Ignorance Is Bliss

April 30, 2012

This may seem like a strange topic to write about.

CDGs (collectible dice games) and CMGs (collectible miniatures games) differ from CCGs in fundamental ways.  Which are?  CCGs have hidden information – the hand.  Because of the hidden information, it’s not necessary, though some have it, to have a randomization mechanic.  CDGs obviously use the dice themselves to provide a random game mechanic to make resolution nonpredictable.  CMGs, at least all that I can recall, use dice to accomplish the same thing.

If you know what is in someone’s hand at all times in most CCGs, the CCG has failed.  Perfect information can result in perfect play.  Sure, chess has perfect information and rarely has perfect play, same with tons of other games – games I don’t see the point in playing when you can play CCGs.

Why am I writing about this?  I think people don’t realize the importance of hidden information.  Some quite enjoy knowing what is in others’ hands.  I hate it as I hate perfect play (or, alternatively, paralysis by analysis).  That CDGs/CMGs have everything in play is likely why I never embraced them like I do CCGs.

Not that a game ceases to matter the instant someone peeks at someone else’s hand.  Or, like can happen in a CCG like Magic, the game should be stopped as soon as someone’s hand is empty.  The need is for mystery, not mystery at all times.

So, Le Dinh Tho rips a card.  Okay.  I probably find it less annoying then a lot of players based on the reactions they give when it happens.  On the other hand, superior Revelations strips the game of an essentially valuable element.

Not to say anything about how useful revealing hands is.  Someone with a known hand is clearly at a disadvantage, with the level of disadvantage varying immensely on the situation and how fluid the situation is.  Whether it’s worth investing resources to put someone at that disadvantage depends highly on the cost in resources.  Tortured Confession has far more costs associated with it than Prophecies of Gehenna, while Prophecies is taking up a precious master slot.

Not much more than that.  Just thinking about how much of a bad idea it is from a design standpoint to make knowing people’s hands easy.  And, another reason Magic should have had a different draw mechanic, so that playing off the top wasn’t so common.



April 3, 2011

The title for this, by the way, has to do with a joke about what to call something at work.

Last Sunday, we did our every two week thing.  We played a three-player V:TES game in which we called the game when I Eldritch Glimmered Santaleous into torpor with my Backstep/Backflip deck.  Neither of my two RPG Launchers in play were ever used.  We demoed the game to somebody hovering around and Brandon’s demo decks were so bleedy that +1 bleed cards in hand were just a liability and the average bleed by three different decks was around 4.

Then, I opened up some Dragon Dice.  I invested in Dragon Dice, probably unwisely since I’ve never found it that enjoyable to actually play.  But, as with anything I invest in, I have a lot.  I don’t have a top tier collection – I’d only say my Babylon 5 CCG, Wheel of Time CCG, and V:TES collections would be in the top tier for collectible games.  And, at some point, I stopped getting more, even though the game is surprisingly undead.  Having a lot means that it’s easy for me to field material to play with.  And, I’m kind of pro using stuff I already own rather than buying more stuff I won’t use.

There’s something to Dragon Dice that appeals to me.  Much like Magic appeals to me on various levels, not everything about a game has to do with how well it plays.  Dragon Dice is a perfectly serviceable game, I’d even go so far to say the mechanics are good.  It’s just that what I envision the game being about is not what it’s about.  It’s a fairly dry wargamey … dice game.  To call it a wargame would be confusing, but it’s wargamey vis-a-vis CCGs.  That’s not at all what I envision.

For whatever reason, I actually buy into the flavor.  I know.  It’s just D&D.  It’s even kind of sillier than D&D, a game I stopped caring about because I woke up one day and deemed it silly.  I suppose I could be persuaded to buy a hardcore Norse mythology RPG that had elves and dwarves, but anything else with such a hackneyed premise must be eschewed (oh, poor Middle Earth).  Anyway, I read about the various troop types and the war of races loyal to either Nature or Death and get all enthused about having D&D monsters (some are exactly so) represented with ten-sided dice come charging out to whoop some ass.

