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Subject: Addition by Subtraction rss

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Grant Rodiek
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When I began working on a deckbuilder, I knew I had some big shoes to fill. I think a lot of small, independent designer types such as myself mistakenly convince themselves that because they are small, and independent, that customers will give them the benefit of the doubt.

Solid nope.

The reality is, with every design you are competing with the great games. You are vying for customers' limited time, money, and appetite.

When I start a deckbuilder, I'm competing with Dominion, Ascension, Star Realms, Hero Realms, and Cryptozoic's games, and now a slew of board games that use deckbuilding to fuel them, including Clank!, Cry Havoc, Time of Crisis, and more. Linking those was exhausting!

I needed to make something new, different, and fresh. While I'm not up for the challenge of creating something as innovative as the original Dominion (To quote Moe, "Oh dear god no!"), I still need to bring something new to the table.

I didn't start with a eureka moment. I began with cold hard analysis. I love deckbuilders, particularly Dominion and Hero Realms. I really tried to examine the landscape and identify commonalities between them. As good friend Joshua Buergel often says regarding his design Foresight, if every game does X, then Y is an opportunity for innovation.

Here is what I found:
1. Deckbuilders are obsessed with card draw.
2. Deckbuilders are obsessed with culling.
3. Deckbuilders are obsessed with bonus actions.

These aren't Einstein level discoveries or anything, but if you take a step back, you scratch your head and go "huh." From the start, I said "Remove those three things."

But, it isn't that simple. This is something I learned working on Battle for York after Cry Havoc was released. While Battle for York is quite good and developed, it is in stasis right now. The summary is that it is a hyper distilled, streamlined, and more accessible Cry Havoc, but it's still a rich, deep game of conflict.

As I removed elements from York, I found that my "economy of actions" was too narrow and limited. Choices became obvious and tension was removed. Games are an ecosystem of connected pieces and mechanisms. You can't just remove the wolves and hope the ecosystem flourishes.

I created a hole, but now I needed to fill it. This lead me to observe a few more things about deckbuilders.

Here is what I (also) found:
4. Deckbuilders all begin with lousy cards.
5. Deckbuilders are all about buying cards, which means...
6. All deckbuilders have a purchase currency.

This is when I had my eureka moment. Well, moments. Plural. I'm prolific, you see.


Firstly, players would begin the game at 60 mph with good cards, not 10 mph with lousy cards. Players all share the same five "starter cards," which are useful, but also five random cards from the 48 cards deck. Experienced players can (and should) draft their five cards.

What this means is that your first three decisions are more often interesting decisions, less automatic. It means the game is lightning quick, because the first 15 minutes aren't starter laps.

The trade off is that it makes the game a little less accessible. It's always key to note these things as a designer. Remember, you're creating an ecosystem. Every decision has consequences you need to either mitigate or accept.

Secondly, I decided to fundamentally change how you buy and sell cards. Players create the market to bolster a very small, limited, and random market of 3 cards (borrowing from the Ascension row). Cards you do not use on your turn enter your Trade Row. Until the end of your next turn, players can "recruit" these cards.

This creates several interesting decisions. One, you might take a sub-optimal action to preserve your cards. Two, you might take a risk and follow with a card you'd rather hold onto in order to get it out of your hand and keep it from the row. Three, you need to decide whether your need to disrupt your opponent's engine, but at what cost to your own?

The trade off is that some people will have anxiety at the start regarding "people stealing their things." Some people will play terribly the entire game to preserve their cards. But, the game is designed around this mechanism. I agree, that if people just stealing your cards caused you to lose, the game wouldn't be fun. But, this game is about a dynamic economy of cards. The cards represent people, ideas, policies, and as neighboring cultures borrow and influence one another, so do your cards.

I've had games where I've had cards taken from me every single turn...and I still win by 20 points. Here's a hint: with almost no culling in the game, when people buy your cards? Your deck thins. But also, as is the case with all of my designs, I want you to react to a dynamic, shifting landscape. You need to think ahead, but also recognize that no plan survives contact with the enemy.

Thirdly, there is no cost to buying cards. And there isn't a choice. At the end of your turn, you must buy (or recruit in the game) one card. Either from an opponent or the three cards in the middle. There is no cost or transaction. You merely take it and put it into your discard.

