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Council of Elrond • View topic - Change of Plan?

Change of Plan?

Moderator: ICD Development

Change of Plan?

Postby zarathustra » Sat Feb 03, 2007 7:19 pm

MARK:

I did some thinking about this project today while driving around in my car. My line of thought was: "Hmm... we could put these cards in Gandalf's deck, those in Saruman's... but then they would just be knock-off versions of good decks.... There has to be some better way to do this."

Then the penny dropped, so to say. Here is my inspiration: these decks are supposed to be thematic missions, right? Well, what if we messed around with the TP structure a little, since they're only to be played in a closed circuit?

"What on earth do you mean?" I hear you asking. Well, I'll tell you.

There was some discussion of the need for anti-One Ring, and how One Ring would be quite a different deck from the others. There's two way to counter that problem: do away with One Ring, or make all the decks have a game-ending combo. Idea In other words, you could win (flat out 7:0 WIN) as Fallen Saruman by playing The White Hand.

"But," you query, "how will games end of both players use their hazards effectively and block each other from playing their end-game combos? Will they just receive a tie, or go by marshalling points?" Ah, but I have that covered already! We also don't care about MPs anymore for these decks. Instead, each deck has 6 "victory conditions", each one of which is worth 1 TP if the game ends without someone "dunking". What are they? Well, that will depend on the decks. Here's what I've come up with so far. * indicates a game-ending criterion.

Gandalf: One Ring
(g1) Play Gollum
(g2) Play a gold Ring
(g3) Play Scroll of Isildur
(g4) Play The One Ring
(g5) Reach Mount Doom
(g6*) Gollum's Fate (or Cracks of Doom?)

Pallando: Stones of Seeing
(p1) Play Fate of the Ithil Stone
(p2) Tap Fate of the Ithil Stone
(p3) Invert Fate of the Ithil Stone
(p4) Play The Ithil Stone (item)
(p5) Align a Palantir (?) Use a palantir (?)
(p6*) Store Fate of the Ithil Stone

Alatar: King Under the Mountain
(a1) Play Wormsbane
(a2*) Play Returned Exiles
(a3*) Play King Under the Mountain (both required to end the game)
(a4) Kill a unique dragon
(a5) Successfully hunt a creature
(a6) Roac? Wizard's staff?

Fallen Saruman: The White Hand
(s1) Protect Isengard
(s2) Saruman's Machinery
(s3) Strident Spawn
(s4) Play a half-orc faction
(s5) play a tech item?
(s6*) The White Hand

Fallen Radagast: Girdle?

I'm unsure about this. Maybe 1 point for each shapeshifter card you use for a whole turn, and the 'dunk' card as Girdle?

The Witch-King: Muster of Mordor
(w1) 3 factions under a leader at Cirith Ungol
(w2) 3 factions under a leader at Cirith Gorgor
(w3) Creature of an older world & Helm of Fear
(w4) Last Child of Ungoliant
(w5) Use The Fiery Blade against a non-detainment strike
(w6) Get the WK to Carn Dum (all 6 needed to 'dunk')

The Balrog: Lord and Usurper
(b1) Roots of the Earth under a dwarfhold
(b2) Breach the Hold
(b3) Invade Their Domain
(b4*) Lord and Usurper
(b5) play both whip of many thongs and that other special hog item
(b6) dunno -- ancient black axe? Caverns unchoked? something else?

Khamul: Scouting the Shire
(k1) Play News of the Shire
(k2) Play Kill All but NOT the Halflings
(k3) Play Red Book of Westmarch
(k4) Store News of the Shire
(k5) Store Kill All
(k6) Store Red Book (all 6 needed to 'dunk')

Ren: Pestilence
(r1) Play Ren Unleashed at opponent's site
(r2) Eliminate opponent's MP-char with Ren Unleashed
(r3) Play Malady
(r4) Elminate an MP-character with Malady
(r5) not sure -- maybe something cvcc related vs wizards at least?
(r6) dunno

One more minion deck... what should it do?? The big cool themey cards I can think of are: Smoke on the Wind / Burning Rick Cot and Tree, Ettenmores factions / wolf allies / two-headed troll, dragon factions, big men factions, padding feet, Great Army of the North, No Better Use / Sack Over the Head / Use Your Legs, The Balrog / Ancient Black Axe, Faithless Steward, Scroll / Iron Crown stored at Barad Dur, Descent Through Fire (for Balrog), That's Been Heard Before Tonight / The Names Among Them / That Ain't No Secret, Treason the Greatest Foe. Obviously some of these are less plausible than others (at least for the first set of decks).

What do you think??

MIKKO:

This is an interesting idea. I see two problems with it though.

(1) People don't get used to the normal MP/TP system. This is not an issue for experienced players, but for newer ones, for whom these decks are a stepping stone to the real constructed tournaments (as they IMHO should be). Newer players might overlook the importance of having MPs from every category and so on. Or maybe I'm just not giving them enough credit Rolling Eyes

(2) How do you balance this? There are bound to be "victory conditions" that are easier to achieve than others. The ones mentioned for fallen-Saruman are actually very easy, some require decent rolls (the One Ring, eliminating with Malady). Granted, in a normal tournament the One Ring still needs decent rolls to work, but that's why it gives 1 more TP than a MP victory would.

Other than these two points, I like Mark's idea. It would surely make these decks a lot more interesting to build, and would be a fun change for the normal tournaments. But then these decks would IMHO be more aimed at the experienced player looking for something different rather than the newbie wanting to practise for tournament play.

MARK:

(1) I'm honestly not sure how big of a problem this is, if it is one at all. After all, these decks will obviously not make people accustomed to plenty of aspects of the game: owning the cards you want to play, being prepared for different meta-strategies, being prepared for tricks, constructing your own deck, etc. If we make these decks similar enough to 'normal' decks -- giving most of them victory conditions that provide MPs from each category (the WK deck already does this, for example), it shouldnt be too big of a problem, I suppose.

What do others think about this?

(2) The balance aspect is going to be somewhat difficult. Of course, we don't want a single deck to just win all the time, but I think the victory conditions actually could make for some interesting meta-game. For example: in the King under the Mountain deck, you can go for the straight-out win and forget Roac, but then if you fail to 'dunk', you may not have enough victory conditions to win. Roac is, as it were, a 'side mission' that you can attempt to complete instead of going for the gusto. This is similar to going for an MP victory rather than a dunk in regular meccg.

Concerning saruman: I don't want to say that we will 'nerf' him, but we will 'thematize' his deck, so that he can't play White Hand in 3 turns. In my opinion, regardless of whether we go with this change of plan or not, we should make these decks aim at finishing up in about 7 turns. That will allow for more interesting combos, even if it doesnt mimic ultra-powerful 'real' decks.

Thoughts?

JOE:

Mark!

I'll write more in a few days, but--

I didn't realize you had gone ahead and made this a public project already; weren't we going to draft a letter to the COE? Or is this a private board to test ideas before drafting a COE letter?

The person who originally brainstormed the idea, Greg Z., asked the Van Impelen brothers informally if they'd be interested in the idea. They flat out rejected, and one of them attacked or critiqued the idea. Since then the infamous exile Gene Berry has taken up the project informally and has started kicking around ideas.

Of course if it becomes eventually COE-sanctioned, it would have to go through COE anyway. What do you think; should invite Gene to the boards and tell him it's a committee project, with specific people volunteering to work on decks? We'd have to agree on common goals, of course. It's such a huge project--I could never see one person making all the decks anyway.


MARK:

This forum is private. Only about 5 people have access here. I thought we might as well have a place for brainstorming now, even though there are no deck lists to toss back and forth. The most important matter at the moment, in my opinion, is deciding exactly what we want these decks to be like. Nerfed versions of 'real' decks? Super-thematic cool decks with different victory conditions? Something else entirely? I'm still quite unsure how to procede, so please, everyone, put your opinions down here.

As far as CoE is concerned, they aren't deck makers anyway, so all I expect CoE to do (eventually, probably) is to endorse the deck lists we create here. There's not much more CoE could do anyway in such a matter as this (I think).

MIKKO:

If we choose to keep the normal MP/TP system for these decks, we should use strategies that are very rarely used in a normal tournament succesfully (flying Radagast, hero underdeeps, minion Shire etc.). That way the decks won't seem like just nerfed counterparts of the ones people see at their local tournaments. Of course we need to use some of the more popular strategies as well, but maybe with a twist that is not seen often.

My vote goes for keeping the normal victory conditions, but I won't feel bad if we go the other way Mr. Green

WIM:

Zarathustra wrote:
As far as CoE is concerned, they aren't deck makers anyway, so all I expect CoE to do (eventually, probably) is to endorse the deck lists we create here. There's not much more CoE could do anyway in such a matter as this (I think).

Right. I wouldn't worry about the CoE and / or drafting letters for it at this stage. It's not really their cup of tea, nor can they really approve something that doesn't exist yet. Sure, it wouldn't hurt to get the CoE's stamp of "we like it" on it eventually, but I suppose that won't be hard to get once there's nice decks to show.

Frodo wrote:
The person who originally brainstormed the idea, Greg Z., asked the Van Impelen brothers informally if they'd be interested in the idea. They flat out rejected, and one of them attacked or critiqued the idea.

Hmm.. it is my understanding that he didn't ask all that informally; I've been asked as well and I can testify that Greg can be rather persistent, so I wouldn't read anything more into the comments from these gentlemen than that they personally didn't feel like working on it.

GREG:

In reference to Joe's retelling of the history, my part and interaction w/ the Brothers Van Impelen, and Wim's sagacious remarks regarding that, let me say that for the record that....

...yes, I did orginally approach the Dutch Masters for the project and yes, they did turn me down and yes, on the grounds that it wasn't something they were not interested in doing, and yes, they, esp. Alfons, thought there were flaws both with both the project in theory and implementation(criticisms which I see/saw as totally valid and reasonable).....but....

...no, they never "attacked" or were negative in any way toward me or the idea and wished me the best of luck. I was just "sad" that they didn't take to it, given my enthusiasm for it.

Let it be said that I have the greatest respect for them and never felt slighted in any way by them. This is just not "their cup of tea."

At the same time, to my defense, I would not say that I was being overly persistent. When my first "influence attempt" failed, I simply went looking for another faction. Joe has been "A Friend or Three," Gene heeded the Horn of Anor and then Mark took up the Blazon. Things couldn't be better.

So I am grateful to everybody right now who is trying to make it happen better than I ever could on my own: Mark, Wim, Mikko, and Joe.

So the genesis of this is behind us, no? Onward!

Let me close by sharing my thoughts on the "status" of the decks. In my mind, such a set of decks would simply be a "gift" to the MECCG community as whole. If the players "receive" it, great. If not, well, then it was a worthy cause to showcase the game's cards and beauty, etc. If the official reps of that community want to use it in official tournament play, so be it.

In terms of victory conditions, I am so out of touch/disinterested with tournament scoring and such that I take a purely pragmatic approach: whatever system will be most likely to be "received" by the players.

JOE:

Wow, I’m really excited to see everyone’s thoughts on this project. I think that, with our collective wisdom and creativity, we can do something really special here for the community.

So I finally gave our ideas some thinking. Although at first the conservative side of me was defaulting to thinking we should stay with the normal MP scheme for these decks, I couldn’t really think of a reason WHY, save my ‘old prejudice’ so to speak.

