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Subject: Designing a Drafting Set rss

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Jack Kelly
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This is a cross-post of http://accesspace.proboards.com/thread/487/designing-draftin... , in case there are any BGGers still following this game.

I still have a pile of my old cards kicking around, and the obvious thing to do is make up several preconstructed decks that are balanced relative to each other and play it like a board game. But what if I wanted to give my friends the deckbuilding experience as well?

A drafting cube seems like a really good way to get that experience into a single sit-down event. Have 4 players (one each of Rogues, Marines, Predator, Aliens), draft decks, build something and then play. Being able to adjust the power level of the game by controlling the card pool is also interesting to me, because it doesn't mean double-camo-double-caster predators every game. Weapons like the Collapsible Spear and Throwing Disk become much more interesting. I found this pair of articles on draft cube design (for Android:Netrunner) to be really good reading:

Cube Drafting 101 describes the basic idea of how the cube works and describes a few different types of draft, and
Cube Drafting 201 talks about card roles, power levels and how they fit into the cube.

Aaaand... that's where the wheels come off. Because so many cards are tied to specific species, I don't know how to design the draft rules to work well.

The obvious first step is to create starter packs for each race. These would have low-power cards that guarantee you can at least make a legal deck. Cards like Rogue Mercenaries and Zip Guns, Marine Privates and Garrison packs, Young Tusk and a Scattergun or Young Queen and Alien Warriors.

Open Question: What's the best way to handle other main characters? The choice of Marine main characters in particular determines a lot about the deck you're trying to play (Lt. Campbell or Bishop give you CP or research points, whether or not you bring a smartgunner, etc.). This suggests that they should be in the draft somehow, but they have zero relevance to the Alien or Predator players. A card like Cpl Hicks is so good that even though it's totally useless for other players, I can still see it being a first pick just to shut down Marines. Cards like Pvt Distephano are good because he's interesting for both Rogues and Marines. Some possible solutions:

* Allow the Rogue player to use non-Marine human main characters (Kane, Parker, etc.). Stretches the fiction, but makes them more useful.
* Allow the Alien and Predator players to find human main characters at certain locations (Barracks for Marines?)
* Set up a pick/ban system: put a fixed set of Marine main characters into the marine starter. Before the main draft begins, the Marine player sets them out on the table and picks one. The other players then ban one main character (each? as a group?) and the process repeats. The Marine player is not obliged to use all the characters he selected, but he goes into the main draft knowing what cards to look out for. This might work not work so well for Rogues, as they are very synergistic with each other by name (e.g., Hillard/Elgyn), but it seems like it might be an acceptable mechanic for Predators.

Open Question: How to fit in Human Items (Weaponry, Prohibited Weaponry, Equipment, Military Arms)? There is some interesting overlap here in that there are cards that apply to both Humans and Rogues, but there are cards that apply to only one or the other. Cards like Johner and Ripley 8 expand the range of cards the Rogue player is interested in. And again, the Aliens and Predators don't care at all. Some possible solutions:

* Allow the Predator player to include human items in his deck and to evacuate human items from the shuttle/ship/mothership as trophies, scoring honor.
* Set aside fixed decks of Weaponry, Equipment and Military Arms. When a character uses the ability of the Weapons Locker or Equipment Warehouse, they may take the first card from that item deck as the item they find, instead of searching their deck. When a character uses the ability of the Armory, they choose which deck to take items from.
* If the Marine player drafts Pvt Distephano, allow him to take a Lacrima 99 without drafting it separately.

