Sunday, October 2, 2011

Cards without Costs

Card Properties
1. Loyalty (number)
2. Neighborhood (color)
3. Resources (icons)
4. Special Powers (text)

In this system, there is no cost to playing a card. On your turn, you may play a card regardless of what it is. So each card needs to be balanced with all the others by a metric other than cost. Loyalty is an obvious scalar. A card's loyalty roughly equivalent to its defense, the vulnerability of a card to being stolen or eliminated can scale to its other powers.

Conceptually, this works out well. Seeing how the more power someone has, the less likely they are to follow orders and more likely they are to work for the highest bidder, loyalty is inversely correlated to the independent value of a person to an organization. If you want to work with the best people, you may have trouble holding on to them.

The end result of this calculation is that unlikely other CCGs, where cost scales to power, this system scales loyalty inversely to power. This establishes a floor at 1, so the range of possible power and its relationship to loyalty needs to be established at the beginning. If loyalty cannot go below 1, then the most powerful card can be no more powerful than x-1 (where x= loyalty + power). Otherwise, it will be a clearly dominant card.

Establishing the relationship between all the properties will be tricky though. It is unlikely to be accurate a priori, but to a function of the dynamic relationship of all the cards. In order to understand how the scale works we will need to play the game out and make adjustments. Which, of course, risks formalizing the strategies that we develop in the testing. However, I think it's safe to say that as long as the margin of error surrounding the relative values of each card is less than the potential for synergistic play, strategic exploration will remain dominant over individual card possession.

Unlike other actions in the game which require you to play a card with an appropriate special power to perform them, everyone can deal drugs. What is required to deal is someone in the neighborhood and enough drugs to satisfy demand. The total supply of drugs available to your organization of each type at any time is calculated by adding up the total number of icons of that drug. If, after playing a card, you have at least one card with the appropriate neighborhood and a total drug supply equal to or greater than the value of a drug money card, you may place it into your discard pile. If you use your action to deal drugs, you may not perform a special action.

Special Actions
Most cards have a special action written on them. After you play a card (if you do not deal drugs), you may perform the special action on the card. Like dealing, special actions often require you to have one or more resources in play in order to perform them. Most special actions are scalar, which is to say, the power of that action adjusts depending upon the number of resources you have. Others are threshold, meaning that you must have a certain number to perform them.

Passive Effects
Certain cards in your operation provide passive effects to your operation while they are in play, increasing the amount of resources required to perform an action against one of your cards (defenses) or increasing certain types of resources (buffs). Passive effects have a threshold cost. As long as you have at least the number of resources in play in order to meet the threshold, the effect is active and modifies other actions.

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