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Subject: CCG Faction Design rss

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Evan Mitchell
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Hi BGG,

I'm in need of your advice. I have a strategy card game I've been working on for a while, where the cards are square and act as tokens on a board grid. I have the majority of the mechanics figured out, and I'm at the point where I need to start designing the cards themselves.

Only one thing I know is an essential to CCG design is that you should have factions. Hearthstone: Mage, Warrior, Rogue, Shaman, etc. Magic: Blue, Red, Black, Green, etc. Pokemon: Fire, Water, Grass, Electric, etc. I don't have any factions in mind at all, and it's simply not coming to me. The "theme" of my board game is largely general. It involves a mesh of science and magic, generally revolving around humans, mechs, beasts, and magical artifacts. The win condition is point capture.

How many factions is good to have?
How do you decide your factions?
What are some general objectives in creating factions?
Should factions be classified by theme or by function too?

Any advice you have to share would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Best,
Evan
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Terry Kirk
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There are no real hard and fast rules in regards to this, just something to keep in mind.

The more factions you create, the bigger the job of balancing.

Start with two and work from there,or 3 of you are using a rock paper scissors method.
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Will Lentz
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I'd say that in general, factions increase the playability of CCG style games. They force deckbuilding choices and allow you to craft flavor around the mechanics.

On the other hand, there is an upper limit to how many factions are practical to design for and still keep distinct and interesting. I'd say it's possibly from about 4-8, depending on the exact mechanics of your game, as of course, the more knobs you have to turn, the more ways you can divide them up between factions.

For most games, the sweet spot is probably more like 5-6.
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Ben Pinchback
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I would start with a "boring" baseline like humans or something. That gives you something to compare to once you start breaking the rules / adding flavor and mechanisms with the other factions.
Start with 2 until you can balance them. Make some tweaks, then once you've got it humming with 2 move on to more.
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B C Z
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My advice: Design to a stand alone card game system and not to a CCG model.
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Geordie Young
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byronczimmer wrote:
My advice: Design to a stand alone card game system and not to a CCG model.

Agreed. Sometimes, though, I notice users don't necessarily mean CCG when they say CCG. It is just their way of referring to a card game.

If you did mean Collectible Card Game, here are my 2 cents (I've noticed that this is a widely shared sentiment across the board game community):

If you want to design a game, design it for the players. CCG's are designed to make money; they are not designed FOR the players. Magic and Hearthstone are examples of games designed to make money. In this model, you can't just simply collect every card in one foul swoop. Instead, you have to keep making further investments into the game, opening packs filled with random cards, until you collect the cards you want/need. This creates an uneven playing field, and is unappealing to players (ESPECIALLY in new IP's).

Magic, Hearthstone, and Pokemon are exceptions:
Magic has the advantage of being one of the first, if not THE first CCG. Hearthstone is backed by a wildly popular IP. Pokemon is also a popular IP.

Since you have neither of those characteristics going for your game, the CCG business model has little chance of success. Fantasy Flight's LCG's and Legendary's card games, and even the recently Kickstarted Codex are all examples of how do to things differently (read better).

I hope you follow their lead and design it for the players (and even expand upon what these examples have done). If it's a good game and you go about it the right way, it will probably sell. You probably won't get rich, but you might be able to start your own game design and/or publishing company.

As far as factions go, they're usually pretty integral to a PvP card game's theme. Start with 2, then try adding more. I wouldn't go above 8, and maybe even table some factions for future expansions so that you can refine and balance what you have after a certain point.

Good luck, and may the mana be with you.
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Evan Mitchell
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GeordieY wrote:
byronczimmer wrote:
My advice: Design to a stand alone card game system and not to a CCG model.

Agreed. Sometimes, though, I notice users don't necessarily mean CCG when they say CCG. It is just their way of referring to a card game.

If you did mean Collectible Card Game, here are my 2 cents (I've noticed that this is a widely shared sentiment across the board game community):

If you want to design a game, design it for the players. CCG's are designed to make money; they are not designed FOR the players. Magic and Hearthstone are examples of games designed to make money. In this model, you can't just simply collect every card in one foul swoop. Instead, you have to keep making further investments into the game, opening packs filled with random cards, until you collect the cards you want/need. This creates an uneven playing field, and is unappealing to players (ESPECIALLY in new IP's).

