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Subject: This would be cool... rss

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Craig C
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Back in the 90s there was a game called Budokan for SEGA Genesis. The protagonist, a karate student, worked his way through the various training/sparring areas of the dojo, learning the skills he'd need to compete in the Budokan, a big karate tournament. The thing separating it from the field was a great mechanic that I'd love to be able to duplicate in board/card form, but can't figure out how, so I'm throwing it out to the geekverse.

There was no "leveling up" or "unlocking" of moves at all; every single technique could be performed by the player from day one, if only they knew how. The basic moves were fairly easy, involving a single button-press or stick-and-button combo, but the fanicer moves involved precise coordination between button(s) and d-pad that, just like real life, took practice. There was also a fatigue aspect; simply mashing buttons would result in your fighter collapsing in exhaustion early in the fight, so it took several sparring sessions to get the hang of judicious energy use.

So, how can a boardgame force/enable the player to get better at fighting (or a different skill) solely through instruction and practice/repetition?

Can it work if you have all the "move" cards you need right from the start, and merely have to figure out, or be shown by in-game teachers, how to properly combine them to execute advanced moves?

The answer may be as simple as "that's what MtG does" (I hope not), but MtG also requires you to blindly purchase things to unlock combos, so that's not quite what I'm looking for.

What say you, geeks?
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Perry Fergin
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Tricky! You'd need something difficult to do, but can get better with practice. The most immediate method would be a dexterity challenge of some sort. Otherwise, you could use some complicated math that must be calculated, or a code to learn.
My impression of Serpent's Tongue is that it attempts to do something like this.
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Ian Hedberg
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Unlike in a computer game, in a physical game at least one of the players needs to know the rules in order to execute them. You can have players learn rules only at certain points in the game via sealed rulebook (like Betrayal at House on the Hill). But a player won't be able to execute a move before they learn about it because before they see it in the rulebook, they will have no way of knowing if a given combination is a legal move or not. Perhaps the rulebook lists all possible combinations and whether or not they are a move, and you have to carefully skim past the combinations you aren't supposed to look at yet.

You could also have a gamemaster who knows the rules verify if a move is correct or not to the other players.

Once a player learns the moves, then they have a huge advantage over beginners because beginners will need to learn the moves all over again while experts can begin using them right away, that is, unless ...

... whether or not a move is legal is determined in each game when the move is first tried. This will surely be frustrating. You could also have some number of legal moves created at the start of the game and hidden, then slowly revealed over the course of the game. It wouldn't be possible then to accidentally discover a move, though, because if you execute a move before it is revealed there's no way to verify if it's a legal move without someone looking at the list of legal moves this game and ruining the mystery. You'd have to treat it as an illegal move, unless you're willing to have a gamemaster.
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David Singleton
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My first thought would be to implement some randomness. For example:

Player A has skill X.

At the beginning of the game, skill X has a 1 in 6 chance of being successful. The player announces that they are going to use the skill and rolls a die. On a 1-5, the skill fails. If they roll a 6, the skill is successful, and better yet, the next time they try to use it, it has a 1 in 3 chance of success (success on a 5 or 6). You could keep increasing the skill with each successive success to some maximum value.

With this type of system, you could easily set different skills to different levels at the beginning of the game (perhaps through some point system), but all would be available. It would also introduce risk/reward. Do I want to try a complex skill with high chance of failure, or an easier skill that would probably work?
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Perry Fergin
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The Loneliest Banana wrote:
Unlike in a computer game, in a physical game at least one of the players needs to know the rules in order to execute them. You can have players learn rules only at certain points in the game via sealed rulebook (like Betrayal at House on the Hill). But a player won't be able to execute a move before they learn about it because before they see it in the rulebook, they will have no way of knowing if a given combination is a legal move or not. Perhaps the rulebook lists all possible combinations and whether or not they are a move, and you have to carefully skim past the combinations you aren't supposed to look at yet.

You could also have a gamemaster who knows the rules verify if a move is correct or not to the other players.

