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Subject: Any games that have cards that "power up" or "unlock"? (MTG Planeswalkers) rss

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linoleum blownaparte
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In card games, normally powerful cards are more expensive. Whether you are paying with coins in Dominion, discards in Race for the Galaxy, or mana in Magic: The Gathering, it's usually hard to put a power card into play, but once you do that card starts changing the game in huge ways.

A few years ago Magic introduced "planeswalker" cards. The unique thing about these cards is that they have a powerful, game-changing ability, but they can't use that ability when you first play them.



For example Jace's super-ability can blow up an opponent's deck of cards, but he can't use that ability right when you play him. First you have to spend turns putting "loyalty" tokens on the card. By using Jace's "+2" power each turn you level him up just like a video game character. When he has 12 tokens you can spend them all to use his super-ability.

The "expensive" part is that you have to spend time to level up the card. The appeal of planeswalkers is that they're like a ticking clock. Both you and your opponent know that Jace will eventually wreak havoc.

So what other card games have cards where you can't immediately use the powers/abilities on a card but have to wait to "unlock" them?
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Magic has creatures that are a better example of this mechanic in my opinion.

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Jordan Booth
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Thunderstone - You buy heroes at lvl 1. Fight monsters to gain XP, and trade it in to lvl up your heroes.

Dungeon Roll - same, except it is your unique player character.

Venture Forth - also uses collected XP to level your player character.
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Looking at these stars suddenly dwarfed my own troubles and all the gravities of terrestrial life. I thought of their unfathomable distance, and the slow inevitable drift of their movements out of the unknown past into the unknown future. H.G. Wells
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You can level up your character in Munchkin.
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Clay
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I'm working on a deck-building game (Sky Colony, check my BGG blog for outdated information) where this a central feature. Every card has at least one effect that you can trigger automatically but then one or two more than you have to unlock either temporarily or permanently based on things like control certain types of board regions, increasing along certain tracks or having X cards in your hand. The effect is that any given hand early in the game will be more powerful once you get those same cards later in the game, assuming you had worked towards improving your position.

This is a great design space that seems woefully under utilized. I know I've seen other games do this kind of thing but I'm having a hard time thinking of them. The latest Ascension set has a lot of cards that get stronger once your energy engine gets running, that was pretty cool. I feel like a lot of games probably use the "add a +1/+1 counter" style growth-over-time mechanism that is also prominent in Magic. Also worth noting is the new (I think) Monstrocity keyword in Magic. Who'd have thought such a long-running CCG would have covered such a cool design idea from so many different angles?

Guild Hall has a really cool approach to this concept. Individual cards become more powerful the more other copies of that card you already have in play, before eventually transforming the set into a currency for scoring. Granted this isn't each card getting stronger over time but the effect is very similar. While I'm noting fringe cases you could also consider Eminent Domain, where you become "better" at a role the more you use it. The cards don't actually increase in strength but since you will gradually gain many of X you will be better able to power up X the next time you use it in the future.
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Clay
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Born-of-Ashes wrote:
Thunderstone - You buy heroes at lvl 1. Fight monsters to gain XP, and trade it in to lvl up your heroes.

Dungeon Roll - same, except it is your unique player character.

Venture Forth - also uses collected XP to level your player character.


I was also thinking Thunderstone and nodded when you said it but on second thought that also seems to be a fringe application. The cards don't actually get stronger, you're technically paying to turn in a card for a better version of it. Compare this to Dominion's Mine card, you trash a treasure to get a better one but you wouldn't say that the new Gold in your hand is "a Silver that powered up."

