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Subject: Promising Concept marred by Pacing Issues and lack of Agency. rss

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Silver Jade
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I want to love this game. It's got such a rich and intriguing concept... but there are too many problems. While I do suggest a couple of variants, this is more of a positing of potential solutions to problems that have cropped up in every group I've talked to that's played this game.

The first and biggest is the lack of Player Agency. This is most obvious in that there is practically nothing you can do on an opponent's turn, and with as confrontational a game as this is, that kills the excitement unless one limits each player to 1 minute or less to take a turn. Player agency also takes a hit with the Play 2 / Draw 2 mechanic, which means with most decks you max out hand size quickly and with the others you run out of cards. And since games seldom run long enough to cycle a deck, you get each card a maximum of once on average. My friends and I have found that requiring every player to discard 1 card every turn then drawing 3 cards helps a bit with the last, but only a total timing rebuild can fix the major problem.

That leads into the second issue, Pacing. Because there is almost no player agency on other players turns, you're sitting there being passive, which kills the sense of engagement. I think the game could benefit from being played in rounds with a first player token that moves around the table and face down playing / simultaneous reveal of minions, then actions... but I'm not exactly sure about how it would work.

My suggestion (and I haven't got the resources to test it) would be to structure turns like this.
1) The First Player Token moves to the player with the most points.
2) Each player, starting with the First Player and proceeding left, has the option of either playing an action or burying a card (placing it face up under that player's deck) to draw a card. Each player must take one of those two options. If your action allows you to take another action, you may do so now or wait until phase 4.
3a) Each player, starting with the First Player, then places a minion face down on a base. If you have a minion, you must play a minion on a base.
3b) If you have the option of playing additional minions, you do so face up after playing your first minion, again starting with the First Player.
4) Each player, starting with the First Player, may now play an action if they didn't play an action in step 2 or if they gained another action in either phase 2 or 3. If a player does not play an action in this phase, they must bury a card and draw another one.
5) Any additional actions or minions gained from cards played may be played now.
6) Each player draws 3 cards and discards down to 10.
X) any player can call for scoring a base any time during the round. And as always, actions that can be played out of turn can be played whenever the conditions allow. Whenever the player's deck contains no face down cards, they shuffle the face up cards and their discard pile together to make a new deck.

This keeps every player engaged at all times, keeps the game moving, cycles the deck more. Burying the cards instead of just discarding them keeps those cards from boosting the power of discard happy decks.
 
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Andrew
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While the game does have issues in large counts (4-6 players), I think your suggestions needlessly over-complicate the game in 2-3 player games. In these games, rounds are short enough that you stay engaged, plus, there are fewer players to obstruct your moves. I find that in larger numbers the game becomes more about preventing people from winning, which is much less enjoyable than focusing on your own path to victory.

With 2 other players in the game, your moves can be well-laid, like chess moves, to anticipate their own attempts to score. The surprise disruptions are what keep me coming back to the game because every faction has some edge that other players don't. The game is definitely more fun with more factions to choose from as there's more variability and you're faced with much less knowledge of the other player's hand, if they've chosen a lesser-known faction.
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Mark Turner
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I think it's a simple as don't play with 4 players.

The game works just fine at 2 or 3 in my opinion. But with 4 it drags.
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Andrew Kapish
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MrMT wrote:
I think it's a simple as don't play with 4 players.

The game works just fine at 2 or 3 in my opinion. But with 4 it drags.

Yep. I will never play another FFA 4-player game of Smash Up.
2v2 however, sign me up!
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Doug Bey
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Smash Up shines with 3 players. It's fun with 2, sure, but I'd rather play other 2-player games if given the choice.

I only recommend Smash-Up with 3. The rounds go by fast enough that there's very little downtime (unless you're playing with AP players). And having 2 opponenst opens up your options as to who to smack-down each turn.
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Andre Oliveira
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I do agree on avoiding playing with 4 if you can.

Tough the 2x2 variant might make it work better with 4 people. (play as normal, but when someone reaches 15+ VP compare the sum of VP from each team)
 
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Andre Oliveira
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Saint Sinner wrote:
Yet, somehow...I still manage to have a good time.

Probably everyone play fast enough.

In my group we almost ruled that one person should ALWAYS go with ghosts.
 
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Silver Jade
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aaj94 wrote:
While the game does have issues in large counts (4-6 players), I think your suggestions needlessly over-complicate the game in 2-3 player games. In these games, rounds are short enough that you stay engaged, plus, there are fewer players to obstruct your moves. I find that in larger numbers the game becomes more about preventing people from winning, which is much less enjoyable than focusing on your own path to victory.

With 2 other players in the game, your moves can be well-laid, like chess moves, to anticipate their own attempts to score. The surprise disruptions are what keep me coming back to the game because every faction has some edge that other players don't. The game is definitely more fun with more factions to choose from as there's more variability and you're faced with much less knowledge of the other player's hand, if they've chosen a lesser-known faction.


Most of my games have been 3 player. They feel slow and in 20+ games only two players have ever had to shuffle their decks.

The point of competitive games should always be to find ways to prevent your opponents from winning. And the reliance on having to buy more and more and more factions to keep the game fresh is a weakness and reflects the game's fundamental shallowness. It's lack of complexity makes for a lack of strategy. In fact, one of the more interesting variants I've seen just has every player start with their entire deck in their hands, just to eliminate the luck aspect and make for perfect information... but then you have a huge hand and the game is wildly unbalanced. I've read variants that recommend trimming the decks too, but that makes setup take too much time and limits those who are new to the game.

This year I bought PACG, Warhammer Conquest, Star Realms, DC & LOTR Deckbuilder, Epic, Smash Up, Quarriors, LOTR LCG, Elder Sign, Pandemic, Dominion, Tanto Cuoure, and Game of Thrones LCG. DC & LOTR were so good and had so much replayability and vibrancy I bought every expansion within 2 months time. PACG was even better. Star Realms is nice and small and plays so fast that it's my 2 player game of the year. Dominion is excellent and has plenty of ways to screw with your opponents if you use the right cards. Tanto Cuore is cute and light but not particularly great. the three LCGs are so monstrously complex that I haven't been able to teach any of my friends to play. Pandemic is nearly perfect.

But then there are Quarriors and Smash Up. Quarriors... is lacking. It has the gems of something great, but needs tweaking to be better than good. And the proof of that is that Dice Masters sells far better than Quarriors does. It's combative and collectable, while Quarriors is just quirky. Still, there are some promising variants I want to try.

But Smash Up... Smash Up needs help staying fresh without having to buy more and more and more cards. I should look forward to each new expansion to see how it syncs with my favorite factions... but all the factions as designed are blah. And the reviews on this site kinda prove it. Smash Up has a rating of just under 7... which means it's very close to being a good game... but not quite there.
 
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Andre Oliveira
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Silverjade wrote:
aaj94 wrote:
While the game does have issues in large counts (4-6 players), I think your suggestions needlessly over-complicate the game in 2-3 player games. In these games, rounds are short enough that you stay engaged, plus, there are fewer players to obstruct your moves. I find that in larger numbers the game becomes more about preventing people from winning, which is much less enjoyable than focusing on your own path to victory.

With 2 other players in the game, your moves can be well-laid, like chess moves, to anticipate their own attempts to score. The surprise disruptions are what keep me coming back to the game because every faction has some edge that other players don't. The game is definitely more fun with more factions to choose from as there's more variability and you're faced with much less knowledge of the other player's hand, if they've chosen a lesser-known faction.


Most of my games have been 3 player. They feel slow and in 20+ games only two players have ever had to shuffle their decks.

The point of competitive games should always be to find ways to prevent your opponents from winning. And the reliance on having to buy more and more and more factions to keep the game fresh is a weakness and reflects the game's fundamental shallowness. It's lack of complexity makes for a lack of strategy. In fact, one of the more interesting variants I've seen just has every player start with their entire deck in their hands, just to eliminate the luck aspect and make for perfect information... but then you have a huge hand and the game is wildly unbalanced. I've read variants that recommend trimming the decks too, but that makes setup take too much time and limits those who are new to the game.

This year I bought PACG, Warhammer Conquest, Star Realms, DC & LOTR Deckbuilder, Epic, Smash Up, Quarriors, LOTR LCG, Elder Sign, Pandemic, Dominion, Tanto Cuoure, and Game of Thrones LCG. DC & LOTR were so good and had so much replayability and vibrancy I bought every expansion within 2 months time. PACG was even better. Star Realms is nice and small and plays so fast that it's my 2 player game of the year. Dominion is excellent and has plenty of ways to screw with your opponents if you use the right cards. Tanto Cuore is cute and light but not particularly great. the three LCGs are so monstrously complex that I haven't been able to teach any of my friends to play. Pandemic is nearly perfect.

But then there are Quarriors and Smash Up. Quarriors... is lacking. It has the gems of something great, but needs tweaking to be better than good. And the proof of that is that Dice Masters sells far better than Quarriors does. It's combative and collectable, while Quarriors is just quirky. Still, there are some promising variants I want to try.

But Smash Up... Smash Up needs help staying fresh without having to buy more and more and more cards. I should look forward to each new expansion to see how it syncs with my favorite factions... but all the factions as designed are blah. And the reviews on this site kinda prove it. Smash Up has a rating of just under 7... which means it's very close to being a good game... but not quite there.

I think you probably don't like this kind of game very much. This game is a "take that" with "rule of cool" with a lot of random chance. Luck must be administrated, and usually doesn't screw up very much - unless you play with random factions.


The core set was fun for a good 30 plays. After buying 3 expansions, i can't say the game changed itself. I can't recommend a expansion for someone who doesn't enjoy the basic. Maybe you are more of a eurogamer (engine build and stuff) or wargamer.


I compare Smash up to MtG 6th around the edition. What I really like is it ISN'T CCG and it feels good to say, "i play ninja plants". It feels kinda fresh to combo around.
 
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Jay Young
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I agree that euro games never seem to like this game. All my friends who also play games hate smash up and currently it's the only game I can play and have a ton of fun playing.
 
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Andrew
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I like both Euro Games and Smash Up, but you can't mix the two. They're very different. Euro Games take so much more effort, while Smash Up is almost a silly strategy game. I think it hits a nice balance, but maybe it's not for everyone.
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Jay Young
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I disagree with the "silly" part. My friends and I theory craft smash up for the best combo's and counters to certain picks and bases. There is so much you can think and analyze with smash up. It looks like it is advertised as a silly strategy game but it is far from being just a silly strategy game. In terms of strat it is right there with MTG or Yu-Gi-Oh card games.
 
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Andrew
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The game is definitely rich, and it's my favorite game. But I feel overall players aren't too stressed playing the game. It's more of a "curses, you killed my minion" than a "f%&k everything I built is gone" game (settlers being a great example of the latter).

But yes, perhaps my choice of words was poor
 
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Isaac Herzeg
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zyocuh wrote:
In terms of strat it is right there with MTG or Yu-Gi-Oh card games.
Pffft. Yugioh became a silly no-strategy game over a year ago.
 
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Silver Jade
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Well, I finally got my group to attempt another playthrough of Smash Up, this time with my suggestions.

The game took the same amount of time, but since everyone was constantly engaged, there wasn't any down time at all. Everyone was acting or recycling constantly and it kept everything flowing nicely. We did have a couple of things we needed to sort out on the fly, like what the term "On your turn" meant (we chose the "Rule of Greatest Effect" which says, if a card can be interpreted to give the player a certain advantage, it must be interpreted that way) and when bases are scored (at the end of the round).

This increased the fighting over bases dramatically, making every one a struggle of move and counter move. I was at 13 points and the ninja dojo was threatening to resolve for 2 turns but any outcome on it with me having any presence would give me the victory so the other two got brutal and I couldn't keep a minion alive, period. But it was great, being able to recycle actions that just... In all the times I've played this game I've seldom had more than 3 minions out at a time and I've got cards talking about moving "all" my minions to an active base? When am I seriously going to have minions on more than two bases?

That said, maybe an interesting rule addition would be a second minion phase, but you can't put a minion on a base you already have a minion on. or maybe you can't put a minion on a base you're already winning.

I do find it fascinating that I post an comment thread about weaknesses in the game and suggest a rule set variant to change it... and instead of commenting on my ruleset, or even my criticism, I get told I'm just the wrong gamer type for this game and that I don't get it or am just flat out wrong by the defense of Smash Up League. This is a game that could be great with a huge number of players, just stabbing and sniping each other... but as everyone says, it's too slow with 4 players. Well, that means it's pretty slow with 3 players. The slowness just increases. Get 6 players (which one expansion will cover) and you get glacial. My version has none of that. Everyone is constantly scheming to get control of the base of their choice. It's fast, fluid, and vicious, which is what adversarial games should be. The deck cycles... still not enough, but it does cycle. All of my players last night cycled their deck... a first in playing the game.

