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Subject: deck building: mechanism vs genre rss

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David Wallin
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the current definition of the mechanism "deck/pool building" seems to rather be the definition of the genre "deck building game".

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgamemechanic/2664/deck-pool-b...

the way i see it, any pool of things which is not in a constant state, would be subject to pool building.

at the same time, not all games that employ this mechanism would be considered a "deck building game".

any thoughts on this?
 
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Matt Brown
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Like all mechanisms, it depends on the importance of it compared to everything else. Games like Mage Knight and Lewis and Clark have deck-building in them. They are not deck-building games.
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Too narrow a definition means there will be tons of exceptions that won't fit... which can be very frustrating, especially when peeps are being overly pedantic.

It seems like one of the prerogative of game designers is to push the limits of game mechanics, and consequently their definitions. Innovation is awesome, but it still requires the definitions to be somewhat broad to begin with.

This also includes allowances for multiple mechanics, and a subjective opinion of the dominance of one mechanic to define something as a specific type of game based on that mechanic.

Yes, I used the dreaded "S-word." MWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! laugh

~V
 
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'Bernard Wingrave'
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I think there are cases where the deck or pool building is included as a mechanism for a given game on BGG, but it is not central to the game.

For example, Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords – Base Set allows a player to change his character's deck a little at a time, mainly between scenarios. Is this deckbuilding? Well, if you consider a game of PACG to be the entire run of 30 or so scenarios, then yes. If you consider a game of PACG to be one scenario, then maybe not.
 
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Curt Carpenter
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The definitions have no particular significance. It's just one person's idea, as a quick aid to perhaps help people who don't know anything about different mechanisms. For those who know, people can and do argue endlessly over the precise wording. I'm not sure to what end.
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davogotland wrote:
the current definition of the mechanism "deck/pool building" seems to rather be the definition of the genre "deck building game".

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgamemechanic/2664/deck-pool-b...

the way i see it, any pool of things which is not in a constant state, would be subject to pool building.

at the same time, not all games that employ this mechanism would be considered a "deck building game".

any thoughts on this?

Curious, would you consider Race For The Galaxy a DBG then? If we were to try to further distinguish it all, I wouldn't since the tableau building part of it separates it. Once it goes onto the tableau, it's still yours, but no longer in your deck nor hand.

The fact that some DBG have you discard your cards (whether you played them or not) means you're more so managing your deck vs. your hand.


But yeah, these definitions never had any industry standards to begin with.
 
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David Wallin
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ackmondual wrote:
davogotland wrote:
the current definition of the mechanism "deck/pool building" seems to rather be the definition of the genre "deck building game".

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgamemechanic/2664/deck-pool-b...

the way i see it, any pool of things which is not in a constant state, would be subject to pool building.

at the same time, not all games that employ this mechanism would be considered a "deck building game".

any thoughts on this?

Curious, would you consider Race For The Galaxy a DBG then? If we were to try to further distinguish it all, I wouldn't since the tableau building part of it separates it. Once it goes onto the tableau, it's still yours, but no longer in your deck nor hand.

The fact that some DBG have you discard your cards (whether you played them or not) means you're more so managing your deck vs. your hand.


But yeah, these definitions never had any industry standards to begin with.


i would not consider race as a game that employs the deck building mechanism. there isn't really a fluctuating pool.
 
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Michael Schneider
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But Roll ftG could be called so...
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Isaac Shalev
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The definition you linked to isn't especially good or precise. OF course, you're welcome to edit it. Here would be my definition:

Deck building/Pool building refers to a collection of related mechanisms. Players have a personal pool, or collection, of cards or tokens, that provide different actions and/or resources. A subset of those cards/tokens are randomly drawn each turn. An important aspect of the game lies in managing the contents of that pool by adding and removing cards and tokens over the course of the gameplay, often through the very actions provided by the cards/tokens themselves. Over time, players build decks/pools that are more and more specialized and effective towards some purpose(s), typically including claiming victory objectives. Deck/pool-building may be the central mechanism of a game, or it may be one part of a larger system.