Once a player learns the moves, then they have a huge advantage over beginners because beginners will need to learn the moves all over again while experts can begin using them right away, that is, unless ...

... whether or not a move is legal is determined in each game when the move is first tried. This will surely be frustrating. You could also have some number of legal moves created at the start of the game and hidden, then slowly revealed over the course of the game. It wouldn't be possible then to accidentally discover a move, though, because if you execute a move before it is revealed there's no way to verify if it's a legal move without someone looking at the list of legal moves this game and ruining the mystery. You'd have to treat it as an illegal move, unless you're willing to have a gamemaster.


A gamemaster is an excellent idea.

Alternatively, you could have some gimmick. Suppose, for example, each combo element had a card with a different pattern of holes, like punch cards. You'd select, say, three elements to make a combo from, insert their cards in a plastic sleeve of some sort, and stick a stick through a hole. If the holes line up, the stick goes through, and the combo works. Maybe each element could be attached to a different card every game.
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M. Rubinelli
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You could try using some kind of puzzle. For example, you could use Tangram, and make each kind of move a different silhouette. The only problem I see with puzzles is that they don't have a smooth mastery curve; in most cases, you have an 'aha!' moment after which they don't represent a challenge anymore.
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David Singleton
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drsingle wrote:
My first thought would be to implement some randomness. For example:

Player A has skill X.

At the beginning of the game, skill X has a 1 in 6 chance of being successful. The player announces that they are going to use the skill and rolls a die. On a 1-5, the skill fails. If they roll a 6, the skill is successful, and better yet, the next time they try to use it, it has a 1 in 3 chance of success (success on a 5 or 6). You could keep increasing the skill with each successive success to some maximum value.

With this type of system, you could easily set different skills to different levels at the beginning of the game (perhaps through some point system), but all would be available. It would also introduce risk/reward. Do I want to try a complex skill with high chance of failure, or an easier skill that would probably work?


At the risk of poor form for replying to my own post, within this system you could also set a particularly valuable skill to be a ridiculously poor choice (e.g., a 1 in 20 chance of success), but during the game an event (e.g., a dojo master trains you in the skill) immediately raises it to a new minimum value (e.g., 10 in 20 chance of success).

Sorry. Brainstorming.
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Craig C
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Lots of good ideas here, brethren. Thanks for the input, and keep it coming. This is turning from an idle thought into something I might actually attempt to create, hehe. Maybe others will, too.

A gamemaster would work, and the increasing chance concept is a good one, even though it does approach "leveling up" (not sure that's totally avoidable in a board/card game).

And from training for years in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, I can attest that "Aha!" moments are more the rule than the exception: developing certain skills isn't usually a linear thing.

Dexterity contests are probably the best way to simulate this idea, but depending on what's involved, it'd be challenging to keep the contests thematic without resorting to actual karate itself, instead of a board game.
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fin coe
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Couple possibilities:
- Players could have cards representing video game controls: A-button, B-button, D-Pads.

- 'Moves' could be represented statically by a deck of cards that you draw, say, three options from each time. The top (visible face) of each card has the illustration and name of the move, and the reverse has the combination needed to play it. So this turn, the three moves available to you are "Lightning Kick", "Hadouken", and "Drunken Paw". You pick which one (or two, or even three) to attempt, and lay out your sequence of cards. You then turn over the cards to see whether you matched up the ones you attempted. You resolve any successes, and discard the three moves (to be re-integrated into the deck, with or without shuffling, after the deck is empty). High memory element.

- For a more dynamic take, maybe the move cards are different combos each game. When you get a move card, you play it in front of you. And every turn, you draw cards from the "Button" deck (A,B, D-Pad) and place it in front of each move. Once a Move has the requisite number of cards in front of it (say, 3 for a basic Move like "Drunken Paw" and 6 for a super-Move like "Hadouken") that's the combo, you've "learned" it. As combos come together, you can see what cards you're going to need for them, and start drafting or building reserves of the Button cards you'll need the most.