Not that it's a bad example. If anything it probably just shows that there might be more value to this discussion if we consider what is actually happening in the game state ("X" enabling the player to get something that approximates "X+1") rather than just focusing on the components involved (Contrast a card that first has X and then later allows X+1 with a card that has X and can later be exchanged for a card that has X+1). There are probably far more examples of the latter than the former, even though both can lead to nearly identical game play elements.
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Gamer D

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To a lesser extent Sentinels of the Multiverse has some characters that change over time. The masterminds in particular all have two versions, the first of which they start out as and the second of which they flip to once certain conditions are met. Also some of the heroes have abilities that change or improve over time. Tachyon, for instance, has a bunch of cards in her deck which do damage or hit targets equal to the number of Burst cards in her discard pile.
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Levi Mote
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In our game Infinite Power ECG the attack powers all power up before they can be activated.
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Jason Washburn
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In my game Hooch the Syndicate Characters level up by completing missions against other Syndicates. I also have sleeper type cards that you can place and then they trigger on other cards that you play from your hand or effects that are dealt during the action phase from a Co-op card. So they are not always a sure thing. i like the affect of having a card get better. As the card improves it also grows in victory points for the end of the game so you get something other that just more abilites it counts towards the end game as well.
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linoleum blownaparte
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louper wrote:
It seems like combo-oriented games kind of have this inherently.

In Glory to Rome, for example, the first, say, Architect card you play doesn't do much. But as you acquire Architects as patrons and complete some buildings that augment the Architect's ability, later in the game you can play an Architect and do a dozen things. Same card, drastically different effect that hinges, essentially, on game length.


Clay wrote:

Guild Hall has a really cool approach to this concept. Individual cards become more powerful the more other copies of that card you already have in play, before eventually transforming the set into a currency for scoring. Granted this isn't each card getting stronger over time but the effect is very similar. While I'm noting fringe cases you could also consider Eminent Domain, where you become "better" at a role the more you use it. The cards don't actually increase in strength but since you will gradually gain many of X you will be better able to power up X the next time you use it in the future.


I think these are examples of synergy rather than unlockable abilities.

To illustrate the distinction, if I have a card that says:

At game end, take 1 VP for every Green card in your tableau.

That's just synergy, and I think a lot of post-Magic post-RFTG post-Dominion games have mined this space to the point of exhaustion.

Ascension and 7 Wonders are good examples of games that revolve around "This card says I should get more of those cards."

But if I add the text:

4+ Green cards in play: at the start of each turn you may discard one Green from play to draw 2 cards from the deck.

Now this card has two discrete "zones" separated by that 4-Green threshold. The discard-to-draw ability doesn't get stronger over time, it's either on or off like a lightbulb. There's some tension here - do you discard Greens for the powerful draw ability or keep them in play for VP at game's end?

The ability also has the potential to "turn itself off." You discard down to 3 Greens in play and now you can't use it anymore.

If I add, further:

8+ Greens in play: your opponent must play with his hand visible.

This is another on-off ability that interacts in interesting ways with the other two.
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Jacek Wieszaczewski
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The Urchin-Mercenary pair in Dominion: Dark Ages works this way - you can buy Urchin and then, once you meet a certain condition, you are allowed to replace him with a more powerful Mercenary.
 
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Clay
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Linoleumblownaparte wrote:
louper wrote:
It seems like combo-oriented games kind of have this inherently.

In Glory to Rome, for example, the first, say, Architect card you play doesn't do much. But as you acquire Architects as patrons and complete some buildings that augment the Architect's ability, later in the game you can play an Architect and do a dozen things. Same card, drastically different effect that hinges, essentially, on game length.


Clay wrote:

Guild Hall has a really cool approach to this concept. Individual cards become more powerful the more other copies of that card you already have in play, before eventually transforming the set into a currency for scoring. Granted this isn't each card getting stronger over time but the effect is very similar. While I'm noting fringe cases you could also consider Eminent Domain, where you become "better" at a role the more you use it. The cards don't actually increase in strength but since you will gradually gain many of X you will be better able to power up X the next time you use it in the future.


I think these are examples of synergy rather than unlockable abilities.

To illustrate the distinction, if I have a card that says:

At game end, take 1 VP for every Green card in your tableau.

That's just synergy, and I think a lot of post-Magic post-RFTG post-Dominion games have mined this space to the point of exhaustion.

