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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Dice and Cards, Cards and Dice:

Dice and Cards, Cards and Dice:
Lately I have been mulling over game systems that use both cards and dice, for resolution.

I love dice, nothing makes me happier than working out just that right die mechanic that helps carry a game along smoothly. I enjoy rich dice as well; I want to squeeze as much game relevant info out of each roll as I possibly can. As a designer, it makes me happy.

Cards on the other hand have an interesting attribute that is hard to model in dice. When a card is pulled then discarded the chance of pulling each other card in the deck goes up. That’s blackjack in a nut shell. That’s cool.

To that add the physical size of cards allows them to hold more information than dice, and in effect give richer results. A normal playing card shows, color, suit, number, and face. That’s a lot of information on each card, a lot of randomization, a lot of opportunity to use that information in interesting combinations. If this discussion branches out to custom decks of cards, then the gloves come off, the possibilities are endless.

Here is where I get into trouble:

I am working on a concept (A competitive /narrative game based on pro wrestling) Resolution of actions is dice based, but smart, lucky, or even consistent card play could make the difference in a contest.

Cards can be bought into a player’s hand, and may be used for a variety of effects. One of the effects is to trigger skills.

If a character has a skill that can only be triggered by a “face card in the suit of clubs” and in the course of the game he sees his opposing player use all of the face cards in the suit of clubs, will this be too much of a kill joy for the player?

On one hand I like the idea that thee player seeing that he is not going to get to use his skill this game, has to change tack, and adjust strategy. It adds challenge; it adds some depth to the card play as players might try to hold cards in order to deny their opponent the cards they need to trigger potent skills

On the other hand I hate the idea that the player is not going to get to use his shiny skill to make awesome happen at the game table. I don’t like the idea that a player might leave the game feeling like they never really got to use their character to its fullest potential.

Using cards (sticking with standard cards here,) I wonder if the ever decreasing draw pile can be too much of a limiting factor on the opportunities to use the cards, and if so should I work out some kind of card economy to bring previously used cards back into the game?

Perhaps a “joker” rule stating once the Joker is drawn the discard pile is shuffled back into the deck?

Again I am not sure.

I really want the game to end up focused on narration of a strategic match, played out with all the drama and theatrics of a classic pro wrestling match.

If I were writing a straight narrative game, this post would not happen, the strategy behind card management would not be as important to me, in fact the cards would not even be in the game.

If I was working this up as pure simulation game, I would game up with dice systems to model the kinds of things I want the cards to handle. This works in my head because of the reason mentioned above; a card can allow a player to see a lot of information very quickly, and hopefully leave them time to narrate some cool action. Only time will tell.

As with most of my projects time to play test is always in short supply so, who knows. Simple mental gymnastics perhaps, a diversion used to pass the time on lunch breaks?

Even if that’s all the game ever amounts too (which is not always a bad thing really,) at least it has me thinking cards and new directions to take my designs.