In The Box

So often in life, we hear people want out-of-the-box thinkers.  But, Mark Rosewater’s column today got me to thinking about in-the-box thinking.

Much of new set design for CCGs involves coming up with new mechanics.  It’s not sexy enough to simply expand on what is already part of the game but to change the nature of what are among the most customizable games in existence.

I haven’t been impressed with how V:TES has been managed, but it’s not so much the ideas as it is the execution of those ideas.  Sure, I don’t see a compelling need for Black Hand in the game.  And, Imbued and Red List and various bloodlines drawbacks are detrimental to the play experience.  But, there are more than a few interesting concepts that got shafted at the execution level when introduced:  Anarch, Laibon, Events.

But, I’m getting off topic.  What I started thinking about was how it isn’t just OOTB thinking that the world needs but better ITB thinking.  Too many CCGs have mechanics already present and manage to not develop them, undermine them, or take them into unproductive directions.

As one person put it recently on, Trifle was supposed to be a mechanic to boost up a weak effect that wouldn’t likely justify a card to an acceptable level.  Switch sects to Sabbat?  Sure, trifling.  Minion Tap as a Trifle?  Well, we know how that went.  Admittedly, there aren’t many other offenders – only Life in the City and Wider View strike me as arguably too good, and the former would be bad without Trifleness and doesn’t seem overplayed, anyway.

But, Trifle isn’t at the heart of the issue, either, as it is a mechanic that sees continued use.  If I were to pick the most underdeveloped mechanic in the history of the game, there’s an argument for Primogen.  Not because it deserves more development than other mechanics but because it has been around the longest with some of the least support.

Some other mechanics that could easily see development:

Ally Types

Sure, there are four Changeling allies.  Still haven’t seen Black Forest Base get taken out, Ravagered Kiasyd get blocked, or anyone besides myself use Song of Pan with multiple changelings.  There are various references to wraiths and zombies, but why print Tainted Spring and not print more animal allies?


What?  We have tons of archetypes, way too many.  We even have Guide and Mentor.  Actually, in truth, it’s not about archetypes, it’s about vampire special abilities.

There is such a ridiculous design space for vampire specials that aren’t revolutionary but logical extensions of concepts in the game.  One such special could be a vampire that searches out an archetype when it comes into play, maybe a specific archetype, maybe a group of archetypes (e.g. Trifle only).

Electronic, Haven, etc.

Decided to introduce the idea of electronic equipment.  Okay, how about some tutoring effects for electronic or something that makes it not just a drawback (on a card no one plays)?

Anarchs was printed a long time ago, at this point.  Goblinism for Zaire River Ferry is a bombo, unless you manage to do some pretty weird stuff to get a Lasombra MYT.  Sure, Goblinism + Polaris Coach is going to be all of the rage, some day, but instead of random mentions of Haven on scattered cards, most of which don’t see significant play, would like to see some thought put into this being a meaningful mechanic.

Government, Inquisition, Transient

Everybody knows these are woefully ignored by the game, except maybe transient.  Transient almost means something, but not really.  Why not a tutor for a card with Transient?

I won’t complain about Research Area, but it could easily go down the same path of irrelevance.

Vampire Specials

Thanatosis really needs a Path and not just one dude, but I’ve wanted a dude who paid one less for reaction cards for a long time (with AUS and CHI and, sure, NEC).  Similarly, could have someone who paid one less for action modifiers.  Someone who plays disciplineless action cards for free to bring Blood Bond back into the game.  Etc.

How about vamps that break the model of older = more disciplines in major ways, arguably like Nakova only with useful specials?  More Chaundice style vamps only younger, with less disciplines and not being crippled by being a slave is one way to go.  Something like a 6 cap with no disciplines and +2 Strength and prevent up to 2 damage each combat is extreme and not the most exciting thing in the world, but it should give the idea.

There’s doing more with vampire pairs that doesn’t involve named vampires.  Now, it may be undermining Hugo/Greensleaves, Onaedo/Otieno, and the Blounts, but these combos aren’t all that enthralling (I haven’t seen the Blounts in ages), where something like a vamp with “If you control a ready scarce vampire, Friend of Weirdoes gains two blood each of your untap phases.” is quite the path that one could go down.  Another variant, “If you control a changeling ally, Fantasy Fool has +2 bleed.”

Advanced Vampires

I recognize that having everybody under the Sun have advanced versions not only is messy but also makes existing advancies less special.  But, Epiphany is a lot more interesting when you have multiple advancies in a deck, so there should be more “I play 3+ merge opportunities” in a deck.


Instead of constantly moving forward with grouping, why is there no effort to move backwards and fill in group 1, 2, and 3 with Laibon?  Could make the argument for Imbued, except who wants to make that argument?

Speaking of Laibon, there should really be a massive increase in the number of Laibon vampires and not just of the Laibon Clans.  There should be a whole contingent of Lasombra and Tzimisce Laibon.

Could also say that there should be group 1 Sabbat, indies, and bloodlines.  It’s not like group 1 vampires are hard to find – Jyhad was way overprinted.  And, if the game does actually go to print on-demand, then they are just as easy to get as anything else (ignoring art issues).

Not everything is worth developing just because it already exists in the game, but all CCGs seem to have such a massive amount of unmined design space, which is evidenced by how Magic went from thinking of its non-evergreen mechanics as throwaways to bringing back an old mechanic with every block.

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