ETA: I submitted my edit as the new definition. The last definition was made in 2014, so maybe it was just time for an update.
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Adam Tucker
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ender7 wrote:
The definition you linked to isn't especially good or precise. OF course, you're welcome to edit it. Here would be my definition:

Deck building/Pool building refers to a collection of related mechanisms. Players have a personal pool, or collection, of cards or tokens, that provide different actions and/or resources. A subset of those cards/tokens are randomly drawn each turn. An important aspect of the game lies in managing the contents of that pool by adding and removing cards and tokens over the course of the gameplay, often through the very actions provided by the cards/tokens themselves. Over time, players build decks/pools that are more and more specialized and effective towards some purpose(s), typically including claiming victory objectives. Deck/pool-building may be the central mechanism of a game, or it may be one part of a larger system.

ETA: I submitted my edit as the new definition. The last definition was made in 2014, so maybe it was just time for an update.
This actually isn't all that accurate of a definition either:

ender7 wrote:
A subset of those cards/tokens are randomly drawn each turn.
In Aeon's End, players typically never shuffle their decks, it is still decidedly a deck-builder.
Additionally, a set is a subset of itself, so this actually doesn't eliminate much in the way of games or narrow the mechanism much at all. (Randomly drawing the entirety of a set is often equivalent to deterministically drawing the entirety of said set.)

ender7 wrote:
Over time, players build decks/pools that are more and more specialized and effective towards some purpose(s), typically including claiming victory objectives.
This also is not always true, like in Dominion (and most of its clones/off-shoots) where it is true as you build your deck into a more efficient purchasing engine, until it isn't true as you tear down said engine by cramming it full of victory cards that actively hinder the engine you had previously built.

ender7 wrote:
Deck/pool-building may be the central mechanism of a game, or it may be one part of a larger system.
This is just unnecessary as it is trivially true of almost every mechanism, and only exceptions should really be noted.

This is my attempt at defining deck-building:
me wrote:
Deck / Pool Building is a mechanism in which players start the game with a pre-determined set of resources (the deck or pool in question) and add, remove, and/or change those pieces over the course of the game. At the start of any given turn, players have access to a discrete* sized subset of those resources (an initial "hand"). In many deck-building games the resources that make up the deck/pool provide the players either directly or indirectly with a currency that they may use to "buy" changes to the deck or pool (add, remove, or modify existing resources). The alterations to the pool generally modify the expected return on resources from any given turn's initial "hand" of the player and allow the player to build an "engine" to drive their future plays in the course of the game.

This mechanism describes something that happens in play during the game as a function of the game, not customization of the game from a body of cards or other pieces prior to play.

*The meaning of discrete here is meant to be the general definition of discrete (as opposed to the mathematics definition) of well defined and individually recognizable in size. Specifically:
The size on an "initial hand" subset is not directly determined by any outside reference (such as the size of the complete set/entire deck/entire pool) nor any effective equivalent; i.e., no taking all/half/two resources less than the entirety of your deck/pool into hand.
This size of said subset ("initial hand") is a known value (almost invariably a constant, e.g. 5, and almost invariably strictly less than starting deck size), possibly modified by various in-game actions and effects.
If some one has better wording than "discrete" that means the same thing that I am attempting to convey here, that might be helpful.

davogotland wrote:
the way i see it, any pool of things which is not in a constant state, would be subject to pool building.
This is also an overly broad description which includes a great many things that are not usually meant by deck building. (For example, without further specificity, this includes rummy games, like the Mystery Rummy games or Ticket to Ride, where each player's hand can be thought of as a pool of cards.)

davogotland wrote:
i would not consider race as a game that employs the deck building mechanism. there isn't really a fluctuating pool.
Again, technically, each player's hand of cards is a fluctuating pool of resources - you must be much more specific.
 
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Isaac Shalev
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Thanks. I'm of the opinion that any definition will have edge cases, but is nevertheless useful if it's mostly right about the most important things.

Regarding the Aeon's End exception, a no-shuffle deckbuilder is exactly the kind of exception I wouldn't bother stretching a definition to include. It's like trying to fit Bohnanza's no card rearrangement into a definition of Hand Management. The exception subverts the category, in my opinion.

