Card cost, an alternative way of looking at things

Anything related to dev. & that doesn't fit in below categories.
Post Reply
Posts: 317
Joined: Mon Feb 29, 2016 15:34

Card cost, an alternative way of looking at things

Post by ngoeminne » Thu Nov 24, 2016 18:01

Hi folks,

The card's cost is a hard thing to figure out. Sure we have this formula for calculating the cost, based on the creatures att/def and pos/neg abilities. For none creature cards, its a bit more difficult.

In the end we look at the card's strength, and compare it to other cards. And finally we tend to put up a value based on intuition. Some people then tend to rate the cost higher, some people tend to have the cost lower, but basically we try to look at the card as an individual item.

Recently I tend to take an other approach, and look at the card cost from another perspective. Here it goes.

Each turn, you, the active player can do a number of actions and play a number of cards, depending of course on the number of resources. Each action or card played 'changes' the battlefield and the situation on the ground, and hopefully tip the balance of the game towards you. At the end of your turn you have tried to create the best possible situation on the ground in order for you to win the game. Ok, stop right there and freeze that layout. (say layout A)

If you didn't have an opponent, and you could take another turn, you'd be happy to continue to change the field in your advantage. However, you're 'ideal' layout will soon be ruined by your competitor on the other side of the table.

So your opponent starts his turn, and does his/her actions, and plays his/her cards and again 'changes' the battlefield and the situation on the ground. He/she ends her turn. Ok, stop right there once more and freeze this new layout. (say layout B)

Now compare layout B and layout A, and try to rate how much was changed and what the new balance of the game is.

For me, as the active player, I'd like to be able to 'change' the situation on the ground to a good degree. It gives me the feeling I made some good progress, I can make my plans and execute them.

For me, as the non active player, I'd feel unhappy that my previous setup is ruined by the opponent.

These highs and lows, are what the game makes more attractive (in my opinion). So we actually want that a good deal of actions/cards can be played. However, we'd also want to safeguard that a player can also build up a strategy (or game plan) over multiple turns. In that regard, we'd actually want to reduce how much a player can 'change' the field in a single turn. That balance is what make the tempo/progress of the game and is very very important. In the arc, by our 0,1 or 2 cards draw and 2, 1, 0 resources, a player can actually influence how much he can 'change' the situation by choosing wisely. (and a portion of luck from the draw)

So, what's the relationship with the cards cost?

Let look first at a few examples how a card 'changes' the battlefield.

A simple creature with no abilities doesn't change the situation all that much, but...
It could for example still block a key creature of your opponent, and given that, you could have tipped the balance in your favor for good and win the game. However it didn't 'change' the situation to a high degree, and a simple countermeasure in the opponent's turn could kill it, or deal with it on an other way.

An event card is by default a non-permanent effect, however it could still change the situation to a great extent. E.g. All your creatures get +2/+0. The same is true for magic cards.

Effects or abilities that target all, 'change' the situation to a bigger extent.

We might also want to consider how much effort is needed to undo a 'change' made by a card.

Bring it all together: the ramp up time/game progress. Finally, we need to take into account how much 'change' we want to allow during T1, T2, T3, T4. Personally, I like that the options and allowed 'changes' increase rapidly. Nothing more boring then empty turns putting out resources, luckily we don't face the resource-issues some other card games have.

So, taking all that into account, I'm still rating the costs on a gut feeling, but I'm not 'comparing' to other cards. But analyze how much 'change' it does, and overall I tend to choose lower costs,
just to get the speed, and the mood swings in the game going.

So, hooray for the over powered cards, still we want to keep the swing going and give the opponent a chance.

Kind regards,
User avatar
Posts: 798
Joined: Mon Feb 01, 2010 15:25
Location: Sweden

Re: Card cost, an alternative way of looking at things

Post by snowdrop » Thu Nov 24, 2016 23:42

Some people then tend to rate the cost higher, some people tend to have the cost lower, but basically we try to look at the card as an individual item.
Yes. Partly because they don't understand, interpret or know of all the surrounding variables.

On the topic of how much change that should be going on at the table a given average turn: It's up to the dev to find the stability and chaos balance, as you suggested. In "Epic the card game" it's total chaos and every second round feels like an end round in MTG ;) In more tactical games there is, and needs to be I think, more stability. Same goes for more competitive games.


You brought up plenty of valid points and questions. While I don't see an issue with what's currently in Wiki yet about the pricing of creatures (I suggest that ARC also needs to add to the loyalty as a minor variable to that formula), I agree that it's not obvious how pricing should be done of Enchantments, Events etc.

However, in theory, it should almost be easier to do once reference points are set, since it actually lacks 2-3 variables, or even more variables if one accounts for subtypes that interact with other stuff (i.e. a creature subtype).

For me it is about creating those references primarily, and then about shaping the rest of the game to fit in between them. When creating the reference extremes you can of course also invent an anatomy of evaluation, just like I did with the "creature formula".

In a sense, you are already doing it: You make a difference between how much a card is affecting the table, in itself. That means that you can devise 1 to 2, or 1 to 3 categories or some kind of tier ranges of, say, an Event card. Variables that would have impact on how you rate a card, and price it accordingly, can be anything you deem fit.

The examples you give are in the lines of:

a) For how long will this card be around?
b) Is it easy or hard to counter?
c) Is it easy or hard to remove?
d) Does it target me or the enemy, or both?
e) Does it have global effect?
f) When do I want this to be played as earliest?

An experiment: Create 3 events that cost 0 but that you think are correctly priced. Now create 3 that cost 1, and lastly, 3 that cost 9 each. If they make sense, they can act as reference points. From then you can extract what matters for you in the pricing, be it the above examples, or something else. If they don't make sense, then they just need to be redone until they do. Once they do make sense, it's on to creating whatever is between.

My point being is that your "gut feeling" is actually your brain seeing patterns and evaluating somehow,and that you need to identify in clear language exactly what you are identifying. That will in return tell you what variables affect your judgement and their relation between them.

Here, being an old MtG player as yourself is both a curse and an asset - it's a curse because you are doing this automatically and don't need to think much about it. It will usually come out right unless you sucked at MtG ;) It's an asset because you'll do a better job than the average person once you define your structures.

Without reference points of some sort there is no way to balance anything. And, I'd argue you do have the reference points in action even if you don't create the cards as I mentioned above - then you would just have them hidden in your mind and not in the open for fellow devs to see.
Post Reply