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Subject: Deckbuilding RPG: need input on mission mechanic rss

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Glen Dresser
Canada
Calgary
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This is my first post! I've been reading here for a while, but am only just getting into game design.

One of my first projects is a deckbuilding RPG, and I've got an issue I'm having trouble deciding on: basically, I can't decide if this element would be fun or annoying. It's pretty central to the game right now, so I need to make a decision on it before going further.

The game is broken down into missions, with players working together to thwart each mission (a mission will consist of a maximum of 5-8 hands). The players start out cooperating at the beginning of the game, hopefully end up back-stabbing and acting independently at times during the middle of the game, and by the end of the game are probably working in smaller alliances or independently to bring about the end-conditions that most favour them. Meanwhile they're building their decks into stronger, more VP-full decks that are customized along class and faction lines.
Missions are taken from a mission deck, and follow a sort of choose-your-own-adventure path, with the outcome of one mission determining what the next mission will be. All of that I'm pretty happy with (as well as the interaction and playing mechanics, which I won't get into yet). However...

My questionable idea is that during for each mission, one player sets aside their deck and their role, to play a small, customized, powerful 'insurgent deck' and attempts to complete the mission, while all other players attempt to thwart them.

This insurgent deck is the way that new, more powerful cards enter the game: in addition to thwarting the mission, players can also attempt to steal cards from the insurgent deck. After the mission is over, the cards from that insurgent deck are shuffled into market decks where players can eventually purchase them. As well, players are rewarded with cards from the deck for thwarting the mission, and the player playing the insurgent deck is rewarded for completing the mission.

So the pros and cons of this system, as I see it, are:
Pros:
Players are trying to thwart a sophisticated, thinking opponent.
Sets the general tone of shifting alliances and independence. Even from the beginning of the game, players aren't always cooperating.
There's a class element to this game, but the shifting composition of parties encourages players to build flexibility into their deck (important for later in the game when they may need to act independently).
Hopefully, playing an insurgent deck is fun, because it'll be quite powerful compared to all other players, and customized toward different strategies.
It could allow a losing player to play catchup, or at least have a significant impact on the game without being strictly a kingmaker.

Cons:
It can get in the way of your strategy and momentum if you need to set aside your deck to take a turn at playing the insurgent deck. This might be especially true in late game scenarios. (Though arguably, planning for your insurgent turn is an element of strategy itself). Maybe you've just gotten a card that you've been building toward the whole game, but now you need to put your deck aside for the next mission.
Requires a little setup time between each mission as player makes sure the insurgent deck is in order.
It increases the player requirements: I think it needs a minimum of four players, so that there's at least three players working against the insurgent deck for each mission.

What do others think? Is this a fatally flawed idea? Can you point me to any games (not necessarily deck-builders) where players taking turns acting against the others? Any ways I can improve this idea?
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Benj Davis
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Welcome to the Geek!

I'm intrigued by the idea of taking turns to set your deck aside and play a separate deck temporarily, but is there a particular reason that you couldn't achieve a similar thing by just making the Insurgent deck self-running?
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John "Omega" Williams
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The first CCG/RPG RuinsWorld You built your deck and played against it co-op. (With some cut-throat elements)

Right after it is Dragon Storm which is all about deck building. But is a actual RPG requiring a GM who has their own deck to build. Interesting in that the cards are not played from the deck. The GM uses it as module outlines and pregen. Though it can be used to semi-random generate terrain. Purely co-op vs the GM.

Then there is Arcadia: The Wyld Hunt which is also all about deck assembly and you take turns playing your cards or playing events and encounters to hinder your opponent. No co-op though.
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Glen Dresser
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Omega2064 wrote:
The first CCG/RPG RuinsWorld You built your deck and played against it co-op. (With some cut-throat elements)

Right after it is Dragon Storm which is all about deck building. But is a actual RPG requiring a GM who has their own deck to build. Interesting in that the cards are not played from the deck. The GM uses it as module outlines and pregen. Though it can be used to semi-random generate terrain. Purely co-op vs the GM.

