of an issue in the ever-expensive T2 format, but if you look at even modern decks with great winrates (zoo, UW Control, RDW) you begin to see a pattern - none of the decks actually care about what your opponent does.

 

The less they care about their opponent's actions, the better chance they have of getting some wincon on the field. This is because, as you mentioned, each deck can be tailored to a specific goal: getting 20 damage out; dealing with 7+turns cards (no cards = no options); decking an opponent; gaining 40 life with a creature on the field.

 

Decks that minimize player interaction severely limit the amount of fun your opponents get out of the game, and definitely detract from the social aspect. I'm hoping to mitigate this by using a dynamic battlefield, with win conditions you can affect without having direct counters for them. An example could be Dul'Nam, the Dark Lich, has a ritual that will turn all living creatures that die into undead under his control. His opponent could disrupt the Ritual with a fast harrying unit, or power through his losses and stab at Dul'Nam directly, forcing him to divert resources from the ritual into faster sorceries.
 

Commanders should not only give some inkling to the type of deck being playe, they should also (hopefully) balance out against each other. Like in Heroes of Might and Magic, just because your opponent's army is full of lightning bolts and minotaurs, commanded by a powerful dreadknight - it doesn't mean that your army of mobile shooters, hindering vines, and uncounterable sprites is going to lose. Bigger numbers aren't the only thing that should count, when abilities can even them out.
 

In regards to more content at the beginning of a battle;

Your point of having units begin on the field with the Commander is well-noted, and is definitely something I'll play around with. Personally, I would prefer most items, spells, and allies to come from cards being played - resources are not going to be as limiting as MtG's mana in the early turns, and unit upkeep should keep hyper-aggresive plays from becoming too dominant.

Edited by ChrisAMazur(ing)

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An Issue I have with MtG's 20-life 7-card start in eternal formats is that it doesn't encourage player interaction. It's not as much of an issue in the ever-expensive T2 format, but if you look at even modern decks with great winrates (zoo, UW Control, RDW) you begin to see a pattern - none of the decks actually care about what your opponent does. The less they care about their opponent's actions, the better chance they have of getting some wincon on the field. This is because, as you mentioned, each deck can be tailored to a specific goal: getting 20 damage out; dealing with 7+turns cards (no cards = no options); decking an opponent; gaining 40 life with a creature on the field. [/quote] No, the effectiveness of "non-interactive" decks in Magic: the Gathering is a consequence of being able to win by directly messing with the opponent rather than by grinding through creatures and other permanents (as would be the case in any seriously battle-oriented CCG). Varied starting condition would only make some of the boring strategies more effective. More life? You can pay more life as a cost. More cards? You might be able to run the opponent out of cards, or to rush a lot of spells in unusually few turns. Free lands? Cards with higher casting costs become practical. Scrying or the like? Less copies of certain cards can be enough. Strategies would change a bit and remain equally aggressive. In particular, suppose Magic: the Gathering rules were changed to begin the first turn with, say, 20 permanents on the battlefield: the game would become even less interactive, with an ample choice of disgustingly bulletproof overkill combos (likely guaranteeing victory for the starting player during the upkeep phase, without even attacking; figure out how, it's fun but off topic).

Decks that minimize player interaction severely limit the amount of fun your opponents get out of the game, and definitely detract from the social aspect. I'm hoping to mitigate this by using a dynamic battlefield, with win conditions you can affect without having direct counters for them. An example could be Dul'Nam, the Dark Lich, has a ritual that will turn all living creatures that die into undead under his control. His opponent could disrupt the Ritual with a fast harrying unit, or power through his losses and stab at Dul'Nam directly, forcing him to divert resources from the ritual into faster sorceries.
This example is representative of critical aspects in which a battle-oriented card game should do the opposite of a magic duel card game like M:tG. Major actions (like the necromantic ritual) take many turns (as opposed to be a single spell, ability or attack that must be dealt with immediately), and just about any unit can easily attack the Commander or troublesome targets in general (as opposed to the general inability of M:tG permanents to hurt each other). There should be enough time to obtain more units after the ritual begins and get them to attack the necromancer before the ritual is completed (provided they fight their way beyond enemy lines).