Then I thought some more and realized, like Mark suggested, that we really could do some novel and creative things with this Victory point schema, plus it would really differentiate it from the Challenge Deck series, and open up a new environment of play even master players would identify a reason to enter (new ways to win that must be mastered).

Not only this, I realized that if we drop the marshalling point thing, it will actually make it easier to create balanced decks, because we won’t be so concerned with measuring and weighing the marshalling points of a player’s resources at his or her disposal, but only how successful or difficult it will be to use that resource. So I vote that we give the Victory Point shema a shot, and kudos to Mark for thinking of it!

Okay, first, some questions. Mark wrote that each deck has “6 "victory conditions", each one of which is worth 1 TP if the game ends without someone "dunking".” Does this mean that the points you receive for meeting each condition are cumulative? In other words, is it possible to get 15 victory points? Or does it mean that in order to get the victory points for one level (like 3), you need to do everything listed before that level (like 1 and 2 and 3); but if you dunk you don’t need to do anything before then?

Also, very importantly; if you ‘dunk,’ does your opponent get any victory points at all? Because if he does, then we either need to A) make the dunking conditions not so impossibly difficult, certainly easier than the One Ring conditions normally are, or else B) make it so that it is always an attractive option to forgoe your normal victory-point-progression strategy, and instead go straight for the “6” or “7” point win. In other words, the normal victory-point-progression strategy should be just about as hard as the ‘dunk’ strategy and the dunk strategy should require being able to skip many of the point-progressions.

The reason why we need to do the above is because if it’s too hard to dunk, then in a tournament a player who does so is only at a slight advantage, TP-wise, then the loser who didn’t. Also, are we saying that you automatically win if you ‘dunk’?

If the opponent DOES lose all his victory points, then of course we can and must make the dunk option very difficult, and rare to pull off. I’m not sure which option I prefer.

More stuff…

Deck Themes
Mark asks if we should have “nerfed versions of 'real' decks” or “super-thematic cool decks with different victory conditions.” Miguel answers with “we should use strategies that are very rarely used in a normal tournament succesfully (flying Radagast, hero underdeeps, minion Shire etc.),” especially if we keep the old MP scheme. I think these decks need to be as fun to play as possible, and that means cool story cards, missions, and themes and themes and themes! Nerfing real decks doesn’t make sense. Miguel’s point makes a LOT of sense. We should continually aim to NOT duplicate already existing deck types if such types are even semi-strong on the tournament scene and popular. One exception should be One Ring, of course. White Hand breaks this rule, but it’s so thematic, so we should set up the conditions upon which to play the White Hand (Resource strategy) as being very different than what a tournament deck would do.

Mark made a list of remaining cool cards and asked for input. Well, again, I think we should pick either the most rarely seen cards, or the cards that are most ‘cool.’ Here’s my own edited list I think we should definitely use, all of which are never seen save for the Dragon Faction (this deck shouldn’t get ALL dragon factions, just one).

***
Dragon Faction
Padding Feet
No Better Use / Sack Over the Head / Use Your Legs
Treason the Greatest Foe
Iron Crown stored at Barad Dur
Balrog cards that allow Balrog to come aboveground and kick ass (A More Evil Hour, Crowned With Storm) (we should definitely do this)

Also: remember that we are making deck adjustments for a deck’s anti-minion and anti-hero strategy. Because of this, why not make either the Khamul or Witch-king decks “Lidless eye” against heroes, and only Khamul/Witch-King against Minions? This way we can actually have a Lidless eye deck in the mix, which is important for theme and “learning.” Now here’s the hard part: the deck should be doing some kind of main thing that doesn’t change much at all in it’s “Lidless Eye” version. For example, if the Witch-King version had 3 Under His Blow and 3 Bold Thrusts, and Lidless Eye version could replace this with “Sauron only” concealers or whatnot. Related to this, we should make a point to keep all anti-alignment adjustments somewhat minimal, to preserve the feeling that it’s more or less the ‘same deck.’

Finally, regarding themes: let’s not limit ourselves to only simple conditions like “playing Gollum.” Remember, we can do a lot of creative stuff with this victory condition thing. How about a victory point condition for Fallen Saruman that one of his orc companies must successfully initiate an attack against a hero or minion company? See, this is theme, theme, theme!

Interactive Learning Strategies
I see that Mark is already thinking on this line, and that’s good! For instance, setting up a victory condition for a player to eliminate an opponent's MP-char with Ren Unleashed or Malady requires a lot more thinking than asking a player to go play Gollum. Also, part of this thinking is INTERACTIVE: the player is forced to pay attention to what his or her opponent is doing. But ideally, I think each deck should have not only at least one interactive learning strategy, but also one “solitaire” (or non-interactive) learning strategy. For a Fallen-wizard deck, the solitaire strategy shouldn’t be too hard to implement (ha ha).

Another suggestion—Negative Conditions
Should we also have a card or conditions that ROBs a player of victory points? For instance, there can be two “negative” cards (one of each alignment) that hurt each deck if they can be gotten into play by the opponent. For example, all hero decks could include the card The Windlord Found Me in their sideboard. If such a hero deck successfully played this card, the Saruman player would lose two victory points. The condition for a minion player could be that he must play something at Isengard that taps the site. Thus, the Saruman deck now has two weaknesses: one that hero players could exploit, one that minion players could exploit. Why do this at all? Because it’s fun, and it’s theme, theme, theme! Also, note that the key to “balancing” this would be to make sure all negative conditions are equally difficult to accomplish. Since this is the only point at which balance must be considered, if we went with this “negative condition” strategy and then decided in playtesting we didn’t like it, we could abandon it entirely, and it wouldn’t hurt the integrity of the rest of the project.

Who Will Manage this Project?
I think we should consider this forum a roundtable for decision-making on this project. Ultimately the COE would approve it, but I don’t think any one of us should have swing or absolute authority. What is most likely to happen anyway is that someone(s) with the most energy will simply step forward and get things done. At the moment that seems to be Mark, who also has the magic ability to just point his finger and shoot deck ideas out of them (60 on GCCG!!). I can be extremely creative with micro-details, and am good at organization, but I don’t have the steam or time to design 9 new decks quickly.

Well, I just wrote six pages, and I only have nine fingers! Guess I’m done for now. Let me know what y’all think.

WIM:

Well, I don't have a car, so perhaps that gives me a different perspective on things Wink. I think it should stick with MPs.

Why? Well.. the game is quite deeply balanced around it's MPs. Changing that basic goal is a big change and opens a really big can of worms. It's a nice idea and all, but it is with reason that the few scenarios that already do this see relatively little play and a lot of balancing issues. IIRC Mark and Mikko quite seriously played one such format recently, White Mithril. So I guess they have some idea of what I mean. IMHO it would be better to go with the nap of the game, rather than against it.

Arrow Achieving such specific things in order is very hard. Example: drawing Fate of the Ithil stone at 2/3 of the deck (which is quite realistic) would be devastating when there is no alternate road to victory.
Arrow Holding on to such specific things is very hard. Example: Muster Disperses on Returned Exiles is devastating.
Arrow It removes the idea of playing strictly for an advantage over your opponent: winning 4-2 MPs is still a 6-0 win. I don't see how this system can offer that fine grain at all levels of success, it seems to work for the (North-American) style of playing with high scores only.
Arrow These per-deck victory conditions give experienced opponents quite the advantage. Challenge deck vs. challenge deck it already helps a lot to know the opponent's deck. Here you can profit extra, from knowing his exact goals as well (while the newbie is still struggling to come to grips with his own deck).

All in all this creates a lot of balancing issues and it makes the game very different from going by the normal rules (of gathering MPs). Change of plan indeed: I don't think it would be an intermediate decks set at all anymore, but rather a direction of its own.

I kinda liked the idea of showing MeCCG as the theme rich game it is with some good, standard rules decks that could appeal to both the intermediate player and the cut throat player looking for some diversion. With this change, it would take the (interested) intermediate player out of the normal game (can't "train" two skill sets at once) and will probably attract fewer hard core players, as they need more getting used to in order to step in.

That is either successful and fractions the community a bit, as many will focus on one format or the other, or it isn't and goes through life as dreamy as the UEP. Either way, the wish for "real" intermediate CDs would live on, so how about making those first? Wink

MARK:

Perhaps I didn't lay out quite clearly enough what I had in mind by these 'victory conditions'. The idea is that each one is worth a single tournament point (in the old scheme). So, for example, if I score 3 of my victory conditions and my opponent only scores 2, the game ends as a 3:2 win for me. Such a result does not occur in regular meccg, but I believe that this allows for even more fine-grained scoring, rather than less.

The assumption I had made about the 'dunk' conditions was that they would actually be just like dunking -- i.e., a 7:0 instant victory. As such, they should be quite difficult to accomplish, since the difference between a 5:4 and 7:0 is a net change of 9. Joe was right in thinking that it should be possible to 'skip' victory conditions on the way to (at least some) dunks, e.g, not getting gollum in the one ring deck.

Note, by the way, that it would incidentally never be possible to score 6 victory points on this scheme, since that would entail fulfilling all victory conditions == dunk. I don't think this is a down-side, but actually makes the dunk option more attractive.

I listed the victory conditions with numbers, but did not intend them to be taken as an 'order'. It should be possible to play them in any order (except when such would be impossible from a gameplay perspective, like Cracks of Doom before The One Ring).



Some other comments/thoughts:

Frodo wrote:
Interactive Learning Strategies
I see that Mark is already thinking on this line, and that’s good! For instance, setting up a victory condition for a player to eliminate an opponent's MP-char with Ren Unleashed or Malady requires a lot more thinking than asking a player to go play Gollum. Also, part of this thinking is INTERACTIVE: the player is forced to pay attention to what his or her opponent is doing. But ideally, I think each deck should have not only at least one interactive learning strategy, but also one “solitaire” (or non-interactive) learning strategy. For a Fallen-wizard deck, the solitaire strategy shouldn’t be too hard to implement (ha ha).


This is a brilliant idea. I think that it should definitely be pursued.

Frodo wrote:
Another suggestion—Negative Conditions
Should we also have a card or conditions that ROBs a player of victory points? For instance, there can be two “negative” cards (one of each alignment) that hurt each deck if they can be gotten into play by the opponent. For example, all hero decks could include the card The Windlord Found Me in their sideboard. If such a hero deck successfully played this card, the Saruman player would lose two victory points. The condition for a minion player could be that he must play something at Isengard that taps the site. Thus, the Saruman deck now has two weaknesses: one that hero players could exploit, one that minion players could exploit. Why do this at all? Because it’s fun, and it’s theme, theme, theme! Also, note that the key to “balancing” this would be to make sure all negative conditions are equally difficult to accomplish. Since this is the only point at which balance must be considered, if we went with this “negative condition” strategy and then decided in playtesting we didn’t like it, we could abandon it entirely, and it wouldn’t hurt the integrity of the rest of the project.


I also really really like this idea, though I'm not sure how difficult it would be to manage. Windlord is a good anti-sorryman card, but are there equally thematic/difficult cards for every avatar?...

