Dan's Design Diary #2: In which we talk about Poison NPE’s, expanding defence options and we go to s
Greetings Samurai! When I spoke to you last we went over the changes to Crippling Poison. In its final form if you had access to more than one of them this could lead to a Negative Play Experience (NPE) which is something we really need to avoid. An NPE is any card or play that is just “unfun” for those involved. The Assassin was planned to come with 3 Crippling Poison cards which you unlocked as a stretch goal. While they had the Hobble effect they were not too bad if they came out over several turns.
However imagine a scenario where he has used three of the updated ones that force you to skip a turn. 3 out of your next 6 cards could be “skip a turn” and that’s no fun for anyone.
Since you have unlocked the extra poisons as a stretch goal I wanted to make sure that we a) honour that achievement and b) provide something fun to use that still fits the theme.
Enter “The Poison Deck”.
You’ll notice that I have utilised the clock mechanic from the new Hobble so that the poisoner has a window in which to capitalise on the advantage they provide rather than just having a static ongoing effect. Think of this as the poison running its course before becoming inert.
With poisons addressed it’s on to game balance as a whole.
Early in the Alpha test most (close to every deck) simply ran “all the blocks”. This was partly due to wanting to run 11-14 defence cards in your deck, partly because some of them had really good movement on them like Circling Defence and largely due to the total number of defence cards only being about 16.
This was something that I thought we needed to address on several levels. I want there to be an element of choice and decision making involved in building a deck. Creating a fine-tuned duelling machine should be an art form.
To that end, we needed more options to fill out the defence side of the game. I also wanted to divide defence into 2 types, Blocks and Dodges. The core tenet here is that blocks block, dodges dodge.
Blocks should not dodge; dodges should not block.
Let us look at the original Circling Defence (often used as a dodge) and the latest version (right).
On the left we have the original card which has a variable initiative and some excellent positional moves. This would result in most cases the initiative being chosen as 7 and using the movement to simply avoid the attack which made the block part of the card redundant.
Since this goes against the principle of blocks don’t dodge, the movement was changed to a slower speed after the full block window. You will see this change on all the blocks with a movement effect. Circling Defence also gained a focus cost for the additional movement as it was still offering unprecedented levels of flexibility for no cost.
To offset this change and increase the variety of defence options I then created 2 very specific dodge cards. The aptly named “Dodge” and its counterpart “Sidestep”
These cards fill the 'fast initiative' movement effects slot that enable an ability to avoid the attack instead of blocking it. To counter this, Dodge and Sidestep have much less of a payoff.
Similar to how the early test decks included “all the blocks” as an option, we also found that people tended to start their attack pool with “all the 2 damage attacks” to prevent this and try and elicit a similar decision making process to building this part of a deck I split up the most commonly taken attack and gold cards (things that were up until now almost automatically included in every deck) into 3 schools. There is a small theme within each one that you may be able to see and I hope you enjoy this more dynamic deck construction that is now available.
There will be a few other restrictions across cards coming (weapons) but of course this is just how we envision the game being played. The school system also allows us to control deck archetypes that become problematic at events. If we see a particular set of cards being used in a higher than expected number of decks we can add them to the schools lists to break up the combo.
You will always be able to find the most up to date schools list on our website and there will be a link in the rulebook that will let you check what is currently on there. In a perfect world we will not need to use it that often however even if we tested all the cards for several years there will always be something, somewhere that rears up and unbalanced the playing field. Hopefully a “living” document of changes will help us keep the organised play scene for Senjutsu a fun, balanced experience for all.
At organised play events the school system and any other restrictions will be enforced but there is nothing preventing you from building decks with the entire card pool at your disposal for all of your casual games at home. After all, this game is for you to enjoy how you wish and we want to make sure that is always an option for you.