- Hand size / draw count can represent the energy in this scenario. Playing your entire hand and hoping to get lucky is the button mash in this instance.

Hope this is food for thought.
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The Chaz
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drsingle wrote:

Sorry. Brainstorming.

Don't apologize! I wish there were more of this going on (or that I were aware of more of this!).
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Craig C
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That could work, fin, and I was just thinking about your stamina represented by the number of cards in your hand. If you can't play a card, you're out of gas, and any hit defeats you.

Another neat mechanic used in Magic Realm that could work here: if you get hit, you discard a move (their advanced move tokens also represent the player's health), so the more of a beating you take, the less you're able to do, and the closer to defeat (unable to play a card) you get.

So maybe you start out with an Attack, a Defense and a Rest card (super-basic). Attack causes the other player to discard a card, unless the other player plays Defense, in which case they both discard (perhaps an un-Defended Attack causes a permanent discard, or something). Playing Rest allows you to pick up all your discarded cards, possibly except the Rest you just played, but if you get Attacked at the same time, you have to immediately discard one.

As you visit different areas of the dojo for training, you get to draw cards to add to your deck. This is really sounding like leveling up, but it could also show progression as a fighter, and maybe it's still up to the player to figure out how and when to use those cards in a fight for max benefit.
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Carrot Ironfoundersson
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fcoe wrote:
Couple possibilities:
- Players could have cards representing video game controls: A-button, B-button, D-Pads.

- 'Moves' could be represented statically by a deck of cards that you draw, say, three options from each time. The top (visible face) of each card has the illustration and name of the move, and the reverse has the combination needed to play it. So this turn, the three moves available to you are "Lightning Kick", "Hadouken", and "Drunken Paw". You pick which one (or two, or even three) to attempt, and lay out your sequence of cards. You then turn over the cards to see whether you matched up the ones you attempted. You resolve any successes, and discard the three moves (to be re-integrated into the deck, with or without shuffling, after the deck is empty). High memory element.

- For a more dynamic take, maybe the move cards are different combos each game. When you get a move card, you play it in front of you. And every turn, you draw cards from the "Button" deck (A,B, D-Pad) and place it in front of each move. Once a Move has the requisite number of cards in front of it (say, 3 for a basic Move like "Drunken Paw" and 6 for a super-Move like "Hadouken") that's the combo, you've "learned" it. As combos come together, you can see what cards you're going to need for them, and start drafting or building reserves of the Button cards you'll need the most.

- Hand size / draw count can represent the energy in this scenario. Playing your entire hand and hoping to get lucky is the button mash in this instance.

Hope this is food for thought.


I like the sound of that, as it totally removes the leveling up aspect and requires the player to "learn" the moves by memorising the combos - which are only shown to the player when the card is turned over and lost again when the card is returned to the deck.

You would need enough different moves, for example if you only have 6 - they will get memorised really quickly, if you have 25 it will take much longer.

You could also add a die roll to add some element of chance. Either as a chance of success after correctly identifying the combo to determine how well you did - or maybe as a final chance to replace one of the cards you played to complete the correct combo.
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Craig C
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escribblings wrote:
I like the sound of that, as it totally removes the leveling up aspect and requires the player to "learn" the moves by memorising the combos - which are only shown to the player when the card is turned over and lost again when the card is returned to the deck.

You would need enough different moves, for example if you only have 6 - they will get memorised really quickly, if you have 25 it will take much longer.

You could also add a die roll to add some element of chance. Either as a chance of success after correctly identifying the combo to determine how well you did - or maybe as a final chance to replace one of the cards you played to complete the correct combo.


I like that. All the moves are laid out "name side up"/"combo side down", and you announce what you're doing, lay out your combo cards, then flip the move card over and see if you've done it correctly. So the more you practice (play the game), the more combos you'll remember and the better fighter you'll be.

Also it'll allow you to plan a strategy, deciding whether to memorize and reuse certain core moves, or attack with a wide variety, providing you can remember them all.

And perhaps the number of cards you play to execute the move is tied to your stamina. More exotic moves might cause more damage, but might also tire you out quicker.
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Craig C
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We're onto something now, I think.