This simplifies things dramatically. I don't have gold variables on cards. I don't have to tune costs. My goal was to make all 48 cards interesting, powerful, and useful. I tried to make them combo with a variety of strategies and paths. Players might have personal, secret incentives to go one way or another, but by and large, the choice is not about "how to spend my gold" but "what card is best for me."

This makes things simpler. I added complexity earlier, I reduce complexity now.

I fear this is getting long, so I want to discuss one more cool thing that emerged as a result of these mechanisms. There is zero card draw in the game. There are VERY few ways to get bonus actions. Culling is severely minimized and in some games doesn't happen at all.

But, taking advantage of the trade row, I have a card action that is novel and I think unique to SPQF. Players have a card that can use one card in any trade row as if played from your hand. This means you have a wild and uncertain tableau of options. It might be the killer card you need in a pinch, or it may provide a way for you to use the otherwise dead cards in your hand.

While testing with one of my favorite designers in Italy this past weekend, he noted a personal preference against such a card. His fear was that people would stop, look at all the cards, and the pace of the game is affected. And, while that's true for new players who need to learn the cards, in my experience it's something that goes away with familiarity. But also, it leads to such interesting decisions and consequences that in my opinion the card is WORTH the potential and momentary dip to pacing.

Again, know why a thing exists, understand it, fight for it.

I think a lot of people think a eureka moment for a game just happens as you're walking through Whole Foods and examine a particularly strange gourd. While those make for good Silicon Valley startup stories, I don't often find that's true. I find my eureka moments through analysis. I find mine by considering the landscape. I find mine by thinking about the type of experience I want to create, the feeling, and what tools I can use to get there.

Don't stare at a white board until your eureka comes. Start thinking about it and see where it leads you.
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Nick Tich
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Great stuff, Grant.

In most situations, I tend to agree with your mystery Italian about having to scan the entire play space to determine what a card can and can't do. But with what I know of this game, I don't think it'll be much of an issue. As much as I love El Grande, the game does slow with new players when they are determining what action card to take from round to round. In this case, you won't have to read a bunch of text on the card (apart from the flavor text, amirite!!!), so a cursory glance around the table will give you the actions available. As long as the iconography is clear and what each card does is easily discernible, the slowdown should be minimal. And with familiarity, you'll know what you're looking to accomplish with your turn/deck, so you will be looking for something specific.
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Grant Rodiek
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Rugmouse wrote:
Great stuff, Grant.

In most situations, I tend to agree with your mystery Italian about having to scan the entire play space to determine what a card can and can't do. But with what I know of this game, I don't think it'll be much of an issue. As much as I love El Grande, the game does slow with new players when they are determining what action card to take from round to round. In this case, you won't have to read a bunch of text on the card (apart from the flavor text, amirite!!!), so a cursory glance around the table will give you the actions available. As long as the iconography is clear and what each card does is easily discernible, the slowdown should be minimal. And with familiarity, you'll know what you're looking to accomplish with your turn/deck, so you will be looking for something specific.


Yes. While there are twists, there are ultimately four core actions:
Gather resources
Store resources
Expand your civilization
Score points

So, it's easy to quickly scan once you've played a round or two.

PS: Never flavor text.
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Ray Bonilla
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I was going to tweet this at you but figured you'd rather have it here.

I'm a huge fan of deckbuilders too. Dominion, Marvel Legendary, Nightfall. Love 'em. And I really like what I see here. I love the idea of starting out strong from the jump. It's one of the reasons why, as a 25 year M:TG player I still liked Epic despite the fact that it was a bit of a letdown to a lot of people. It felt like starting a game of Magic with unlimited mana and the best cards in my deck in my starting hand.

I also like the idea of every card being appealing and powerful and the risk of losing cards for optimal turn plays. It's why games like Race for the Galaxy and Terraforming Mars hold my affection so much because they force you to learn to part with cool stuff in order to set yourself up for cool *turns*.
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Grant Rodiek
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OldManMerton wrote:
I was going to tweet this at you but figured you'd rather have it here.

