Designer Notes 3: Broken Play Styles

Eyo. This is Kuri writing his first blog post! And now let me talk a bit about broken playstyles in State of Wonder.

Now if you play Magic: The Gathering or other card games, heck even other multiplayer games, you’ll know that they often offer multiple ways to play them. You might choose to go aggressive with goblins, or you might want to have control over the situation and have counterspells. And when we designed the game, we wanted to find these playstyles and help them grow, by designing and tweaking cards made to fit those situations.

Yes, that seems pretty standard

It might, but there are a lot of problems that can spring up from this. A playstyle might start to warp the entire game around itself. Or an overpowered card might have been the only thing making a certain playstyle good. Then we also have a problem if we make cards which are okay in one deck, but ridiculously broken in another one.

So can’t you just nerf broken playstyles?

Yes, but we also need to keep them fun and interesting while maintaining a good feel for their theme. A very good example of this was a nerf to the recent Templar deck which Van posted about here.

Church of Sinner effect is:

“Conviction: For Each Heresy Counter in play, your units gain +1 attack.”

This is a very cool and flavourful effect. Your units are hunting the sinners and gain conviction. But there was a problem.

You could put Heresy counter on units and buildings. The result of this was that the Templar player would put heresy counters on the backline buildings, stacking them up until every unit got +5 in power. This meant that they 1-shotted every almost every building in the game and just exploded in their opponent’s face. It was obviously overpowered, but it was also super fun to play with.

The challenge: Nerf it and still make it fun to play.

You might think the first goto answer is to nerf Church of Sinners, but that wasn’t the real problem. Van suggested that we only allow heresy counters to be put on units. That way you could counterplay the heresy counters by sending in your unit to die. And that’s flavourful.

Flavour seems pretty important for you

And it is! But flavour can’t always win out sadly. Sometimes the gameplay needs much more consideration than a simple fix.

Case in point: the Fortification deck has been put on hold.

With a medieval battle-themed card game, having walls, guard towers, and markets play a huge part in the setting we’re designing in. So naturally we made them one of our core playstyles when we started designing.

Our core playstyles back then were:

  • Aggressive (Units, attack boost)
  • Defensive (Fortifications, kill spells)
  • Economy (Money generators, high cost answers)

The idea was that we we’re gonna have one starter deck of each play style to show off the game. This is where we started to notice the cracks in design.

But it was just fixing the broken parts right?

The Fortification deck was either crushing the opponent, or it was getting destroyed. Unit combat is a core part of our game, and the fortification deck just ignored it. They built guard towers and markets and was always in the best position to win fights since they were never on the attacking side, so their guard towers make mincemeat out of the opponent.

Problem: Fortification decks were cancerous to the game.

When I say cancerous I’m talking about playstyles which actively avoid the core intention of the game.

In early Magic: The Gathering, the color Blue and Removal spells were insanely overpowered. It was so good that people stopped playing creatures in their decks because they were bad in comparison to other card types. Now Magic realized this and over time they made better creatures and balanced out the Removal spells.

We faced the same problem ourselves.

So, how did you solve it?

We have moved more towards playstyles who focuses on economy and aggression, but we haven’t fully solved it yet. Right now we’ve removed the Fortification deck from the starter deck lineup while we focus on what is actually fun in our game, unit combat. There will be a day where we make fortifications work. And maybe i’ll even do a blog post about the result of that fix.

Wrapping it up

So that was my first blog post! Thanks for reading and if you want to follow me you can do so on my Twitter account: @simon_gamedev

And please follow our Twitter here: @SoWGameDev

And if you have any questions for me or the other developers, don’t be afraid to join the forums and talk to us there 🙂

Srs Bizznezz

Hey y’all!

This week’s gone by with some more fast iterations and a culminative update to our ruleset. We’re working on knocking out all the art we’ll need for our prototype so we can get to printing. We’re also in the market for distributors, and have got the scoop on a potential partner for distribution we’re very excited about.

We’ll be moving into registering as an official company soon, so our business plan is next on the docket.