Ascension and 7 Wonders are good examples of games that revolve around "This card says I should get more of those cards."

But if I add the text:

4+ Green cards in play: at the start of each turn you may discard one Green from play to draw 2 cards from the deck.

Now this card has two discrete "zones" separated by that 4-Green threshold. The discard-to-draw ability doesn't get stronger over time, it's either on or off like a lightbulb. There's some tension here - do you discard Greens for the powerful draw ability or keep them in play for VP at game's end?

The ability also has the potential to "turn itself off." You discard down to 3 Greens in play and now you can't use it anymore.

If I add, further:

8+ Greens in play: your opponent must play with his hand visible.

This is another on-off ability that interacts in interesting ways with the other two.


Yes, certainly. I think that the two are largely component distinctions, though. Both need to meet conditions to give you an additional ability, in your example you need to get cards into play to for the sake of the first card and in mine you get cards in play for the sake of the last card. Guild Hall cards do not scale a single effect based on having X cards in play, they unlock new effects in the same vein as each threshold is exceeded. For example, the Historian doesn't say "take one card from the discard pile for each other Historian in play," the first effect takes the top card, then the next effect allows you to search and then you can search and take two. There's no way to interpret that as a simple growth effect. The only exception to this is the Dancer.

If anything unlocking seems like a special case of synergy, at least in cases that require external input.
 
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Brook Gentlestream
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Thanks for mentioning this. It is a very interesting card game mechanic.
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Jeff Pratt
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The new BioShock Infinite: The Siege of Columbia from Plaid Hat uses this as its primary mechanism. All of the cards must be unlocked through an achievement system in order to use any of their special abilities.
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Clay
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vladdswrath wrote:
The new BioShock Infinite: The Siege of Columbia from Plaid Hat uses this as its primary mechanism. All of the cards must be unlocked through an achievement system in order to use any of their special abilities.


That's a great one, totally forgot about it.

A minor application that comes to mind are the Task and Mission cards from Arkham Horror. The cards don't serve much function when you first play them (although they can be fed to anything that eats your items to save more valuable things, which is helpful enough on its own) but you can spend time and resources in various locations to complete each level of the card and then get a big boost out of it. This is more of a "delayed activation" effect than a "powered up activation" one though, although it works following similar lines of thought.
 
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Glen Dresser
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I haven't played MTG since before the Planeswalkers came out, but there are some things going on that card I like: it's forcing you to choose between a cheap, semi-useful short-term ability and an expensive, super-powerful ability that may not actually affect the outcome if the game is already near its end. I imagine that players have lost games because they get so hung up on saving up for that -12 ability that they wait too long to use that -1 ability, and while they might exile all the creatures in the deck, there are still creatures in play that end up killing him. I like this approach that makes the card a decision area, as opposed to one that strictly upgrades to a stronger version of itself.

I think you can categorize the conditions for unlocking:

time: cards that unlock/upgrade over the passage of time.
cost: cards that unlock/upgrade when a certain price is paid.
repetition: cards that unlock/upgrade when a certain action is repeated enough. (could be a combination of time+cost, like in the Kazandu MTG card)
combos: cards that unlock/upgrade when they are played in combination with other cards, either specific or identical cards, or cards of a matching suit.
game condition: cards that unlock/upgrade when the game reaches a certain condition (number of turns, number of cards remaining, etc.)
achievements: cards that unlock/upgrade when a player reaches certain achievements (experience levels, missions, etc.)

Then there's three categories of upgrades/unlocks:
effects that are stronger but functionally the same as base abilities. (typically, the base abilities would remain and the player would choose which ability/effect to use)
effects that are drastically different than base abilities, affect the same phase of the game.
effects that affect an entirely different phase of the game (like effects that count as VPs but have no bearing on gameplay).
effects that upgrade a card from doing absolutely nothing to doing something.