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An Issue I have with MtG's 20-life 7-card start in eternal formats is that it doesn't encourage player interaction. It's not as much of an issue in the ever-expensive T2 format, but if you look at even modern decks with great winrates (zoo, UW Control, RDW) you begin to see a pattern - none of the decks actually care about what your opponent does.

The less they care about their opponent's actions, the better chance they have of getting some wincon on the field. This is because, as you mentioned, each deck can be tailored to a specific goal: getting 20 damage out; dealing with 7+turns cards (no cards = no options); decking an opponent; gaining 40 life with a creature on the field.

No, the effectiveness of "non-interactive" decks in Magic: the Gathering is a consequence of being able to win by directly messing with the opponent rather than by grinding through creatures and other permanents (as would be the case in any seriously battle-oriented CCG).

Varied starting condition would only make some of the boring strategies more effective. More life? You can pay more life as a cost. More cards? You might be able to run the opponent out of cards, or to rush a lot of spells in unusually few turns. Free lands? Cards with higher casting costs become practical. Scrying or the like? Less copies of certain cards can be enough. Strategies would change a bit and remain equally aggressive.

In particular, suppose Magic: the Gathering rules were changed to begin the first turn with, say, 20 permanents on the battlefield: the game would become even less interactive, with an ample choice of disgustingly bulletproof overkill combos (likely guaranteeing victory for the starting player during the upkeep phase, without even attacking; figure out how, it's fun but off topic).

 

Decks that minimize player interaction severely limit the amount of fun your opponents get out of the game, and definitely detract from the social aspect. I'm hoping to mitigate this by using a dynamic battlefield, with win conditions you can affect without having direct counters for them. An example could be Dul'Nam, the Dark Lich, has a ritual that will turn all living creatures that die into undead under his control. His opponent could disrupt the Ritual with a fast harrying unit, or power through his losses and stab at Dul'Nam directly, forcing him to divert resources from the ritual into faster sorceries.
This example is representative of critical aspects in which a battle-oriented card game should do the opposite of a magic duel card game like M:tG. Major actions (like the necromantic ritual) take many turns (as opposed to be a single spell, ability or attack that must be dealt with immediately), and just about any unit can easily attack the Commander or troublesome targets in general (as opposed to the general inability of M:tG permanents to hurt each other).
There should be enough time to obtain more units after the ritual begins and get them to attack the necromancer before the ritual is completed (provided they fight their way beyond enemy lines).

 

 

Your first point is a lot to think about. Instinctively I want to disagree, but intellectually I can see how it's correct, and how my logic as applied to the situation was getting twisted - something I've been noticing a lot as I've been working on this.

 

On that track, I do still think it holds true that in a battlefield/combat based game, a varied or dynamic start is something that can help balance certain deck-and-play styles without affecting others that might be in less compromising positions. Altering the base stats of a certain commander (or granting indirect nerfs to certain cards in a commander's deck) as needed to ensure that the deck is still fun to play, without being overwhelming.

(And then I get to build lore out of odd balance quirks!)
 

 

What patterns were you looking for ?
Did you mean the meta-game, aka which decks win a lot ?

 

Partially; more generalized than that however. Things like "Avoid doing X if  you don't want to cause unnecessary stress or frustration to your players." An example of minimizing frustration is the automation of most of the unit and spell interaction. Another is burden of knowledge, and another involves the business of your screen.

 

For what I'm gunning for, in response to such requirements, is that players should be able to take in what's on the battlefield at a glance (either through zoom, a minimap, or an appropriately scaled battlefield). They should be able to gain detailed information on any unit, effect, or object they might not know offhand, with effects and units being 'visually obvious' - burning things will have fire, strong creatures will be big, fast creatures should look nimble and have faster animations etc. (an art burden, but still a concern that affects gameplay).

