Ben G
United States Massachusetts

What part of your design are you stuck on, and how can we help?
For me, it's math. I have one deck builder built, and another shaping up slowly. I want to get a decent spreadsheet together for each that goes into probability of draws, and probability of cards coming up, but I'm not entirely sure how to do that when you have to take into account the player's propensity to buy or not buy certain cards.

Ricky Dang
United States Brooklyn New York

trollitc wrote: What part of your design are you stuck on, and how can we help?
For me, it's math. I have one deck builder built, and another shaping up slowly. I want to get a decent spreadsheet together for each that goes into probability of draws, and probability of cards coming up, but I'm not entirely sure how to do that when you have to take into account the player's propensity to buy or not buy certain cards. I am having the same problem. I spent 2 weeks trying to figure out the spread of the cards, chances of drawing, and etc. and in the end, I realized, nothing can beat playtesting. I remember when Donald made Dominion, he decided to start off with 4 card hands because it was just an arbitrary number.
So, just go ahead and print out what you have, and prepare to make tons of changes Unfortunately, statistics can only help so much and what happens on paper may not be the same in practice.

W Scott Grant
United States Indiana

There are gamers that suffer from "Analysis paralysis" while playing certain games. If I find myself falling into that condition, I usually just make an impulsive decision and hope it doesn't cause me to lose the game completely.
The same can be true in game design, I think. Yes, one can spend many hours analyzing probability and balance and all that. I think the key here, especially for a deck builder, is to come up with some sort of evaluation/rank for each card so that its abilities are in line with the cost of the card. I don't know that spending time determining odds of drawing a specific card is a worthwhile exercise because the whole point of a deckbuilding system is allowing players to affect their chances based upon their purchasing choices.
But to answer the real question  what gets me stuck? I'm a lazy bum at heart. I'll design a game and get it all ready to print the first prototype, but I get stalled there because of the time, effort, and money it takes to print, cut, and assemble everything.
Then, getting it in front of a group of willing playtesters...

Mark J
United States Monroe Michigan

Even if you have good math skills, calculating probabilities can easily get out of hand because of two factors. Well, maybe more, but two that I can think of at the moment:
1. Each move changes the probabilities for the next move, and so calculating probabilities involves a manybranching tree. For example  and this isn't probabilities, but it's the same idea  how many possible moves are there for just the first three moves in Chess? It's easy to count how many possible moves for your first turn: You could move any of your 8 pawns 1 space, you could move one of your pawns 2 spaces, you could move your king's night to the left or the right, and you could move your queen's night to the left or the right. Total 20 possible moves. Easy. Now calculate the number of possibilities for the second move. Well that depends a lot on what you did for your first move. If you moved one of your knights you are now blocking the move of one of your pawns. If you moved a pawn you could move it an additional space ... unless you moved it two spaces and your opponent moved his facing pawn two spaces. If you moved a pawn one of the pieces behind it may now be able to move. Etc. People have run through all the possibilities and calculated the number, but wow, it's a beast. And to the best of my knowledge, there are few mathematical short cuts, no easy ways to group everything into a small number of cases. You have to work out all the individual cases. Same thing applies to probabilities in a card game.
2. Human beings normally do NOT play at random. They make intelligent choices. So let's say you were playing this game; Each player gets 4 cards from a standard poker deck. Everyone then turns in any numbers of those cards that he wants. The remaining original deck and all the discards are shuffled, and then players are dealt replacements for the cards they turned in. Winner is the player with the most cards of the same number, i.e. 4ofakind beats 3ofakind, 3 beats a pair, pair beats no pair. What is the probability of getting at least a pair?
You could calculate that if you assumed that every player turned in random cards. But of course in real life players would NOT turn in random cards. If someone already has a pair, he's not going to turn in those cards. The calculation becomes more complex.
If there are other sorts of winning hands, like straights or flushes, then the calculation becomes almost impossible. How can you predict what a player will turn in? If he has, say, 2 of spades, 2 of clubs, 3 of hearts, and 5 of hearts, will he turn in the 2's hoping to make a flush, or will he turn in the hearts hoping to get 3 or 4 of a kind? Or will he turn in one of the 2's hoping to get a 4 to make a straight? If the more difficult hands are worth more, how do you know who will play it safe and who will take a risk to go for the big win?
Etc etc.
I've had plenty of times when I've sat down and done all sorts of calculations. But often the most effective thing to do is to playtest the game and see how it actually turns out.
I think in practice you have to do a mixture of both. You can't expect one or even dozens of test plays to turn up every possible combination of conditions. And just playing it, you could easily be misled by the normal variations in random events. Like, just because there is a 25% chance that event X will happen doesn't mean that it will happen exactly every fourth time. You might hit that situation 20 times and it never happens. I'm sure any game player has had the experience of crying, "I rolled a one AGAIN!! That's the fourth time in a row!!"

Jeremy Lennert
United States California

Interesting games exist in the twilight region where you can make a plausible guess at the best move but you can't be sure.
I think it's important to utilize all the mathematical tools you can when balancing your game, but it's also important to remember that if your math alone was good enough to balance the game then the game would probably suck.

Jake Staines
United Kingdom Grantham Lincolnshire

NeoGenesisX wrote: in the end, I realized, nothing can beat playtesting.
I've been fiddling around with a game which incorporates some deckbuilding on the backburner for some time, and I just skipped the maths part and went straight to the playtesting!
My initial guesses were a way out in places, and fairly good in others; this isn't radically different from other attempts at other games where I've tried to work out the statistical spread I want beforehand.
The two problems I'm having with designing a deckbuilder are free time and the inclination to repeatedly guillotine sheets of 9up cards and slide them into sleeves only to find that something small needs changing on all of them. ;)



In these types of games I think if you have a way to combat everything you put in the game or rather "do" or "undo" you will be fine. Cards will come up as they will. There is no control on how cards come up. There is control on what those cards can do or not do. To me is is a question of balance. You may have great cards in the deck but if they do not come up than it matters not for that one play of the game. however on the next play you may get that card first thing. So ensuring that the game has balance and meaning is much more important.
part of the fun and the mechanic of a card game is the randomness of the cards and how they come up. My very first game design this was toiled over for months and in the end it hurt our ability to design out parts of the game in my opinion looking back. In other games I have made i now focus on balance and the games are better for it. it does not matter what is going on in the card game as long as the game has meaning and balance for all players.
/cheers


