Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Double Magic Wednesday

I wanted to point out how stupid the latest convoluted crossover, Avengers Versus X-Men, but because its idiocy exists in a great disproportion to the actual number of issues released, I'm holding off until I can pick and choose just the best parts to ridicule. In light of this being my week for mid-terms, I'm spending this time  to explore the Magic campaign system I've been working on. 

The Magic: the Gathering: the Campaign System is based on a simple desire; I want to play a game of Magic with a larger scope and different victory conditions. Last weekend, Terry and I play-tested the first edition of Magic: Clash Across Planes (Hereafter, CAP).      

CAP Overview
1. 60 location cards representing various locales across twelve different planes. Players can come to control and use locations.
2. Each player has three different decks, referred to as characters. Each campaign round, players play a standard game of Magic using one of their characters.
3. Each game is held on a location pulled from the deck of locations (known as The Blind Eternities. The winner of the game gains control of the plane.
4. Life, poison counters, cards exiled, and the number of cards in graveyard are tracked for each character between rounds. A player who ends a game with 16 life and five cards in their graveyard will start the next game with 16 life and five cards in their graveyard. If a player's final life is above 20, their life total becomes 20.
5. Locations grant many abilities, depending on whether the player who controls them Explores, Defends, or Ravages them. Locations and their abilities rarely affect games of Magic, but they commonly affect the rounds and actions of characters not playing.
6. The default actions for a non-playing character are Heal, which allows a character to heal 2 life (to a maximum of 20), Recall, which reduces their starting graveyard size by six, or Relearn, which returns an exiled card to their library.
7. If damage would reduce a player below 0 life and kill them, excess damage is converted into starting graveyard size. If the cards drawn from an empty library or put into a graveyard from the library exceed the library size, the excess is converted into damage. This allows for decks performing overkill to further impede an enemy.
8. Players can win the campaign with victory conditions on location cards they control.
9.Some location abilities allow one character to challenge another. If the other character accepts, the two play against one another next turn. Some abilities allow penalties for refusing a challenge while others offer rewards for the winner of the match.
-Players can concede from a game of Magic at any time. This isn't a special rule, it's merely more important here.

The play testing went well. We got a few average decks together and battled over and on planes. It took around an hour or so, but we got some good data and uncovered a number of issues.

Aggro/Quit Archetype – The additional penalties for going negative on mill/draw/life resulted in some decks quitting once their opponent's slower deck stabilized. This allowed for lightning raids that could wear down an opponent before they could amass enough locations to a threat.
Tracking Stats – Determining which of a player's characters controlled a specific location or how that location was controlled was problematic enough. Tracking starting graveyard levels, life, poison, and exiled cards made logistics even more difficult.
Direction and Goals – I overlooked the original goal of providing alternate victory conditions with locations. Locations are very random, eliminating any strategy on the campaign level and with it, any sense of narrative flow. Challenges didn't come up much, and when they did, they were easy enough to decline.
Boring Locations – In addition to not pushing gameplay forward, the locations weren't very evocative. None of them felt like the locations they were trying to represent and it was easy to forget about them during setup.

A revised set of location cards and rules would have to address these issues. The easiest fix would be to have location cards controlled by players instead of characters and simplify control to do away with the alternative control types.

Changing locations to provide additional effects on games of Magic runs the risk of unbalancing game play, but it's worth it for the chance of defining locations better and providing an upswing in location potency. Such an upswing would make surrendering a location just to bloody another player a much more difficult decision to make. The only problem is ensuring that swing speeds gameplay instead of prolonging it with healing bonuses.

[Alternate Win Condition]
Location – Wild
Whenever a player controls five or more creatures, they win the game.

[Campaign Win Condition]
Location – Grave
Whenever you control 5 Grave locations, you win the campaign.

[Alternate Win Condition with Triggers]
Location – Ancient
Whenever a spell, ability, or creature a player controls deals 4 or more damage to a player, that player puts a control counter on [CARDNAME]. Whenever a player has 3 or more damage counters on [CARDNAME], that player wins the game.

[Challenge Location]
Location – Tempest
For a character's action, if an opponent controls target location that shares a plane with a location you control, one of your players may challenge one of theirs. If they decline, gain control of that location.

[Find a Location]
Location – Throne
Whenever you gain control of Throne, you may look at the top three cards of The Blind Eternities and put them back in any order.

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