030 – Card Drafting Mechanic – Part 3

In Episode 30 of the Nerdlab podcast, I continue talking about card drafting. This week the goal is to finish the 3 part podcast series. I am super excited about today’s episode. The topic of card drafting as a method of simultaneous action selection is so huge that I could probably spend even 2 or 3 more episodes on it. But no worries today I am going to finish. I promise.

Games Covered in this Episode:

  • Bloodrage
  • Biblios
  • Mundus Novus
  • Seasons
  • Greed
  • Bunny Kingdom
  • Dungeon Draft
  • Treasure Hunter
  • Carnival of Monsters
  • Magic the Gathering
  • Artifact
  • League of Legend
  • Dota

Important Links:
Join the Nerdlab Community
Join the Nerdlab Discord
Nerdlab Website
Nerdlab Facebook Page
Nerdlab on Twitter
Nerdlab on Instagram

Sources:
Music by Mathew Pablo

Transcript

Blood Rage:

  • Components drafted: cards 
  • What do components represent: the gods’ gifts representing unit upgrades, quests and battle modifier cards 
  • Pool: hidden   
  • Opponent choices: hidden 
  • Pool size: 24 per player (8 per round)
  • Pool Compilation: Subset (+ player count specific cards)
  • Usage of Pool: Draft 6, remove the last 2 cards in each pack
  • No. of Picks (per turn): 1 (2 in a two-player game) 
  • Restriction of picks: none
  • Number of rounds drafted:  (3 for 3 different ages)  
  • Number of Players: 2-4 (5 with expansion)
  • Synergies: Quests & Upgrade influencing your tactic → 
  • Special Feature (what we can learn from it)
    • Player count specific cards
      Some of the cards have a small number printed on them indicating that they are only used if at least that number of players are participating. Before the game starts you go through each pile and return to the box any cards you find with a number greater than the number of players. If you set up a 2 player game, for example, you have to remove all the 3 and 4 numbered cards. This allows you to design cards with a specific player count in mind. If one of these cards would be broken in a lower player count or wouldn’t just work from a rules perspective you can remove it in lower player games. 
    • Discard cards after the round (but keep one)
      • In Blood Rage you have to discard all but 1 card at the end of each age, leaving you with an interesting decision about what you want to carry over to the next age. 
    • Different phases to take into account different board states
      • If your game is about conflict it can make sense to divide the drafting into different rounds because it asks your player to take new board states and situations into account in every drafting round.

Biblios

  • Components drafted: cards 
  • What do components represent: gold, resources and workers
  • Pool: hybrid (hidden and revealed)    
  • Opponent choices: hybrid (hidden and revealed) 
  • Pool size: 
  • Pool Compilation: Subset (random cards removed based on player count)
  • Usage of Pool: completely (push your luck draft + normal draft + auction phase)
  • No. of Picks (per turn): 1 push your luck pick on your turn + 1 draft pick on opponent’s turns 
  • Restriction of picks: none in the draft (money in the auction phase)
  • Number of rounds drafted:  until the pile is empty 
  • Number of Players: 2-4
  • Synergies: Cards changing the value of a category’s victory points can influence your strategy during the draft. 
  • Special Feature (what we can learn from it)
    • Hybrid character of hidden and revealed drafting mechanics 
    • How to add a push your luck element to a draft
    • Gold vs. resource cards lead to a decision of immediate reward now or a higher chance for good cards later on.

Mundus Novus

  • Components drafted: cards 
  • What do components represent: goods
  • Pool: hybrid (hidden and revealed)    
  • Opponent choices: hybrid (hidden and revealed) 
  • Pool size: 
  • Pool Compilation: 
  • Usage of Pool: 
  • No. of Picks (per turn): chosen every round by a specific player
  • Restriction of picks: Only the number of cards is restricted
  • Number of rounds drafted:  until target player has 75 victory points
  • Number of Players: 2-4
  • Synergies: same of a kind or different of a kind
  • Special Feature (what we can learn from it)
    • The number of cards everyone is allowed to keep is flexible and combined with a second revealed drafting phase and an auction phase afterward.

