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KeyForge: Call of the Archons» Forums » General

Subject: Deck Construction Algorithm & Balance rss

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Richard Garfield
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I can't go into details, but the construction algorithm does reject decks and do small amounts of construction. In balancing the goals of variety against playability (both too powerful and too weak) we tried to cut as few decks as possible, but we did cut some. More often than too powerful or too weak was 'not fun', it is not fun to get a card that refers to Robots and then have no robots in your deck - or even just have one.

There absolutely will be a range of powers with the decks, it would be arrogant to think we could identify algorithmically true power of a deck - and it would undermine one of the things I love most about games - that they are bigger than the designer - the players get better than the designers, and later players get better than earlier players. This means 'balance' is always a moving target.

A couple examples to illustrate that - in very early magic there was a powerful deck engine based on a card Necropotence - and lots of call that it get banned. We chose not to and the world championship was very exciting because some players brought out a secret weapon - the Stasis Deck - which disrupted the status quo. We as designers did not know there was a solution, but we knew that games are very very complex, and we didn't want to deprive the players the ultimate achievement of solving that problem.

A second illustration comes from an electronic game I worked on, Spectromancer. In that there were classes you bought and one free class - cleric. There were many complaints that cleric was the worst class - which we were pretty sure wasn't true, but the natural result of it being free. We chose that character to be free not because it was weak but because it was flexible and showed the variety the game offered. We did an analysis and found that indeed for beginners Cleric was slightly underpowered, for Intermediate it was quite underpowered and for expert it was actually a favored deck. In retrospect this was predictable - flexibility is almost always skill testing, and allows players to make bad decisions as well as good. Similarly a deck coveted by beginners - the Necromancer - was powerful against beginners and intermediates but underpowered against experienced players. Experts knew how to avoid the traps the Necromancer laid.

There is no one balance - intermediates and beginners are all players as well, and experts today become outdated tomorrow.

Instead of the goal to make decks fair, I took the goal as making as many decks as possible playable and fun against each other - meaning that of the three major factors in a matchup - player skill, deck quality, and variance - deck quality rarely dominates (meaning regardless of skill or luck your chances to win against it are minimal). And most matchups it will be a long time before the favored deck is known and the advantage should be small.

As players get better at evaluating the deck powers there are many tools for making games fair - the handicapping system of chains is one, but switching decks and for very experienced players - bidding chains are others.

Personally - my son and I (he is a very good player) like to take underperforming decks and try to beat each other with it. It is sometimes tough but we find a lot of glory to taking down a more powerful deck, and sometimes the techniques used can change the relative performance. If we wanted to play 'fair' we would bid - or choose two decks that are close in performance, which we do sometimes as well.

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Christian K
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Hey thanks for sharing I look forward to trying it out. Much focus has been on the distribution model, but I look forward to learning more about the actual game.
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James Flight
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Richard,

Thank you for continuing to innovate! My family have had many hours of enjoyment playing MTG for many years. Thank you for all that fun and great family time.

We are very much looking forward to Keyforge and more great times!

Thanks again!

Jim
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John Curtis
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This was an awesome insight! Thank you for sharing your thoughts... and ideas. Kudos and congrats. I look forward to exploring this wonderful beast you have conceived!
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Demetri
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I'll be referring the skeptical to this post for a while, I think. Thanks Richard.
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GAF Blizzard
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Phelddagrif wrote:
I can't go into details, but the construction algorithm does reject decks and do small amounts of construction. In balancing the goals of variety against playability (both too powerful and too weak) we tried to cut as few decks as possible, but we did cut some. More often than too powerful or too weak was 'not fun', it is not fun to get a card that refers to Robots and then have no robots in your deck - or even just have one.

Thanks for the details! May I ask if this is guaranteed or just very high chance? I've already seen at least two players who tested at Gencon mention they had a deck with only one instance of a keyword when another card mentioned/buffed that keyword (e.g. they might have said Niffle Queen/Lord and they only had one other Niffle in the deck).

Someone also claimed they had an instance like this when they had zero of the keyword, but they admitted a card might have gotten lost in the demo area which would have matched.
 
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Drake Coker
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Thinking about the physical manufacturing of this game drives me insane! Quite an accomplishment assuming it gets pulled off fairly cleanly.
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Frank Molina
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Thank you for the details Mr. Garfield. There is still one question that I was pondering since the game was revealed. Is the algorithm going to attribute a raw value to the deck depending on the cards it contains and known synergy between the cards ? If so, will the app be used to track how each deck performs against other decks (because if I understood correctly each deck has a QR code)?

Thanks again. I'm really excited about this game !
 
