Monstrous Questions

We recently sat down and played a very fun deck-building game called High Command, put out by Privateer Press. It’s scale-able from 2 to 4 players. So far we’ve only played with 2 players but with any luck we’ll get another 2 people on board soon and get the full experience.

I won’t get into the full details of the game play (go to your local game store and play it yourself!) but it did inspire some great conversation about deck-building mechanics, options and consequences.

First, let’s talk about the base deck. Many deck-building games begin with a base deck, the deck that each player has in hand as they start to assemble their bigger, better deck. Most often this deck is used as resource to gather new cards. Game designers have several options when it comes to that deck. For instance: how many cards to include, if each player get the same deck, or variant decks, if that deck stays in hand as valuable resources, or if it is minimal and discarded as soon as the new deck is established, etc. We get to answer all of these questions, and more, as we move ahead with Monsters on Parade.

Next, we can look at how we can enable, or discourage, competition between players with the deck. In High Command, there is no miscegenation between decks; my cards are mine, your cards are yours and never will the two be mixed. But in the case of games like Ascension, everyone is drawing from the same card pool. So what kind of balance do we strike between the two? When can I get at cards that you want, and when can you maybe steal the cards that I have my eye on? Perhaps most importantly for competition: once I’ve claimed a card as my own, can you steal it? Ah ha! That’s the question.

And to wrap up these questions, we can wonder about repetition of card types. Oh man, the factors are enormous. Let’s think about how many cards we want in the whole game kit, period. Then let’s think about how many cards we want in the player’s “hand”. Then how many cards in the base deck. Then how many it takes to accomplish the objective. Then, at last, how many times we want players to see the exact same card come up. What if every card has the same number of iterations? What if some are rare, and some are common? Do you need more sprites than monsters, or more monsters than sprites to make the game interesting.

Every delightful game brings up a myriad of delightful questions. Ah, the high drama and suspense of a game-designer’s life!

As always, feel free to leave us questions or comments below. Happy gaming!

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