In specific, I'm looking for such patterns and antipatterns in cardgames. Things like "how not to do card draw" (I'm hoping to accomplish it with resource expenditure, but later on might opt for a system that is more fun, or less stressful for the player). "How many options is too many?" "Deck size vs number of any specific card". These are patterns that I can see existing, but don't have any knowledge or useful information on in particular.

And of course, there's always the chance that I have no clue what I'm talking about here - again, I'm new to this and a lot of what I'm going off of is from websites, blogs, dev diaries, and the likes.

Thank you again for your replies; every little bit helps me learn :)

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On that track, I do still think it holds true that in a battlefield/combat based game, a varied or dynamic start is something that can help balance certain deck-and-play styles without affecting others that might be in less compromising positions. Altering the base stats of a certain commander (or granting indirect nerfs to certain cards in a commander's deck) as needed to ensure that the deck is still fun to play, without being overwhelming. [/quote] I hope I don't understand what you mean to do, because all I can see in asymmetrical and nontrivial starting conditions is a world of pain without discernible benefits. Apart from difficult self-inflicted balance problems (e.g. X units on the battlefield at the beginning are worth Y extra cards in the starting hand: find X and Y and ensure they are a balanced choice in all conditions), starting with something on the battlefield helps highly noninteractive rush strategies of various types: play a large horde and exploit numerical superiority to engage all enemy units allowing others to attack some objective undisturbed, play some kind of "artillery" and exploit long range attacks to exterminate arbitrary enemy units before they become a threat, play wizards and exploit early and excessive buffing to do something ordinarily impossible, and so on. Can you give some examples of how varying setups can be an adaptation to the enemy Commander? What do you gain by letting players have their appropriate responses on the battlefield from the beginning instead of playing them gradually? Given a choice between deploying the specialized pieces of a rush attack or deploying things that are useful in a long game, what makes the latter more appealing? What makes adapting to the enemy Commander more useful than exploiting synergies with your own Commander?

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Ah; by dynamic start, I meant "Commander X will have different stats from Commander Y" -- not "decks start with things on the field". I believe the confusion comes from where, a few posts up, I said that I might experiment with "starting units" on a small scale. I still may, but the tactic would be specific to commander and the cost would be taken out of it somewhere else - such commanders would be highly recognizable and specialized, limiting strategies in favour of distinct tactics, while still providing reasonable counters and workarounds. I'm hoping it will feel like "Man, I just lost to that Elven Ambush deck, but now that I know what to expect from Legolas, I'll be more careful next time!" rather than "Dang, OP elves meta!"

 

On a note related to games between players themselves - should I plan on a lowest common denominator of single-round games, and then allowing for best 2/3 as a post-game agreement (with incentives for both players regardless of outcome) -- or should I force a best 2/3 mindset from the start?

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On a note related to games between players themselves - should I plan on a lowest common denominator of single-round games, and then allowing for best 2/3 as a post-game agreement (with incentives for both players regardless of outcome) -- or should I force a best 2/3 mindset from the start?

Think of rules for the individual game first; suitable match structures depend strongly on the complete rules of the game, which determine randomness (how many wins represent superiority with enough confidence?), game length (compared to reasonable length of a match without breaks), and advantage of playing first.

For example, fighting videogames are usually played to 2 or 3 wins with a time limit (a single bout is short, going first is not an issue, games can be ruined by small mistakes rather than by actual randomness); chess is played once (very long and fatiguing game, no randomness, the advantage of going first is substantial but easily lost over the course of the game); rock-paper-scissors is played for a large and indefinite number of games because it's extremely short and almost completely random (it could be argued that the real game is predicting opponent behaviour, and it's played until someone has enough like casino card games).

Thematically, fighting the same battle multiple times could appear strange compared to the complete reset of M:tG wizards (or Pokémon teams, or Yu-Gi-Oh cardslingers) recovering and dueling again. What overall setting are you planning? What do Commanders do between battles?

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The setting is mostly D&D-esque; medieval with fantasy aspects; with that in mind, there are a number of ways I can go. I was just hoping there was a quick and dirty way of determining that sort of thing ;P

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