Throughout the course of our Game Design programme we’ve been trained to work with lean production and agile software development – and I have to say I love the efficiency with which our team tests mechanics, constructs possible solutions, tests the solutions, and tweaks and refines our ruleset and card values as a result.

One thing we’re struggling with is visibility in a sea of indie devs and new start ups, where the AAA titles are the only landmarks most people recognize! Or have time for! We do a lot of local playtesting on Gotland, but so far it’s been largely internal, and we’re organizing external on-site playtesting next week, as well as inviting off-islanders to join us for testing sessions via our Tabletop Simulator version, or Print-and-Play.

We will be at Wiscon!  21-23 Oct

If you’re in Visby, drop by Wiscon next weekend to meet our team, shoot the breeze, and play State of Wonder! We’ll be there with bells on. 🙂

A new starter deck: the Templars

Hey y’all!

It’s been another week of playtesting. We’ve developed a new starter deck, The Templars! This hyper-aggressive deck was outlined by Exa, and fully realized, balanced, and tweaked with the Lead Designers Van and Kuri this week.

Each of the starter decks now was now concepted by a specific member of the team – except for our Lead Artist, Addis! Addis’ deck may be added to the prototype for a total of five starter decks, if deemed necessary via continued playtesting. We want the prototype to feature enough starter decks to cover a variety of unique playstyles in order to satisfy different types of players – at the same time, we want to keep the barrier of entry to our prototype low. Well, at least, as low as a hardcore-angled, physical card game feasibly can be, without sacrificing any necessary design complexity!

The Templar deck focuses on aggressive play and rewards removing your opponents’ cards from play. The Smelter is the deck’s unique resource card, granting the Templar player 1 Resource every time an enemy card enters the graveyard. This effect is exacerbated by the Heresy mechanic. The Templars are all about routing out heretics, and destroying sinners by fire and plague. Enemy Buildings, Fortifications, and Unit cards can all be declared heretical by a Templar Inquisitor. When an Inquisitor comes into play, the Templar player declares any one enemy card, placing a Heresy Counter on it. Whenever a card with a Heresy Counter on it enters the graveyard, the Templar player receives 4 Resources.

If the Templar player has built a Church of Sinners, the Heresy Counter additional ability goes into effect: for every Heresy Counter in play, all of the Templar player’s units receive +1 Attack. The Church of Sinners has 4 FV and costs 2 to build – a modest amount of hitpoints, and since the Templar starter deck contains no fortifications, it can be focused down by opponents – especially if the Templar player’s army is engaged elsewhere.

The Templar deck can quickly snowball, and indeed often must do so in order to secure a win. Its Wonder is the Paladin of the Plagues, an 8 Resource cost 4/5 unit that cannot be targeted by abilities (for example, cannot be assassinated) with a progress counter of 7. Every time the Paladin of the Plagues destroys an enemy unit or building, it progresses by 1. The Paladin of the Plagues is affected by the Church of Sinners, buffing his attack by 1 for every Heresy Counter in play. With a gang of 1/1 Militia and 2/2 Torchers with Siege, weak, cheap cards quickly become more and more powerful as the Templar player plays Inquisitors, turning the crusade into a nigh-unstoppable train that gains more gold for every enemy unit removed from play, leaving only ash and bone in its wake.

Unless, of course, your opponents target down your Inquisitors and Church of Sinners at the right time, keeping the Templar player’s income down and preventing more Heresy tokens from going into play!

I’m super excited to start seeing the art for the Templar deck, hopefully there will be some to post this coming week! For now, here’s a lovely in-progress shot of the card frame artwork, made by Van:

coloureduinoicons

Card Frame art in progress!

Designer Notes 2: Culture,Civilizations and Research Discussion

Hello and Welcome back to Designer notes! This is Van again and today I will talk about Culture and Civilizations aswell as try to have a discussion about research.

Culture in State of Wonder is your deck. It is the cards you put into your deck and what you have at your diposal when you play the game, what is your culture doing and how is it doing it.