Seasons

  • Components drafted: cards
  • What do components represent: powers
  • Pool: hidden   
  • Opponent choices: hidden 
  • Pool size: 9 cards per player
  • Pool Compilation: Subset (remaining cards used as the power deck during the game)
  • Usage of Pool: completely (then separated in 3 different piles for different years of the game)
  • No. of Picks (per turn): 
  • Restriction of picks: none
  • Number of rounds drafted: 1
  • Number of Players: 2-4
  • Synergies: none
  • Special Feature (what we can learn from it)
    • Reduce the barrier of entry 
      • Each card has a unique number on the bottom of the card and it is recommended to remove all cards between 31 and 50 from the game if you play for the first time as they are the more complex ones. This is of cause to help to decrease complexity and reduce the barrier of entry for newer players. IN order to make the game even easier to learn the rulebook comes with a pre-constucted set of cards for each player. This means you can play the game without a draft for the first time to learn what all the cards do.
    • One draft in the beginning, but separate cards for different phases
      • Time reduction
      • Long term strategic planning
      • Bluffing
    • Combination of dice drafting and card drafting 

Greed

  • Components drafted: cards
  • What do components represent: Thugs, holdings, actions
  • Pool: hidden   
  • Opponent choices: hidden 
  • Pool size: 12 cards per player
  • Pool Compilation: Subset (80 cards in total)
  • Usage of Pool: 10 cards used from the 12 played  
  • No. of Picks (per turn): 1 per turn 
  • Restriction of picks: none
  • Number of rounds drafted: 1
  • Number of Players: 2-5
  • Synergies: cards have needs (e.g. specific icons from other cards, sometimes you need to discard other cards), cards get better when played in a certain order (e.g. double the income for this round)
  • Special Feature (what we can learn from it)
    • Instant setup: The game is easy to set up. Only shuffle the cards and you are good to go. 
    • Card Interactions: Every single card has a unique ability. It is a good way of referencing each other. Because you have card types and icons that are relevant for your actions. The result is that there are lots of great combos to discover. 
    • Variety: The pool is only a subset of the entire cards. The result is a lot of replayability. 
  • Link to the article on bgg: Review

Lost Legends

  • Components drafted: cards
  • What do components represent: Spells, items, weapons and armor.
  • Pool: hidden   
  • Opponent choices: known (cards played immediately)
  • Pool size: 6 cards per player
  • Pool Compilation: Subset (150 cards in total) (20 monsters per round, 30 equipments per round) 
  • Usage of Pool: 5 cards (last is discarded)
  • No. of Picks (per turn): 1 per turn 
  • Restriction of picks: none 
  • Number of rounds drafted: 3
  • Number of Players: 3-5
  • Synergies: cards grant skills and reference those skills for benefits (e.g. weapon proficiency)
  • Special Feature (what we can learn from it)
    • Multiuse Cards: If you cannot afford to play a card you still have the option to gain some advantage from it. 
    • Variable costs based on classes and cards. You can draft cards early on, use them to learn a skill and thereby reduce the costs of future cards. That means these cards go up in value for you. I really like that form of specialization. It means that everyone is still competing for those cards but you get a bit of an advantage. Compare this to some kind of class system or color system in which only the wizards are allowed to cast a certain spell. Or only the blue player is able to cast a blue spell. If you are the red player you cannot play that spell. This reduced the number of choices from that drafting pack for you immediately. By having multiple use cases and variable card costs each and every card can be interesting for all the players. 
    • Level Decks

The game is divided into three-level dungeon decks that at least to some degree mitigate the daunting complexity for new players. The first equipment deck you draft only contains the basic weapons, armor, spells, and artifacts, and the second and third level decks have upgraded versions of those cards. But what is even more important is that this grants you the feeling of progression as you will get access to the good stuff only in the last round of the game. 

Bunny Kingdom

  • Components drafted: cards
  • What do components represent: 
    • Territory Cards (reference the coordinated of a slot on the board on which you are allowed to place a bunny) This is how you gain control of an area
    • Parchment cards (played face down and are individual rules that only apply to that player and impact endgame scoring)  
    • Provisions Cards (draw two cards from the deck than discard it)
    • Building Cards (allow you to place a building on a spot on the board)
    • Ressources Cards that allow you to improve slots on the board.  
    • Trading Posts
  • Pool: hidden   
  • Opponent choices: partly hidden (parchments) partly revealed (territory cards) 
  • Pool size: 10-12 cards per player (depending on player count)
  • Pool Compilation: 
  • Usage of Pool: 
  • No. of Picks (per turn): 2 per turn 
  • Restriction of picks: none
  • Number of rounds drafted: 4
  • Number of Players: 2-5
  • Synergies: 
  • Special Feature (what we can learn from it)
    • Individual Goals: Drafting your goals sounds incredibly fun to me. It doesn’t have to be completely new goals. It’s enough to get extra points for special tasks or cards. This allows you to add a secret goal for each player, which can increase the tension in the draft because you don’t know who picked which goal but maybe can draw some conclusions from their other picks and moves during the game. 

