Designer: The Cost of Meaningful Decisions

26th Dec 2018 James White

The ideal gaming experience involves players making meaningful decisions, every turn of the game. For a decision to be meaningful there needs to be consideration, a trade-off or cost for making that decision. Typically this is dictated by the resource system that underpins the game mechanics.

Most Trading Card Games (TCGs) utilize a incremental resource system – you start the game with zero resources and develop your resource base over the course of the game. The game begins with small cheap cards and curves into powerful end game finishers. This type of resource system has become the industry standard, and has been reiterated with various tweaks across different TCGs.

Unfortunately, when the cards that provide your resources are included in your deck of randomized cards, players inevitably face the variance of drawing an appropriate number of resource cards in order to play out the non-resource cards they have also drawn, or conversely, drawing an appropriate number of non-resource cards to utilize the resource cards they have drawn. This results in a significant number of non-interactive games, though it can be argued that an interesting feature of this is the “game within a game” for how you approach the development of your resource base.

A recent approach has been to separate resources from the randomized deck. On the surface, this seems like an elegant solution that allows players to flawlessly develop their resource base. The problem with removing all variance from resource development is that game play becomes scripted. Players know exactly how many resources they have available each turn of the game and have an intended plan for how they will curve out. Gameplay becomes hyper focused on efficiency, tempo, and hitting your drops. The numerous TCG's which have adopted this approach have ended up feeling very similar.

When we set about creating Flesh and Blood in 2013, our design philosophy towards the resource system was:

  • Start full
  • One deck
  • Reduce variance

While we can’t reveal the exact details of our resource system at this time, after years of testing and product development, we can confidently proclaim that we’ve delivered on our original vision. We’ve created a resource system that requires players to make meaningful decisions every turn, of every game; a resource system that breaks from the incremental development model, giving Flesh and Blood a flow of play that is unique from any other TCG.