Open Question: How to fit in Predator Items? The Marines MIGHT care, IF they have a way of generating research points, AND IF they draft a Predator item, AND IF they draft New Era in Science. That's a lot of ifs. Nobody else is interested. But on the other hand, the other players really don't want to see yet another big predator & camouflage suit & plasma caster like every other game. I don't like the item deck solution here because the predator player need to have control over what items he brings into the game, especially if playing for an honor victory. Maybe the predator player should have a pick/ban system like the marines do, but players pick and ban across a pool of Predator main characters & Predator Items? So if the pred player picks plasma caster, the other players might ban camouflage suit or sharp eye. Allowing the Marine player to include items banned from the predator's pool allows New Era in Science, but it might just be easier to not include any Research Point cards in the cube - it's quite an underdeveloped mechanic anyway.

Observation: The main cards that are interesting for multiple species are Events, Locations and Supporting Characters. Maybe it's best to build the cube from those only?

Open Question: How should locations be handled? I can see the Armory being a first pick for any species because it shuts down Marines so hard. Possible solutions:

* Add a deckbuilding rule: If you draft a location, you have to include it in your deck. If you're playing Marines, you at least know that the Armory is going to show up somewhere, even if you didn't get it.

* Add a separate location deck: Provide a set of starting locations for each player, but shuffle all the other locations into a big deck and reveal one per turn? A deck consisting of 20 singleton locations, and an Elevator every 5th card could make for an interesting battlefield.

I'm writing this mostly to clarify my own thinking, but if there's anyone else out there who wants to chip in, I'm all ears.

-- END TRANSMISSION --
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Jack Kelly
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I've been reading the custom STACKS scenario RogueThirteen posted a few years ago at ( https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/692614/custom-stacks-scenar... / https://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/69816/stacks-custom-avp-c... ), and there's a lot I like that could fit in here:

* I'm considering setting up a colony with a Marine and Alien presence, with the Rogues raiding and the Predators dropping by to hunt.

* Rogues start with their custom starting location, The Betty.

* Rogues and Predators can move their ships between Entry locations (though the Rogues need a pilot to do this). I'm thinking that I'll continue to start the Marines at the Barracks, because there are only four entry locations in the game (Airlock, Hived Airlock, Landing Pad and Docking Bay), and having three of them tied up in starting locations will make it too crowded for moving around.

* As much as I like the fixed locations in STACKS, locations are one of the most important types of card in the draft: they're usable by all species. Option: Give each player a fixed set of 5 starting locations, and then have them draft 5 more, before the main draft? So each player would have a pack of 5 random locations, choose 1, pass left, repeat for 10 locations in total (5 fixed + 5 drafted)? Then they choose how to distribute their locations between their two levels of the complex.

* The other option is to stop overcomplicating things, and give each player something like 20 fixed cards and draft five packs of ten build 40-card decks. This could be really bad, because if you get a pack that massively skews to one species, they'll get screwed, but I think that's rare enough that gain from having more card types that can be drafted across players will make it worthwhile.

* I think the general power level of the fixed cards is going to end up higher than I first thought. For example, I think I will have to put at least two Field Packs and the Armory in the Marine starter for them to stand a chance. They are such a gear-dependent faction.
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Jack Kelly
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In this post, I'm going to set out the scenario structure I plan to use, and the starter decks I've sketched out.

The scenario layout I'm using is inspired by the STACKS scenario. Each player will start with 10 locations set out as follows:

X - X - X - X - E
A - B - X - X - O

X = Any Location
A = Start Location 1 (Airlock, Barracks, Predator Shuttle, Breeding Chamber)
B = Start Location 2 (Cargo Bay, Armory, Landing Pad, Hived Cryonics)
E = Elevator
O = Operations

(Characters can move between Operations and any Elevator for one movement point.)

Players can replace the locations in their starter (except for A, B, E, O and the Docking Bay for Marines) with locations they pick up during the draft.

10 locations per player may be too large. I may cut this down to 8 or switch to a location deck system (see the official Countdown scenario).

For victory conditions, it's the usual "kill all opposing main characters or..."