Two Player Version: When playing with two players, each player gets a second hand face down that acts like a deck. Every turn when you draft you also draw an extra card from the second hand. This is the simplest hack I’ve seen for making a traditional draft work with two players.

Dungeon Draft

  • Rules: http://www.upperdeck.com/OP/RuleBooks/2017_DungeonDraft_Rules.pdf 
  • Components drafted: cards
  • What do components represent: 
    • Characters:
      • Cost gold
      • Each Hero and Weapon has a class. Classes are indicated by card color and icon as indicated in the chart below. Class is very important! Many powers on Heroes and Weapons can only be used if you control enough cards of the appropriate class.
      • Give attack bonus
      • And unique effects (e.g. victory points based if you control the most druids)
    • Weapons: Cost gold, 
      • effects: 
        • give gold every round 
        • victory points at the end of the round. 
        • Giving additional victory points for specific card types played (e.g. for each 4 cost hero)
        • Attack bonus
    • Quests: not drafted (each player randomly starts with 3 quest cards)
      • To play Quest Cards, players must have Heroes and Weapons of the appropriate class. Quests have no cost other than this requirement.
      • Some are worth point 
      • Others grant unique bonuses (e.g. druide cost 2 less to play)
    • Monsters you can face
      • Attack Cost
      • Gold and Experience Reward
      • To defeat Monsters, players must have Attack equal to or greater than the Monster Attack Cost
  • Pool: hidden   
  • Opponent choices: hidden
  • Pool size: 7 cards per player / per turn (28 per player)
  • Pool Compilation: 
  • Usage of Pool: completely
  • No. of Picks (per turn): 1 per turn 
  • Restriction of picks: none
  • Number of rounds drafted: 4
  • Number of Players: 2-5
  • Synergies: Prerequisites (cards require other cards first) (some cards have an etb effect that only triggers if you have e.g. 2 mages already in play)
  • Special Feature (what we can learn from it)
    • Quest Cards: Giving the players some form of direction and guidance to develop their strategy
  • Prerequisites: That some cards require other cards to be played

Treasure Hunter

  • Type of cards:
  • The adventurer cards are very simple.They have a color that matches one of the realms. So blue for the ice realm, green for the jungle and red for the lava realm. In addition to that they have a value between 1 and 12.  The player with the most points in a realm gets a treasure and the one with the least points gets the other. 
  • Action Cards, 
    • E.g. multiply the point value for that round 
    • E.g. immune to the goblin attack
    • E.g. negate the value of another action card
    • Dog cards protecting you from the goblin attacks in the gobline cave realm
  • Coin Cards
    • Plain gold earning cards
  • Components drafted: cards
  • What do components represent: 
    • Adventurers (green, blue, red with value from 1 to 12)
    • Action Cards
    • War Dogs
    • Coin Cards (granting gold)
  • Pool: hidden   
  • Opponent choices: hidden 
  • Pool size: 7 cards per player per turn 
  • Pool Compilation: random
  • Usage of Pool: completely
  • No. of Picks (per turn): 1 per turn 
  • Restriction of picks: none
  • Number of rounds drafted: 5
  • Number of Players: 2-6
  • Synergies: Action Cards
  • Special Feature (what we can learn from it)
    • Combination of static Adventurer Cards and interactive Action Cards: 
      • I like the action cards because they add much to the game. The adventurers are really static and with the action cards players have a tactical element to react on the choices of the other players. 
    • Missing Synergy between cards
      • From my point of view, the game lacks synergies between the cards. Of course there are cards that give money for certain colors, but somehow it’s tactically a bit too simplistic for me. 

Carnival of Monsters

  • Components drafted: cards
  • What do components represent: 
    • