This and next week’s posts are more of the dreaded ‘high level game design’ ones, where I look at an area of the game which is important to designers like me – you have been warned.
This time I wanted to look at a ‘meta’ area of the game – the players!
A full discussion on what ‘metagaming’ is can wait for another post, but it basically refers to everything ‘outside of the game, but which still affects that game’.
Every game has a metagame, but it’s particularly important for ‘live’, evolving games like Combat Cards. For us, metagaming can include deck building trends, discussion of popular / unpopular cards or tactics, players learning and sharing loopholes, and so on.
The metagame is what will cause us to boost or tone down cards, or to prioritise elements of the game as more important than others.
But before we can look at any of those areas we have to understand the different types of players who actually play a game like Combat Cards. This is because each type plays for a specific reason and wants different things from the game (and therefore drives the metagame in a specific direction).
A designer called Richard Bartle detailed an early model for defining player types, which even he notes is out of date now, but is still referenced in interesting articles. Starting from theories like this, and our own experience from working on many games, these are the main (necessarily simplified) player types we see in Combat Cards:
As the name suggests, these players like to win, but more than that, they want to know they won through skill or cleverness, not from dumb luck.
These players take the time to build decks which synergise, and use cards which allow for specific tactics (instead of choosing cards which thematically fit together). They also like to optimise the way they play, using their Campaign energy, timed packs, and Objectives as efficiently as possible.
Example Warlord: Ghosar – his flat, turn-by-turn stat boost is predictable enough to be optimised around, and is powerful enough that he gives a good chance of winning.
On the other hand, these players like to play as a ‘hobby’ – something to pass the time, or for entertainment while they’re also doing something else. Of course they like to win, but it’s not as important as having fun, so they may enjoy a close defeat as much as a crushing victory. If you don’t see the appeal in that, then you probably lean towards competitive play!
We feel that casual play is just as important for the long-term health of the game as the competitive aspect, and will continue to try and ensure Combat Cards is as much about chilled fun as tactical domination.
Example Warlord: Captain Acheran – his special rule is straightforward enough that you can take any cards you like and he’ll still be powerful. Plus he’s flexible, so you don’t have to stress about setting up the perfect deck.
Pretty much everyone reading this is going to be a fan of the Warhammer 40,000 universe, but this player type is here for the 40K over the card gaming. For these players it’s more important that a card accurately reflects that miniature’s tabletop stats and lore, over how powerful it may be in Combat Cards.
The ongoing challenge for us is making sure we’re delivering value to the fans without alienating or confusing people who may not be intimately familiar with the 40K universe. Upcoming features like the lore text on the back of the cards, or (some way off) the single-player story are being designed to help with this.
Example Warlord: Zagstruk – his special rule is dangerous and revolves around Orks killing stuff, but is also quite random. In short, it’s very Ork-y! Hopefully his stats and points cost also reflect his ‘power-level’ in tabletop 40K.
Note, this is chaos with a small c (i.e random), not Chaos (i.e. the gods which lurk in the Warp, plotting the inexorable downfall of the universe, death to the false Emperor! Sorry, where was I?).
These players just want to watch stuff burn. They can be competitive or casual, but winning isn’t as important as spectacularly messing up other player’s plans and watching stuff blow up.
They’ll build decks which either win big or get wiped out, but are entertaining either way. They also like to cause upsets and are reeeeally looking forward to us implementing real-time Player-versus-Player battles.
Example Warlord: Ahriman – his power is incredibly random, but always amusing. Sure, the random damage can cause you to lose battles, but it’s worth it for the perfect hit which wins you a seemingly impossible victory.
Next week’s post will wrap up the final player types, and discuss why this stuff is important to the future direction of the game.