Civilization on the other hand is what faction your culture belongs to, for example, if you civilization is a tribal civilization, you can play with tribal civilization cards, while if you play a feudal civilization, you can play with feudal cards.

This means that depending on the opponents civilization you can make a broad guess about what and how their going to play. For example, Tribal civilizations might have strong units, but weak buildings, so you can expect a certain kind of cards to be played from that player, in this case, Units.

But a player can still play around with their deck and play cards in their culture deck, which are either neutral or might even be those weak buildings that might have an effect you are after.

Right now in game testing, we are playing around with themes, we have bandits, cults, crusaders and workers as themes or cultures. We want to start working on civilizations and try them out this week as it is a mechanic that changes alot of things around. It might be bad for the game though, as being able to tell your opponents plan just by seeing their civilization might give out to much information, unless players decide to go unconventional to be unreadable by the opponent.

So, now that we have gone through those parts of the game I want to talk more about research and I have been getting stuck in what to do with it.

As of now, Research is still up in the air with a lot of question marks, but here are some of the ways I’ve been thinking about it.

Research is a side deck. Where the player puts specific answers to a threat they know their deck might not be able to handle. They need to pay a small amount of resources to be able to play the cards. (I.E. you pay 2 resources and the card is moved from your research deck to your culture deck/Hand) This allows players to more easily answer enemy plays and might allow for some cool bluffs. But personally I have 1 problem with this and it is that it doesn’t feel like researching a cool new thing, it’s a panic button more than anything.

Secondly, I’ve been thinking of a card type named Research cards, which are still put into a seperate deck. Research cards are permanent cards with a cost. When you pay the cost it is put into play and gives your cards a buff. For example, all your units gain 1 attack or 1 health, maybe a card that gives all fortifications Volley 1 and things like that. This feels like researching something, all of a sudden you have a permanent buff, because you invented steel forging (Or something like that)

Thirdly, Researching tiers you up, allowing you to play cards from a higher tier. Cards then need to put into tiers and it will basicly become a race to the high tiers with higher costs. Even though this feels like research, I don’t like this route personally, as it makes early game tactics weaker if the late tiers are either much stronger. It might also make early game tactics to strong, as it makes late game obsolete unless you can tech into it.

So these are my thoughts about research right now. Please let me know which of these mechanics you would enjoy the most, or just discuss them!

Have a good day! (also I’m sorry for no art in this post!)

Van

Testing, Starter Decks, and Consultation, oh my!

It’s been another busy week full of illness and dedication in the face of illness! Testing continues, and testing slots are still open on our forum.

We’ve tightened down our MVP, and focused on what our game brings to the table – rather than what it avoids. Namely, State of Wonder focuses on tactical gameplay, strategy and bluffing! We’ve also nailed down our Hollywood-style pitch to give players insight into the aesthetics, mechanics, and dynamics of State of Wonder:

“It’s Age of Empires meets Magic: The Gathering!”

On Thursday we also had a consultation with a guest lecturer at our Game Design program, who gave us some valuable insight and advice in moving forward with our project. A Kickstarter is on the horizon, and a goal we’re actively working toward.

The team is working on adding and redesigning existing Starter Decks for the State of Wonder.

I’m personally (this is Exa writing) super EXCITE about the Cultist deck (Black MTG player here) we’re working on. Hopefully the deck will be available for testing next week. 🙂

And lastly check out some of the concept art our talented Art Lead has been producing! Catch y’all on Monday!

Designer Notes 1: Bluffing and Research

Welcome to the first entry of Designer Notes!

In this series we will talk about the design of State of Wonder and will discuss new features we want to add to the game, as well as discuss problems with our current design.

This week we will talk about bluffing and research, but since this is the first of these notes I will also present myself and talk about the overall game.

So who am I writing this blog update? I’m Van, Lead designer on State of Wonder. I’m 22 years old and I am currently doing my Bachelor year in Game Design and Graphics at Uppsala University. My earlier experiences in the field has been primarily with design, as I’ve built countless roleplaying modules and roleplaying games as well as board games, card games, and some strategy games on the computer.