Rogue - Steal 10 data tokens
Marine - Evacuate 5 civilians
Pedator - Meet honor requirement and evacuate
Alien - Hive everything

I'm also using a modified version of the "colonist deck" from STACKS. Each search round, one supporting charater is taken from the colonist deck and placed into play at their specific location. If their location is not in play, they are discarded. Here are the 10 characters that I've chosen for the colonist deck:

1x Black Marketeer (Tavern)
1x Company Official (Corporate Office)
1x Corporate Agent (Operations)
1x Dockworker (Docking Bay)
1x Engineer (Engineering)
1x Mechanic (Machine Shop)
1x Pet (Living Quarters)
1x Security Chief (Security Station)
1x Quartermaster (Equipment Warehouse)

Here are the starter lists I'm planning to use. When I set these up, I had the following objectives in mind:

* Each starter should be 20 cards.
* Each starter should have a location with the Hi-Tech resource. I'm going to include Electronics Tech in the draft for players who want more supporting characters.
* Operations should be the only location with the Civilian resource. This means that if you want Staff Workers, you can get them but it's fair for everyone. Aliens get Living Quarters as well so they have enough food.
* Each starter should have a location with the Hive resource to allow Aliens to pressure early. This should incentivise drafting other locations.
* As many starters as possible should have a non-Operations location that is Central. This means that drafting Main Corridor gives you additional connections.
* Each starter should have three locations (including Operations) that are referenced by the colonist deck.
* Each faction should be able to get their gear (or food) without having to draft additional locations.
* Each starter should have an Entry location. Because I don't have a copy of Conestoga Class and lack the art skills to proxy up The Betty (custom card from STACKS) I'm considering using a variant of STACKS' pilot rules: A Pilot who spends their entire movement phase may move between entry locations and take any number of friendly or controlled characters with them.
* Each starter should have cards from Premiere only. This provides visual consistency and Resurrection tends to have crazier effects which make the draft more exciting.

Rogues:

1x Airlock
1x Cargo Bay
1x Operations
1x Elevator
1x Stairwell
1x Hived Corridor
1x Machine Shop
1x Equipment Warehouse
1x Weapons Locker
1x Power Plant

4x Rogue Mercenary
1x Zip Gun
1x Thermos Gun
1x Collapsible Shotgun
1x Wrist Guns
1x P.T.V.
1x Portable Data Drive

I have gone with 4x Rogue Mercenary to incentivise drafting of other rogues, but I may swap one for Hillard. (The pilot-move rule may make Rogues too rushy?) P.T.V. is in there so Vriess is useful without needing to draft it separately, and there's a good variety of prohibited weapons. Weapons Locker lets them use drafted shotguns, ammo, etc., but I'm not sure about Equipment Warehouse. Having Quartermaster as a potential hostage could be very swingy if the marines get a hold of him. I had to go with Hi-Tech locations to give everyone access to a common supporting character, but that means that Rogues can do data theft without leaving their part of the board. Not sure about this, especially if they draft Call.

Marines:

1x Barracks
1x Armory
1x Operations
1x Elevator
1x Stairwell
1x Hived Storage
1x Computer Center
1x Docking Bay
1x Meeting Hall
1x Isolated Corridor

1x Cpl Hicks
3x Marine Private
2x Field Pack
1x M41a Pulse Rifle
1x Shotgun
2x Garrison Pack

Marines need their gear and some good characters to not suck, hence the Armory, Hicks and 3 Pulse Rifles. There's enough stuff in there to armour everyone if necessary, but I'm thinking it might be worth switching out generic privates for some of the 2/4 characters. A smartgunner (Pvt. Rogers?) might be good for the same reason as P.T.V. in the Rogues starter. Meeting Hall and Isolated Corridor are filler locations, but I want to save the interesting locations for the draft itself.

