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Subject: Starting Hand and Resource Cost rss

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Matthew Gruenwald
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I am designing a deck building game. I had 2 questions.
First, how many deck builders exist out there that have a 6-card hand (starting deck would be 12 cards)?
Secondly, I have resource cards (similar to copper, silver and gold in Dominion) that players use to buy other cards and better resource cards.
Because I want the starting hands to have 6 cards (12 card starting deck). The hand would consist of 6 1-point resource cards and 6 other cards.
I have the resource cards prices for purchase and what they offer when they get played as follows:

Basic: 0 to buy and offers 1 resource
Moderate: 3 to buy and offers 2 resource
Advanced: 7 to buy and offers 4 resource

Does this seem fair and reasonable for a 6 card starting hand?
I don't want a player to be able to buy an advanced resource card in their first turn (if they draw all resource cards for their first hand)
Also, does the moderate one seem too cheap? A player could essentially buy 2 moderate resource cards on their first turn.
Are there any games that do this? Or can anyone offer some pros and cons to doing it this way?
 
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maf man
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judging the price to resource, that seems ok. As long as its all given to each of the players it will be fair. What will make it seem too much is the rest of the game. Consider dominion, if gold was worth 4 vs the 3 it is it would be way too valuable of a card.
 
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Jeremy Lennert
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IIRC Thunderstone used a 6-card hand.

How to balance your basic currency cards depends on how quickly you want economies to grow and what other cards they are competing against, but it is worth noting that:

1. in Dominion, Gold is quite an attractive card to buy (it's hard for other $6 and $7 cards to compete against it), so if you are aiming for a similar progression to Dominion, it may be helpful to think of that as "strong-ish" rather than "normal"

2. your proposal appears to have sharper growth than Dominion; your players start poorer (average value 0.5 vs 0.7), your middle resource card is the same as Dominion, and your advanced resource card is more efficient (costs aren't linear, but +1 cost for +1 value generally makes a card much better)

3. all else being equal, large hands mean more money per turn

Still, you probably won't be able to figure out the best values for your game without doing a lot of playtesting.
 
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Oblivion Doll
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It all sounds reasonable to me, except for one word I think you mistyped:

mrgruenwald wrote:
The hand would consist of 6 1-point resource cards and 6 other cards.


Am I right in guessing you meant "deck" there?
 
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Matthew Gruenwald
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Correct. I did mean the starting deck.
 
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Matthew Gruenwald
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I decided to make the advanced resource cost $7 to buy because I don't want it to be purchased on the first turn. I felt like I had to make that card worth 4 resource because keeping it at 3 resource for a cost of $7 doesn't seem too fair. The other thing about it is that there are not a whole ton of other cards in the game that allow you to draw cards or earn these resources, so making it worth 4 resource will definitely make it enticing to buy.
Also, because of the lack of draw cards and gain resource cards (besides the basic ones), I wanted to make the hand size 6 so that player can get more cards into their hand per turn. So even if they don't have that many of the higher resource cards (like the 2 and 4) they can still make moves.

Does that make sense?
 
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Jeremy Lennert
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mrgruenwald wrote:
I decided to make the advanced resource cost $7 to buy because I don't want it to be purchased on the first turn. I felt like I had to make that card worth 4 resource because keeping it at 3 resource for a cost of $7 doesn't seem too fair. The other thing about it is that there are not a whole ton of other cards in the game that allow you to draw cards or earn these resources, so making it worth 4 resource will definitely make it enticing to buy.
Also, because of the lack of draw cards and gain resource cards (besides the basic ones), I wanted to make the hand size 6 so that player can get more cards into their hand per turn. So even if they don't have that many of the higher resource cards (like the 2 and 4) they can still make moves.

Does that make sense?

I think you could potentially build a game around that, but I don't think any of those decisions are compelled by the reasons you give.


Yes, buying "gold" on the first turn is a big deal, but it's not obvious to me that it's game-breaking considering that you'll have zero money in your other starting hand and that the odds of a 6/0 split with your described starting deck are only 1 in 462. I'm pretty confident that a deck-building game is going to contain other random factors far more likely to swing the outcome.


But even assuming that your "gold" has to cost $7, it's not clear to me why it would have to be worth $4. You say $3 for $7 "doesn't seem too fair", but that seems like the wrong question to me. If all of your players have an equal opportunity to buy it* then I'd say it's guaranteed to be fair between them. The question is whether it creates the economic progression you want, not whether it's fair.

As I said in my previous post, Dominion's Gold is pretty strong; I think you could be a bit weaker than it and still hit a similar balance point overall. And certainly $3 for $7 sounds closer in overall efficiency to Dominion than $4 for $7 does. (And it's not clear that you're actually aiming for a similar balance point...)

Many games that followed Dominion, such as Ascension or Legendary, don't even have an equivalent of "gold" in the guaranteed card set at all (just "silver"). If the game can survive not having one at all, then it can survive having a weaker one.


