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Elemental Damage

Elemental Damage

Today, we are testing version 3.something of the game. My enthusiasm is high and the ideas about how to make the game better are coming quick.

The new major, possibly major, revelation or change to the game is that for quite some time I have wanted to incorporate some kind of different damage types, specifically elemental damage. I want an expansion card pack that is full of elementals that can be added to any army or replace normal army cards. Of course, they would have different damage types based on the type of element that they are. For example, the fire elemental would have fire damage type, and the ice elemental would have cold, the earth etcetera, etcetera.

I’ve wanted elemental damage, and different damage types for the game in general, for a while now. But I haven’t been able to work out how, exactly. I also toyed around in my head with melee versus ranged and things of that nature. Haven’t worked that out yet either, but I think I cracked the code on how to successfully add different damage types. The keyword is “think” because it hasn’t been play tested at this point. This has been a tough nut for me to crack, and each time I’ve thought about it in any great detail, it just hasn’t worked. But, this time, I think I got it; it just needs a little refinement.

The idea is to add custom dice for the different damage types. If a card has damage type fire they would substitute one of their normal hit dice for one of the fire dice. The fire dice would be, at least in my mind right now, a translucent red unique custom dice that would have damage symbols on it: single damage symbols, maybe a double damage symbol, and then blanks. The advantage of rolling elemental dice is that you wouldn’t have to get over a certain number (typically over three), you would just have to roll a damage symbol or a double damage symbol for two hits from a single die.

If this is how it plays out then if you have electrical power then you roll the electric dice, if you’re earth, you get the earth dice, and they would have different amounts of hits and blanks. Maybe there could be other symbols to do other things, like affect adjacent cards or to roll again for chain lightning perhaps.

I need to think about it a little more but I like the idea of adding custom dice. How it’s in my head right now is one custom die for each of the powers. One for fire, one for earth, one for wind, dark energy, and so on. At least that is how I’m looking at it currently. A second possibility would be to have a set of elemental dice and have them all be the same so they could be used for any element. Fire, wind, air, whatever, but have the damage type be responsible for how many of those dice a player rolls. Fire might roll two elemental dice for example, while Air might roll only one elemental die. Not sure if this should be in addition to the normal amount of hit dice or a substitution for them.

Sounds like I have some more play testing to do.

Card Diversity in Armor & Ash

Card Diversity in Armor & Ash

Today I want to talk about the diversity of units within each faction because my original concept is a lot different than where the game is currently.  The first faction I designed was the Undead.  Making the bad guys first felt somehow easier.  And really, ever good game needs the Undead.  So I just started brainstorming all of the different creature types that could fit into an Undead faction.  Of course, the usual suspects came to mind first: vampires, zombies, skeletons.  These were easy but if I’m being honest, I exhausted the list rather quickly.  Eventually, I took the easy route and decided that I could make different variations of the base creatures.  So there’d be a vampire and a vampire lord.  There’d be a normal skeleton and an armored skeleton, for instance.  In the first few iterations of the game there were a very limited number of different creature types.  The differences in the cards were different iterations of those types: normal zombie vs hungry zombie vs rotting zombie vs headless zombie, etc.  The plan was: all of these different types would have different stats and art.  I wanted the factions to have a very centered and uniform feeling, but at the same time have different characters that would bring life and flavor into them.

A little bit of this still exists today, but ultimately I decided the game needed more diversity.  The idea of increased diversity came when trying to flesh out the other factions.  And so, I had to eventually revisit the Undead as well.  Thankfully, Wikipedia exists and is readily at my fingertips.  A quick search for “Undead” yields a virtual treasure trove of different Undead things that exist in folklore and fantasy fiction.