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Richard Garfield
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GAFBlizzard wrote:

Thanks for the details! May I ask if this is guaranteed or just very high chance? I've already seen at least two players who tested at Gencon mention they had a deck with only one instance of a keyword when another card mentioned/buffed that keyword (e.g. they might have said Niffle Queen/Lord and they only had one other Niffle in the deck).

Someone also claimed they had an instance like this when they had zero of the keyword, but they admitted a card might have gotten lost in the demo area which would have matched.


It depends on the card - it should be guaranteed in most cases though there may be exceptions, and what is guaranteed will depend on the card. For example, some cards might only guarantee a single match but that is because they are pretty good in other ways - or they give you the ability to go find the mate.

Only having one match is not as bad (for some cards) as it seems - because you often go through the entire deck in one game and if you think it is important to get off a combo you can usually play for it.

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Richard Garfield
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fmos wrote:
Thank you for the details Mr. Garfield. There is still one question that I was pondering since the game was revealed. Is the algorithm going to attribute a raw value to the deck depending on the cards it contains and known synergy between the cards ? If so, will the app be used to track how each deck performs against other decks (because if I understood correctly each deck has a QR code)?

Thanks again. I'm really excited about this game !


I can't comment on issues concerning apps and organized play. I am sure FFG will be tracking lots of information once the game is live, because that data will help future development - but I also anticipate they won't know what is most important until later.

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Robert Rodger
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Thanks for the insight, Richard. I'm very much looking forward to this game and am hoping I can find a bunch of people to play with.
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Frank Molina
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Can't wait to try the game. Too bad I Gencan't this year...
 
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Chris Backe
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Thanks for sharing this. As a game designer yet to get my hands on a deck, I was definitely curious about the construction of decks.

Can definitely see a deck drafting start to a tourney (all players contribute X decks, choose X decks to play, then play X games, one with each deck.
 
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Jared Quist
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What are the plans to encourage organized play? It seems obvious that you can't offer Promo cards, since every deck is unique. So what will bring people into the stores for weekly events? With Magic, the stores could offer prize packs, but with a higher price point and less collectibilty, that doesn't seem logical either. I'm really excited for Keyforge, I am just curious if there are plans for this.
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Jason Walker
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FFG has made acrylic tokens for OP kits in the past. I could see them making acrylic key tokens or something like that.
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Eon Chao
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Thanks for sharing this Richard. This post plus your section in the rulebook really helped me get my head around the games goal.
 
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Orson
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I wouldn’t mind taking a chance of a deck is cheap but if I have to spend $30 on a deck I do not know if it is good or not, that would kill the game.

And this game does not seem like it has high replayibility but instead is dependent on organized play where every matchup would be fresh.

A pass for me as it is difficult to find groups who are mot already playing MTG.
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Xelto G
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Hyruii wrote:
I wouldn’t mind taking a chance of a deck is cheap but if I have to spend $30 on a deck I do not know if it is good or not, that would kill the game.

$10, not $30.
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Charles Wells

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Thanks for contributing Mr. Garfield, and thanks for the games you have designed!
 
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Orson
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Xelto wrote:
Hyruii wrote:
I wouldn’t mind taking a chance of a deck is cheap but if I have to spend $30 on a deck I do not know if it is good or not, that would kill the game.

$10, not $30.


Apologies for being unclear, I meant that in my country where imported games have inflated prices.
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Xelto G
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Hyruii wrote:
Xelto wrote:
Hyruii wrote:
I wouldn’t mind taking a chance of a deck is cheap but if I have to spend $30 on a deck I do not know if it is good or not, that would kill the game.

$10, not $30.

Apologies for being unclear, I meant that in my country where imported games have inflated prices.

Oh. Yeah, I can see wanting to avoid that.
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Trent Boardgamer
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...And just when I thought there wasn't much room for innovation in deck versus deck card games.
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Gabriele Stecchi
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Thank you Richard for your contribution (and for Magic, one of the games that made me a boardgame player).

Just a question about the algorithm. The Asmodee Italia website lists KeyForge as a forthcoming, fully italian translated product. This means that some unique decks will be only in italian, or in french or german and so on? Interesting perspective.
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Benedetto Loffredo
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Gwynor wrote:
Just a question about the algorithm. The Asmodee Italia website lists Keyforge as a forthcoming, fully italian translated product. This means that some unique decks will be only in italian, or in french or german and so on? Interesting perspective.


That's what I expect too. Unique decks regardless of language.

And I hope there won't be any error in translations since I hate to write on cards (don't think there is space for reprinting cards with errors....)
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Gabriele Stecchi
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This. And what about the print runs? I wish Fantasy Flight a success (I like the KeyForge concept), but in this case, I don't know how many italian decks will be printed. It could be not only a language issue for many, but a price issue as well (usually in italian online shops the english decks prices are higher than their italian decks counterparts).
 
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