Gwaihir wrote:
Well.. the game is quite deeply balanced around it's MPs. Changing that basic goal is a big change and opens a really big can of worms. It's a nice idea and all, but it is with reason that the few scenarios that already do this see relatively little play and a lot of balancing issues. IIRC Mark and Mikko quite seriously played one such format recently, White Mithril. So I guess they have some idea of what I mean. IMHO it would be better to go with the nap of the game, rather than against it.


White Mithril was actually much more fun than I expected it to be. Part of the difficulty was that it was still trying to be MP-based. If you win with a victory condition, then it's simply a 6-0, but if both players have a victory condition, it goes by MP-ratio. Most games ended 6-0, which was kinda lame. BUT, my scheme obviates that worry by establishing a very fine-grained system of TP (or VP) ratios. I would play White Mithril again in future, and I would also want to play these decks.

Gwaihir wrote:
Achieving such specific things in order is very hard. Example: drawing Fate of the Ithil stone at 2/3 of the deck (which is quite realistic) would be devastating when there is no alternate road to victory.


Order adds to the story-telling aspect of the game, one of its great strengths. You have to go in order when you play One Ring anyway, so why not have some aspect of order in this?? What's more, the order is not set in stone, as I mentioned above; it's just that some cards require others as prerequisites. Concerning Pallando specifically, that's why he'll have Eyes of Mandos in the deck Wink

Gwaihir wrote:
Holding on to such specific things is very hard. Example: Muster Disperses on Returned Exiles is devastating.


I don't see how this is relevantly different from MP-based games.

Gwaihir wrote:
It removes the idea of playing strictly for an advantage over your opponent: winning 4-2 MPs is still a 6-0 win. I don't see how this system can offer that fine grain at all levels of success, it seems to work for the (North-American) style of playing with high scores only.


Presumably you thought this because I didn't explain the VP-scheme correctly. Now that I have, I guess it's not germane.

Gwaihir wrote:
These per-deck victory conditions give experienced opponents quite the advantage. Challenge deck vs. challenge deck it already helps a lot to know the opponent's deck. Here you can profit extra, from knowing his exact goals as well (while the newbie is still struggling to come to grips with his own deck).


The difference between regular challenge decks and ones with the new scheme is not going to be noticeable on this level, I think. Of course it's always an advantage to be able to predict what your opponent is going to do, but whether he's going for MPs or VPs doesnt make much difference for this!

Gwaihir wrote:
All in all this creates a lot of balancing issues and it makes the game very different from going by the normal rules (of gathering MPs).


With this I heartily disagree. The "normal rules" include One Ring. There is always the risk of dunking. Why not make it a little more pertinent?

WIM:

Zarathustra wrote:
Perhaps I didn't lay out quite clearly enough what I had in mind by these 'victory conditions'. The idea is that each one is worth a single tournament point (in the old scheme). So, for example, if I score 3 of my victory conditions and my opponent only scores 2, the game ends as a 3:2 win for me. Such a result does not occur in regular meccg, but I believe that this allows for even more fine-grained scoring, rather than less.

Hmm.. no.

First: by the fine grained scoring I was refering to the scoring in game, which is done by MPs under regular rules. MPs rank from roughly -4 (0 as final score) to +50 (and more through doubling end of game), which is far more fine grained than 0-6 or 0-7. The number of sources of those points is also more fine grained. My average deck has about 10 MP resources, plus characters, potential hazards and some sideboard stuff. These decks have a maximum of seven sources. A maximum, as often multiple victory points revolve around a single card.

Second, scoring 2-1 TPs for a game means that it doesn't show relative strenght. In the relative strength system there are always 6 TPs for a game (with dunk as the exception). Winning 2-1 is probably just as big an achievement as winning 6-3. If you want to talk TPs, a translation should be maintained to rescale each result to one game (of equal value) in a swiss system tournament.

Quote:
The assumption I had made about the 'dunk' conditions was that they would actually be just like dunking -- i.e., a 7:0 instant victory.
Quote:
Note, by the way, that it would incidentally never be possible to score 6 victory points on this scheme, since that would entail fulfilling all victory conditions == dunk.

Isn't that a good reason to do away with that 7th point that has allways been a bit akward and just settle for a 6-0 sudden death? Both the instant win and the fact that it is a maximum win regardless of opponent's progress are already very strong reward.

Quote:
Gwaihir wrote:
Holding on to such specific things is very hard. Example: Muster Disperses on Returned Exiles is devastating.

I don't see how this is relevantly different from MP-based games.

In MP based games it is never a single card that costs you your victory. This is very key to why it will be so different. We all know how Aragorn goes by as target boy because he is so vital to pretty much any deck that plays him, right? We also know how we are generally that little bit extra careful about the avatar and characters that yield negative points when dead, right? With this system each deck will have a few such extremely vital cards that will be magnets to hazards and that a player just can't risk much with.

Quote:
The difference between regular challenge decks and ones with the new scheme is not going to be noticeable on this level, I think. Of course it's always an advantage to be able to predict what your opponent is going to do, but whether he's going for MPs or VPs doesnt make much difference for this!

Yes well; I beg to differ. IMHO it makes a lot of difference because the VPs are focussed around far less cards / steps with far less alternate routes.

Quote:
The "normal rules" include One Ring. There is always the risk of dunking. Why not make it a little more pertinent?

Always? Hardly! Very few matches have this sudden death hanging over it. BTW: I hear from a lot of people that they don't really like playing against it, but that may have a lot to do with the unequal situation: One Ring vs non-One Ring they know they can't make a sudden death themselves.

Frodo wrote:
Interactive Learning Strategies
I see that Mark is already thinking on this line, and that’s good! For instance, setting up a victory condition for a player to eliminate an opponent's MP-char with Ren Unleashed or Malady requires a lot more thinking than asking a player to go play Gollum.

That sounds cool in theory, but in practice it is quite easy for an opponent to withhold you this victory point by not putting himself in the position you require. Therefore this will IMHO always remain a cool bonus that shouldn't disqualify you from a full win when not made. The MP switch naturally takes care of this. In a VP scheme you probably need to set 8 victory points of which 6 out of 8 makes a full win, or something?

JOE:

I think by saying that Victory Points could be more "fine-grained" then Marshalling Points, Mark was suggesting that although games would have many nuances in and of themselves, these nuances would only add up to six or seven possible score outcomes, and having ONLY six or seven possible score outcomes is actually more realistic in terms of "winning", because a person only ends up with tourney points anyway under the old schema. Not only this, but the cards included could be many and varied and nuanced because we wouldn't have to worry about a deck having "too many" or easy-to-get marshalling points, the end result is merely having balanced VICTORY conditions. Therefore, because it is easier (I hope) and more varied (in the cards you use) to balance victory conditions then marshalling point conditions, it is more "Fine-grained." Whew! Maybe not the best use of that phrase.

Anyway-- I am a little worried by Wim's comments, although for many of them I don't think they'd be big concerns. What it all comes to down to is this: Will such project be openly and lovingly accepted by the community? It's hard to tell. I don't have a palantir, unfortunately. What I DO know is that if we say, "Let's go the familiar MP route, then" I will always, always be left wondering "I wonder what those Victory Point decks might have been like??"

So! I think the solution is to go ahead and make a small test-batch of cookies... I mean, decks. Let's lower the number to FOUR for now, and work conscientously to make them as fantastic as the Victory Poiint medium will allow. Then, we'll test them. If the community and we decide they suck, then we will have lost nothing but time. And Mark has already graciously volunteered to waste his time.

If, however, they are quite wonderful... then we would have created something special indeed.

After talking to Mark informally yesterday about how to make the test decks more creative, I am quite excited by the Victory Point idea!

WIM:

The new options this scheme offers by being freed from the MP-yoke are indeed attractive. That is a good point. I wish you'd simply make that point though, rather than attempt to twist my also very valid point, which was about fine grained scoring.

It would worry me if you guys would embark on this without understanding the handicaps you're giving yourselves and even with a fundamentally flawd model. Yet I think my previous post was perfectly clear and I am at at a loss as to how to illustrate this further. Do you really not see that cutting the number of winning point (MP or VP) sources in less than half has impact (handicap)? Do you truly not see that VP = TP is absurd (big mistake)? If not, please give it the further thought it is worthy of and if you still don't see it, tell me how can I help you understand.

MARK:

Joe, I think you may not be familiar with the technical use of 'fine-grained'. It just means there are more units of differentiation in a given field. For example, cutting the interval 1-10 into 1-5 & 6-10 is less fine grained than cutting it into 1-2, 2-3, 3-4, 4-5, 5-6, 6-7, 7-8, 8-9, 9-10. Given that definition, MPs are of course more fine-grained than VPs. Nevertheless, I point out again that VPs are more fine-grained than TPs, so it's not as obvious a trade down as Wim seems to think.

Gwaihir wrote:
Do you really not see that cutting the number of winning point (MP or VP) sources in less than half has impact (handicap)?


I don't quite see it this way. The VP-conditions I listed above are evolving already, and most of them now include several cards interacting. Sure, playing a Gold Ring was really just a one-card combo, but it's no longer a VP. Most of them now require either a multi-card combo, or interaction with the opponent's company. Probably the best way to illustrate this will be for me to make the decks and show you....

Gwaihir wrote:
Do you truly not see that VP = TP is absurd (big mistake)?


I guess 'absurd' is a word I would prefer to reserve for other cases. If we end up wasting some time, then we'll just shrug our shoulders and move on. Speaking frankly, I don't see what's so absurd about equating VP and TP; in fact, I think it's rather innovative and attractive. But as I said earlier, the best way to convince at this point is to show....
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zarathustra
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Postby zarathustra » Sat Feb 03, 2007 7:22 pm

MIKKO:

I do see an issue with equating VP and TP. The issue is not with casual play, as the winner with most VP is fine there. So in casual games, it is perfectly fine to concentrate on hazard play as well, since it's enough if you get 2 VP and opponent gets 1. You will win.

But in tournament play, you don't want to win only 2-1. You get only 2 TP, correct? Meanwhile another pair finishes their game 5-4. Both of them are well ahead of you, even you just won your game and one of them lost! Evil or Very Mad

For tournaments it could be better to use a ratio system similar to the one in use with MP games. Otherwise hazard play will suffer considerably, as both only strive to achieve their VPs. And hazard play is, and should be, an important part of the game.

Anyway, I think we are getting ahead of ourselves about this VP/TP thing. I think better to build a few decks first and see if we want to stick with VP or not. If we do, we still need to build more decks. And after that we have time for playtesting and thinking about the VP/TP concept. I don't see it to be crucial right now.

That been said, I think three decks would suffice for testing the VP concept. Hero, FW and Minion. That way you get to play all alignments vs. other alignments. Let's get the ball rolling. Who wants to build what? Smile

I just thought of something. We could maybe include a victory condition in the hazard portion as well (like use Fury of the Iron Crown to wound a character or something like that). How cool would that be? Very Happy

MARK:

OK, I'm beginning to see the problem that Wim and Mikko have in mind. Still, I think there are ways to jigger things so that VPs are still worth trying. How silly would it be to use the standard MP-ratio system to 'norm' VPs onto the TP scale? For example, if I score 2 VP and my opponent scores 1, then I get a 6-0; if I score 2 and he scores 3, then he gets a 5:1? This makes the difference at the bottom end more noticeable than at the top end (5:2 and 4:2 both become 6-0 wins). Perhaps a slightly different re-norming scheme would work better? In any case, I see this as a challenge, not an irresoluble problem.