Magic, Hearthstone, and Pokemon are exceptions:
Magic has the advantage of being one of the first, if not THE first CCG. Hearthstone is backed by a wildly popular IP. Pokemon is also a popular IP.

Since you have neither of those characteristics going for your game, the CCG business model has little chance of success. Fantasy Flight's LCG's and Legendary's card games, and even the recently Kickstarted Codex are all examples of how do to things differently (read better).

I hope you follow their lead and design it for the players (and even expand upon what these examples have done). If it's a good game and you go about it the right way, it will probably sell. You probably won't get rich, but you might be able to start your own game design and/or publishing company.

As far as factions go, they're usually pretty integral to a PvP card game's theme. Start with 2, then try adding more. I wouldn't go above 8, and maybe even table some factions for future expansions so that you can refine and balance what you have after a certain point.

Good luck, and may the mana be with you.


Thank you both for your advice. I encounter this advice every time at the mention of a CCG or TCG, and every time I appreciate it, because I know it's coming from good intent. I purposeful don't design the distribution model during the game's conception. I certainly would hope to have the opportunity to design expansions for the game, because to me that suggests demand and interest in the game — which would be my definition of success — but a traditional distribution model such as randomized boosters and sets is not something I would ever bank on. I'd just sell all cards in a new set as a new expansion.

Am I using the term CCG incorrectly? I did not think it inherently meant a booster-distribution model. Just a game with cards that you can collect.

And thanks for the advice on factions. I guess my struggle is that I desperately want to avoid the cliche of elemental categorization or RPG categorization: fire/water/earth/air, warrior/mage/rogue, etc. But despite that I don't have any ideas on how to categorize my factions in a way that is meaningful and contributes to the game's mechanics.

Guess I'd call it writer's block? I don't know.

Anywho, thanks again. ^_^
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Leon Kerkhoff
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A steampunk-themed faction perhaps?
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Colin Moore
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I would say don't worry about the factions from a thematic storyline standpoint yet. Instead, ask yourself what are the playstyles you mechanics lend themselves to. What are the valid strategies you foresee in this game? Build your factions around that. Then decide what the factions are thematically.
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Darren J
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Can you mixed different factions together or are they Separate?
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Geordie Young
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Soul Proprietor wrote:
I would say don't worry about the factions from a thematic storyline standpoint yet. Instead, ask yourself what are the playstyles you mechanics lend themselves to. What are the valid strategies you foresee in this game? Build your factions around that. Then decide what the factions are thematically.


And, if you haven't ironed out the mechanics or figured out a clear picture of what playstyles they lend themselves to (if you have all new, completely unique mechanics, it might not be clear yet what playstyle they best fit), consider thinking in terms of archetypes.

Examples of archetypes: control, aggro, midrange, etc.

Then, you could design factions and mechanics to fit certain archetypes. I definitely recommend making at least 1 mechanic unique to each faction you decide on. Often times that may even lead to a theme by itself without you having to do any additional thinking.
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B C Z
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Boy Jordan wrote:
Am I using the term CCG incorrectly? I did not think it inherently meant a booster-distribution model. Just a game with cards that you can collect.


From the BGG glossary:
Quote:
CCG

n. Abbreviation for Collectible Card Game. This type of game uses a basic rule structure and a large assortment of cards which each have characteristics that contradict or supplement the basic rules. Each player selects a number of cards that they own to create a deck which they use in the game. This allows players to predetermine their strategies. The game rules define how many cards must be used and how many copies of each single card are allowed. Cards are sold in "booster packs". Packs contain a fixed number of cards and usually include one "rare" card, some "uncommon" cards, and the bulk of the pack contains "common" cards. Rare cards are generally more powerful or efficient than uncommons or commons, which can lead to the problem that the person who has spent the most money on cards wins. The original collectible card game was Magic: The Gathering. Its incredible success spawned dozens of copycat games. Some were good; many were awful. Other examples are Middle-Earth, Pokemon and Netrunner


You tell me if you're misusing it. It sounds like you are. I can assure you that you will definitely lose potential players if you are using those three letters to describe your game incorrectly.