When you arrive at the dojo, all the move cards are laid out. Perhaps the player has a limited number of combo cards, things like "punch-head", "punch-body", "high kick", "low kick", "block", "slip/dodge", "jump", etc.

Training: certain areas will allow you to "learn" a move, flipping one card over to look at its combo, then putting it back down. Other areas may allow you to build up your available combos by drawing new combo cards, or build up your stamina by drawing more "Rest" cards.

Perhaps a tournament comes along every few turns, so you have to plan how much time you're going to spend learning moves, increasing your combo/Rest cards, etc.

Then it's time to step onto the mat and see what you've learned, grasshopper.
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fin coe
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I like the idea of stamina being the same as what we would traditionally make "health" or "HP". Fitst well with the dojo theme; you're not really looking to hurt your opponent, you're looking to subdue them with skill and wear them out.
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fcoe wrote:
I like the idea of stamina being the same as what we would traditionally make "health" or "HP". Fitst well with the dojo theme; you're not really looking to hurt your opponent, you're looking to subdue them with skill and wear them out.


Exactly. And tying it to losing move/combo cards makes thematic sense, too. I remember one of my first classes a guy yelling to me while I was rolling, "Bring your right arm in! He's going for an Americana!" and me replying, "I'm so tired, I can't even move my right arm."

More thoughts:

Some type of Focus, so maybe if I play a move, and you play a block, I can spend a Focus or two to hit you anyway. Or possibly Focus will allow me to change my move mid-stream. Perhaps there's a Zen Garden area of the dojo when you can get Focus tokens.

Moves that have added effect if your opponent does certain other moves. If you go for a high kick and I do a foot sweep, your kick misses and you get dumped hard to the ground, possibly having to discard two extra cards instead of one, or something along those lines. Squat/duck vs. a high kick dodges the attack, but squat/duck vs. a low kick results in double damage.
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Ben Rubinstein

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Not sure how the rest of the game would work, but it could almost be like a reverse deckbuilding mehcanic? You start out with a deck of 20 cards, draw 5 on a turn, and need a specific 3 to do some sort of special action? But by removing cards from your deck you create a better likelyhood to perform the special action with each hand.

Some special actions would counter other special actions, so judging from what cards other players trash you can try to counter them?

Not much of a game in in itself, but it could be an interesting component.
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bird94us wrote:
Then it's time to step onto the mat and see what you've learned, grasshopper.


How do you see that part of it playing out? Player A drops down the 3 or 4 cards to execute a great move, and claims it meets the requirements of move X. Player B disagrees. How do you validate?

Not trying to be a wet blanket just as your idea is getting some traction, but that's the point I'm stuck on myself.

The combinations, once discovered/learned, would have to be preserved somehow.

My own direction for this was a little different; not a memory thing. It borrows the basics from Mastermind...

One player is a student, the other the master. (I think both players should have a shot at being both student and master, if it can be worked out).

To set up a move, a master lays a card out (call it a Combo card) that has the name of the move and all of its game effects, like "Body Throw". Next to that card, face-down, the master plays cards in a line that are the required combination, like Punch, then Grab, then Twist. The Combo card shows how many cards are used to make it up; simpler combos use fewer cards. The student guesses at the move by playing cards face-up from his hand in a line next to the move. Like in Mastermind, the master gives the student clues about how close he is to mastering the move: the master places a white cube on the Combo card for each Move card the student placed in the right place, and a black cube if the student has the right card but in the wrong place.

The student might not figure out the move before the Tournament begins. In that case, the student can still attempt the move, but the move's effectiveness is lessened. The more white cubes on the card, the more effective the move is.

If the student figure it all out, the move is fully effective in the Tournament.

Just brainstorming in my own corner....

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Craig C
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It could be a "reverse deckbuilder".

My thought right now is the fight begins with each player laying their combo cards out in piles in front of themselves, maybe face-down so the other player doesn't know what they are. I'm picturing each player having 20-30 cards total, various punch, kick, squat and jump-type cards, to name a few.