Mikko: I like the hazard VP idea. I'll try to incorporate it into the decks!


Given all this, what 3 decks should I attempt to build? I'm thinking maybe the following would work:

Hero: Gandalf: One Ring

G1: Play (and keep till the end) Gollum (unnecessary, but useful)
G2: Use the One Ring successfully (i.e., survive the cc) (harmful, but thematic)
G3: Play (and keep till the end) Phial of Galadriel (unnecessary, but useful)
G4: Play (and keep till the end) Scroll of Isildur (unnecessary, but useful)
G5: Hazard
G6*: Successfully play Cracks of Doom or Gollum's Fate.

FW: Radagast: Shifter of Shapes

R1: Engage in CVCC with opponent's company while in Master of Shapes mode (unnecessary, interactive)
R2*: Girdle of Radagast (we won't give the deck too too many allies, so this will not be the obvious option)
R3: Successfully influence an opponent's resource or character while in Winged Change-Master mode (unnecessary, interactive)
R4: Maybe some item or other, to balance things out?
R5: Hazard
R6: Successfully influence a faction with Radagast's Black Bird (maybe... I dont like this one too much; it would be useful on the way to Girdle, provided the faction is unique)

Minion: Khamul: Scouting the Shire ???

WIM:

Certainly. It is not a show stopper for VPs at all.

Sure, you can come up with a new way to do the mapping (and indeed probably should). The only important (but very important) thing for the tournament system is that each game gets mapped to a fixed value. That value needn't necessarily be 6 either (most Swiss Systems use a value of 1).

Ok, I guess it's safe to conclude by now that the folk that will actually do the deck building want to give these VPs a swing, even when realising (which they may or may not yet fully do) that the exploration and balancing of the new, changed environment adds considerable workload.

Here's what I see so far (examples given may or may not make it into actual decks):

* Victory points (VPs) replace the marshalling points as the in game scoring mechanism.

* Each deck has seven ways to score 1 VP (for a maximum possible score of 7VP)

* For each deck one of these ways or a combination of several is an instant victory condition. If you have met your instant victory condition ánd have at least 5 VP, you have won.
*As soon as both conditions are met, the game ends right then and there (mid turn). *This is comparable to a One Ring dunk under normal rules and represents achieving the ultimate goal set.

* In addition to the ways to score points for itself, each deck has one way to remove a VP from the opponent's score.
*It would be cool if this was tailored specifically to the opponent's deck, to hit his thematic achilles heel. Unfortunately that's not a simple, straightforward thing to implement. *Example: storing The Windlord Found Me versus fallen-Saruman is -1 VP for fallen-Saruman.

* For each deck, one of the ways of scoring is interactive; you cannot score this point completely on your own as it requires interaction with your opponent's resources or hazards.
*Examples: successfully use A Malady without Healing, successfully use The Riddle Game, play Mount Slain, wound a character with Fury of the Iron Crown, take a character prisoner

* A deck's scoring conditions may build on eachother, but beyond that the conditions need not be met in any specific order.
*Example: some deck might get a VP for playing Pass the Doors of Dol Guldur and another for storing it. The One Ring deck might score a VP for getting Gollum and another for getting the Scroll of Isildur. It doesn't matter which it gets first.

* For tournament and bragging purposes a mapping of VPs to TPs should be written that normalizes the final VP score of each match to a number of tournament points (TPs) useable in the Swiss System.
*Mapping is needed because, among other reasons, you do NOT want to beat your opponent 2 VPs to nil and go home with just 2 TPs, less than someone who actually lost his match, but got 3 TP for that 3 to 5 VP loss. *For bragging purposes there's probably a slight preference to stick to the 6 TPs per match that everyone is familiair with. The tournament system however can just as easily handle a different number of TPs per match (4,5,8?).*Example: "I totally creamed miguel." "How bad was it, 5-1, 6-0?" "6-0 Very Happy"


Seven conditions?
Well, the number needn't be seven. The point is that it is what you need to win plus two. Perhaps testing will show it needs to be six or eight or something, but I don't think seven is far off. (It should be the same number for all decks.)

Those two extra are assuming that you need 5 to win, even with the instant victory condition and that your opponent can deny you two: one by scoring -1 VP for you and one by witholding the chance to pull of your interactive one. This means you can still get a maximum win under those conditions, but barely. If you miss something additional, then you need to interact with you opponent.

I hope that both encourages to try the interaction and makes sure you are not automatically stuck on one bad roll. Testing will have to tell whether or not this is sufficient. It might be that a broader spread is desirable, like 8 conditions but still just 5 needed for the instant and total win.


So the instant victory still requires points?
Yeah, I think so. If for example the instant victory condition for your deck is to store To the Uttermost Foundations, that's probably not enough all by itself to grant a win. Yet, there may not be anything specifically suitable to add to that instant victory condition, so why not simply fall back on the other targets already set (the VPs)?


A deck specific way to remove a VP..
This needs some thinking on how it can be implemented.

For example: one can hardly put The Windlord found me in the sideboard of each and every deck (except fallen-Saruman's) to have it handy when facing fallen-Saruman. As the number of decks grows, that would quickly take the whole sideboard. In addition, it would create a need for many copies of the same card, which is something we want to avoid too.

Perhaps a few card slots in the sideboard of each deck (three?) should be reserved for cards that come with the opponent's deck? For example: the fallen-Saruman card would come with a The Windlord Found Me, an Orc Quarrels and a Safe From the Shadow that the opponent puts in his sideboard before the match starts.

If this isn't close to the fire enough, it should perhaps be one deck slot and two sideboard slots? In that case, are we sure it's always a resource slot that's needed in the deck and never a hazard one?


So, how do we map to TPs?
Scores in TPs were in this topic from the opening post onwards, but probably, as long as we let go of the idea that VPs are TPs, working out the mapping is something to do later, once some decks are (nearly) finished.

MARK:

I think almost everything in the above post is right. I only have three comments to make:

(1) I'm not sure about 7 total VPs. It's somewhat difficult already to design a deck with 6 (they all have to be thematic, nearly equal difficulty, blah blah blah). Perhaps 6 positive VPs is enough?

(2) In any case, I'm also wary of requiring VPs for the instant win. 5 would certainly be too many if we reduced the total number of possible VPs to 6. Regardless, I think with either the 6-total or the 7-total scheme, 3 VPs including the instant win should suffice. This allows for more interesting meta-strategies: "Do I go straight for the instant win and potentially lose big, or do I slowly but steadily score VPs and have less potential for the instant victory?"

(3) The idea of each deck carrying the seed of its own destruction is brilliant. Each deck can carry just a few extra cards in its own sideboard, and hand them over to the opponent before the game. He can then choose to bring them over for an attempt at -1 TPs for his opponent, or leave it and go directly for the win.

JOE:

Yes, yes, YES!! I was JUST thinking of the idea to have the negative condition card(s) in the sideboard of the deck that they effect... and then Wim put it into words... this IS brilliant, brilliant... it eliminates the need for mass taking-up of every other deck's sideboard... and even thematically it feels right, to quote Mark "each deck has the seed of its own destruction".

If the deck chooses to use them, perhaps they can just add 1-3 hazards (equal amount) from their own sideboard so the resource-haz count is equal?

Or, will this create an unfair 'instant sideboarding' advantage?

I really like how logically Wim lay everything down in the above paragraphs. It makes everything seem very clear.

I have to admit, after reading Miguel's post about 'universal' haz and resource strategies instead of different decks for different alignments, it made me nostalgic for how the challenge decks do precisely that. But won't it be a bit lame to have decks with same exact haz strats against both alignments? Another option is to limit the deck 'exchange' of cards to, say, 10 hazards, and it must be exactly a 10 hazard exchange for all decks. That is a good, substantial amount. Resource-wise, the number could be the same... but it MUST be allowed to be less than this, of course, or even none... On GCCG the deck-swap isn't a problem, but in real-life it will get more annoying if every intermed deck has two different alignment versions.

p.s. Mark, I think the condition on the one ring should say, "Use the One Ring to cancel a strike (cc check must not fail) or to make a successful influence attempt on your opponent's resource." This is more interesting to me, because it suggests the other side of the ring's power--the power to dominate.

By the way, I really, really LOVE this condition.

In general I think the conditions right below the DUNK condition should be relatively difficult as well.

MIKKO:

Regarding the 'universal' resource/hazard strategies. As Joe said, it is no issue on GCCG, but in real life. Personally I hate having to tweak my deck in a tournament if my opponent isn't the same alignment as the previous one was. Also these decks are supposed to be pre-constructed, so a player might not be aware what card he should have where against which alignment.

Granted, with the Challenge Decks it does annoy me when I draw Covetous Thoughts against a hero opponent. What I was thinking was, we could put cards like that in the sideboard. The core of the deck remains the same, but you will be able to make slight modifications from your sideboard (that's what it's there for, eh?) depending on your opponent. I don't think this would be lame, as long as you keep this in mind when constructing the decks (make sure you can hit everything with something). It does make hazard portion construction a bit tricky right now, but after we have all the resource portions ready, I don't see it as a big problem.

MARK:

I like the idea of making 25 cards in the hazard portion 'standard' and 5 switch in and out depending on opponent's alignment. Will this be too hard to manage irl? Well, the deck lists will be printed out and attached to the decks somehow....

Another question: Mikko and I designed our decks with the idea that the avatar is in the starting company and that the company starts at the avatar's home site. Tirn expressed distaste for this last night. I believe Joe liked the idea when he talked about it with me. Does anyone have strong thoughts either way, or should we just give it a go?

MIKKO:

I am actually quite enthusiastic for starting with the avatar at it's home site. We definately need to at least try it out.

GREG:

irst off, kudos to all for their thoughtfulness and commitment on this so far. You guys are real masters of the game.

Second, allow me to express a couple of desires/concerns regarding some of the current ideas about how to proceed.

My desires/concerns arise from 4 principles, besides the advantage/virtues of BALANCE and THEME a closed, pre-constructed environment brings, I have regarding the nature and the venue of the ICD

(1) Pedagogical-Ordinary Nature of the ICD: I see the ICD as being for "intermediate" player, after the "beginner's" pre-constructed Challenge Decks (BCD), and before the "advanced" constructed decks--which I think there is a tremendous gap. As such I see them as having a pedagogical function and as such I believe that they should resemble *ordinary* gameplay as much as possible.

So far there has been a good discussion regarding MP vs VP and it's relation to TP. The decision so far is to go with a VP system. This is change from ordinary gameplay which doesn't really seem to alter it radically so far as it seems only to effect deck design, which in the case of the ICD, is not an issue as "we" are the designer.

However, by changing the fact that one doesn't have to draw an avatar and one begins at that avatar's home-site, seems to alter the natural flow and rythmm of play and overall deck composition. I also think we should keep the creature minumum and try to keep as close to 30/30/30 as possible, though I see making the decks slightly larger may enhance thematic and balance play, allowing for some resources/hazards to be tossed given who the opponent is/doing.

That said, I don't think we shouldn't try it, for as the Stephen Soundheim song goes, "I'll try anything.....twice" and "the world is our oyster." I just wanted to say that I think the closer to the regular, ICE CD and constructed play, the better will the decks be pedagogically and perhaps understood/received by the players.