Then there is Arcadia: The Wyld Hunt which is also all about deck assembly and you take turns playing your cards or playing events and encounters to hinder your opponent. No co-op though.


Thanks for these suggestions. I'll do some research and see what I can learn from them.

Jlerpy wrote:
Welcome to the Geek!

I'm intrigued by the idea of taking turns to set your deck aside and play a separate deck temporarily, but is there a particular reason that you couldn't achieve a similar thing by just making the Insurgent deck self-running?


Thanks for the welcome! A self-running deck is something I've definitely considered, but it's challenging to figure out that a way to put relatively decision-heavy cards in a self-running deck. The action of the game is based around playing combos (one character card plus a number of modification cards on that character), and once you've played a combo it can behave in a number of different ways; it's up to the player to decide in the heat of an encounter the best way to use the combo that they've played. So it'll be hard for a self-running deck to make relatively sophisticated decisions... unless the cards behave very differently in the self-running deck vs. in a player's hand, sort of like how in Thunderstone, a monster behaves one way when you're fighting it, and then has an entirely different purpose once it's in your hand. I prefer the idea of the encounter being more symmetrical: your battling an opponent who has all the same skills and options that you have, but with a slightly superior deck.

Still, this is all very early. I've basically just been writing the rules and haven't gotten to the point of making the cards and testing them.
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Benj Davis
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I guess it depends on the nature of the combos, but depending on the way the game works, it might be obvious how a given hand will be "best" played.
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Chris Hawkins
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I like the one-vs.-many mechanic. I also like that control of the enemy is passed among players.

I am concerned about a player missing out on a mission with a particularly good reward, or alternatively, being able to play the enemy for an unattractive mission. Perhaps you could have players do lowball bidding to be part of the mission - "I will join for only X coins worth of loot." Whoever demands the most pay is not hired for the mission and plays the enemy, but then he/she is automatically part of the following mission (at pay equal to the highest successful bid).
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sunday silence
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one idea that comes to mind: is it strictly necessary that the player sit out an entire turn? Could it be that he merely has to add/discard say one card into the Insurgent Deck? Then this way, that action could pass from one player to another throughout the game so that the insurgent deck is being filled by all the players one card at a time.

However, I do not understand the overall game idea. From the OP, it seems that it is important that one player actually play this deck, and gain the benefit or detriment of playing it. Not quite sure about that pt.

Beause the OP also said that the player had to take time out from playing his hand in order to play the insurgents. So I am not sure if this player merely needs to prep the insurgent deck or actually has to make full blown decisions and strategy for it. The OPs answer would change my idea.

If the problem with having multiple players seeing the entire insurgent deck when they each contribute to it, then you could have it so each player would only look at say 2 cards in the deck, discard one and add another. So no one player would know the entire composition of the deck.

Again, not sure about the overall thrust so my comments might not make sense.
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Benj Davis
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Belthus wrote:
I like the one-vs.-many mechanic. I also like that control of the enemy is passed among players.

I am concerned about a player missing out on a mission with a particularly good reward, or alternatively, being able to play the enemy for an unattractive mission. Perhaps you could have players do lowball bidding to be part of the mission - "I will join for only X coins worth of loot." Whoever demands the most pay is not hired for the mission and plays the enemy, but then he/she is automatically part of the following mission (at pay equal to the highest successful bid).


That is an interesting idea. So you're like ... adventuring contractors.
 
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Glen Dresser
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Yeah, I think that's a really interesting idea too. I'm not sure if it's the right fit for my game (which lacks a flexible currency as a result of occurring in a post-capitalist distopia), but it inspires me to think a bit more about finding a system that makes the selection of the insurgent player more of a strategy element, rather than just 'everybody takes a turn'.
 
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