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Subject: Mechanic Analaysis: Drafting rss

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Nothing Sacred Games
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I recently posted a detailed analysis of drafting from a design perspective, which I thought other designers here might find interesting. I cover what I mean by drafting, the many forms it takes (including worker placement games), what it adds to games, and what it requires of games.

I'm happy to continue the discussion here if anyone has any thoughts to add
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Sturv Tafvherd
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Nice article.

Question: where do you place the "Rondel" mechanic? One player's choice doesn't necessarily eliminate other player's choices... but the choices available are restricted from one turn to the next by your own choice on this turn. Would you consider that drafting against yourself?


Question: how about the "usual" M:tG mechanic found in many other games -- spend limited resources to pay for one card selected in hand. Conceivably, this is also a type of "drafting against yourself"? Each choice you make limits future choices.


Question: how about positional games like Chess and Go? With each move, I take away both my own choices and my opponent's choices for future moves. Is that drafting? (Is it worker placement?)

 
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Nothing Sacred Games
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Great questions Sturv. This brings up issues I hadn't really considered before, namely, where does it stop?

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Question: where do you place the "Rondel" mechanic? One player's choice doesn't necessarily eliminate other player's choices... but the choices available are restricted from one turn to the next by your own choice on this turn. Would you consider that drafting against yourself?
I'm not terribly familiar with the "Rondel" mechanic (at least by that name), but from your description, I would say it doesn't really fit within drafting. Drafting "against yourself" loses enough of the interaction and strategic depth that drafting against other players has that I wouldn't even consider it drafting. It is more opportunity costs, and almost all games include some form of this.

Quote:
Question: how about the "usual" M:tG mechanic found in many other games -- spend limited resources to pay for one card selected in hand. Conceivably, this is also a type of "drafting against yourself"? Each choice you make limits future choices.
I'd say this is similar to the last question. Drafting against yourself just loses so much depth that it's worth classifying it in another way. Perhaps one reason for this is that it's much easier to plan your moves, even if there is some randomness involved.

Quote:
Question: how about positional games like Chess and Go? With each move, I take away both my own choices and my opponent's choices for future moves. Is that drafting? (Is it worker placement?)
In my mind, this is your toughest question. My intuition is that it's different enough that it shouldn't be considered the same, but when you consider actions having requirements, the idea of a spacial requirement doesn't seem very different from a resource based one.

For the time being, my answer is that mechanics are very much on a continuous gradient, and a classification must make arbitrary cutoffs at some point. Spacial options like those in Chess and Go are far enough from the abstract options in what we consider traditional drafting games that it doesn't seem useful to classify them as drafting to me. I could definitely be convinced otherwise, though
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Aaron Bohm
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I'd be curious to your thoughts about deck builders like Dominion and where they fall on this line, if any.
 
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Tommy Occhipinti
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Great job! Believe it or not I have notes for an article very much like this laying around in my game design files (I've also thought a lot about drafting due to a game I've been working on).

Your point that worker placement games are a form of drafting is very excellent, and not something I had thought of before. Indeed, many of the points in my outline clearly apply to worker placement games. Since it will also give me a chance to overview my outline, I'll go through them one by one:

-) It is good to have a variety of power levels of options available (rather than all options being equally good). I think every worker placement game I can think of does this blatantly. Most even have action spaces that are "strictly better" than other action spaces.

-) It is good to have strong synergies between various options. Any worker placement game with "multiple paths to victory" is basically saying this. I believe in Magic they would call them archetypes!

-) It is good to have options that vary in value depending on the game state. Of course worker placement games do this!

-) Allow players to anticipate things "wheeling" (that is going around the table and making it back to them). This is probably the main mechanic of worker placement games, taking not the option that is best for you, but rather the option least likely to be there when it is your turn next.

Finally, my notes have a few points that are specific to cards and MTG-like drafts and so probably don't translate well to worker placement games:

-) Cards that play differently in different situations are good, as they add variety to the gameplay.

-) It is important to manage complexity. For example by using:
-) Rarity
-) Make sure there are obvious draft strategies, and make sure they work
-) Hide complexity with synergy
-) Make use of "invisible text"
-) Beware cards with multiple abilities unless they "Feel like" one ability

-) Variety is perhaps the biggest strength of drafting mechanics. A few ways to ensure variety are:
-) Many archetypes
-) Many non-obvious archetypes
-) Rarity
-) "Build around me" cards
-) Make sure the archetypes that exist play differently! (This matters from both sides)
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Nothing Sacred Games
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I'd say that deck builders don't inherently have to have drafting, but they often do. Dominion, for example, has drafting when it comes to buying, but it doesn't really affect the game until the end (when players are finally getting through piles). That said, cards like knights have more of a drafting feel to them because each card is unique.