(2) Ordinary Venue of the ICD: I think that GCCG is/will be the principal forum for day to day gameplay for MECCG for years to come for a variety of reason, esp. by post-ICE CD players, seeing how easily the CD's are available. I also think that there is a need for more balanced play in that environment as well as irl playgroup play. The tournament venue seems to be best taken care of right now, from sealed to CD to special tournament (cf Lure), and standard 2 deck open stuff that all you master players seem to thrive in well.

With that said, I think the primary venue for the ICD should be GCCG, then irl playgroup play for those that have all the cards but perhaps not the know-how/experience to be good deck designers, and thirdly, for tournament play.

Thus, the deck designs should take advantage of the access to virtual cards and created proxies irl non-tournament playgroup play, which I did for a while for those MEBA and MEAS R1/R2 I didn't have. Plus, soon players will be able to make on their own in the privacy of their homes first rate proxies for casual non-official play given the advance in printing technonlogies.

If this principle holds, then I don't see why there should be 2 different hazard portions per deck as that is super easy to do on GCCG and pretty easy irl non-tournament play as you only need to have 2-3 decks sleeved on "any given Sunday." Yes, it will make tournament use more difficult, but not insurmountable.

(3) Showcasing Underused Cards and Dual Portions: Yes, there are some useless cards in MECCG, but there are more underused cool ones. The closed, pre-constructed envioronment of ICD allow for us to showcase those cards, giving them their due and maybe inspire others to use them more regularly. This again is an argument for having 2 hazard portions and more adventurous resources that are not standard. I know that in GCCG and irl I have different hazard portions for the same resource deck, so to have 2, unlike the BCD, but like most other type of play. Also, I would add that Alfon's chief criticism was regarding cross-alignment feasibility.

(4) Holistic Design for Closed Environment: Finally, let me pass on a suggestion from Master Gene Berry. He thought that the best way to design a set of intramural decks was to design them all at once, not one at a time. I realize that doing this for 9-10 would be difficult, but perhaps not for 3, or 2, esp. the One-Ring vs. the Lidless Eye/Sauron. The current approach of Mark doing a G-dalf and Mikko a FW Rad separately seems to replicate the normal design of open environment play, but not closed.

This holstic approach emulates how game designers proceed, alternating between the whole and the parts. I realize that naturally MECCG is a CCG and thus is not really designed--and thus some of the criticism that arises from gamers regarding balance; but that is what makes this Project different. We get to create a closed environment w/in a larger open one, which I believe is freeing.

Well, that's my desires/concerns. I realize that they might make it more difficult for you guys, but I hope they are wise and prove not to be insurmountable.

MECCG is Dead! Long Live MECCG!

WIM:

Wow, this thread grew overnight! I've seen a couple of elements I have some further thoughts on, but time restricts me to picking only this one for now, which seems to look for the most swift answer:
Zarathustra wrote:
Another question: Mikko and I designed our decks with the idea that the avatar is in the starting company and that the company starts at the avatar's home site. Tirn expressed distaste for this last night. I believe Joe liked the idea when he talked about it with me. Does anyone have strong thoughts either way, or should we just give it a go?

In doing this you are basically jumpstarting the game. This means you can do more thematic stuff (which usually isn't the fastest) without making the game too long. Therefore it makes good sense to me.

When you're starting with the avatar, you may as well start at his home site. Adds some nice diversity.

JOE:

Whew, there's a lot to think about here. I'll give it my best:

1) Starting with avatar at home site: I had originally suggested to Mark the option of having your avatar in your opening hand in order to eliminate inequliaty and frustration of players saying 'well i didnt' draw my wizard until late, so that's why i didn't do well', and for theme, and to have something different. Now, Tirn's points do concern me--that ICD are, at least in some cases, training decks for tournament play. It is quite possible that ICD players who go on to make tourney decks will be surprised and initially unprepared for the 'frustration' of not getting their wizard in hand first turn. However, there's a chance that we are simplifynig things by saying 'ICD decks must be as close as possibelt o tourney decks because one is a training deck for the other'. Even given the fact that one is a training deck for the other, *it does not follow* that they must be as close as possible to each other. You could make an argument, for instance, that starting with your avatar in ICDs will actually *help* players understand more clearly the difference it makes to have your avatar first turn, when they suddenly play their first real tournmanet deck. Remember that when you put training wheels on a bike, you add more wheels. Then when the child rides the bike, you take away those extra wheels. And it gets harder... I'm not sure why ICDs shouldn't be the same way.

Perhaps more importantly, Wim said "In doing this you are basically jumpstarting the game," which is an excellent point I had completely forgotten about. We are trying to make THEME decks and also perhaps grab new players into the game who should NOT be immediately exposed to the frustration of tourney-style decks. Avatar-starting is both MORE FUN and it will actually make Fate of the Ithil-stone MORE POSSIBLE.


2) Separate hazard portion: Tirn may be right that GCCG is the main frontier for ICDs, and in the close future with print tech even irl games won't have the rare-card limitation. So what disadvantages are left to having two separate alignment decks? Well, to paraphrase Miguel, there's annoyance of switching (irl games). Other than that, I can only think of one thing: i often feel more attached to one alignment deck more than the other, as if it's somehow 'more unnatural' to have such big switches in the other version. But maybe i'm alone in this. But still, related to this, it would be nice to keep the decks' "character" as much as possible, it's theme integrity. So I would suggest *extremely limited resource switching,* except in the case of the Witch-king/Lidless eye deck (if we make that one), although those changes should be limited too. And even with the hazards, it would be nice if many of the main thematic hazards stayed the same. For instance, if one deck had a man hazard strat against heroes, it could have a man haz strat against minions too, just using different men/dunedain.

3) Tirn wrote that: "Thus, the deck designs should take advantage of the access to virtual cards and created proxies irl non-tournament playgroup play". Proxies, sure, of course. As Gwaihir mentioned before, let's wait a bit on the virtual card conversation (until after playtesting of test cookie batch), although yes, I think these decks could be the perfect format to mess around with them.

4) Tirn pushed for "underused cool cards." Definitely. It's hard, sometimes, to do this though. For instance, I noticed Mark used Stealths and Concealments in the One Ring deck--not Elf path. (It would be really cool, tough, to have a deck that DID use Elf Path. Maybe the Pallando deck, if it's just staying up by white towers and loss cairn and angmar?)

5) Gene B "thought that the best way to design a set of intramural decks was to design them all at once, not one at a time." I agree, but I don't think what Mark and Miguel are doing hurts this. They are still doing it "all at once"; it's just two separate designers. The key with mutiple designers is to make sure they are looking at each other's decks lists. We may eventually need a god designer to take the suggested deck lists and start tampering with them for his/her idea of balance, which may be what Tirn was suggesting.

MARK:

Response to Tirn & Frodo's discussion:

Glad everyone has interesting and well-reasoned ideas about this!

(1) I agree with Wim and Joe that the avatar start is merely a way to 'jump-start' the game. Concerning the starting site, however, I'm not as sure. It seems to make plenty of sense for heroes and fallen wizard and balrog (already happens for him I guess). But minions... they will all start down in Mordor now? Unless it's the Lidless Eye, but then, where do they start?? Barad Dur? No where? Anywhere? Wink

On the general similarity between these decks and 'real' constructed decks: there's a necessary problem involved here. The closer we make these decks to 'real' decks, the less they will be stepping stones on the way to 'real' decks. What's more, jumpstarting allows for more thematic play, which is good for us, right? I think Tirn's worries are valid, but that it's ok to depart from 'real' decks at least this much.... Anyway, we'll try it and see!

(2) I think Greg merely meant 'available online' when he said 'virtual cards'. Is that right? In any case, I'm warming to the idea of forgetting the rares and balrog cards as difficulties: people can/will just make proxies (regardless of the quality of the prints, if there are any at all). Given this, I'm leaning towards two hazard portions, or at least the possibility of a hazard exchange of, say, 5-10 cards per deck depending on its opponent.

(3) Note that I removed the Stealths in the One Ring deck Very Happy (though the replacements were Many Turns and Doublings... Sad). I agree we should try to use underused cool cards. Anybody wanna volunteer to construct a list of 'really cool underused cards' for quick reference from the designers?...

(4) Mikko and I have been discussing the decks as we built them, so if you think of us together as a group mind, Gene's suggestion is actually being implemented. Minute tweaking can take place once these decks are tested against each other, so balance should not be an issue once we finally show these to 'the public'. Joe suggests having a god designer tweak everything to his will at the end; I prefer to think of the alpha-testers as a pantheon of tweakers... Wink

WIM:

Tirn wrote:
The decision so far is to go with a VP system. This is change from ordinary gameplay which doesn't really seem to alter it radically so far as it seems only to effect deck design

Oh no, I think it affects way more than that. In fact, I think it means that for now "theme" was choosen over "intermediate". It will probably lead to cool results well beyond what sticking to that intermediate concept could do theme wise, but it's a change of plan indeed, or a spin off, if you will.

Probably best to at some point (before it publishes) figure out what this project then best be called and leave room for another team to make the "real" ICDs after all?

But quite frankly, seeing how folk here point out what it really takes to bring "theme" in, I am at a loss what they would look like. Greg, perhaps you should lay the foundations for those yourself anyway?

Is it just a matter of taking posted tournament decks and balancing them by tuning the most cut-throat ones down with theme elements? That would truly create a closed environment set of decks that prepares for high level play, no?
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Postby zarathustra » Sat Feb 03, 2007 7:24 pm

JOE:

1)
Oh man, I didn't realize the suggestion was to have ONE starting company and that company starts at the avatar's site. I thought it was to have TWO starting companies: in the case of hero, one at Rivendell as usual, and the wizard alone at his homesite.

I don't know, losing the starting haven thing might be too strange. Also, using the option of two separate starting sites still creates "jumpstart." THoughts?

2)
>>"I prefer to think of the alpha-testers as a pantheon of tweakers..."
YOu pagan scum! You've been watching too much Battlestar Galactica.

3)
Gwaihir mentioned how/why the ICD decks should differ from tourney decks tweaked for theme. Well, we'd lose some of the pedagogical aspect if this was our main thesis... concern.

MIKKO:

The part about all starting at avatar's homesite was my fault I guess. I was reluctant to start with my Radagast alone at Rhosgobel and get him killed the first move... so I thought it clever for everyone to 'gather' at his home to make some plans, and then go for it. Of course I could move everyone else there the 1st turn so they can protect him, but that's hardly a 'jumpstart' anymore.

I can see this might be a problem for minions. We could of course have a separate rule for them. Like have their entire company start at a minion haven of their choice (or even two havens)? The ringwraiths tend to move alone, wizards accompanied by others, so a different starting rule might serve well here.

As Wim just pointed out to me, we could give each deck their own starting site(s), as a way to balance the decks.

JOE:

But remember the decks aren't going to be loaded with 3 to 4 Nazguls in each hazard strategy! So the chances of radagast being iced first turn are pretty low... whose going to be able to play a Nazgul on him?

GREG:

Again, great exchange of ideas here.

(1) Another Intermediate Voice: Before reflecting a bit more, I think it would be good to have another "commited" intermediate player like myself participate in the discussion. Any suggestion I think Dave Barton (Wacho) would be good, though perhaps a German/Austiran might be more fitting. I have no idea what goes on over at the parallel universe of METW_deu. Or a Spanish speaker might be good as well.

