Designing experience in Convoy

ruch“A note of caution: there is a bit of strong language in this article.”

It’s all super simple. One player commands Moloch robots and has to win couple of battles and in the end to destroy New York. The other player gets deck of The Outpost and has to stop them, has to slow and sabotages them. He needs to do whatever he can to not let Moloch reach New York.

On one hand I had these powerful machines marching towards New York. O, man, I was having fun designing them. I wanted them to be big and deadly. I gave Strength of 3 to most of the cards, I gave Strength of 4 to some of them and I even gave Strength of 5 here and there. Why not, huh? Huge robots that will destroy New York in a heartbeat. The moment Moloch player gets his cards, he will smile, and this smile will mean one thing: “Knock, knock, NY, is anybody here?”

Then I sat with The Outpost deck. O, man, that was fun! I wanted them to be fast, to be sneaky, and to be smart. I gave Strength of 1 to most of the cards. I gave Strength of 2 here and there. I looked at them and said: “You guys are in trouble. Good luck. Try to get out of the shit I just put you in.”

Asymetrical games. That is what I love. That is what I’ve built in Zombiaki in 2003. That is what I’ve built in Stronghold in 2009. That is what I am good at. Watch me. This is me at my best.

I was going to cross over the line with Moloch. I wanted them to be ridiculously strong. I gave them high numbers and then I gave them super abilities. Kill soldier. Protect other robot. Turn off The Outpost abilities. All that crazy stuff. Every single card was overpowered. That is lesson I learned from Michał Oracz – do abilities that rocks, do abilities that are so freaking awesome that players will get crazy. Then think about balance.

I was not thinking on balance yet. I was designing experience. I was building emotions. Moloch has to feel like a train – slow, but unfuckingstopabble.

So I kept crossing the line. I added Modules. Yes, additional parts that you can attach to the Robot to make him even stronger. Just in case you would like to show off. Stuff like +3 Strength . You know.

I looked at the deck and every single card was clearly OP. I loved it.

To The Outpost now. Hey guys, how are you? Not good? Look at you. You have Strength 1 on most of the cards. And you want to stop Moloch, huh? Do you have a plan? No?

Don’t worry. You got me. I’ll help.

You are guerrillas. You will jink battles. You will cheat. You will get Robots back in hand of Moloch player. You will move them to the other city. You will appear from nowhere, blow them and escape. You will block their movement. You will be fuckin’ cheating, because this is your only chance to win. You will loose three battles in a row and then you will hit him in his steel balls and trust me, you will hit him hard.

Yes, your average Strength is 1. I know that, I designed these cards. Yes, you have no chance in direct confrontation. I know that, I designed these cards. But please, stop whining, get a grip and think. Think! I gave you tools to outsmart Moloch. Use them wisely.

***

I had two amazing decks in Convoy. They played so different. I loved them both. And then it took me ‘only’ 6 months of day by day testing over and over to balance this shit.

Effect? I can’t wait for you to try it. I couldn’t be more proud.

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There is no such a card!

Essen fair has ended, stress level has fallen- finally a moment to catch a breath. I can play in the newest releases, see what the other authors have prepared, take a gulp of new ideas. I’ll note the interesting solutions that may be inspiring and I’ll allow my mind to be stirred by others. Sometimes – quite unexpectedly – something completely new is born from all this commotion.

Finally, after several plays, the commotion came. Oh yes. And as a result, within two weeks after Essen the brand new prototype has landed on the table. We play. Turns come and go. Step by step Merry is gaining the upper hand and finally I can see nothing’s going to change that in the following two moves before the end of the game. I was beaten. The prototype seems to be cool, yet the cards have little to do with balance.

I draw my last card. It’s named Commandos, yet there is no text nor symbols with rules on it, only the title and cool graphics. I didn’t have a slightest idea for the mechanics, only a cool title, so I just tossed this card into the deck. Very clever. “Trzewiczek style” they call it – the story always comes first, then you’ll have time to worry, dude, about the rules.

And so I draw this stupid Commandos and with a poker face I put it in New York saying “Commandos. I won.”

Merry’s eyes widen.

If I had to buy her some contact lenses just in that moment, they would have to be the bottom of a jar size.

“What?” she asks almost completely speechless.

I lost miserably. The only thing left for me was to tease her a little bit. “Well, I pulled Commandos. Didn’t I tell you that when Outpost draws that card, it wins? And so I won.”

Merry didn’t believe in what she’s just heard. “There is no such card.”

I keep my face straight. “There is. As you can clearly see here. Commandos wins the game.”

“Ignacy, there is no such card!” Merry furiously rushes to the other side of the table, grabs the Commandos and throws it away. The card lands besides the window. “Ignacy, there is no such card.”
All I could do is bursts out laughing.

Two days later, the Commandos has its abilities described. Maybe it does not win the game, but… but still gets to be my favorite card in the whole deck.