What is unique about customizable card games?
Okay, maybe not unique, but what set CCGs apart when Magic: The Gathering came out was the customizability of one’s deck, that a player brought their own deck and that its contents were revealed as you played.
This customizability allows a player to bring the player’s personality into the game, to vary the game components without requiring approval by opponents. But, as can be seen with the highly competitive two-player CCGs, it can also lead to a lack of variety when the participants deem particular decks to have optimal builds.
The “mirror” match. As someone who craves variety, well, at least when it comes to playing games, I often am not that excited by mirror matches. Mirror matches just feel like a lost opportunity for creative … identity. Even putting aside that I enjoy feeling like my decks are, well, mine and not just a creation anyone could make, the mechanical reality of a mirror match is that results lose the “I built a better/smarter deck than you” element. The contests are going to be decided primarily by the players’ respective skill levels and the randomness of card draws.
With a game that has sideboards, may have identical decks at first only to have subtle variations as the match progresses … which still doesn’t sound that enthralling to me but which can lead to creative decisions with how to be more successful than opponents.
Traveller doesn’t have sideboards. Sideboards are often difficult to integrate into CCGs, as many a CCG doesn’t have a competitive format that allows for best two out of three. Multiplayer CCGs – three CCGs I’ve played some to many tournaments for include Vampire: The Eternal Struggle, Shadowfist, and Babylon 5 – are especially unlikely to come up with reasonable sideboarding rules due to inability to replay games, though Babylon 5 did try having a sideboard (which I didn’t think worked well). With every Captain’s Deck card being worth credits, less generally useful cards aren’t as much of an opportunity cost as they may be in another game.
Horizon is playtesting for new cards. Increasingly, my thoughts go to mirror matches. Some Traveller players like to play the preconstructed decks as is. Different people like different things and games like CCGs with their vast potential for variety always have a diversity of players. But, my thoughts go to the potential for very similar constructed decks, even if identical builds are unlikely with constructed play just because the game isn’t being played for big prizes where deck construction optimality is of great importance.
Two focused Scout decks that plan on speed over control. Two Subsidized Merchant decks that want to score 6-7 with each , hoping for that round three win. Two promo Broadsword piracy decks that aim for double digit by round three. I don’t have a problem with these sorts of matches in the theoretical. We haven’t seen a crossregional metagame arise, admittedly because we don’t have extensive tournament play, where a particular deck archetype dominates play. But, the plan is to release more . With CCGs, the latest may not always be the greatest, but it often becomes the most popular for a time. So, we release one or two new and do we see the mirror match become relatively common?
For me, when a new becomes available to the public and I go to build my own decks, I will probably build something quirky/inefficient. Lots of other CCG players gravitate towards the best builds. Is it going to be fun if two players make essentially the same deck and face off?
Mirror matches are inevitable, but I have some ability to make them less likely. Mirror matches are going to be less likely when cards don’t have one clearly superior strategy. They become even less likely when it feels like non-ship cards have multiple uses.
The Scout is the only vesselat the moment. I would not be surprised if the consensus view is that it should take advantage of that and focus on those . However, even so, should it be all about speed or should it try to take advantage of starting with 1 to get some piracy plays in or should it play a lot of that impair the opponents’ paths to victory? Or, as crazy as this may sound, should it try to branch out to pick off with or that require multiple Tokens to impact the pursuing options of its opponents?
When Horizon goes to stat out a new and decide what sort of special abilities/drawbacks it will have, we know we want to do justice to the RPG source material first. And, sure, often second is going to be coming up with abilities that try to set a apart from other printed so that we expand the game’s diversity and make every ship “cool”. Somewhere on the list, though, is considering whether the is being given design space to not just end up being “NewShip.dec”, i.e. one new option for how to build a deck.