(2) List of Underused Cards: I think Mark's call for this is wise. Perhaps a general issue to the board would produce such a list, though I'm sure the 4 of you know the card base well enough.

(3) On the Meaning of "Intermediate" and "Theme": In response to Wim's query, I think that the purposes of the ICD's for intermediate players and players wanting "theme" included the following:

(a) expose players to the card base beyond that of the BCDs, the possible combos, and interaction with opponents cards, esp those underutilized. This will teach players not just about the possiblities of play, but inculcate perhaps a different attitude about eventual deck construction.

(b) create a environment in which *balance* like that of the BCD but unlike that of open constructed play is the supreme value, though less vanilla/bland/generic and more interactive than the BCD. Thus, the environment is even more closed than theh BCD. This in part justifies, IMHO, the switch to a different scoring system of VP over MP. More importantly, it creates a more or less "even" playing field in which *skill* and *luck* are 50/50.

(c) bring out the *thematic* dimensions of the game.

[Quick confession: Perhaps the principle reason I play MECCG is b/c I'm a Tolkienite and MECCG provides the single best gaming experience of Middle Earth, less that of RPG (which is really difficult and rare) yet more than that of Knizia's excellent LotR cooperative games and the War of Ring miniature wargame (both of which are hard to logistically arrange). To be frank, I dislike CCG's (for a variety of reasons) and prefer medium weight euro-board games with (historical) theme. In some sense my idea for this project is to create a board game niche within MECCG. Gene always said that MECCG was more like a board game than a CCG. The map is the board, the cards are the pieces. Board games have 1-2 designers, playtesters, and are a closed, constructed environment with limited yet mulitple options, and lots of times, dice. Basically, the idea here is to make a set of decks that would bring Chris Farrell (see Board Game Geek and his blog) back and attract others like him to the game. He and his "base" are the "ideal" gamers I have in mind]

With that said, I think we have the opportunity to do that by making *mission* cards (Mithril, the Ithil-Stone, the One Ring, Dragon Factions, Shire Destruction, Treasoning the Free People, Pass Dol Guldur, a more I don't know well enough--see Deck Themes post by Mark for Gene&mine ideas) the backbone of the decks will make them more thematic.

In addition, *cards that go with characters and races* should be employed when possible (Beorn with Skin-Changer, Pallando w/ Eyes, Rad with Herblore, Hobbit w/ Riddling cards)

To make it more thematic, I would even suggest trying to make it even more reflective of *Tolkien's universe*. For example, and sorry to pick on Mikko's very fun looking FW Rad deck, but I don't think Faramir, a Gondorian Dunedain, and perhaps the least corruptable character in Middle Earth (he should have +1 to his cc's--virtual card anyone?), would be joining a Maia who had "fallen" into Nature. Sure, one could create a story line in which he was duped or had a lapse in character, but that's not very Tolkien. Now, the likelihood of a Dunlending like Peath joining Rad, yeah, or Boromir or (even more so) Denethor joing with a FW Saruman, yes. Other examples abound, but I hope you see my point that the potential to tell a better Tolkien-like story in the MECCG universe, which would enhance gameplay, is there. It is no incident that LotR is the most popular book of the century and it part it has to do with the world that story is set in.

Let me close this long missive by saying I realize that I'm asking for (Tolkien's) Moon here or the Star of High Hope and if that is not attainable or feasible or desired by others, then I'll understand, but I thought I'd really give something worth reaching for.

I welcome your feeback.


MIKKO:

Just a quick note on the FW Raddy deck. I must confess I'm not really what one would call a Tolkien fan. I just happen to like MeCCG very much. The choices I make for decks are of course affected by this. Replacing Faramir is no problem, please give more suggestions in the FW Radagast thread! Very Happy

MARK:

Mikko and I just played a game in which I scored 3 VP, he scored 4, then dunked with the fifth. It was great! My hobbits got lost on the way to the bandit lair (twice!). Then they were attacked by a big tiger at the Dead Marshes (gandalf concealed). I iced Peath with a Were Worm on turn 1. All in all a great, thematic game with lots of little stories to tell.

Some responses to Greg's comments:

(1) Fine by me. Anyone who wants to join is welcome here. I just haven't received any requests....

(2) The more help you, as an intermediate player, can give here, the better. My mind just immediately jumps to the path of least resistance when I think of support cards, so please feel free to make a list of ones you'd like to see.

(3) (a) We're certainly doing this. Lots of cool combos that would be worth playing in real decks.

(b) Balance derives from testing. Mikko and I just tested preliminary versions of the G and R decks. He won, but largely because he wasted two of my turns with Chance of Being Lost. Had he rolled 8 or lower one of those turns, I might have won, or at least come closer to winning. All in all, I think they were pretty well balanced against each other. However, my hazards (drakes etc) will probably go better with a KutM deck, so we'll try again some more later.

(c) Can't get much more thematic than Mikko's deck. Check how many pictures of birds he's got Wink. Mine is also quite thematic; almost every resource has a picture of a hobbit and/or Gandalf/Galadriel. You may be asking too much if Faramir is disallowed simply because he's a nice guy in the third book. I guess Beretar will serve as a substitute, but please keep in mind that there's not an infinite pool of characters to choose from in meccg.

GREG:

In response to Mark with a bigger suggestion to follow.

(1) Other Intermediate Voices: We should invite/recruit someone to join, IMHO. So, any names besides Wacho, esp. German or Spanish-speaking?

(2) Unused Card List: My knowledge base is so limited, I'm hoping the Master players will be better for this. I think Joe might have a fetish for unterutilized cards, so he should be able to produce a nice list of cards that go together. Wink

(3) Thematics and Design: Two things.

(a) I hear what Mark is saying about card "pictures" and theme, but I was thinking of something a bit more Tolkienesque, though not necessary strictly LotR if that makes sense. I could say more about Faramir and such, but maybe later.

(b) I still think that despite the good test game Mark and Mikko had, I think approaching the deck design for the ICD's needs to be different from making stand alone decks first and then testing them to balance them out. Designing decks simulaneously from the POV not that of principally a player per se but exclusively that of a designer, is a radically different approach to deck design I'm suggesting which I, to my very limited knowledge, I've never seen or hear of, beside the BCD, of course.

As was chatting w/ Mikko on GCCG as he was working on the FW Rad deck design and I hit upon a radical idea to have the ICD really be "CHALLENGE" decks, i.e "vs" each other.

There could be three or four sets of pairs or more ambitiously two or three sets of three. This would create as closed environment as possible and thus open up for full thematic Tolkien and ICE card capability, *though of course the immediate downside would be repeatability*.

Here are some brainstormed pairs:

The Lord of the Rings:
H Gandalf One-Ring (Hobbits/Dunedain) vs. Sauron/Lidless Eye Treason/Agents

The Battle of Mirkwood:
FW Radagast Pass the Doors of Dol Guldur (Men) vs. Khamul "Burn" Mirkwood (Men, 1/2 Orcs)--use Khamul RW follwer

The Battle for Moria:
FW/H Alatar Dwarf Mithril Underdeep vs. Balrog (whateverr)

The Contest of the Palantirs:
FW/H Pallando Fate of Ithil (Elves) vs. FW Saruman (Orcs)

MIKKO:

I will make a Khamul Mirkwood deck to see how it would work with FW Raddy

JOE:

Tirn, thanks a lot for writing this. Because all of a sudden, a lot of ideas have sprung to mind.

I don’t know why, but I don’t think I was fully understanding the context or feeling behind your words (“theme theme”) until now. Even though I myself kept repeating those words. But we’re all doing a difficult project here, mapping out blind and new areas of Middle-earth as it were, and some things just never really occurred to me until I started putting two-and-two things together associatively… like remembering mark’s deck list and all the concealments… Gwaihir’s comments about “nerfed down tourney decks”… your quoted ones about MEECG being like a ‘game’ which I now comprehend to mean ‘closed even playing field’… your comments about Faramir…

Tirn is right. Theme is everything. Theme is (almost) everything (except for pedagogy); but does everyone understand the implications of this, especially in a balanced play closed environment?

It means THE DECKS DON’T HAVE TO LOOK LIKE THEY CAN WIN.

Because, THEY WILL ANYWAY.

Catch my drift? We don’t need 3 concealments… because as long as the other decks don’t have 3 of them either, other, less-efficient canceller cards will work just as fine.

The only exception to this is the possibility of games where hazards rule supreme, and both sides completely annihilate each other’s companies. So we’d have to make sure hazard strats were random enough to not be over-powerful either.

So. Why NOT use cards like “Elf-path”? Why not use Trickery? Hobbit Stealth? Or even… (gasp) Fog? Imagine cards that change region symbols into safer symbols, for instance; so the player now has to plan ahead (oh, can’t move through dagorlad yet, not because I haven’t drawn a concealment, but because I haven’t drawn my FOG!).

Let me go further. I really don’t think we should have more than ONE copy of a card that already sees immense play OR that does a more efficient job of canceling than other cards. So limit concealment to ONE per deck, tops. That’s why I was happy to see Ruse in miguel’s FW Rad deck. “I think Joe might have a fetish for unterutilized cards.” Damn straight. I made a list at this post’s end of crazy cards we should seriously think about and start using. We need to keep theme up and frontmost in our minds… not power of cards, because the decks WILL be powerful if they are limited/balanced enough. We HAVE already been doing this to a great extent—I love the idea of playing with just Frodo, Sam, and Galadriel for One Ring, and matching up the pictures of birds, etc. Let’s KEEP doing this, and go even further if possible… let’s get wickedly creative. Mark, is there a mountain of shadow at least in the SB for the One Ring? That’s total Sam and Frodo? What about a Narya? Miguel, do you have one Beorning Skin-changer in your FW Rad deck? You should! It’s an animal! How cool is that; plus you could keep it in versus minions, since you will then be implementing a minon-animal haz strat.

By the way, Tirn made some cool comments about some decks being aptly suited to play another particular deck. Yes, Mark and I had been talking about this already; we called it “grudge match” decks. Thus, although all decks would have SOME kind of interaction with each other, there would always be a pair of decks that had total, heavy, all-out smackdown interaction between the two of them. I say this is a great idea!

Now Faramir. Is it really unrealistic that Faramir would follow Radagast? Let’s not look at FW Radagast as “evil”… he’s just fallen because he cares more about nature than other things. Remember, nobody looks at FW Gandalf as evil… the WH Rules describe him as Gandalf the World-weary. He has given up hope. This is a realistic, well-described potential problem in LOTR. But the call of nature is also given MUCH play in LOTR and Middle-earth… think about the elves. The elves are perfect people to follow someone like Radagast. Also, I think Faramir WOULD follow Radagast, because Faramir is often depicted as resenting or being tired of the warrior life (“ah if only gardeners were prized here as much as in your land, sam!”) and being very attracted to nature, to wandering about by himself, and being solitary. Certainly, FW Rad makes more sense than any other FW Wizards. And it makes NO sense that Boromir or Denethor II would follow FW Rad… they simply care about force-of-arms too much. Again, let’s not get caught up too much in some idea of ‘corrupted’ meaning evil or non-goodness. In the eyes of Denethor (and perhaps Boromir), his son Faramir WAS already corrupted by ‘the good life’!