I'm a huge fan of deckbuilders too. Dominion, Marvel Legendary, Nightfall. Love 'em. And I really like what I see here. I love the idea of starting out strong from the jump. It's one of the reasons why, as a 25 year M:TG player I still liked Epic despite the fact that it was a bit of a letdown to a lot of people. It felt like starting a game of Magic with unlimited mana and the best cards in my deck in my starting hand.

I also like the idea of every card being appealing and powerful and the risk of losing cards for optimal turn plays. It's why games like Race for the Galaxy and Terraforming Mars hold my affection so much because they force you to learn to part with cool stuff in order to set yourself up for cool *turns*.


Race is such an influence on me. I use multi-use cards in everything, so you also see similarities with Carl Chudyk (though I try to be more accessible than his designs).
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Chris Morris
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This game is sounding more and more interesting all the time.

I think as I game more, I enjoy games that are more stripped down and streamlined more often. I used to see a tonne of mechanics in a game and assume that because of all the intertwined systems the game must be incredible. More often than not, I was let down.

That's not to say I only play simple games now, as things like Star Wars: Rebellion, Cthulhu Wars and Innovation are some of my all time faves. From what I've seen so far of SPQF, it certainly looks like a game I will be eager to pick up as soon as it becomes available.
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lubomirvaic wrote:
This game is sounding more and more interesting all the time.

I think as I game more, I enjoy games that are more stripped down and streamlined more often. I used to see a tonne of mechanics in a game and assume that because of all the intertwined systems the game must be incredible. More often than not, I was let down.

That's not to say I only play simple games now, as things like Star Wars: Rebellion, Cthulhu Wars and Innovation are some of my all time faves. From what I've seen so far of SPQF, it certainly looks like a game I will be eager to pick up as soon as it becomes available.


Glad you're interested, Chris. I tend to make games with a thinky feel that usually require a play or two to really grasp, but a huge effort I've been making for my last few games is to ensure they are more accessible and intuitive. I'm also investing a lot more in graphic design to help folks grok the game, whereas previously I'm working on a tight budget.

While I'm not sure SPQF is exactly "stripped down" (as you noted), it is pretty straightforward, doesn't have any text, and I think this will help me reach more players!
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Chris Morris
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Yeah maybe "stripped down" was the wrong term (shouldn't be typing while fighting sleep). Moreso that it sounds as if you are working on a tight system with more streamlined mechanics? Not as convoluted as some other games possibly.

I love a game that is simple to teach yet offers layers of strategy once you learn the system and this could be right along those lines.
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Grant Rodiek
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lubomirvaic wrote:
Yeah maybe "stripped down" was the wrong term (shouldn't be typing while fighting sleep). Moreso that it sounds as if you are working on a tight system with more streamlined mechanics? Not as convoluted as some other games possibly.

I love a game that is simple to teach yet offers layers of strategy once you learn the system and this could be right along those lines.


Oh I took no offense! I was merely trying to clarify. Your wording was just fine.

I think I'm trying to create a handful of really interesting, interwoven interactions that allow players to explore multiple paths without reading, say, 10 cards full of text at the beginning of each game of Dominion.

I really tried to see how much variance I could get out of a deckbuilder with only 53 cards, and the answer is, a lot.
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dilkROM
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Awesome thread, Grant, this was a pleasure to read. Very inspiring, loads to learn from it, and continually makes me more and more excited to see this game come to life (especially imagining it with Sid's art that you've been previewing). Can't wait to be a backer!
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Max Omnius
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Grant Would it be possible to SPQF to be a kind of hybrid action system for a civ board game ?
I mean a card game that can be played alone or included on a game board (a card driven alike mecanism with a map).

As an example a bit like if you could use the concordia cards alone without the board game and also use it with the board.

Would love to see a refined mechanism like SPQF also shine on a board game.
So what about developping your civ board game, with spqf on heart !
 
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Metadna wrote:
Grant Would it be possible to SPQF to be a kind of hybrid action system for a civ board game ?
I mean a card game that can be played alone or included on a game board (a card driven alike mecanism with a map).

As an example a bit like if you could use the concordia cards alone without the board game and also use it with the board.