Then each turn, both players pick up the combo cards they want to use to execute the desired move, holding them in their hand. When both are ready (possibly with the addition of a sand timer if you want to be hardcore), they lay their cards out and declare which move they're doing.

Move resolution might be a bit tricky. If one player gets their combo right and the other doesn't, then the correct player scores damage, so that one's easy. Damage-wise, each player discards the cards they used, and the damaged player has to discard one or two extra, possibly of the damaging player's choice.

But what if they both get them right and neither one chooses a "block"? Perhaps that's where Focus comes in, as players try to beat each other to the punch. If not, maybe it's a double-hit. It's certainly happened in real life, after all.
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Craig C
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kungfugeek wrote:
How do you see that part of it playing out? Player A drops down the 3 or 4 cards to execute a great move, and claims it meets the requirements of move X. Player B disagrees. How do you validate?


Thanks for the brainstorming, Nate. I figured the combo required for the move would be on the back of the card, so by flipping the card over you'd know if you met the requirements.

In a striking art, simple moves would only require a couple cards, like "punch" and "high" for a punch to the head, or "kick" and "low" for a kick to the body. Could even use "head" and "body" instead.

More complicated moves would require more cards, like "crouch", "kick" and "body" to perform a foot sweep.

I'd love to find a way to incorporate grappling, if possible (BJJ blue belt, so that's where my heart lies currently), so maybe the "grab" and "twist" cards you mentioned would be options, too.
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Carrot Ironfoundersson
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I am really liking the sound of this.

With the stamina side of things, each move in a combo costs stamina.

So something like a simple punch only requires you to play 1 card, but a spinning roundhouse might take 3, and so on.

The card with the move could have a description of the move, then the number of combo cards required. Allowing the player to know the move - but preventing him from using it until he has trained hard enough.

A counter to this to allow the learning of the moves, the stamina required to train the move in the dojo should be half of that required in a fight.


I also like the idea of the mastermind aspect. This in effect simplifies the game but prevents people who have played it before having an instant advantage. However, to prevent 1 player learning the move and everybody else seeing it, consider this:

Lets keep it simple and say that there are only 8 possible moves (High & Low each of Block, Punch, Kick & Special).

Each move has its own deck - lets say 10 cards in a deck for now, which makes for a 80 cards in all.

The front of each card in a "suit" would be the same and would comprise a description and a stamina cost. So all low block cards would have the same description and stamina cost.

On the back of the card would be the unique combination required to successfully complete the move. I would suggest that this unique combo is made from a selection of 6 steps (in keeping with the console theme these could be "up", "down", "left", "right", "A" and "B"). with a maximum of 4 steps to make up the combo.

By doing it this way, each player has to learn their own unique combos every game.

Stamina could be dealt with by assigning a stamina cost to a combo step, and a combo step count to each move. For example each block and each punch could require 1 combo step to complete, each kick 2 steps and each special move 4 steps. Assigning a value of "2" to each step would mean a block or a punch would cost 2 stamina but a special move would cost 8. Passing a go equals resting and could restore 4 stamina.

As an aid to learning, the stamina cost could be halved while training in the dojo and taken at face value when fighting another player.

If you want a board for the dojo (I don't know if this is necessary), it could be designed in a couple of ways - both feature the fighting arena in the centre. The first has 4 training areas (block, punch, kick, special) arranged in each corner and the second uses 8 training areas making for a total of a nine square grid.

At the beginning of each game, each player is dealt 8 cards, 1 for each move and 24 "combo step" tokens - 4 each of "up", "down", "left", "right", "A" and "B".

They then roll a die or number of dice to determine their starting stamina. I would suggest 1d6 is sufficient.

When learning a move, the player announce the move he wishes to make followed by the combo steps he thinks make up the move. The number of steps required being shown on the card. The player then turns over the card for all to see. If successful the player could increase their stamina by 2 points.

When fighting, the players take it in turns to attack and defend.

