Archive for April, 2007

A Deck of Cards

April 25, 2007

A standard deck of cards is the most versatile item in your gaming collection. The number of possible games is in the thousands, from Patience to Poker, from Bridge to Cribbage.

This popularity has come around for many reasons, and I’m going to look at a few of them.

A deck of cards is a small, portable object, which is a large factor in its favour. It is easy to take a deck of cards anywhere, and to play a game within a very small space.

Card games can very easily have both random and secret elements, achieved by shuffling the deck and dealing out hands of cards. You can choose to limit these elements to any degree, by playing with face up cards, or sorting the deck.

A deck has many symmetries with it. There are four suits, in two colours, each suit has the same thirteen cards. This makes it simple to create games with the aims of collecting various types of card (same suit, colour, card value).

It would be an interesting exercise to create new card games using standard decks of cards. It is difficult to immediately think of games that would not simply be variations on existing themes, but with enough effort it should be possible.

You are working within a well defined set of constraints when designing for a deck of cards, and the required discipline should translate well into designing other games, as any propensity to designing your way out of trouble with extra cards should be removed when you have experience working within such limited means.

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The Evil Cleric

April 15, 2007

Barak, an Evil Cleric seeking to become the power behind the thrown. Will the characters discover his intentions in time, or will they help bring down a kingdom?

A new Dungeons and Dragons NPC, crafted to act as an adversary for your character party.

Statistics and Probability

April 13, 2007

I’m sure that most of you have encountered statistics at some point in the course of your life, and some of you will have recoiled in horror. Most of statistics is basically involved in making sure you don’t believe the obvious answers taht feel right, because they rarely are.

It’s important to have at least a feeling for statistics when creating games, especially card
games. Understanding how decks of cards work is important, and can save a lot of headaches with your design. Using stats you can get an idea of how likely you are to draw a certain card, or hand of cards, how different hands of cards will be, and how these values will change over the course of the game.

The two most important concepts to consider are the expected value, or mean, and the variance. The expected value will tell you what result to expect, and the variance will give you an idea of how widely spaced the observations will be.

As an example, let’s consider a standard deck of cards, and determine the expected number of red cards in a three card hand. This is simple to calculate, and is equal to 1.5. If we have two decks of cards together, then we still expect to draw 1.5 red cards.

If we look at the distribution of cards drawn, we see that the probability of drawing all red cards is 0.1176 with one deck, and 0.1214 with two. So, the distribution of hands is less
concentrated to the middle with two decks, we see more extreme hands, and have a greater variance.

This is important because it means you can’t simply add cards to your deck and assume that the game will play as before.

You can make other uses of stats and probability to help you in designing you games, I hope that my writing has got you to consider how. If you want to learn more about statistics, you could do far worse than Mathworld.

Social Games

April 4, 2007

There are a large number of what I consider to be social games available on the market today. These are games which appeal more to the social side of gaming to the serious tactical side.

I’m going to look at the characteristics I think tend to be seen in this style of game.

These games are generally card games, quite simple to play, with simple rules. They often play quickly, and can accommodate a number of players. There is generally a humour element in the game, and also a large random element. Game balance is often sacrificed in favour of speed and simplicity, the quick play time means you can just start again if you have a particularly bad game.

The defining archetypes of this style of game are Munchkin, and the Chez Geek series. These two games have spawned many imitators, such as the B-Movie series. I also consider Fluxx as one of this style of game, although it is different to the others listed.

You will see that these games are all cheap when compared to a full board game, as you’d expect with a game consisting of only a couple of decks of cards. The cheapness of these games is an advantage, they cost around the same price as two cinema tickets, and often seem to provide a similar amount of enjoyment. The best of these games are played often, the worst will never see more than one or two outings.

The social card games usually take advantage of several genre conventions. The theme and style of the game will link to a particular genre (fantasy, sci-fi, movies, geekery and so on), and the games themselves take advantage of the card game genre to allow a large amount of shorthand in the rules (dealing, hands, playing cards and discarding).

The genre conventions popular in these games are conductive to sequels and spin-offs. There are many Munchkin games and expansions, and many similar extensions for Chez Geek. These are interesting to play, but dangerous to include many in one game, as the extended play time and complexity can kill much of the social atmosphere that is the game’s greatest strength.

I hope that I’ve covered the relevant points the describe these social games, and that you’ll bear them in mind when designing new games in this style, or deciding what to play.

The Endless Dungeon

April 2, 2007

The Endless Dungeon is a new DnD adventure. It’s a magical trap created by the builders of a series of temples. I’ve left the specifics of the builders deliberately vague, so it should be easy to fit this adventure into your campaign, with some established adversaries taking on this roll.