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Subject: Assigning Values to cards in a Deck Builder rss

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Greg Harley
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I'm attempting to design my first ever game. It's going to be a deck-builder type game. I've fleshed out most of the rules and mechanics, but now I've got to the stage where I need to design my cards.

How do you go about assigning value to the cards?

Each card needs a 'cost' for it to be purchased and two other values, a victory point value for having the card in play and a 'danger rating' - basically the cards will have a danger rating that means the higher the combined danger rating of all your cards you have in play the higher the likelihood of a disaster happening to you.
So VP is good, Danger rating is undesirable. Cost should reflect the ratio of good to bad but how do I assign these values?

Any thoughts would be much appreciated.
 
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Brad Johnson
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Playtest, playtest, playtest, playtest, playtest, and more playtest.

As co-designer of Time of Crisis published last year, I can tell you from first-hand experience pretty much all you can do it take your best guess at costing cards, then run a few playtests and see how everything works. Be prepared to nerf or buff the power and/or cost of cards so you think everything is balanced again, and they take it back for more playtesting. Repeat until you're happy. Solo playtests by yourself can help, but it's no replacement for live playtesting by players who are willing to try to "break" or "abuse" the cards. It's definitely a process of iterative trial-and-error.

I can tell you that the more cards you have, the harder it will be. This is part of the reason we released our base game with only 9 different cards to buy -- trying to balance more was just too dangerous. The combinations grow exponentially and you just can't test them all with large numbers of cards. Plus every change you make essentially makes you start testing over again.

For us, we knew we wanted cards that filled a certain set grid of card costs, but we were less set on what the events would be, so our work was designing/tweaking card effects to fit the slots. If you know for sure you know what card effects you want, then you can consider those to be fixed and just strictly focus on changing the costs to be appropriate. This may be a slightly easier task. But my guess is you'll find some card effects don't work as well as you thought it would as you test - I suggest you remain open to any kind of tweaks you need as you go.
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B C Z
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My first thought is that you don't have the rules and mechanics defined yet if you haven't made any cards. Cards are an integral part of most card games.

I recommend you make a handful of sample cards and assign values that 'feel right' to you, then play test, play test, play test. If a card seems too good, change a variable, and since you have 3 possible variables... that means x3 the play testing after the change(s).

You might start with a formula or guideline on developing the stats, or you might analyze your way into one after the initial cards are tested out and you then move to design new cards.
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Benj Davis
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Eyeball it, comparing cards to each other, then playtest, playtest, playtest.
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Most typed word in responses so far:
playtest
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Greg Harley
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Thanks for the replies!

I guess I'll get playtesting then

I suppose I was just wondering if there was any mathematical formula way of doing it.
 
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David Goh
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My guess would be that given how different games can be (even within the same genre), there can't be a mathematical formula that would apply across the board. The best you can hope for is perhaps to study other games and reverse-engineer the way they assign values to their cards. For example, TCG/CCGs like Magic the Gathering or the digital game Hearthstone have a very structured innate system of how they assign values to the cards printed, of which there have been many articles written about. However, theirs is a medium where it's important for them to strike a sort of balance between individual cards — that same restriction might not apply in a board game.

So ultimately, it really depends on your design goals as well. Are you going for a game where every card is seen as balanced to others? Or are you okay with some cards being inherently better than others? It all depends on the kind of game you're creating. And as had been repeated previously, playtesting the best way to refine and narrow down what direction you want your game go in, which will inform the way you'll assign values to your cards. It's really more of a "go with your gut" thing than settling on a formula — at least in the beginning.

Hope this helps
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Brad Johnson
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ShredderGFS wrote:
Thanks for the replies!

u

I suppose I was just wondering if there was any mathematical formula way of doing it.


I've tried to do this, and it's not a terrible way to get your first cut at what you think the costs should be. However, there's definitely no single formula that you could possibly use that would fit the general case for every game.

But you can do this: Try to enumerate the advantages and disadvantages provided by each card. Then try to identify the themes of those -- what are the "currencies" that you are trading in? Then try to put a base value to each item of currency, and then simply add up the values of each card that way.

For example, let's look at base Dominion. The cards in this game all give you things like extra actions, extra card purchases, coins to purchase with, and card draws. (Among other things, but let's leave it at that. Let's say you evaluate an extra action as worth 2 "points", an extra buy as 1 "point", a coin as 1 "point", and a card draw as 3 "points". (Just picking numbers out of the air here.) Then a card that lets you, for example, spend 2 coins to draw 2 new cards might be worth 6 (for the 2 draws) - 2 (for the 2 coins you'd have to spend = 4 points. Maybe start with a cost of 4 for this card?

This can get really difficult to apply consistently -- how do you adjust the cost if the card is only used once and then removed from the game? What about if you can repeat the action N times? What if the other players get some benefit in addition to the benefit you get? What if the card grants you a permanent ability that is difficult to quantify (e.g. you can't be attached by blue tokens, or whatever)? There might be a million variables, which makes this kind of analysis only a rough guide at best.
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Greg Harley
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Thanks, you've all been really helpful.

I've started giving the cards values, so we'll see how it goes when I start playtesting.

I've decided I like the idea of some cards being simply better than others. There will be a limited choice of what cards to buy at any one time, so I like the idea of players having to decide something like 'that card is a bit expensive for what it is, but it does provide more victory points than the others on offer, even though those are better value, do I buy it now, or hope there's something better on my next turn.'

So we'll see how that works.
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