Designing with room for expansion is fine. Trimming down from a pool of X to X/2, X/3 or X/20 is good game design and lets you hone in on the interesting aspects of play that you want to introduce in a completely stand alone game.

As to factioning, look at the different 'playstyles' or 'functions' that exist in the game and focus there.

Magic: The Gathering for example:
White: Defense and Boosts
Red: Direct Damage
Black: Graveyard manipulation, regeneration
Blue: Card/Deck manipulation
Green: Big Creatures, Instant boosters

That's just a touch of what each faction/color does, but each group has their thing and there might be SOME bleed into nearby colors, but opposition colors don't tend to get the primary ideas associated with a given color.

Take your theme, break down the 'big chunks' and make a faction around each one. See how that goes, iterate, iterate, iterate.



 
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B C Z
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Quote:
The "theme" of my board game is largely general. It involves a mesh of science and magic, generally revolving around humans, mechs, beasts, and magical artifacts. The win condition is point capture.


Based on this, consider starting here:

Main groups: Magic & Science

Within each, split the sub-parts *differently* among each of the main groups.

Example:
Science - Humans & Beasts (Cyborgs, Biological Augmentation)
Science - Mechs & Artifacts (Engineers)
Magic - Humans & Artifacts (Sorcerers)
Magic - Beasts & Mechs/Golems (Control Magic / Pets)

That gives you some bleed over between factions.

The Cyborgs might pull some of the Humans or Beasts from the Magic factions, but would be unlikely to use the Mechs/Golems or Artifacts.
See where that goes.

The Sorcerers might use some of the Humans the Cyborgs have and some of the Artifacts the Engineers have, but shy away from Beasts or Mechs.

etc.

Factioning invites playstyles and focus. A "good" experience should come from playing a straight ticket within faction (see Android: Netrunner's starting play experiences for an example).

Then there has to be some kind of 'cost' to go out of faction, and a reason to.
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John
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Boy Jordan wrote:
How many factions is good to have?

Some 2-10 probably. It depends on whether they can overlap (which allows more) and exactly what you consider a faction to be.

Boy Jordan wrote:
How do you decide your factions?

I'm not a game designer but if I was I'd probably start out from theme, and figure out what a particular faction should focus on in game play based on the theme. Some designers work from theme first, some mechanics first.

Boy Jordan wrote:
What are some general objectives in creating factions?

Making the game interesting. Adding flavour, giving you something to key special abilities off, probably other thing too.

Boy Jordan wrote:
Should factions be classified by theme or by function too?

Both theme and function. Each faction should have some unique features or at least features it focuses more on. For instance in Star Realms each faction has an ability which appears on some cards of that faction but not on any other faction. There's differences in how each good each faction is at generating the resources you need too (attack, money, cards in hand) but that's a slightly less obvious distinction.
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Nate K
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Boy Jordan wrote:

How many factions is good to have?


Start with two. You can always design more, but if you CAN'T design two distinct factions with their own goals, themes, and/or mechanics, then perhaps you don't need factions.

Quote:
How do you decide your factions?


I like to approach things from a thematic standpoint, personally.

"This faction is all about the blitzkrieg--fast, hard-hitting attacks. They're going to be vehicle-heavy, but vulnerable to ambushes, traps, and flank attacks. So how do I represent that mechanically?"

"This faction hates magic and the chaos it creates. They seek to enforce order and reason by eliminating magic users. They attack in large numbers, they have ways to mitigate magical attacks, but they're not well-equipped to deal with artillery bombardments and non-magical AoE attacks."

"This faction just LOVES flying. Like, so much. They'll fly planes, choppers, griffons, dragons, hang gliders, inflated cats (don't judge, the cats love the gaseous treats they need to eat to become inflated), anything. They are all about aerial scouting and assault."

Quote:
What are some general objectives in creating factions?


Factions create thematic identities onto which players can latch.

It helps create clear mechanical strengths and weaknesses. This is useful both for the players to know how to approach the game, and for you the designer, so you know how to craft the mechanics in a balanced and interesting way. It essentially creates a massive puzzle for the players to solve. "How best can I exploit the weaknesses of the enemy player's faction while mitigating my own weaknesses?"

Factions also create story. Players can see clear conflicts between the different factions. This helps draw them into the world and the tales being woven.

Quote:
Should factions be classified by theme or by function too?


