The big motivation to move the Mitropia Kickstarter date came from the great feedback we had at Spiel to work on a few aspects of the game. The first of these is the cards which players use to move and spring surprises. In this post we’ll cover some of the options we’re exploring – feedback welcome in any form you like! (comments, twitter, facebook!).
The primary game play in Mitropia involves placing warriors on the board to claim territory and surround others. Adding cards to the game play modifies this game play in a pretty meaningful way:
- Pattern cards determine where a player can move at any one time.
- Special move cards allow more spectacular moves (placing two pieces, deflecting a move etc.)
Both types of cards seem to add something but some of the feedback we received means we should think about the nature of the cards as is. The primary feedback was:
- Currently two types of cards have the same card back – which makes it hard to discern which deck to draw from.
- Some of the special move cards are very powerful. Especially on small boards.
- The special move cards should be icons, not words and be easier to understand.
- Some people expressed delight at “subversive” cards like subvert and deflect, but others were annoyed when they were played against them * Are two decks even necessary?
- Having the top of the discard pile pattern card available for use caused some players to comment they were having to perform too many mental gymnastics in order to move.
- Cards add randomness: but in some games (tournament games?) maybe you want no randomness at all! * Some of the cards seemed repetitive (e.g. Charge 1, Charge 2, …).
So it seems clear that cards need a bit of a rework to improve the game. The main questions are around to create the right player experience of skill with the cards and surprise at a move without a single move dominating outcomes. Specific questions we came up with from the feedback were:
- One deck or two, or more?
- What’s the balance between pattern and special move cards?
- Which special move cards should there be?
After some reflection, a few changes seem obvious to try and make:
- Face up pattern card on the discard pile is no longer usable. [Removes some complexity and mental gymnastics]. Possibly it could be retained for the Kerma tribe.
- The two decks should either be merged into one deck or split into three decks (in this case reflecting power levels of the cards).
- The labels on the cards should be graphical symbols.
- The ratio of special cards to pattern cards should be reduced so patterns are more prevalent. [To stop special moves overpowering the game.]
For the next sequence of playtests we came up with three different variations of the card play to try out. Let us know which sounds the most promising!
Playtest Option 1: Simplest Variant
In this variant:
- All cards merge into a single deck.
- The number of special cards is reduced so that they are 25% of the total deck.
- The following special move cards are removed: Entrench (too complex), Charge 3 and charge 4 (not special enough).
- “Special Move” cards have a label on the descriptive side which indicates they CANNOT be used as the standard pattern card.
- All special move cards expressed as patterns + icons.
- Cards are dealt at the beginning of the game as normal (5 per player).
The objective of this variant would be to simplify to one deck and remove some of the powerful cards + the amount of special cards is reduced.
Playtest Option 2: Three level deck
In this variant: we take Playtest Option 1 and do the following things differently:
- All cards are classified with a “points” level from 1-5. A pattern card with three moves is level one. A pattern card with 5 moves is level two, The power levels for special cards are: -charge 1, charge 2 would be level three, Ambush, double strength, swift deployment would be level four, Triple strength, Subvert, Deflect would be level five.
- For games of less than 60 hexes, up to L3 would be included in the deck. Up to 100 hexes, L4 would be included. L5 and up, all cards.
The objective here would be to provide players a way of deciding how powerful the deck should be relative to the map. Smaller maps would use only the first two levels and so on.
A variant of this play mode would be that the “levels” are not levels but simply lists of cards to include under certain conditions.
Hence there may be three levels: 1 for small games, 2 for medium Ames, 3 for large games. L1 would include level 1 and 2 from above. L2 would include Level 3 and some additional L4 cards. Level 3 would be the remaining L4 cards and Level 5.
Playtest Option 3: Tournament Mode
The idea of tournament more would be to remove all luck from the game. This mode would retain the ranking from Playtest Option 2, but instead of allocation cards randomly at the beginning of the game;
- Players are allocated a number of points: 20 for a small game, 30 for a medium game, 40 for a large game.
- Players select cards to a total of the point sum.
- They shuffle their resulting personal stack (randomness…) and draw their 5 cards from this. Drawing new cards from the stack.
- When the cards are exhausted, they reshuffle the pack and start again.
Which should be in the box?
Each of the variations deserves play testing to see if if might be better that the current arrangement. What do you think? What looks to be the most promising avenue? Any ideas we missed?