What is State of Wonder? State of Wonder is a Strategy game, where players utilize their skills in tactics, bluffs, calculations and staying one move ahead to seize victory in two different ways: either through aggression and destroying the enemy city state, or by constructing and defending a Wonder throughout the game.

So with that explained, State of Wonder is not in any state a finished product yet, and we want to be able to build the best experience to you in this game.

Without further ado, let us talk about bluffing. In State of Wonder, players have hidden information that is not revealed to their opponent, in most cases this is the hand zone. In the hand zone the player has their entire hand of cards (15 cards).

With this hidden information, players can choose to reveal cards by playing them. This allows players to bluff each other in the early game, as none of the players know what they are facing or can expect, but has to react to whatever their opponent does. This is where bluffing comes in.

If a player plays an aggressive card on their first turn, their opponent has to react to said aggressive card, This can be done in several different ways, playing an aggressive card of their own to go counter aggression, play a defensive card to try to build up for the later game, decide to go for economics to get the best late game, but being in the danger zone of taking damage.

In many cases playing a economic card in a aggressive deck can yield amazing early game result as your opponent might also decide to go an economic route. If they do, they are binding up resources in their economics, waiting to get the pay out, while you can start going on the aggression.market
(Concept art of the Market, a Cheap Economic Card that could be used for bluffing)

We want to build out this mechanic to include more chances for players, even in a late game, to make clever bluffs as right now, when a player as revealed their entire hand through playing it. Nothing new will show up after that point in the game right now.

This is where research comes in. Research is a mechanic that we have wanted to try out since the start of production, and are about to begin testing.

Each player dedicates a research deck consisting of a number of cards. These cards are hidden and players can pay resources to put a card from their research deck into your hand.

This opens up more possibilities for bluffing. Research a card after your opponent builds a big unit and they might hesitate to attack you, as you might have researched a fortification which will counter their big unit and maybe even put them in a bad position.  But maybe  you actually just researched another economic card, to buy another turn and get in position to get a finisher in.

Other uses of research are dedicated counter cards, such as assassin, which is a unit that destroys another unit or Ballista upon entering play. A Ballista is a powerful card that deals heavy damage to fortifications.ballista
(Concept Art of the Ballista)

Well! That’s our food for thought for the day. We’re looking for more ways to implement bluffing in our game, as right now it is one of the dynamics of State of Wonder that has taken a bit of a design backseat. But no longer! 🙂

Have a nice Day and I hope you enjoyed this Designer Notes entry!

Ruleset update

We’ve had a busy week full of rapid iterations based on playtesting, playtesting, and more playtesting.

Our current game ruleset can be found here, on our forum. And speaking of forums.. the first 99 users to comment on this thread will be accepted as playtesters, and receive print-and-play as well as TableTop Simulator versions of our current prototype to test! 🙂 We’ll be working on building a relationship with our testers to take everyone’s feedback, comments, critiques, and suggestions.

So far, design discussions based on internal testing have led to a number of changes to our preliminary ruleset this week:

  • removed materials as a resource, leaving just gold
  • added three cards: The Sheriff, The Chapel, and The Roundel
  • adjusted all card costs and damage and health values

We’ve also been focusing on getting out art for all of our current cards, including the card frame, while gearing up for an external testing session at the Magic PreRelease at Uppsala this weekend. This means we’ve set up a couple of starter decks for players to test with. Deck-building is an intended aspect of State of Wonder – however, for new players, it wouldn’t be the best idea balance-wise to demand newcomers build their own decks. That’s where the balanced starter decks come in to play.

Our team has also begun using Steam’s Tabletop Simulator, to be able to set up a testable electronic rendition of the game. It’s still in the polish phase, so we’ll keep you posted when we’re able to release links. At the moment, we’re focusing on invite-based testing via Tabletop Simulator to narrow into our intended audience, that is to say, players who are looking for a card game that does not feature randomization or RNG.

More updates to follow early next week; have a great weekend, y’all!