Then I think you can also add four timing categories:
effects that are permanent
effects that occur only once
effects that occur only in turns in which the condition is met, (ie. every time a cost is paid or every time a combo is played)
effects that occur on a schedule (ie. once every three turns)

This is just an off-the-top of my head list from reading this thread, I'm sure there are more of each category out there, and from that list there are probably dozens of different combinations that make sense.
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Nate K
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Does it have to specifically be a card game? Because this is how my family feels about Farmers in Carcassonne. If you plop them down and keep feeding them cities, they're going to gain dozens of points at the end of the game. My mom and dad tend to fight over One Big Farm in the mid to late game, vying for control of a piece of real estate that will be worth a ton of victory points.
 
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Sergio Murillo
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You could check the card game Battle Spirits, they have a mechanic called."core" the cores are the resource the game use, once per turn you gain one core and you pay the spirits(monsters) with the cores and.put one core on top of the spirits to keep them on the field.

The spirits have levels that you can level them up by putting more cores on top of the spirit and can take cores from the spirit to pay for other stuff and move the to your pool, if you take cores from the spirit you take levels off from the spirit.

Hope it help, btw first post. And sorry for my bad English it's not my first language.
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scott Murray
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PURGE: Sins of Science used technology to unlock special unit abilities.

On top of that, the game used some of the above mechanics such as time (you can only use certain units after a few turns)and previously played cards (operation cards required a certian number of techs to be played first).

Shame the game dragged on a bit too long
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Alexander Awesome
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I ...wow. Unique ability to planes walkers in magic? You got to be new here. The earliest game I can think of with this kind of ability is chess.

(pawns turning into a different piece at the end of the board).

Broaden your mind, play more games!
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Gamer D

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Alex Awesome wrote:
I ...wow. Unique ability to planes walkers in magic? You got to be new here. The earliest game I can think of with this kind of ability is chess.

(pawns turning into a different piece at the end of the board).

Broaden your mind, play more games!


Except the original poster asked about card games.
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Alex Awesome wrote:
I ...wow. Unique ability to planes walkers in magic? You got to be new here. The earliest game I can think of with this kind of ability is chess.

(pawns turning into a different piece at the end of the board).

Broaden your mind, play more games! :)


Depending upon how one decides to cut the component pie this can either fall within or outside of the OP's request. Technically you're replacing a pawn with an entirely different piece rather than upgrading the pawn itself. That may or may not be an issue depending on how wide a net you want to cast on this topic.

Edit: For the sake of civility it should also be noted that they didn't say the mechanism was unique to Planeswalkers, they were saying that within Magic itself the Planeswalkers added a unique mechanism.
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linoleum blownaparte
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dugman wrote:
Alex Awesome wrote:
I ...wow. Unique ability to planes walkers in magic? You got to be new here. The earliest game I can think of with this kind of ability is chess.

(pawns turning into a different piece at the end of the board).

Broaden your mind, play more games!


Except the original poster asked about card games.


Hey that's okay, I was probably not clear about what I'm talking about!

What I mean is a card (or other playing piece) that over time doesn't just become a stronger version of itself, but gets new and different powers or abilities. These "unlockable powers" are part of the card itself, not something else that's played to affect the card. That way, the moment the card enters play, both you and your opponent can anticipate that the card will eventually level up and unlock those printed powers.

So far, the two-stage villains from Sentinels of the Multiverse are the closest thing I've seen mentioned in this thread.
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Nicholas Vitek
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Allegiance on KS has that ability.
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Gamer D

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Another collectible card game, this time digital, that comes to mind is Legends of Norrath, the Everquest card game (which I like quite a bit.) In that game many cards are labelled as either Light or Shadow, and when you play a light or shadow card it increases your light/shadow rating by the cost of the card. Once your rating reaches a certain amount of light or shadow points your avatar gains the light or shadow alignment. Once that happens many of the cards that share that alignment significantly improve, either gaining new stats or new abilities. Likewise depending on how you created your avatar your avatar might gain an additional power or stat boost once they get enough alignment points.

So in many ways it's what you're asking about, cards that have special upgrades and new powers listed on them that only kick in once you've gained enough points.
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