The Dominion critique strikes me as a case of reading non-charitably. True, as you buy VPs your engine for acquiring VPs is degraded. But my definition doesn't say that in DBGs your engine can't degrade. I was offering a typical property of DBGs, not an element that must always be true. In general, taxonomic definitions are more descriptive than prescriptive.

I included the point about central mech vs side mech simply because DBG is both a mechanism and a type of game, but the line between them is fluid. If it bothers you, it can be omitted, but it seems like a relevant point to make about the mechanism, even if not strictly definitional.


 
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Adam Tucker
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ender7 wrote:
Regarding the Aeon's End exception, a no-shuffle deckbuilder is exactly the kind of exception I wouldn't bother stretching a definition to include. It's like trying to fit Bohnanza's no card rearrangement into a definition of Hand Management. The exception subverts the category, in my opinion.
First, Bohnanza isn't an exception to the Hand Management of "managing your hand to gain the most value out of available cards under given circumstances", it's just more restrictive about which card may be played on a turn - but the game provides a different mechanism, Trading, (which Hand Management games do not always or necessarily have) to provide another method of managing ones hand within the additional restrictions that the game has.
Second, there are lots of other instances where one's hand will or can be deterministic in a large number of deck-builders. The point is that any given instance of non-randomness doesn't exclude the game from having that mechanism and the requirement should not be included in a definition.
Randomness isn't the point of deck-building; managing composition of a pool, because on any given turn you will only have access to a discrete subset of the resources in that pool is.

ender7 wrote:
The Dominion critique strikes me as a case of reading non-charitably. True, as you buy VPs your engine for acquiring VPs is degraded. But my definition doesn't say that in DBGs your engine can't degrade. I was offering a typical property of DBGs, not an element that must always be true. In general, taxonomic definitions are more descriptive than prescriptive.
Again, Dominion is not the only example, merely the most accessible/obvious example. In Dark Gothic, players may benefit from building decks that are more generalized than specialized (given the three currency system in the game, being too specialized can limit players quite a bit). While the point largely holds, it seems in need of a qualifier, such as "often", "frequently", or "generally" - as it doesn't hold in all cases, and again is not a necessary requirement of the mechanism.

ender7 wrote:
I included the point about central mech vs side mech simply because DBG is both a mechanism and a type of game, but the line between them is fluid. If it bothers you, it can be omitted, but it seems like a relevant point to make about the mechanism, even if not strictly definitional.
It doesn't seem necessary for Area Control / Area Influence or Action Drafting, so I would not think it would be needed in Deck / Pool Building either.
 
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Isaac Shalev
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Thanks again for the discussion. The only point I have any real issue with is:

tuckerotl wrote:

Randomness isn't the point of deck-building; managing composition of a pool, because on any given turn you will only have access to a discrete subset of the resources in that pool is.


In the overwhelming majority of DBGs either your pool is itself randomized or your selection method is randomized, or both. Randomization is the method by which the subset of your pool is selected. I don't know if it's "the point" of deck-building, as much as it is a ubiquitous feature.


 
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Jared Voshall
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To me, there are a few key differences that set Deck Building Games/Mechanic apart from similar mechanics such as Hand Management or Tableau Building games:

1) By default, you don't have access to your entire pool every turn. True, in many Deck Building Game setups, you are able to eventually draw up your entire deck (either by trimming down the number of cards in your deck or by adding enough card draw that you are able to draw every card in your deck), but the expectation is that you won't be able to do so easily.

2) You will draw through your full pool multiple times (3+). If there is no way for new cards to be added into your deck, you have a hand management game with individual decks rather than a full DBG experience.

There are many other factors that are generally accepted as part of a Deck Builder experience (standardized starting decks, resource generation comes from within your deck rather than outside of it, the deck is randomized each time you run through it, etc), but they aren't part of the core DBG experience. They can, and have, been changed or even gotten rid of entirely - but without those two key components, you don't have a Deck Building Game, you have a Hand Management or Tableau Building Game.

