Development Blog – A few words on the Challenges inherent in balancing Card Games relative to RPGs

Hi everyone!

It’s Friday the 13th, and I thought I’d share one of my nightmares with you today – balancing card games!

Most of you don’t know yet that I’m working on a card game. Well, with a little help from another game designer, I am. I’m not quite ready to give out details, but we’ve tried a few games of it, a “pre-alpha” phase to test our ideas, just recently.

Balance became an issue, unsurprisingly.

It’s much harder to balance a card game than a roleplaying game. Why? Because in a roleplaying game, there’s a GM. Having someone who is working for the group and figuring out the story who everyone has fundamentally accepted is the correct conduit for the rules by even sitting down makes things much easier. You don’t have to worry about every possible scenario, you have a person who will ensure that things are done fairly and that no player will have a significant advantage over another.

In a card game like the one I am designing (and this applies to most board games, too), every player is out for themselves. This means that everyone’s interpretation of the rules instantly becomes very subjective – they are looking for their own benefit, their own best chance to win.

As a result, much more time needs to be spent making sure every possible situation is balanced.

The one piece of good news in all this is that playtests take much less time and can be specifically arranged to test certain combinations of events. Unlike a roleplaying game with a good GM, the number of possible games is limited within pre-set parameters and, as a result, the rules are simpler overall.

They just have to be more prescriptive than what I’m used to writing for RPGs.

That’s what I learned over the weekend!

– Ed

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