"Should" is a tricky word.

The better question is CAN factions be classified by theme, or by function? The answer is yes.

This is game design. The only rules are the ones you create!

I will say that successful factions manage to meld both theme and mechanics.

Look at Magic: The Gathering's red mana. Thematically, it's passionate, impulsive, quick-thinking, chaotic, and really, REALLY loves fire. Mechanically, it has lots of random effects (chaos and impulse); Haste creatures (passion); it can draw cards, but often at the cost of discarding cards (quick-thinking, chaos, and impulse); and throws around a LOT of dragons and fire spells.

That's a fantastic melding of the faction's thematic and mechanical identities!

Quote:
Any advice you have to share would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!


You're welcome! I hope it helps.
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Scott O'Brien
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what is the theme of your game? What is the setting?

What do the mechanics lend themselves to?

You have lots to choose from, and arent necessarily limited to the standard dungeoneering/fantasy setting...

Pirates/Ninjas/Samurai?
 
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Evan Mitchell
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Guys, thank you so much for the great help. Each of your posts has been helpful, and I actually now know how I want to do my factions.

I won't go into too much detail, but there are 3 primary factions. I'm taking a soft-lock approach. You don't have to choose only one faction and then be locked to those cards, but each faction is governed by its own resources. 3 resources in the game. If you want to add more factions, it comes at the cost of consistency. So I guess like playing more colors in Magic.

This means there are 7 "factions" total.
3 mono.
3 dual.
1 tri.

NOW, I have another question for you...

How do you guys handle tribal design? Subtypes for your characters. "Human, mech, beast, dragon," etc. My plan is to not have tribes at all, because I hate having that feeling in others games (Hearthstone) that I should only include a Beast in my deck if there's already synergy for Beasts.

But what do you think? Benefits of adding tribes when you already have factions for the segmentation?

As always, thanks for the advice.

Best,
Evan
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B C Z
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I think your 'tribes' are 'subcategories' of your main factions, yes?

So if you have 3 main factions and 3 "tribes" in each, you open up even more possibilities for focused and/or diverse play.

Is that what you want?
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Colin Moore
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You are using terminology that I don't think is familiar to most in this group. Certainly not to me. What do you mean by "tribes"?

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Nathaniel Grisham

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You can include tribes for flavor, without adding any obligation to play that way. You simply add a character or creature type to something (It doesn't have to be limited to one type, by the way; "Human Warlock" or "Orc Shaman" can work just as well as "Beast" or "Pirate"). If you don't actually want to worry about it, then it just adds a bit to the theme. If you choose to add tribal mechanics later, then you already have some of the work for it finished.
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Pablo Schulman
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Grishhammer wrote:
You can include tribes for flavor, without adding any obligation to play that way. You simply add a character or creature type to something (It doesn't have to be limited to one type, by the way; "Human Warlock" or "Orc Shaman" can work just as well as "Beast" or "Pirate"). If you don't actually want to worry about it, then it just adds a bit to the theme. If you choose to add tribal mechanics later, then you already have some of the work for it finished.


I agree with Grishhammer: better having them and not using than not having them and be limited in the future because of that. That said, if you have them, people might expect to see some sinergies or cards exploiting those subtypes.

I don't see why you don't want this sinergies. for most people that like this kind of game, building your deck and building sinergies are part of the fun.
 
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Carl Frodge
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Boy Jordan wrote:
How many factions is good to have?

4-5, depending on the game. From there you can have any number of types to differentiate these factions.

Quote:
How do you decide your factions?

Just make a list of possibilities. You can make it really simple, just colors, a little more complex (Water, Fire, Earth, etc.), or more complex (Jungle, Volcano, Canyon, etc.) Think about what fits your theme best. Do these characters get their power through special stones or planets or something?

What are some general objectives in creating factions?[/q]
Diversity in playstyle is generally the goal. You want each faction to feel different.

Quote:
Should factions be classified by theme or by function too?

Both theme and function, theme should drive function and function should drive theme.

Quote:
Any advice you have to share would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Best,
Evan

No more advice, just, good luck!
 
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Daniel Blumentritt
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Quote:
Only one thing I know is an essential to CCG design is that you should have factions.


Possibly more of an "unquestioned design assumption" than an essence.
 
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