On a side note, I think it may be interesting to explore these side attributes of DBGs and come up with a list of games that fully embrace them, and those that alter the core assumptions or completely get rid of them (for example, cards coming from a shared central pool is almost completely gotten rid of in the Warmachine Command Deck Building Game).
 
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wayne mathias
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My latest prototype game uses a board on which constructs (stacks of 1-5 tiles) move
- the tiles are purchased from a central pool for points generated each turn
- max number in hand is 10
- tiles may be placed from hand to game board starting positions each turn

(limits are max number purchased plus cost for the tiles to add to your hand, with numerical, type, and positional limits to playing (placing on board) from hand, plus type limits on moving - modified by merging and splitting stacks - once on the board)

So I think it uses a deck building mechanism but is not in the deck building genre.
 
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Jared Voshall
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The real question is how the tiles are handled when they are removed from the board. Are they removed from the game, returned to the common supply, or are they returned to the controlling player's supply from which they can be drawn and played again? If it goes back to the controlling player's pool, what mechanism do they use to get it back into their hand? Is it available for them to repurchase, or do they use some mechanism to draw it into their hand again? It is these questions that will tell you if it uses a Deck Building Game element or not.

If the destroyed constructs are either removed from the game or to the common supply, you definitely do not have a deck building game. If they return to the controlling player's tile pool, but said player has direct control over what goes into their hand from there, it's also not a deck building game. Only when you have a discrete pool of resources that you only pull a part of (even if said part becomes your whole deck through the course of play) do you have a deck building game.

[edit] From the description you gave, it sounds like you have an Area Control/Tableau Building game, rather than an Area Control/Deck Building Game. You can activate any of your tiles once you've played them, and purchased tiles go to your hand to play in the future (again, in the order of your choosing). It lacks the limiting factor of only having a subset of your pool available for use each turn (if I understand your prototype rules correctly).

Humorously, thinking about it, I think I could come up with a few interesting twists that could turn Star Wars Legion into a Deck Building Game (in this case, an Army Building Game), which could be interesting.
 
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Magius wrote:


2) You will draw through your full pool multiple times (3+). If there is no way for new cards to be added into your deck, you have a hand management game with individual decks rather than a full DBG experience.

Groves uses a bag building mechanism where players can add different color fairies to their bag and each turn draw out 3 to place on the board. And the end of the round, those fairies placed on their own player board go into their bag. Their is no guarantee that any particular fairy will ever be drawn since each turn begins with a draw of 3 from among your entire available pool.

"going through your entire deck/pool doesn't seem to be an essential feature regardless of any specific counter example. It's the fact you have a pool that you can alter through out the game and on your turn you (usually) began with some subset of it with which to do whatever it is you do in the game
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David Wallin
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this is turning into a very interesting discussion!

when reading the latest submission of the mechanism description, i have to check the headline of what i'm reading. did i end up reading the description of the category "deck building game"? nope, i didn't. there isn't even such a category.

as it stands, the definition is still too concrete and describes a game rather than a component of a game. the final sentence "Deck/pool-building may be the central mechanism of a game, or it may be one part of a larger system." surprises me as it in a way contradicts the previous text.

i think we should define a new category of games: deck building games

perhaps it will be easier to generalize the pool building mechanism after having defined that category.
 
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David Wallin
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i would like to clarify what i'm getting at.

the category "card game" and the mechanism "hand management" can hopefully serve as a good example. most (perhaps all) games in the category "card game" will employ the mechanism "hand management". but, a game that employs the mechanism "hand management" doesn't have to belong in the category "card game".

in the same way, most (perhaps all) games in the category "deck building game" will employ the mechanism "pool building". but, a game that employs the mechanism "pool building" doesn't have to belong in the category "deck building game".
 
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Isaac Shalev
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davogotland wrote:
i would like to clarify what i'm getting at.

the category "card game" and the mechanism "hand management" can hopefully serve as a good example. most (perhaps all) games in the category "card game" will employ the mechanism "hand management". but, a game that employs the mechanism "hand management" doesn't have to belong in the category "card game".

in the same way, most (perhaps all) games in the category "deck building game" will employ the mechanism "pool building". but, a game that employs the mechanism "pool building" doesn't have to belong in the category "deck building game".


