Hi there, this is the second part of our look at how the design of Combat Cards changed over its development. The first part covered why games evolve and what we mean by ‘game systems’. You can find that part here.
So, to recap, we use systems in Combat Cards because they let players try tactics and approaches, and see what happens. We want this because it means players can effectively ‘ask the game questions.’
Let’s look at the battles as an example of systems throwing out interesting questions. Each time it’s your turn,the questions you, the player, can ask include:
- Which team will do more damage this turn if I choose to make a melee, psychic or ranged attack?
- Which of my opponent’s cards will be hit if I choose each of those attacks?
- And which of mine will be hit in retaliation?
- Which of those attacks will earn me damage multipliers?
- And which of my opponent’s attacks will be multiplied?
- How do my Warlord’s Special Rule or any card traits affect this?
- How close am I to destroying my opponent’s cards or their Warlord?
- Is it likely I’ll lose any of my cards before I get to choose again?
- Am I trying to win this battle, or just collect more Skulls before I lose?
Some of the questions you’ll consciously think through, while others will just be background ‘gut feelings’, but the point is there’s a lot going on in even a relatively straightforward tactical game like Combat Cards.
So to go waaaay back to the start of the last post, this is why I think that game design is a fascinating area. The reason you can ask those questions is down to the game systems present in Combat Cards, and choosing which of those systems to include and how they work is basically what being a game designer is about.
But how do we decide what to include or leave out?
Even though we’re a Warhammer 40,000 game, and so want to capture the ‘feel’ of combat in the dark millennium, we aren’t attempting to replicate every aspect of tabletop battles. For example, we don’t have explicit unit movement, or cover and terrain, or mission and deployment selection before the battle.
This is where the iteration I talked about in the distant past (last week) comes in. Creating quick prototype versions of the game’s systems allows us to quickly test, tweak and re-test the game as it actually is, instead of what we think it might be.
Combat Cards has gone through many iterations, sometimes becoming more streamlined, or slower and more complex. We tested smaller or larger decks, different victory conditions, and different ways to build decks, all the while homing in on what we feel is a good blend of immediacy and depth.
Some areas, like the three attack choices, and not being able to choose your targets, have remained constant, but a lot of elements of the Combat Cards you’re playing today are pretty different from the first paper prototype we tested in a coffee shop!
Which reminds me – I really should do a post on how we use paper prototypes to test stuff before it gets near a computer…