Sure, this is a light combat game, and it should be fun and silly... but it's not MTG. MTG is the pinnacle of player agency. A good deck has something it can do almost all the time. You're seldom just waiting for your turn in mute frustration. Smash Up has the seeds of greatness, but the pacing absolutely kills it. I really liked the revised version I came up with and so did my players. It took a Meh game into a solid one.
 
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Silver Jade
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I'm not a Eurogamer or a Wargamer. I'm a gamer. There isn't really a type of game I don't like... well, miniature wargaming is so expensive I can't afford to like it. But every defense of Smash Up I've seen is qualified... "As long as you play this way" or "as long as you don't play 4 players" or "As long as you eliminate this faction". I want a game that's good for countless play throughs. That's that the sign of a great game. That's the kind of game I want to sink my money into. I can't tell you how many games of Boggle or Quiddler or Scrabble or Mile Bournes I've played. Hundreds, if not thousands. Formula D... never gets old. They're fundamentally sound games. Cooperative gaming like Pandemic and Pathfinder ACG and Elder Sign, they're fun because you win or lose collectively. Defector games (Shadows over Camelot, House on the Hill, Resistance) are fun because of the personal touch.

Games where people's faces are buried in their cards, with minimal interaction, with prolonged waits between turns. these are not good games, especially if they are competative. Every player needs to feel invested in every action... which is a weakness of games like vanilla dominion, but at least there the huge variety of each game is just incredible. Quarriors too is marred by the slowness and lack of direct action. Smash Up is a fine concept and the silliness and novelty carry far... but it's more hollow than it should have been. The base rules read like... the learner's version of a more complex and rewarding game.

The ability to burn the rulebook, as more than one game theorist has said, is the best reason to play boardgames. Customization and house rules aren't just cheating. they're the fundamental way we interract with the tools we're given. Improvement and inovation is what leads good games into better games. Roll and Move is a fundamentally flawed and tedious mechanic... but turn it into Formula D and it becomes something classic. All new games are, in some way, built on what came before. Sometimes that calls for a complete overhaul of what exists... othertimes it just calls for putting 500 dollars on free parking.
 
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Andre Oliveira
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Well, I use the lack of meaningful stuff to do in opponent's turn to plan my next turn:
A - Can I score a base?
B - Who should I disrupt/kill?

People's turns should take a minute and they should realize what they can do in opponent's turns.
Perhaps your current group has been playing smash up too slowly. I wouldn't say smash up is purely confrontational, like MtG, it's a king of the hill.

Back on the proposition at hand:
Quote:
1) The First Player Token moves to the player with the most points.
2) Each player, starting with the First Player and proceeding left, has the option of either playing an action or burying a card (placing it face up under that player's deck) to draw a card. Each player must take one of those two options. If your action allows you to take another action, you may do so now or wait until phase 4.
3a) Each player, starting with the First Player, then places a minion face down on a base. If you have a minion, you must play a minion on a base.
3b) If you have the option of playing additional minions, you do so face up after playing your first minion, again starting with the First Player.
4) Each player, starting with the First Player, may now play an action if they didn't play an action in step 2 or if they gained another action in either phase 2 or 3. If a player does not play an action in this phase, they must bury a card and draw another one.
5) Any additional actions or minions gained from cards played may be played now.
6) Each player draws 3 cards and discards down to 10.
X) any player can call for scoring a base any time during the round. And as always, actions that can be played out of turn can be played whenever the conditions allow. Whenever the player's deck contains no face down cards, they shuffle the face up cards and their discard pile together to make a new deck.

Questions:
Quote:
Wouldn't step 2 give an advantage to the winning player?
Do player turn minion face up in 3b? (this isn't clear)
How does one do step x? When were minions turned face up? (sounds like blackjack with some guessing) Is it when someone calls a scoring?

Step 3 really sounds like Game of Thrones - The board game planning phase.


The comments on pacing and player agency make me think you probably would have fun on a different game like Puerto Rico (It's a great game where player always act and have to make decisions.

-------------
On deck cycling - Draw 3 put 1 on the bottom
Let's call put at the bottom burying.
This might help on bad draws, but at the same time might help "lucky" people to come ahead faster.

It does create many more things to think about:
1 - Which cards did I bury?
2 - Which card should I bury?
3 - Are there more copies of the cards I buried? How many?
4 - Which combos can I do now that buried a card I always had as an option?
 
