Deck of Many Things

Deck of Many Things

I’ve built a lot of decks for various card games, one year about 100 new decks for one card game I played, but even I have struggled with building decks for some games.

I don’t think building decks for Traveller is easy.  Or, more precisely, I don’t think building the deck you intend to build is easy.  Traveller is very open in terms of possibilities.  I have been playing a new LCG where deckbuilding is extremely constrained, so the number of choices is low.  With Traveller, other than , any of the cards could go in any deck…and that’s just the Captain’s Deck.  The Adventure Deck has fewer options but may be even harder to work on because cards don’t just serve one purpose.


Tip #1:  Minor Changes

I posted to the forums that the first tip that comes to mind is don’t try to build a new deck – take one of the precons and modify it.  Don’t even modify the Adventure Deck just yet.  I wouldn’t even look at all of the card types.  I’d say focus on and  changes.  Obviously, adding a card requires removing another card, so may need to cut , , , or  if adding  and/or .  Or, can just look for one for one swaps if want something even simpler.

Actually, this first tip brings up a good point.  Mark Rosewater, Magic: The Gathering’s lead designer, often wrote about how restrictions breed creativity.  I find that the lack of restrictions breeds lack of creativity.  When I have too many choices, I tend to flail about ineffectually not ever getting a new deck done.  Far better for me to limit what I can do and that will give me a more manageable number of options where the choices between different options may be more distinct.


Tip #2:  Holistic View (Top Down)

For one of the games I play, I often review the card type distributions for decks after I’ve done a first draft of the deck.  I think that’s reasonable for Traveller, as well.

Let’s start with 15  as a typical target.  Let’s say:  take the number of  slots your has, double that number, this is your maximum number of  in the deck.  The actual number will likely be lower, maybe 7 for Scout, 9-10 for Free Trader, etc. depending upon what the deck wants.

While some  are oriented to building around, let’s not worry about decks built around specific cards with basic deck construction.  Let’s throw in a lower amount of , like one of each of the three subtypes, and save space for other card types.

, as dependent cards, already complicate playing decks but also are cards that might be considered more sophisticated in terms of how to most effectively use, so let’s keep the number low.  You can play zero, just like you could play 60  if you wanted, but maybe run 2-3 based on the most common skills provided by your  cards.  If you find yourself craving the effects of , then, can always up the count in the next version of the deck.

At this point, have maybe half a deck.

 is also dependent but more straightforward than the one use .  For the Empress Marava and the Scout, I would look at  that provides more skills.  In the former case, to make sure you can use the Far Trader’s ability and still have more tokens to spend; in the latter because of the small number of  slots.  As a rule of thumb that I just made up, take your number of  slots, double it, and set that as a maximum number of .

Again, that’s just a max.  Because the Subsidized Merchant will have more  and  slots and still can’t run more than 60 cards, probably going to run a similar number of  to smaller , like around six.

Does this mean run around 24 ?  No.  Maybe a Scout would consider 24 , if it was playing around its low number of / slots and playing to its special ability.  But, it’s easy to want to play a bunch of  because they can throw off “combat math” in the game.  More likely, run 15 or fewer .  That leaves space to go back and fill up the deck to 60.


Tip #3:  Fill Out, Not Cut Down

A common issue with one of the card games I play is people not knowing what to cut to reduce the sizes of their decks down to the maximum deck size.  Now, some games have no maximum deck size, yet players stay pretty lean because they know that minimum size decks are more consistent, but this game is one where a lot of players over the years argued for maximizing deck size.

I find that cutting down to a maximum size makes me feel like the deck is sloppy and doesn’t know what it wants to be doing.  A trick I used for that game was to build a 70 card deck and let it grow to a bloated mess of 80 cards rather than build a 110 card deck and cut it down to 90.

So, think about the 50 (or even 40) Captain’s Deck cards you really care about drawing over a game, then think about what to use in your “bonus” slots to leverage a strength, shore up a weakness, metagame against potential opposing decks, that amuse you, that have cool art, whatever.


Tip #4:  Cards Differ

Some cards are better than other cards in a general sense.  Some cards are better for specific decks.  Until it’s clear what a deck misses the most, can keep to playing more versatile cards or cards that provide more commonly needed needs.

Bwap Advisors, Consultant Call, Data Mining Consultant, Modular Hold are going to provide lots of basic needs, though it doesn’t come cheap.  Are these “good cards”?  Sure.  Are these some of the best cards?  Well, that isn’t as clear, but you probably won’t feel bad if you have them in your deck until you figure out what cards are going to provide more benefit.


Tip #5:  Decks Differ

The Scout and the Subsidized Merchant are not going to want the same things.  SureShot Missile Turret is extra valuable in a Scout deck because it gets the Scout up to the all important 2 to fight off corsairs, where the Subsidized Merchant wants some upgrade that gives  +2 (unless it figures that jettisoning SureShot Missile Turrets to deal with corsairs is sufficient).

How much does a Subsidized Merchant care about Modular Hold or even LSP Multi-Phased Array?  It can complete the  it’s likely to run with no help and can probably deal with its own  adding capability tokens when pursuing  that require two tokens.  Meanwhile, a Scout deck focusing on  is going to need a second  token not only for Dwarf Planet Survey but also to clear Electro-Magnetic Interference on  that require just one  token.


Tip #6:  Play, Then Edit

Two important aspects to this.  First, play.  Don’t worry about deck optimization until you have a sense of what deck optimization looks like.  The number of times I’ve heard players of other card games complain about not knowing how to build a good deck surprised me.  Who cares?  Build a bad deck.  Play it.  Learn.

The second part is to edit based on the play of the deck.  A trick used for another card game was to see which cards you discarded during the game rather than played and cut those from the deck.  That can apply to Traveller to some degree.  You are sitting around 12 .  To that point in the game, what did you find more useful and less useful out of the cards you’ve seen?

Now, one game isn’t going to unlock the secrets of the universe.  Need to win twice with some janky deck before you proclaim it the greatest thing since deep-fried food.  But, every play of the game suggests things.


Tip #7:  One Is Easier Than Two

Do one thing well.  Did it work?  Was it fun?

I like flexibility in decks because I don’t like games to be highly match up dependent.  But, it’s not easy to draw conclusions when you have lots of things going on.  If you try to achieve one thing, like put all of the  in a deck and be able to complete all of them even if they have your other adventure cards as , that’s going to be less overwhelming than worrying about what happens when a piracy deck is your opponent, what happens when a deck full of  is mowing down your , etc.

You may find that overly focused decks work but aren’t particularly fun.  Fortunately, plenty of other options even with the existing card pool.


Tip #8:  Discuss Decks

Talk to people about deck builds.  Post to our forums.  Ask other players what they think about cards or decks.  The reason I love customizable card games is because the conversations can be just as good or better than playing.  Magic: The Gathering started a game type that goes beyond the box.  That’s something I like to embrace.

  1. “The number of times I’ve heard players of other card games complain about not knowing how to build a good deck surprised me. Who cares? Build a bad deck. Play it. Learn.”

    Best advice I’ve read. I wish I had taken this advice for all the games I’ve ever played. I’ve spent WAY too much time brooding over the best moves instead of just enjoying the ride.

Leave a reply