Here’s my list of cards and strategies that should be thought about:

*Elf-path, Moon, Stars, Even-star and Praise to Elbereth (with Doors of Night deck—so it’s a ‘beauty of the night’ deck—since this will be at least partly an elf deck, also add The Burden of Time to haz strat, suggesting ambivalence of elves in own deck)
*Alert the Folk with Horns, Horns, Horns
*Dragon-Feuds (with a drake hazard strat, Foes Shall Fall, Wound of Long Burden) (would be neat if this was FW alatar actually getting and ‘taming’ a dragon faction)
*Burglary (with Fatty, Bilbo, and single-strike auto sites—cool combo)
*Forod, Harad, and Rhun events with hero or FW Radagast and cards that let him move again (so he gets all woods, twice, with lowered HL and massive wilderness draw of his text) (wait; maybe this can be OUR FW rad deck, instead of using fair travels in wilder?) (could also use some Gondorians and some easterling chars, like it does now) (or of chars on horses, at least)
*Many Foes He Fought (with Boromir and little hobbits or maybe girls)
*Master of Esgaroth with Dwarves
*A company with mostly minion or purple characters and ONE hero-blue character (hobbit? Gandalf?) and you keep playing Pledge of conduct when faced with corruption checks to transfer the item from the untrustworthy purple character to the hero char!
*Riddling Talk (one ring deck?)
*Washed and Refreshed (A deck that actually uses it; maybe lots of sideboarding or other chars that tap to do things, like Strider or Saruman)
*Nenselde (I would LOVE to see a Nenselde deck. Please! She’s so hot!!)
*a Beorn deck that had a “giant” hazard strategy
*Old Prejudice deck that uses Elves and Dwarves
*a Dwarven Ring deck
*a flying deck (Eagle-mounts, etc)
*a coastal deck with picture cards like Favor, etc.
*an east-of-lorien stealthy deck using only indirect stealthy cards like FOG
*Bring Our Curses Home (why isn’t this in any haz strat yet?? It encourages more skillful use of hazard creature play)
*Token of Goodwill (with Smoke and some kind of Minor-item grabber)

Also, I was thinking how many ‘bomb’ cards might provide for things like getting an item or getting a faction, but nothing provides for creature points as yet. This could be a problem, because players may indiscriminately throw creatures at their opponent, not caring if they die because so what? I think a VP for at least a few decks should be: 1 VP if you have 3 or more kill points. But it would be nice if that VP condition was unique, like say for Alatar, and others were more creative variations on that. For instance, if your opponent just played two hazard creatures on one company in a turn and you didn’t lose any characters, you score a VP (so, here keeping people alive is important).

Wow, I just thought of a cool negative condition for Radagast. He cares most about animals and nature, correct? So what if the ‘negative cards’ he gave his opponent at the beginning was two animal or bird hazard-creatures, and if you could play these on him and get him to kill these creatures, he would lose that many VPs? I know, I know; I’m pretty creative, ain’t I?


GREG:

Joe, thanks for getting what I was trying to say about theme (Tolkien) and the ICD as creating a game (a closed balanced constructed environment) within the game (an open constructed tournament geared environment). Yes, it's true I think much more can be done in an informal yet instituted way with the card set to create a true Tolkien board game of mid-level complexity within the larger universe of MECCG.

I would disagree, though, my fine English prof, w/ your analysis of Faramir and the Elves, aka the Eldar, and their relationship to the Istari, aka the Five Wizards. Though I love the quote you have from Faramir to Sam, and while I agree that Radagast is not corrupted/fallen like Saruman or like the Blue Wizards, of which JRRT say nothing except they strayed from their mission [will will assume in the ICD that they either didn't or did or both], his straying from the path is forgetting that he was there to aid the Free Peoples in their struggle against Sauron and instead became obsessed with the natural order, disinterested in the affairs of "people" all together. For a nice summary: http://www.tuckborough.net/otherbeings.html

Farmir, though, while not interested in either his brothers warrior spirit, nor his father's fatalistic politics of dealing of Sauron, he doesn't seem likely to run away from the problem like Radagast does. He would seem most likely to join or aid, yeah, give his life, to Gandalf and the Hobbits, which is essentially what he does.

The Eldar, esp. the Noldo, would have little interest in someone like Radagast as their Ages long struggle with Morgoth/Sauron would be what consumed them. Saruman was the Istari they would have aligned themselves most likely. By the Third Age, though, the Noldo were only intent on departing to the West. Even they had capitulated Middle Earth to the doom of Men and Saruon. Those that stayed the longest, held up in their havens of Rivendell and Lorien. The Avari, those who stayed behind, the Silvan or Wood Elves, i.e. Thranduil's folks, however, might have been in league with Radagast, though it seems only the Beornings seem to be the only one who konw him. In some sense it is too bad that FW Radagast can't have either Beorn or Thranduil, though he can control Legolas! But then again, Radagast seems to do things w/out the aid of others.

JOE:

Yikes, I didn't realize the kind of Tolkien scholar I was messing with. I think I now defer to Tirn for wizard-character assignment... Embarassed I do agree that Faramir would fit nicely with FW Gandalf. It does seem to me that the elves who stayed behind and did NOT leave and were NOT interested in fighting Sauron would only be interested in Nature and therefore be interested in Radagast, which is perhaps what Tirn was suggesting.

MARK:

OK, I'm happy to go this route, but I must say I'm confused about exactly what is wanted from these decks now. Greg: you realize this makes the decks less intermediate and more thematic, right? I thought you didn't like that trend....

In any case, I do like the trend: the theme-ier the better as far as I'm concerned. So, as long as others are happy with it, we'll go even further that route.

GREG:

To Joe: scholar? more like geek. Anyway, yes, if you wanted to experience of great sadness of Middle Earth, playing FW Gandalf w/ Faramir would give you just that, though my vote for Faramir as the proven least corruptable of the race of Men stands--corruption coming in many forms no? Lure of X,Y,Z, P,D,Q.

To Mark: Ok, I would define "intemediate" as being after pre-constructed BCD yet before self-constructed causal/tournament competition. What I believe might make the ICD or Mission Decks or true Challenge of Match Decks or whatever we finally name them, is that they will be the most thematic of any decks pre-constructed for as balance play than either the BCD or the constructed, which by competitive necessity, must sacrifice theme to mechanics.

Intermediate Players should like both in and of themselves as a "bridge" to possible future constructing, either individual decks for other pre-constructed deck sets.

I think I see each of our roles more clearly as a design team:
Mark and Mikko--Lead Deck Designers
Joe--Deck and Card Consultant
Wim--Feedback Consultant to the Project, GCCG Liason
Me--Thematic Consultant, Project Visionary/Fool

I'm being a bit silly here, but I think that the dynamic here is for Joe, Wim, and I to provide some design perameters and constructive feedback for Mark and Mikko creative ventures and challenge them kindly when they take the "path of least resistance."

This is a nice number of folks, but seriously, is there another role or person would make this team ideal? Someone who has designed decks well that have attempted to maximize the card base thematically?

Sounds good?

PS Have any of you read what Chris Farrell has written about MECCG on BGG and his blog? Just curious as like I said, he the type of person I have in mind. Whether you agree or disagree, he does represent the coventional wisdom (CW)

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/18 (see #4)
http://homepage.mac.com/c_farrell/iblog ... index.html

JOE:

If by "intermediate" we mean "strength", then this would definitely make the decks less intermediate. They may even be weaker then the challenge decks.

But I think by "intermediate", we SHOULD be meaning "difficulty to play" correctly. If you need to plan out your fourth turn two turns ahead of time so that you will be in the right regions(s) to benefit from Elf-path, this is a kind of thinking that no challenge deck will ask of you.
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Postby zarathustra » Sat Feb 03, 2007 7:27 pm

MIKKO:

oe you played against the FW Radagast with a regular MP deck, and you were having some problems as I recall Wink. I don't think the decks will be weak just because we use theme, but yes it will take more skill and effort to make them strong.

As for difficulty of play, planning ahead was exactly what I was thinking about, and having played the FW Radagast deck twice now, it does feel like that Very Happy

I know a few people really want to see Hero One Ring deck vs. Sauron, but I'm still not 100% convinced. Would not Witch-king do well enough against The One Ring? I still have hopes of not having to replace any cards in deck when your opponent changes (well just the 5 cards you give to your opponent).

I like the idea of FW Saruman facing off against hero elves. How about making a similar deck for minions? Instead of Balrog squaring off with hero dwarves, he might get a visit from forces of Sauron (maybe not play RW at all, just Bade to Rule). Or maybe Balrog wishes to take over Mordor or something... Very Happy

Does anyone have a good idea for minion vs. minion decks?

MARK:

Would it really be so bad to allow the Lidless Eye to be played vs other minions?....

JOE:

Hmm, tempting... but wouldn't it be bad to have players enjoying (and learning) a deck matchup that could NEVER OCCUR in open environment play?

Seems to me the ideal is to have a corresponding Ringwraith deck for the vs. minion resource strategy, and make that as close as possible to the Lidless Eye version (like both are burn decks, etc.). Thematically, it would be nice if the closest physical or metaphorical representation of the lidless eye was the avatar--the Witch-King--and if the deck included the Mouth as a Character. Ooh, the *hazard* portion of both deck versions could include The Will of Sauron and Eye of Sauron!


MIKKO:

I discussed this with Greg and would like to know what others think:

We could have 3 sets of 3 decks each. Those decks would only play against the other decks in their own set, in 2-player games or even 3-player games. They might go like this:

(1) FW Radagast vs. Khamul vs. Alatar (Mirkwood theme)

(2) Gandalf vs. Sauron vs. FW Saruman (One ring theme)

(3) Balrog vs. Pallando vs. some RW (underdeeps theme)

This way the decks would have true interaction, always. It would feel a bit forced to match FW Radagast with Balrog for example. Also because they are sets of 3, the replay value is higher than with sets of 2 decks (and how cool would it be to play a 3-player 'mission' game). It would make balancing the decks a lot easier, and you would not need to change any cards in the deck. Also, you get to play Sauron!

Holding tournaments with these decks would get a bit more tricky, but I think casual play is our main goal anyway.

MARK:

Interesting.... I'm not sure what I think just yet. The replay value is going to be greatly diminished by this, compared to what we would have with a set of, say, 10 decks.

On the other hand, it makes the design project much more plausible, and new sets of 3 could always be added.

Regarding tournament settings: I would like to see these decks playable in such a setting. Is it impossible on this new plan? I don't know. Right now you can only play two games and then end the tourney, since you would have played vs all your opponents at that point. Perhaps, however, people could then switch sets, so that those who played the mirkwood group in games 1 and 2 would then play the one ring group in games 3 and 4.... Most tourneys nowadays seem to last 4 rounds, so that would actually work out quite nicely.

If so, we probably will want more than 3 sets of 3. Further sets might include, for example,

Dragon-Country Theme: Hero KutM vs. Fallen Alatar vs. Minion Dragon Rousing

Palantiri Theme: Hero Fate of the Ithil-Stone vs. Fallen Pallando vs. some minion deck

Combat Theme: Hero Big Elves vs. Overt FW vs. Dwar's Lieutenants

And many more....