Predator:

1x Predator Shuttle
1x Landing Pad
1x Operations
1x Elevator
1x Stairwell
1x Hived Lounge
1x Corridor
1x Atmosphere Processor
1x Infirmary
1x Engineering

1x Young Tusk
1x Gray Stripe
1x Eager Youth
1x Camouflage Suit
1x Mask
1x Ceremonial Armor
1x Melee Claws
1x Throwing Disk
1x Predator Medkit
1x The Hunt

I've put in a range of predators for different styles: Eager Youth for a quick hunt, Grey Stripe for a strong but risky pick (so you'll want to replace him), and Young Tusk for something in-between. Every other ranged weapon seems strictly superior to Throwing Disk, so it's a good starting item. Darts are just too weak on their own, and I can't see a compelling reason for complicating the rules with binding and attacks-to-capture or Neuro Toxin.

Alien:

1x Breeding Chamber
1x Hived Cryonics
1x Operations
1x Elevator
1x Stairwell
1x Hived Airlock
1x Hived Main Corridor
1x Hived Plant
1x Living Quarters
1x Communications Center
3x Coocooned Victim
3x Sleeper
1x Alien Queen
3x Alien Warrior

Pretty straightforward, but I may have given the aliens player too much easy food. We'll see. I could cut back and add Face Huggers, Chest Bursters or events like There's Something In Here to the starting characters for the scenario.
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Jack Kelly
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Okay, session report time!

So I got a chance to test the cube out over the holidays, when I caught up with old friends from high school. I was the only one who had recent AvP experience, but two of the other three players played regularly in high school and were in a game I set up a year before, with preconstructed decks.

I decided to go with a simpler draft, using a single cube with a roughly balanced complement of cards for each faction. I've put up the cube list, starters and rules summaries in the files section.

The draft itself was a bit of a shambles. We used 5x13 card packs, with 9 picks per pack (discarding the last 4). 45 cards is the same number of picks as a booster draft in Magic, but by the second pick most species didn't have anything left that they cared about, and five packs made it feel much more exhausting.

I was the only person who really knew the cardpool, and managed to pick Display of Skill, Chapel and Heat of Battle. The other players felt like there were very few difficult choices, so picking the most appropriate card from each pack was just boring.

The actual game itself was a blast. Given the picks I'd got, I decided to rush low-honour and chose Eager Youth and didn't pull items. I drew Heat of Battle and Chapel very early on, and hit 10CP with Display of Skill in hand. Except that nobody else had connected to the central locations and cheesing out the win would have been a poor test of the game. So I took Eager Youth through the Access Space and went after the SCs to threaten the win.

While Eager Youth was showing off, the Aliens had been steadily consuming Sleepers and Cocooned Victims, and had a stack of doom online. As the second species to connect, the swarm overtook Eager Youth and shredded him in one attack.

The humans, now equipped, were next to connect up, and for a short time Marines and Rogues stood shoulder-to-shoulder to try and stop the Alien menace. As soon as it looked like the Aliens wouldn't make it, the Rogues turned their guns on the Marines.

The Aliens had a few more tricks and took down the Rogues. Meanwhile, the last Marines snuck off to the Security Station and recruited the Security Chief. A final showdown between the Warrior Queen and the last remaining humans hung on a couple of key dice rolls, but in the end the Aliens were the superior species.

So overall, the game generated some cool moments, but as a way of combining a deckbuilding challenge and a gameplay challenge in a one-shot package I consider it a failed experiment. A group of four AvP veterans might have different results.

While the cube had interesting locations and gave players the ability to control how quickly they connect up (through cards like Access Space and Found 'Em), connection still took too long and there were many dud turns while everyone kitted up and cycled their decks.

For the effect I'm trying to achieve, I think I will borrow the system from the Star Wars LCG: deckbuilding is a set of pods and shuffling them together, instead of individual cards. Maybe providing each faction with 10 5-card pods, and have them choose 6 to make a 30-card deck?

I may also have to look into doing some house-ruling, because the combat steps drag the game to a screeching halt once there's a big punch-up. The way outnumbering works and the impact of wounds on characters also seems to trap people into big confrontations, and that defeats the purpose of so many of the cool locations in the game.
 
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