Then, I play the game.  And, it’s just about picking up dice and looking at their symbols and resigning oneself to the fact that common, 1-pt. dice armies are almost always better than anything else.  What’s odd about this dichotomy is that I actually like the Wheel of Time CCG.  It’s a game that can easily take two hours with two people that involves rolling dice to resolve everything.  Why isn’t the flavor lost with it?  Is it just because cards are way cooler than dice?  That secret information is why CCGs are awesome and CDGs and CMGs aren’t?

So, a friend of mine and I talked a lot about Campaign Dragon Dice to make it have more of a role-playing feel.  We even started sketching some rules and scenarios.  Ended up being too much effort when there were other things to play.  However, every time I think about Dragon Dice, I think about how I want to use the dice to do something different than actually play Dragon Dice, not because I hate playing DD but because it just seems like the cute icons on the dice could be put to better use.

Which brings me to my topic for today (only 600 words in).  Using components of one game for another.  I have actually played Dragon Dice versus Ultimate Combat! or some such craziness.  That’s not so much what I mean.  Referring to a recent blog post, I mentioned wanting to talk more about using CCG cards in RPGs.

I have heard of someone using Magic cards in a D&D game.  The impetus for the train of thought came from a L5R GM using L5R cards in his game.  As mentioned in the other post, a lot of CCGs don’t mix all that well with the RPGs because of scale.  CCGs typically go at a much broader level – see Shadowfist/Feng Shui, WoT (yes, WoT has a RPG), etc.

I’m actually a big fan of hands of cards in any sort of game, so I have been attracted to RPGs like The Zero Movement (Tarot-based).  How well would a V:TM game actually work with V:TES cards?  Might be interesting to do something like what the L5R guy did and have the cards represent some sort of non-directly translated mechanic.  Voter Captivation may not have to be a Presence effect, for instance.  I’d rather that a hand of cards be more directly applicable to situations, prefer when the cards are used as the resolution system since that gives much greater control to the player over what happens in a story than things like dice resolution.

How could my DD monsters be put to use?  Could I whip out a DD ten-sider in my Solomon Kane sessions and have that be the monster without it being goofy?  Maybe the smaller dice could be used to represent minion allies.  If the Coronel’s musketeers fire, roll to see how many hits they get.  When hit back, roll for saves.  Etc.

While I could always use the terrain dice from DD as eight-siders, what about the magic items being … magic items, minor terrains being used to show progress/features while traveling, etc.?

One of the problems is having genres that don’t mix, of course.  Wheel of Time is kind of specific in its nationalities, names, et al.  So, it may not port well to some other RPG.  On the other hand, Tomb Raider cards are often fairly generic (for something modern), though the art may be a problem.  L5R cards can probably work for any Asian fantasy game.  Magic cards, often portraying generic fantasy and just being often better to look at than cards of other games, can work to represent.  As much as people complain about how Ultimate Combat! cards look, since the technique cards are actual martial arts moves, that seems kind of good for resolving martial arts contests.

Subgames.  One of the things that’s possible, if rare, is to use one game as a subgame in another.  UC! could easily be used to fight out a wrestling match.  DD could be used for mass combat.  What of Seventh Sea CCG or Pirates of the Caribbean CCG to resolve ship battles?  I think it’s rare because it’s actually rare to get into mechanics that a game doesn’t already cover.  Also, it’s a hassle to bring a bunch of extra stuff.  Why fight out a L5R mass combat instead of using the mass combat tables that come in the mainbooks (admittedly, 4e’s is bland)?

I don’t know.  I’m sure there’s a lot of material to mine with using components of one game for another (mechanically, I’m so going to remember some day to pull out the ships from Age of Empires III and use them for my SK game, or whatever).  It’s just hard to pin down what makes sense to do and what would fly with others.  And, there’s always the problem when coming up with house rules of going to all of the effort to codify them.