Player A attacks - if he gets his combo correct, player B must attempt to block at the same level - if the defender fails, he loses health equivalent to half the stamina cost of the attack and the attacker gets to attack again. If the defender successfully blocks the attack, each player rolls a die. If the attacker has the higher roll, the attack penetrated the block and the defender loses health as above - however this time the attacker does not get to attack again and must now defend. If the defender rolls the same or higher than the attacker, then he has truly seen off the attack and now it his chance to go on the offensive.

If a player does not have the stamina to attack or defend he must rest (restore 4 stamina) - but this allows the opponent a free attack and if correct the rester loses health as above and has to defend the next round unless the attacker has exhausted himself with that last attack.
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Andrew H
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You could also try the mystery mechanic from Clue. Each move has 2-10 cards associated with the move, and 1-5 are placed in an envelope at the start. The players practice by flipping over incorrect cards, eventually learning what's in the envelope.
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Sturv Tafvherd
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bird94us wrote:


The answer may be as simple as "that's what MtG does" (I hope not), but MtG also requires you to blindly purchase things to unlock combos, so that's not quite what I'm looking for.

What say you, geeks?


Well, I won't need to say M:tG ...

But there are certainly games where the combos are "learned" from experience, and you're not relying on random booster packs to "unlock" them.

In Dominion, and many other deckbuilding games, the cards available are face up -- public information. But it takes experience to realize how the cards interact to form combos.

Same can be said for Puerto Rico. There are overall strategies in that game that are not obvious at first glance.

Part of the fun in those games is figuring out those "combos" and hoping to be the first to surprise your friends with them. So, the question is: would you rather have the players take on the challenge of learning the depth of strategic and tactical choices ... or do you want to spoon feed them the way those Prima books publish game secrets and walkthrus?
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Craig C
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Holy crepe. Lots of great advice here, gang. Thanks for the responses. Sounds like Carrot's got a whole game of his own going with his last post (and apologies if you're a female vegetable. I'm just playing the odds). What I've been working on in my head for the past few hours is slightly different, but by all means, keep going with your idea.

Stormtower wrote:
Well, I won't need to say M:tG ...



Good thing you refrained.

Stormtower wrote:
[I]t takes experience to realize how the cards interact to form combos...Part of the fun in those games is figuring out those "combos" and hoping to be the first to surprise your friends with them. So, the question is: would you rather have the players take on the challenge of learning the depth of strategic and tactical choices ... or do you want to spoon feed them the way those Prima books publish game secrets and walkthrus?


Since I'm leaning toward making a true "fight" game, I'm going for the latter. The other interesting thing about Budokan is, like most actual combat, there aren't that many different moves to learn. The win/lose comes in perfecting them and knowing which move to use at which time. As Bruce Lee said, "I do not fear the man who's practiced 10,000 different kicks. I fear the man who's practiced one kick 10,000 times."

Really, Magic is the same way. In my opinion, having the "right" cards in your deck is about 35-40% of whether or not you win; the rest is how you play those cards.

I was hung up for a bit on "once you play the game, or once you unwrap the move cards and read the backs of all of them, you'll 'know' all the secrets," but in deference to GI Joe (since I owned the original, back when he was only one guy), knowing them is probably less than half the battle, I'm thinking. Just like Magic.

I still haven't totally worked out how you learn them, and whether or not you can attempt moves in a fight you haven't officially learned, but I'll give that more thought tomorrow.

Keep the comments coming everyone! Thanks again!
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Georg D.
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There are some real good ideas around here.

If you are willing to borrow ideas from existing games you perhaps should have a look at JAB: Realtime Boxing
I haven't played it but as far as I remember from reading some reviews some time ago you have:
- some basic moves which are easy to block
- more difficult moves which rely on combination of cards you have to try to bring these combinations out but you can't take your time as you have to react to the actions of your opponent. So there is surely some skill involved you only get by experience.
- some of the moves need combinations of your cards and your opponents cards so you have to guess what your opponent will play and have a perfect timing to make use of it.
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