Tag Archives: ccg

Hex vs Magic

Part 1

12/23/2015

Just got a hold of Hex: Shards of Fate. While the core engine is very similar to Magic, the mechanics and card designs and deck archetypes are so much more daring, complex, fun. Count it as my review after a few hours of gameplay.

For the longest time, WotC has been half-assing, half-stepping the creative possibilities of Magic. Partly because of limitations of physical cards (e.g. tracking complexity), and partly dumbed down to cater to the masses and new players. Thus progress and innovations are stunted. (Just look at the bare-bones mechanics in Battle for Zendikar.)

On the other hand, even the Hex starter decks, archetypes, and tutorials are so much more complex, yet grokkable and fun. Given the choice of 8 decks, I chose the weirdest one (none of that human, dwarf, elf generic tropes for me). This deck’s strategy is to put Spider Eggs into your opponent’s deck. When he draws it or puts in his crypt (graveyard) from deck (Hex calls this bury, cf. mill), you get a 1/1 creature unblockable. Fill his deck with so many that you get a bunch of free creatures and overwhelm him.

This and many more ideas are simply not possible with Magic. There are so many taboos and restrictions that forbid Wizards from fresh ideas. Such as putting cards into opponents’ decks, upgrading cards with equipment and gems during deck construction–thus reusing and customizing the same card for different strategies, permanent effects from one-time cards (Hex calls them Actions, equivalent to Instants and Sorceries)–even across zones, multi-layered tracking, etc. I’ve only played a few hours, so probably more that I haven’t seen yet.

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Magic’s Limited Design Space

There is no doubt that Magic is a commercial success. That is, it has mass appeal. And in order to appeal to the masses, it has to sacrifice and restrict certain things. Like new strategies, new deck archetypes, new mechanics that redefine how Magic is played (for instance, Planeswalkers added a new dimension to board state and deckbuilding, something that hasn’t been seen again since it was introduced in 2007.) And as Wizards continues towards this trend to cater to new players and limited players, less and less set space and development time will be allotted for actual fresh, creative gameplay. Hence even Wizards R&D managers admit that Magic design space is becoming more and more limited. However, this is of their own doing due to how they design cards and sets. Even though ideas are infinite, they restrict themselves to a tiny subset of possible ideas in order to sell more cards, not necessarily making the best designed cards or opening new gameplay.

Not all design space is equal. I mean quantity vs quality. Sure they can push out 1000 cards a year. But in reality the vast majority are rehashing and tweaking old cards. How many actually change the metagame? How many make you think or play differently, or enable totally new strategies? How much are actually never-before-seen abilities?

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History CCG: Conflict Resolution

To make things more interesting, I thought about ways to resolve certain actions and conflicts in a CCG. Doomtown uses poker hands to resolve duels between players. Dark Age uses dice. Magic has some minigame mechanics like clash that look at the top card of your deck. So I also wanted to use these techniques in History instead of straight comparison of static values printed on the cards.

Static values make things too predictable and usually reduces your options and even stalls the board. In Magic, even just a single defender can stall an entire attack if your creatures are smaller than the defender. In other games, especially in multiplayer, a board state with many cards in play makes players hesitant to attack for fear of retaliation and being ganged up on. Hopefully, by introducing some controlled randomization, we can prevent stalled board states while raising the tension of every conflict.

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A new CCG idea: History

A CCG (customizable card game) in the civilization / 4x genre has been in my mind for quite a while. It seemed an obvious genre, since it’s pretty popular as board games and video games. Yet there is absolutely zero CCGs about building up civilizations, researching techs, exploring new lands, and conquering your opponents’ cities.

Spurred by someone’s suggestion to make my own card game, I will attempt to create a new CCG from the ground up. This blog will witness the progress of the design and development of a brand new genre’s foray into the fantasy-dominated CCG market. The working name of this CCG is “History”.