One thing that immediately stood out to me was all of the myths and folklore of Undead creatures that originated in India.  I quickly captured two of these creatures’ names in my Excel document.  One was called Preta and the other was called Bhot.  I kept reading about these two Undead creature types and eventually made unit cards for them.  I did a search for these specific Undead by name, trying to see if any other games used them and possibly gain some more information.  Seeing how other people/games interrupted them, artistically, really stoked the creative fire.  It also led me down a few tangential paths where I found some other interesting Undead creatures.  After more reading and looking at how some other games handled the various creature types I starting to conceptualize how the powers and abilities typically associated with these creatures should be converted into game mechanics.

A little after the game had been play tested for about a month, I decided to graph out all of the cards, focusing on their stats/attributes.  Since I now had four, more or less, complete decks I was interested to see how balanced, by the numbers, they all were.  How did the different faction decks compare with one another?  At the same time I decided to graph out how many different types of creature existed in each deck.  If the Undead had only vampires, zombies, and skeletons (there were ghouls and such too, but I’m trying to simplify for the sake of example) while the Forest Elf deck had elves, beasts, dryads, elementals, satyrs, centaurs, etc it might look a little lopsided.  And of the different types (vampires, elves), how many of each were there in the faction?  In the beginning, I was just creating cards as fast as they’d come to me.  I was adding creatures to decks until the deck had enough cards to be considered complete.  For some factions, I had too many creatures and so I had to decide which to use or which to substitute if a faction had multiple of a single creature type.  For example, should I replace two of the four vampires in the Undead deck with Pretas?

What I noticed when I made the graphs was that the Undead was by far the weakest faction, at least by the numbers and amount of diversity.  The Ghob-lings, on the other hand, were the strongest, again, strictly by the numbers.  The Ghob-lings had around eight common unit cards with an attack value of three.  They had more units with a value of four and really stuck out as being, by the numbers, over powered.  At the time, the Undead only had a single card with a defense value of four: the Elder Vampire.  Most other factions had at least three such cards.  So here I am with three vampire cards, two regular vampires and one elder.  I start thinking that I either need another Elder Vampire or I need to get rid of that card and make room for two other creatures.

As I was looking at the graph it occurred to me that even though the Undead appeared to be weak, at least according to the numbers, that during play tests it didn’t seem under powered.  And in every play test that involved the Undead (all except one, actually) the games were very close, coming down to the last hand.  The Undead had a decent winning streak, but the numbers said they didn’t have as many powerful units.  The question became: was it just luck, or perhaps the skill of my opponent that determined victory against the Undead?  Were they in fact under powered and I simply played them well?  How would they fare while in the hands of someone new to the game?

After turning this over in my head for a while, I finally decided that the Undead deck needed another card with a defense of four.  And so, the Headless Horseman was born.  It took a while to decide on exactly what the new card would be, I mean there are so many Undead things to choose from.  Ultimately, I decided I was looking for a creature that is typically thought of as powerful, so nothing like a bag of bones skeleton.  No ephemeral ghosties.

As of writing this, I haven’t yet played with the Headless Horseman.  It actually took me a while to settle on using him in the faction so I just haven’t had the chance.  Right now he just exists in a spreadsheet.  This is the first card that I tried to individualize.  The card is THE Headless Horseman, not simply A Headless Horseman, and so there is only one of him in the Undead deck.

Early on I wanted the different units in each faction to have very similar abilities.  For example, if one Undead card said something like, “add +1 to all damage rolls” then I wanted a card in the Forest Elf deck to say the same thing.  Some cards would be unique, but I thought that by having three or four central powers that the different factions would be better balanced.  I have since learned that that makes then bland and boring, but this lesson didn’t come early on.  Making all cards have pretty much the same powers kind of defeats the purpose of having different factions.

After I discovered that the game wasn’t really fully developed with half the cards in a given faction having the same abilities as half the cards in any other faction, I decided that I needed to go in and rethink/rewrite some abilities.  I’ve reworked quite a few cards, but I haven’t finished yet.  Now I am of the mindset that I want to incorporate elemental abilities of some kind.  Adding elemental damage and making cards have different elemental damage types would be an easy way to increase the diversity.  We’ll see how it goes; currently this is all just in my head.  Play testing will determine if this is a viable option.