If you want to have a lot of non-economic cards in the player's deck, there are lots of ways to deal with that. Making the player's hand bigger is one possible way, but making it 20% bigger probably does not get you too far (and if it's forcing you to space out your basic resource cards more than you would otherwise want to, it could actually be hurting you). Some other options might include:

1 Give some economic value to the non-economic cards. Even if the primary effect is to (say) build a cathedral, you could easily have it give the player some coin on the side--or maybe give the player a choice between building the cathedral or getting some coin.

2 Downplay economic progression as a game element. Dominion expects your average hand value to increase by quite a lot in a fairly short time, but if the primary focus of your game is something other than economy, maybe you don't want to copy that. You could make it so the highest cost in your shop is $5...

3 Make an economic progression that depends on individual cards rather than sets. In Dominion, you add up all the cards in your hand, which makes resource density critical. But what if you had to pay for each purchase using only a single card? Then a hand full of "copper" could buy a lot of cheap cards, but a hand with even a single "silver" card could still buy a better card, and so you could gradually climb the economic ladder even if your deck is becoming more dilute at the same time. Alternately, you could have multiple kinds of resources (kind of like "potions" in Dominion: Alchemy) so that advanced cards require you get special resource cards but don't necessarily require you draw large amounts of resources in a single hand.

4 Allow resources to accumulate across multiple turns. The main reason it's critical in Dominion to get a bunch of money at once is because you can't save it up. If you had some way of saving up, lots of things change...



*Your players probably don't have precisely equal opportunity, due to turn order, but that's going to be a general problem with all of your cards; and if you are concerned about it, it should push you to make cards weaker, not stronger.
 
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Oblivion Doll
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I think it's worth asking:

How big an advantage is a 4-resource card in comparison with a pair of 2-resource cards? If it does offer a solid improvement in value, then I think 7 points to buy is a fairly sensible price.
 
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Jeremy Lennert
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obliviondoll wrote:
I think it's worth asking:

How big an advantage is a 4-resource card in comparison with a pair of 2-resource cards? If it does offer a solid improvement in value, then I think 7 points to buy is a fairly sensible price.

You seem to be arguing against the concern that $7 might be too expensive for a card that generates $4. But I think the more relevant concern is that $7 might be too cheap.


Here's a useful case study:

Sometimes in Dominion, a player will end up with $6 and 2 buys, and they'll ask: is it better to buy one gold (generates $3) or two silvers (generate $2 each)?

Copper generates $1. If it was one gold versus silver+copper, the gold would clearly be better, because it's the same combined value ($3) but takes up less space in your deck. But two silvers is less obvious because it takes up more space than the gold (which is bad) but also has a higher combined value (which is good), so sometimes players have trouble deciding.

Here's my reasoning: instead of just a gold, consider gold+copper vs 2 silvers. In this case, both are the same number of cards and the same combined value, so they're probably very close in overall utility. (There are definitely reasons why one might be better than another, but probably not by a large margin unless there's a specific synergy with another card.)

But coppers are bad in Dominion; gaining an extra copper is almost always worse than gaining nothing. So gold alone is (almost always) better than gold+copper, and gold+copper is roughly equal to 2 silvers; therefore, we should expect that 1 gold is better than 2 silvers.

If a card that generates $3 is already better than two cards that generate $2 each, then a card that generates $4 must be hugely better than them. In fact, by reasoning similar to the above, one $4 card is probably significantly better than a $2 card plus a $3 card, which in turn means that it's several steps better than three $2 cards.

In fact, we could use your original argument to say that charging $7 for a card that generates only $3 is reasonable (because one $3 card is better than two $2 cards, so you should be willing to pay a premium for it).


...of course, your original argument is not very convincing in the first place, because costs in Dominion are highly non-linear due to the fact that you can't save up money. Having $0 to spend in one hand and $6 to spend in the next is (usually) both more difficult and more valuable than having $3 to spend on both hands. So a $6 price tag is already (in some sense) a "premium" compared to two $3 buys, which makes the whole analysis more complicated.
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Oblivion Doll
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I have seen very little of Dominion, and am not particularly familiar with it. As such, I'm not as familiar with the established conventions and which features may be reasonably assumed to be part of this game based on the information currently available.

Thanks for the clarification on how such systems work, and on where my logic was going awry.
 
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P.D. Magnus
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mrgruenwald wrote:
Also, because of the lack of draw cards and gain resource cards (besides the basic ones), I wanted to make the hand size 6 so that player can get more cards into their hand per turn. So even if they don't have that many of the higher resource cards (like the 2 and 4) they can still make moves.

Does that make sense?


I don't understand the argument for a hand size of six. OK, there isn't a way to draw extra cards.
If you still want people to have enough money in hand to buy cool stuff, lower the prices. One extra weak card won't make too much difference.
If you want people to be able to have their cool cards in hand without extra draws, the benefit of the larger hand size is cancelled by the larger starting deck. Because players start with twice their hand size in weak cards, those will be most of their draws for the first many turns of the game.
 
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