There isn't a single "deck building mechanism" any more than there is a single "worker placement mechanism". Each game has a specific implementation of the mechanism, and those implementations can vary quite a bit. It's also hard to draw a line between where one mechanism ends and another begins. Is Eminent Domain a deck-builder? A role-selection game? Its designer says it's a "deck-learning game".

When talking about deck-building, we're talking about a set of common mechanisms, patterns and dynamics, not a single set of rules. As such, I'm not sure there's a huge distinction between deck-building game and the deck-building mechanism, other than its centrality in the design.
 
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David Wallin
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ender7 wrote:
I'm not sure there's a huge distinction between deck-building game and the deck-building mechanism, other than its centrality in the design.

i completely agree with this. but despite you knowing this, the description you have submitted fails to make that distinction.


ender7 wrote:
When talking about deck-building, we're talking about a set of common mechanisms, patterns and dynamics, not a single set of rules.

of course we're talking about a single set of rules. what else could we be talking about?

you're getting a genre and a mechanism mixed up, as did all the previous authors of the description of deck/pool building, which was why i started this thread.


ender7 wrote:
There isn't a single "deck building mechanism" any more than there is a single "worker placement mechanism".

here you seem to start from the premise that mechanisms can't be singled out. that's a strange way of forming an argument, especially in a thread discussing how to single out mechanisms.

(here, while writing this post, i start reading descriptions of mechanisms to find support for my arguments from within the old definitions of other mechanisms. this of course fails, since most of the other descriptions are tied with a corresponding genre in which said mechanism is the central one.

this is definitely something i should have looked at before starting this thread. even the description for dice rolling fails to isolate the mechanism! the first sentence talks about genre.

the description of auction/bidding does what i think a description should do. it doesn't focus on games where auction/bidding is the central mechanism of the game, but instead focuses on explaining how auction/bidding could be a cog in a larger system.

i now realize that i want to start a more abstract discussion, where isolating mechanisms from genres would be my goal. thank you for helping me reach that conclusion!)



 
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We're going to be going round in circles on this for years.

I remember having some quite heated discussions on forums before about whether certain games like Rococo are deck-building.

To me, the use of the word DECK in the phrase deck-building means it is not; Rococo is a game of hand management.
Deck-building (or pool-building) requires you to have a pool (the 'deck') of items (often cards) from which you draw, and YOU DO NOT USUALLY KNOW WHAT YOU WILL DRAW.

Of course, there are exceptions like clever card play in Dominion where you put a card on top of your deck and draw it; but the general point remains.

To me, the distinction is best seen when comparing two games by the same designer.
Great Western Trail is a deck-building game, or at least has elements of true deck-building with the cattle deck.
Mombasa is a hand-management game; there is a hand of cards, and some are being discarded/removed from use for a following round, but it's all face-up information. You're managing your hand.

Otherwise, you end up in a position that the 'pool' is just a group of stuff which you may or may not have access to.
Yeh, that's it. A deckbuilding game is any game in which you need to use stuff, and you sometimes have that stuff and you sometimes have less of that stuff.

Now it comes to it, I can't think of a game which ISN'T a deck-building game!
 
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davogotland wrote:
ender7 wrote:
When talking about deck-building, we're talking about a set of common mechanisms, patterns and dynamics, not a single set of rules.

of course we're talking about a single set of rules. what else could we be talking about?

you're getting a genre and a mechanism mixed up, as did all the previous authors of the description of deck/pool building, which was why i started this thread.



What I mean is that when we're talking about mechanisms we might be talking about:

1 - The specific implementation in a given game of a rule or rules that we collectively identify as a mechanism. Eg, 'in Agricola, you place a worker on a building and take the action the building provides. Only one worker can occupy each building.' This isn't quite all the rules that define the WP mech used in Agricola, but it's enough for the example

2 - The more generalized collection of possible rules/versions/flavors that we would collectively identify as a mechanism. Eg, I love worker placement games - but I don't like how Manhattan Project lets other players block your buildings. The key point here is that when we say mechanism we're saying it as a category description, rather than a specific ruleset as it might exist in a specific game.

