Theory Behind the Game Part 3

Part 2 of this series addressed several limitations of other games and how Dog Fight: Starship Edition mitigates or eliminates such issues. In this post we'll look at mechanics problems other games suffer from and how they are addressed in this game.

One major issue with many customizable card games is the ability to prevent another player's moves. When the CCG idea was new to the market this aspect of game play was pretty cool. It was innovative and the players and the publishers had not yet developed the idea. Several collectible card games in the market today, especially the big names, feature what has become an extreme form of this mechanic. In many instances this phenomenon has devolved into a pedantic counter-your-counter routine which ends up creating a negative feel to the game. For example, your opponent might play a card with a really good effect, which translates to something devastating for you. You could play another card which stops that cool effect, and this is not necessarily easy to do. But then your opponent reveals another card negating your attempt to prevent the first effect. Still with me? This type of play can significantly damage the fun factor for some players. It creates an apprehension for which is not the fun type of stress that makes a challenge fun. It can make the game feel cheap.

There are some realistic circumstances that can cause one party's efforts to fail, and this aspect of game play is built in to Dog Fight. But Dog Fight has very few examples of this type of issue. These instances are either organic (such as hiding behind an obstruction, causing an attack to miss) or controlled to a few limited situations which require multiple circumstances to first be satisfied. For example, it's entirely possible an attack could miss its target. In Dog Fight there are ways of causing this to happen. But there are very few ways to "negate" an attack. "Jamming" and "Interference" both are INTERVENE Gear cards. Being Gear cards, they must be equipped to your ship in order to work. Your opponents therefore know to expect the possibility of wasting effort, and they can see exactly how this will happen before hand. To help balance such issues, there are numerous ways to destroy a card equipped to another player's ship. There are also other cards designed to work around dice rolls, so as to thwart the effect of "Jamming" or "Interference". In Dog Fight, methods of interfering with another player's actions are designed to be organic and realistic, and rare.

Other mechanic issues relate to game economy. In one of the most successful games in the market you might encounter "Mana screw" where the essential economic metric for playing cards must be built from zero. Some of you know what it's like to have nothing to play for the first 2 or 3 turns of a game. In another card game (of Japanese origin) you might be frustrated with having a maximum of 5 characters in play (here I'm counting army size as an aspect of game economy, since there are so few character slots). In most customizable card games players are limited to drawing only one card each turn, unless other effects are used to change this. This unfortunately slow-paced draw feature can easily lead to top decking, where you're stuck with the one card you draw each turn. There is also a typical hand limit of 6 or 7 cards. All these aspects of economy have a significant effect on game play.

Dog Fight has a totally different mechanic system. This construct limits the hand to 10 cards. The Tier Sequence can easily be expanded beyond the 3 basic actions and a "doubling up" mechanism allows up to 2 normal actions in a single tier. This Tier Sequence is also your draw power, where you have numerous opportunities to draw or play a card each turn. And since the INTERVENE card "Draw 3" is not restricted you can include plenty of extra draw power into your deck build. The more relaxed limitations of deck design and mechanic system make it possible to mitigate these game play issues.

Energy counters are a big part of game economy in Dog Fight: Starship Edition but not a vital one. You don't have to use effects which require energy counters. If designed well, this entire dynamic to the game's economy can be disregarded so you can focus attention on other details. Powerful options are still available utilizing different aspects of the game. Maneuvering throughout the board is also a mechanic one does not have to focus on. Because there is so much freedom in deck design there is room for more creativity in tactical choices and approaches.

The next installment will touch on how game play is affected by realism and uber cards. We'll also address why Dog Fight is not intended to be a kid's game.