My worries:

(1) we won't be able to do intra-alignment stuff if we go this route. E.g., no Prone to Violence, no Mine or No One's, no agent influence or Seek without Success hazard strategies (unless we break the standard rules), no influencing away your opponent's resources if you're a minion.... Is it worth giving up all these things just for ease of design?...

(2) loss of replay value.

(3) match-ups don't seem very thematic already. Shouldn't hero radagast be in the mirkwood theme?... But then FW Radagast can't....
_________________

MIKKO:

Yes my idea for the tournament setting would be changing the deck you play, perhaps a new deck for each round. Then you would be able to play lots of rounds with 3x3 decks, but only 6 people at a time IRL, unlimited number on GCCG (2-player games). If you change deck every round, not playing the same deck twice, you can play 9 rounds, and double that if you face each deck's both 'opponents'. I think there was a Challenge Deck tournament at Lure where people switched decks every round.

Why do you say no Prone to Violence? It would surely be in the Balrog deck (sideboard), or the minion deck facing it... Some strategies will not be that usable, like cards requiring agents in those two decks, BUT they will be very playable in the Sauron deck that faces two wizards! It's just a matter of looking where you can play that stuff.

I don't understand why the match-ups don't seem thematic to you. These are just examples, feel free to modify:

(1) FW Radagast (protector) vs. Khamul (opressor) vs. Alatar (rescuer & hunter, Pass the Doors of DG)

(2) Gandalf (dunk the ring) vs. Sauron (get the ring) vs. FW Saruman (orcs, get the ring)

(3) Balrog (spreading out) vs. Pallando (dwarves & Mithril) vs. some RW or Bade to Rule (keeping Balrog away from Mordor or kicking dwarven scum)

GREG:

It seems that there is a trade-off here in switching from a truly intramural set of 9-10 decks to that of 3-6 sets of 3 decks which may want to be discussed more in full by all involved.

If we abandon the route of a universe of 9-10, and go for multiple universies of 2 (!) or 3, then we would get to maximize the closed environment of terms of (a) balance, (b) theme, (c) underused cards, and (d) have both FW and H alignments of same avatar in different sets.

Furthermore, you (e) really only need one hazard portions if you only have 2 possible opponents and (f) we can truly enact cross-alignment (a major criticism of MECCG in general and Alfons objection to the ICDP itself), and (g) you could irl or on GCCG (in future) play 3 person games.

However, for all that you have real potential replay problem, as we all know. The question is how much of a tradeoff is that? Several question that help answer that are:

(1) How many times can you play a 3 set and still find it fun? Will the decks have enough *variability* in each deck based on the draw, opponent, and card choices? B/c the BCD are kitchen sinks and open constructed play is different every time you oppponent changes, how many times can you play the same two deck and really enjoy yourself? You guys may know better than I on this. Yet, the difference here is that so many of the card will be more difficult to play, less common, that perhaps the fun of getting to see it really used will counter-balance the familiarit of the decks overall

(2) If players only want to play the 3 sets of 3 decks a limited number of times, does this format, 3 sets of 3 offer a large number of sets? Can you continue to expand the multiple of 3? How many? How hard is it to construct such a closed environment? If you had 3 sets of 10 would that give you the same amount of play if you had a singel set of 9-10?

Well, that my questions for the thread. Looking forward to your thoughts.

MIKKO:

If I think about the normal Challenge Decks, I do enjoy playing with the ones that move in the same area of Middle-earth or at least have some level of interaction. Personally it doesn't mean much to me if there are 90 "different" games I could play when I end up enjoying only 10 of them.

If we are able to make the match-ups interesting and fun enough, I don't see people getting bored with them too easily. Even if we have only 3 sets of 3 decks, we would have 9 different match-ups, so 18 "different" games. If all of them are interesting and fun, I would rather play with ICD than the regular ones. And of course we could add more sets of 3 decks like Mark said, but still keep the number of actual decks relatively low, so they could be constructed IRL.

Familiarity of the decks is actually required to play them properly. These decks need some planning ahead when you play them, so better players will be able to play them better. And for the beginners one challenge here is to 'learn' the decks. So with 3 sets of 3 decks, you have 9 decks you need to learn already.

As there are not that many "different" games you can play with these decks, it is crucial that they are fun. If a deck would need to play Stealth to survive, instead of playing it, we should modify that deck's opponents. The decks need not be competetive with decks from other sets, only with the 2 opponents! Smile

GREG:

Thank for you sharing those experiential insights, Mikko.

They sound well grounded and wise to me.

So 3 decks of 3, then, lads? I realize that this approach *breaks* with the CCG style of gaming, even the ICE CD's, but I think the card base is different, underutilized, and interesting enough to make a board game like game w/in the CCG form. (i.e. I can't believe this would work w/in Magic, but I wouldn't really know)

Anybody else to confirm, augment, or have a different perspective on the issue?

I would say this (over and over): For me FUN in playing is not in the outcome (win/lose/draw) so much but in what happens on the way to it. Again, this is a plea to our esteemed and gifted tournament player designers to think about these decks as principally being played in a non-tournament environment and mostly in a casual and pedagogical one. If the decks could be used there, then fine.

I would also say that just like the BCD, we should produce extensive Deck Notes (available on the forum) so that players can prepare to play. Yes, MECCG is one of the few games one has to "study" before playing, which is one of its things that makes it unique as gaming goes, but is also a potential weakensses.

JOE:

This is a tough one to think about. Hmm...

One possible "weakness" that has been left out of the list is that in the old scenario, an interested player could learn ONE or TWO decks from the 10or 20+ decks, and now be ready to play ANY Icd player with a deck. Here, an interested player who learned one deck might not be able to get a game if the only available players know other decks. However, this may be a minor problem if the amount of newbie ICD players is lower than veteran icd players.

The only real issue I'm worried about is replay value, too. Sorry guys, but when I personally play the Saruman challenge deck vs the gandalf deck over and again, it gets really boring really quickly. Of course, as I think Tirn suggested, it may be a problem with the card combos and intelligence to play the deck--ICDs could be interesting enough.

But here's a question: how interactive are these decks supposed to be just because they're running around the same area? With One Ring, sure I get it, but the only natural interaction that occurs from same regions is that it's easier to debate battling or influencing your opponent, and that only gets so interesting. But perhaps it wasn't meant to be suggested that same-regions was the crux of the interaction.

I *am* intrigued by this tournment idea of switching decks and playing in different "blocks", however.

Look, since this is supposedly an easier option, why don't we just make 3 decks (mirkwood set?) and see how fun/balanced it turns out? Might as well give cool ideas a shot.

(Tirn, game-on this week?)


MIKKO:

Ok, I will make the last deck to the Mirkwood set. Then everyone who wants can play a few games with them to get a feel for that scenario, before making up their minds.

The 'beta' versions of the Mirkwood decks are done. Please give them a try on GCCG and leave feedback at their own threads. I will send the decks for IRL 3-player playtesting to Timo Lutter and the Berlin playgroup.

JOE:

Om my gosh! Already??

But how do we 'pick up' the decks on gccg, exactly?
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Postby zarathustra » Sat Feb 03, 2007 7:29 pm

MIKKO:

Are we gonna pick this back up?

MARK:

Sounds good to me... I think the decision now is are we going to stick with VPs or not?
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Postby Frodo » Sun Apr 01, 2007 1:23 am

Thoughts Part II-Intermediate Challenge Deck

Okay, this post is long overdue--almost a year. I have some comments outstanding from when I playtested these ICDs (just the Khamul deck), comments that basically say I don’t like the VP conditions at all, although I like the decks.

Joe’s Comments in Detail:
I played the Khamul Deck. Now I must say that first, I really, really like what Mikko and others have created here: the Khamul deck has its own theme and strategy going on, and it was fun to play in that respect. However, despite my plea for us to try using Victory Point conditions over regular Marshalling Point conditions, I now have to put dirt on my face… and do a turn-around…

It was really quite bizarre playing with these victory point conditions. They created a number of what I’ll call “artificialities” in the game experience, which I will now detail below:

1) Victory Point Conditions did encourage a person to try what we called “interactive” strategies like using Malady that a player might otherwise ignore, which was nice. But they almost made the deck seem **too** much like something designed to teach a beginner how to play, and these aren’t beginner decks. In other words, as a non-beginning player, I didn’t always see it necessary to the arc of the game I was playing to try to perform the choking shadows/seized by terror combo on my opponent… it was often more efficient to use the hazard limit to try a more reliable use of the hazards in my hand.

2) Whether you are losing or winning, there are a number of interactive options available to a Middle-earth player within a game that he can use to attempt to adjust the game to his favor, like influencing an opponent or his resource, corrupting someone, etc. In the Khamul deck, one thinks about attacking the opponent with CVCC, but guess what? Since the game is not about MPs but VPs, this changes the way you weigh the pros and cons of battling to a nicety: your opponent will really NOT lose 2 MPs if you kill Faramir. Your opponent will really NOT lose 4 MPs if you corrupt that character with Malady that has Orcrist on it. Sure, I’ll get one VP point for Malady; and you can argue that the opponent’s GENERAL ABILITY TO MOBILIZE HIS DECK AND COMPANIES TO GET VPs will be hampered by that loss of a character, or of Orcrist; but the weighing these kinds of conditions involves a whole different kind of thinking which, frankly, I’m not interested in doing, because it really does remove me from the way that the game is played in every other gaming situation.

3) Killing creatures… Guess what? You no longer get MPs for killing creatures. This means you and your opponent can feel free to completely swarm the other with creatures, because even if he kills them, they don’t get any benefit! It was very, very bizarre to suddenly adapt oneself to this theory. Most importantly: it doesn’t make for good teaching to players! There are already enough players who “swarm” their opponent with whatever creature is in hand, not thinking about whether they are giving up unnecessary MPs—this is something that need reinforcement, not negating.

I’d like to know what others think from their gaming experience. You are certainly allowed to disagree with me. In the meanwhile, I will post my strong suggestions for what to do next:

1) Eliminate the VP system. Go back to regular MPs, and keep the general tenor of the decks the same, but now let’s aim to balance them according to their MP structures.
2) Have a set of “guidelines” for each deck. In those guidelines, point out the necessity of playing certain combinations of cards on the opponent or taking certain actions in order to stop them. In other words, transform many of what was once “Victory Point conditions” into simple “guidelines” for how to play the deck. This is what the old Challenge Decks did. The difference here is that you can explain a little more fully why certain card plays would be powerful (Malady), because we are teaching a more “intermediate” style of play. NOTE: Not everything need to be revealed. But there should be a few guidelines.
3) In general, have a more “organic” way of getting a player to use certain cards. Want to be sure a player uses Seized or Malady in most games? Make it integral to a deck. Instead of “negative conditions,” have sideboard cards that could hurt rival decks, and guidelines for how to use them.

That’s it!!

--Frodo
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Postby Leon » Mon Apr 02, 2007 10:14 am

I had posted that I am planning to build some decks which should be playable vs each other and that I could send some decklists of that to you. After reading this part of the forum I do not think my purpose with those decks corresponds to your plans. I will send the general idea of my decks some time. Basically each deck has a large mission that you can fulfill if all works out fine, but the main point is still MP. The hazard decks for those are mainly decks based on one kind of creature, rather than the bunch of useful things that anyone is playing.

You can sign me out of this ICD development, unless it changes a whole lot.
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Postby Leon » Fri Apr 20, 2007 3:34 pm

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