Other deck builders, like Ascension include more of a drafting element because the specific cards you can purchase change very quickly.

I'm not aware of any deck builder where there is no shared pool of cards you access to add to your deck, but it's definitely possible.
 
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Aaron Bohm
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nothingsacredgames wrote:

I'm not aware of any deck builder where there is no shared pool of cards you access to add to your deck, but it's definitely possible.
Nightfall gets close, where each player has an exclusive pile to buy from.

Dominion of course has a finite number of cards in each stack so collectively buying from a spot once doesn't eliminate another players options but it does limit it.

This is actually a curious distingtion you make as you emphasize the "can't be taken by another" aspect of drafting even to the point of including worker placement - a mechanic not typically associated with drafting. In drafting, one might say an essential aspect is not only the selecting of a resource/action - thus limiting that selection away from an opponent - but that this selection adds its value to the player for some non-immediate later use.

For example, you'd say Seasons has drafting but it's possible for more than one of the same card to be available in said draft. In this case, it's no different than Dominion in concept, only in quantity.

I guess my point is, how important is that limiting factor to the drafting mechanic?
 
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Isaac Shalev
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Great article. I've been thinking along similar lines lately about the relationships between mechanisms. Role selection, for example, is also a kind of drafting (and thus a kind of worker-placement).

I wanted to just draw out one point about the difference between drafting of the kind we see in M:TG or 7 Wonders and a worker-placement mechanism like Pillars of the Earth or Stone Age. In WP, everyone knows all the actions that will be available. In drafting games, players will not typically know all that will be available, and even if they did, they won't know how those cards are distributed into hands - which massively affects gameplay.
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Tommy Occhipinti
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ender7 wrote:
In WP, everyone knows all the actions that will be available. In drafting games, players will not typically know all that will be available, and even if they did, they won't know how those cards are distributed into hands - which massively affects gameplay.
Note, for example, that Agricola has random actions available, so players won't know when a given action will be available.

I think there is enormous benefit in having to select from a random subset, because it will force players into different strategies each game, rather than leading to "honing" where a player does the same thing every game but a bit better (I know, though, that many players like honing).
 
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Matt Loomis
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nothingsacredgames wrote:
I'm not aware of any deck builder where there is no shared pool of cards you access to add to your deck, but it's definitely possible.
Ironically, I happen to have a game called "Strength & Honor" in development that does this. I'll be taking it to Protospiel in a few weeks and to GenCon as well. I haven't posted anything about it on BGG yet, but there is a summary of the game here if anyone is interested.
 
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Nothing Sacred Games
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Excellent point Isaac--this is definitely an axis I missed in my initial analysis of drafting.
 
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Aaron, the main reason I emphasize being able to take options from other players is that I feel it is the most interactive part of drafting, where the meat of the mechanic lies. The reason I brought up the connection between drafting and worker placement is because I think both of these mechanics use that mechanism to create similar experiences for players, so it's useful to think of them as overlapping. I could be wrong, of course.

The difference between Dominion and Seasons (where one option might be repeated in a draft pool) is one of quantity, but it becomes one of quality if the quantity becomes big enough. In Dominion, preventing other players from taking all of the Villages is pretty much a lost cause, since you must spend 10 of your turns doing it and hope no one else catches on during that time. In Seasons, if two Amulets of Water show up, if you take the first, that quickly pressures the other players into making a decision about that option. If you skip it, thinking it will table, your two opponents might both take them, taking that option away from you. (Note: I've only played Seasons once, and it was several months ago, so I might be a little rusty on how the game works exactly.) Even though it's just a difference in number, I think it makes the games play much differently.

That said, I would still classify the Dominion system as drafting--I just don't think it impacts the game very much. That makes sense, since the focus of the game is building a deck, not drafting.

As for the later use point you bring up, I think you're right that most games we would traditionally call drafting involve choosing your options for later use, but I don't think this has to be the case. Even in 7 Wonders you'll sometimes pick a blue card because it immediately gives you victory points.

Edit: Corrected url for Seasons.
 
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