Would love to see a refined mechanism like SPQF also shine on a board game.
So what about developping your civ board game, with spqf on heart !


Anything is possible, I suppose, but in reality, no.

The game is designed as a tight, tense, quick card game. Any considerations for a larger game would require a fundamental redesign with all new mechanisms and considerations. It’d be night and day.
 
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Max Omnius
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Well... what about developping your civ board game inspiread from spqf mechanism
 
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Manuel Correia
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Metadna wrote:
Well... what about developping your civ board game inspiread from spqf mechanism


You mean as a personal favor? I'm pretty sure Grant has plenty of ideas for what he's going to do next.
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Metadna wrote:
Well... what about developping your civ board game inspiread from spqf mechanism


No. As I said it isn’t a good fit.

Secondly, it isn’t what I’m doing next. I have two other projects.

Thirdly, unless I conceive a way to make a game superior to Clash of Cultures, I don’t intend to waste everyone’s time.

SPQF seeks to be a novel deckbuilder with a Civ theme.

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Max Omnius
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gr9yfox wrote:
Metadna wrote:
Well... what about developping your civ board game inspiread from spqf mechanism


You mean as a personal favor? I'm pretty sure Grant has plenty of ideas for what he's going to do next.


@Manuel Correia personal favor??? if you think "my ego has no other wish than to want a game that suits me" then your words simply highlights the immaturity of your thought.

I simply distinguished here a solid germ that could also have grown into a beautiful tree. The question deserved to be asked until complete dissolution nothing more or less.
 
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Metadna wrote:
gr9yfox wrote:
Metadna wrote:
Well... what about developping your civ board game inspiread from spqf mechanism


You mean as a personal favor? I'm pretty sure Grant has plenty of ideas for what he's going to do next.


@Manuel Correia personal favor??? if you think "my ego has no other wish than to want a game that suits me" then your words simply highlights the immaturity of your thought.

I simply distinguished here a solid germ that could also have grown into a beautiful tree. The question deserved to be asked until complete dissolution nothing more or less.


I believe Manuel’s point, and the source of my confusion, is that after I answered you asked the same question again.
 
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Max Omnius
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It wasn't exactly the same question !
but I concede that the nuance was not obvious
 
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Metadna wrote:
@Manuel Correia personal favor??? if you think "my ego has no other wish than to want a game that suits me" then your words simply highlights the immaturity of your thought.


It reads exactly like "make me a sandwich", which is as immature as it gets and also the most selfish thing you can say to a designer.

I can explain. On the same post you wrote:

Metadna wrote:
Would love to see a refined mechanism like SPQF also shine on a board game.


This could be a good suggestion, and if enough people agree it could point a way to go.
The thing is, you also wrote:

Metadna wrote:
So what about developping your civ board game, with spqf on heart !


This is where it crosses the line. You're asking the designer to take months of their life to create a game for you. Even if you think it's harmless, this has a negative effect and takes a psychological toll.


If you don't understand that burden, I don't see the point in arguing further.

Bye!
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Max Omnius
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gr9yfox wrote:
Metadna wrote:
@Manuel Correia personal favor??? if you think "my ego has no other wish than to want a game that suits me" then your words simply highlights the immaturity of your thought.


It reads exactly like "make me a sandwich", which is as immature as it gets and also the most selfish thing you can say to a designer.

I can explain. On the same post you wrote:

Metadna wrote:
Would love to see a refined mechanism like SPQF also shine on a board game.


This could be a good suggestion, and if enough people agree it could point a way to go.
The thing is, you also wrote:

Metadna wrote:
So what about developping your civ board game, with spqf on heart !


This is where it crosses the line. You're asking the designer to take months of their life to create a game for you. Even if you think it's harmless, this has a negative effect and takes a psychological toll.


If you don't understand that burden, I don't see the point in arguing further.

Bye!


Crosses the line ???

I naively asked
if the mechanism could be developed into a hybrid form?
then if a civ game inspired by this mechanism was possible ?

Where i'm asking the designer to create a game for me ???
Where i'm asking the designer just to create a game ?
by the way Grant is not my employee nothing to dictate here.