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Thomas Graham
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When we play we try our best to plan our turns out during other players turns so as to minimize the huge delays that can easily be caused by not doing so. We have one of our friends, Chandler, who doesn't read his cards during his turn and it literally has taken him 5+ minutes to make a decision to only play 1-2 cards then end his turn.

We are all friends so we typically just talk about something while one person plays until it's our turn.
 
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Silver Jade
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desocupado wrote:

Questions:
Wouldn't step 2 give an advantage to the winning player?
Do player turn minion face up in 3b? (this isn't clear)
How does one do step x? When were minions turned face up? (sounds like blackjack with some guessing) Is it when someone calls a scoring?


When I first formulated this, it was a thought puzzle. I've tested it a grand total of once, in actual game... which is one of the reasons I asked for feedback. I find, in actually, just passing the First Player token left is easier. But as for playing your action first giving you an advantage? Not really. I found that being first player was good for minions (your minion's effects resolve before everyone else's) but being last player for actions was often better. 3b clearly says face up. Step X should be modified to Bases are Scored at the end of turn. We tried it the other way for the first two bases and it felt wonky. The other 3 bases all played out as At end of turn and it went much smoother. Minions are turned face up as soon as the last player plays their facedown minion in step 3.

Quote:
Step 3 really sounds like Game of Thrones - The board game planning phase. The comments on pacing and player agency make me think you probably would have fun on a different game like Puerto Rico (It's a great game where player always act and have to make decisions.


I've heard good things about Puerto Rico and would probably enjoy learning to play, if someone else I knew had a copy.

-------------
Quote:
On deck cycling - Draw 3 put 1 on the bottom
Let's call put at the bottom burying.
This might help on bad draws, but at the same time might help "lucky" people to come ahead faster.

It does create many more things to think about:
1 - Which cards did I bury?
2 - Which card should I bury?
3 - Are there more copies of the cards I buried? How many?
4 - Which combos can I do now that buried a card I always had as an option?


We settled on recycling. it seemed to fit the theme better. as for luck, yes, but with up to three recycles and 5 draws per turn, the likelihood is that each player will simply cycle their deck faster and have more control. As for buried cards, they get shuffled back into your deck when you reset, so they'll get those cards back. While veteran players who've played a faction 6 or 7 times might worry about which cards they've burried, the reality is that if the card isn't helpful now or likely to be helpful in a turn or two, ditch it. No one really took more than 10 seconds to decide which card to recycle.
 
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Silver Jade
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Liukus wrote:
When we play we try our best to plan our turns out during other players turns so as to minimize the huge delays that can easily be caused by not doing so. We have one of our friends, Chandler, who doesn't read his cards during his turn and it literally has taken him 5+ minutes to make a decision to only play 1-2 cards then end his turn.

We are all friends so we typically just talk about something while one person plays until it's our turn.


We don't, by and large, allow non-game specific talk at the table when we're playing, as it ruins the feel and flow of the game. We have enough distractions as it is.
 
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Andre Oliveira
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Then for clarity sake try this writing:
Quote:
3b) Turn all face down minions, face up and resolve their abilities, starting with the First Player.
3c) Then if any player have any additional minion plays, they play those face up and resolve their abilities immediately, starting with the First Player.
3d) Afterwards each player may use any minion's talents, starting with the First Player.

--------
Puerto Rico
I think you can play it on brettspielwelt. And I'm 99% sure Tabletop simulator has it. If you really like it after playing online, buy it afterwards.

----
On Recycling/Burying
I'd suggest discarding instead of putting at the bottom. You'd have less information to manage that way (and decks end up faster).
 
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desocupado wrote:

On Recycling/Burying
I'd suggest discarding instead of putting at the bottom. You'd have less information to manage that way (and decks end up faster).

Zombies also get more powerful than they already are which isn't needed.
 
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Owl_on_Caffeine wrote:
desocupado wrote:

On Recycling/Burying
I'd suggest discarding instead of putting at the bottom. You'd have less information to manage that way (and decks end up faster).

Zombies also get more powerful than they already are which isn't needed.

The deck also ends faster which is bad for them.
 
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Jay Young
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Owl_on_Caffeine wrote:
zyocuh wrote:
In terms of strat it is right there with MTG or Yu-Gi-Oh card games.
Pffft. Yugioh became a silly no-strategy game over a year ago.


Stopped Playing when I graduated high school 5 years ago XD I stopped when the big decks were syncro cat, light sworn and plants XD
 
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