The use of mechanisms to describe game genres is, imo, colloquial, not rigorous. I think saying a game is in the WP or DBG genre is simply saying that WP or DBG are central mechanisms in the game.

As to the discussion you'd like to have, I'd like to have it too! You might enjoy reading my blog, where I discuss this kind of stuff regularly. It's at www.kindfortress.com
 
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Jared Voshall
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Yeah, mixing and matching the genres can definitely throw a wrench into definitions. If you have a game where you have a deck of cards which each allows you to place a worker which can generate resources/build locations/etc, would you call that a Deck Building Game (you have a deck of workers which you can add and remove cards from, which you draw through multiple times during the game, and is randomized every pass), a Worker Placement game (you place workers on the board in order to resolve a variety of effects that move the game state forward)? Personally, I'd say it's a full hybrid Worker Placement/DBG, with equal weight put toward each of the core mechanics.

So, it does behoove us to nail down what, exactly, defines the Deck Building mechanic. I don't think there are many that would argue that Roll for the Galaxy is a DBG, and fewer would try with Race for the Galaxy, despite both sharing some similar traits to said mechanic. Likewise, I don't think people would argue Fantastiqa or Tyrants of the Underdark aren't DBGs despite pulling on other mechanics to flesh out their gameplay. When we can say what a deck builder is, we can use that to meaningfully categorize the games it includes.
 
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Isaac Shalev
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Magius wrote:
Yeah, mixing and matching the genres can definitely throw a wrench into definitions. If you have a game where you have a deck of cards which each allows you to place a worker which can generate resources/build locations/etc, would you call that a Deck Building Game (you have a deck of workers which you can add and remove cards from, which you draw through multiple times during the game, and is randomized every pass), a Worker Placement game (you place workers on the board in order to resolve a variety of effects that move the game state forward)? Personally, I'd say it's a full hybrid Worker Placement/DBG, with equal weight put toward each of the core mechanics.


I can think of two games that do this. Orléans uses a bag of workers, rather than a deck, so it's pool-building, rather than precisely deck-building, but those are very closely related. Thing is that Orleans doesn't have much competition for spots (only that central scoring board is shared). You're placing workers to activate buildings in combination. To me, it's a pool-building game with a set collection/set building mechanism for action selection. I think a core aspect of WP is that it's a draft for actions, where you can be blocked or otherwise inconvenienced by how other players take up the buildings.

The Pillars of the Earth has a similar draw-workers-from-a-bag subsystem for the master buiders placement. It accompanies a more traditional worker placement mechanism for the regular workers. There also isn't really any bag-building, all the master builders go in the bag w no player ability to change bag composition, iirc. So yeah, it's a WP game w two placement variant systems. If you could change the bag composition, and if that was at least as important as the other half of the game, it would be a true hybrid, imo.


Magius wrote:

So, it does behoove us to nail down what, exactly, defines the Deck Building mechanic. I don't think there are many that would argue that Roll for the Galaxy is a DBG, and fewer would try with Race for the Galaxy, despite both sharing some similar traits to said mechanic. Likewise, I don't think people would argue Fantastiqa or Tyrants of the Underdark aren't DBGs despite pulling on other mechanics to flesh out their gameplay. When we can say what a deck builder is, we can use that to meaningfully categorize the games it includes.


RollftG is most certainly a pool-building game though. You're acquiring dice to change the composition of your pool, randomly pulling dice from it, and taking actions based on the dice and their results. The fact that you're pulling dice and rolling them introduces more variability in what you might actually get, but it's only a little different from adding 6 stones to your deck, each of which corresponds to a die face. A variant within the category, not its own category, to my mind.

If your distinction is between pool-building and deck-building, ok, but I think DBG is a subcategory of PBG. If it's something else that makes you distinguish Roll, I'd be curious to hear your reasoning.

 
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