With other words i was asking Grant what he thinks of such a possibility of development again no more no less. The rest is your distorted interpretation.
Disappointing reactions
 
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Max: I'd like to cut this "discussion" short. Here's the deal -

On Imperius, you showed up almost daily to advocate for the game to add metal coins, new modes, more art, and generally just ask for additions that made no sense. You did this almost daily.

Here, you showed up and in your very first appearance you asked the same question twice. While you propose you used nuance, you said;

"So what about developing your civ board game, with spqf on heart !"

And

"Well... what about developping your civ board game inspiread from spqf mechanism "

I'm struggling to see the nuance, personally.

Manuel, who is a friend, and I, are responding to your past behavior and this new example.

While there may be some hyperbole and accusations being thrown around from both sides, ultimately, it stems from your past and current behavior.

Let's move on and end this discussion. It's not fruitful.

I'm happy to discuss SPQF (or any of my games) with you, and hopefully my actions throughout the BGG forums more than support that statement. But, I'm not terribly keen on your repeatedly asking for me to turn my design into something else.
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HerrohGrant wrote:
Max: I'd like to cut this "discussion" short. Here's the deal -

On Imperius, you showed up almost daily to advocate for the game to add metal coins, new modes, more art, and generally just ask for additions that made no sense. You did this almost daily.

Here, you showed up and in your very first appearance you asked the same question twice. While you propose you used nuance, you said;

"So what about developing your civ board game, with spqf on heart !"

And

"Well... what about developping your civ board game inspiread from spqf mechanism "

I'm struggling to see the nuance, personally.

Manuel, who is a friend, and I, are responding to your past behavior and this new example.

While there may be some hyperbole and accusations being thrown around from both sides, ultimately, it stems from your past and current behavior.

Let's move on and end this discussion. It's not fruitful.

I'm happy to discuss SPQF (or any of my games) with you, and hopefully my actions throughout the BGG forums more than support that statement. But, I'm not terribly keen on your repeatedly asking for me to turn my design into something else.


Grant on Imperius I was a backers speaking the same language as the publisher...

This may seem more obvious to you after reformulation
a) in the state can this game be the part (the heart) of a larger whole(civ)?
no
b) then do you think it can be adapted(inspired)into a mechanism for a larger whole (civ)?

The clumsiness here is precisely the fact of a hasty judgment.

Quote:
I'm not terribly keen on your repeatedly asking for me to turn my design into something else

I only asked your point of view, sorry if you take it otherwise.
 
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Metadna wrote:
HerrohGrant wrote:
Max: I'd like to cut this "discussion" short. Here's the deal -

On Imperius, you showed up almost daily to advocate for the game to add metal coins, new modes, more art, and generally just ask for additions that made no sense. You did this almost daily.

Here, you showed up and in your very first appearance you asked the same question twice. While you propose you used nuance, you said;

"So what about developing your civ board game, with spqf on heart !"

And

"Well... what about developping your civ board game inspiread from spqf mechanism "

I'm struggling to see the nuance, personally.

Manuel, who is a friend, and I, are responding to your past behavior and this new example.

While there may be some hyperbole and accusations being thrown around from both sides, ultimately, it stems from your past and current behavior.

Let's move on and end this discussion. It's not fruitful.

I'm happy to discuss SPQF (or any of my games) with you, and hopefully my actions throughout the BGG forums more than support that statement. But, I'm not terribly keen on your repeatedly asking for me to turn my design into something else.


Grant on Imperius I was a backers speaking the same language as the publisher...

This may seem more obvious to you after reformulation
a) in the state this game can be the part (the heart) of a larger whole (civ)?
no
b) then in this case do you think it can be adapted(inspired)into a mechanism for a larger whole (civ)?

The clumsiness here is precisely the fact of a hasty judgment.

Quote:
I'm not terribly keen on your repeatedly asking for me to turn my design into something else

I only asked your point of view, sorry if you take it otherwise.


A) No.
B) Yes, but I won’t.
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Max Omnius
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Finaly
Thanks for the answers
 
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Metadna wrote:
Finaly
Thanks for the answers


Dude - I already answered you twice. This is the third time.

So you saying “finally” is WHY this interaction is so frustrating.
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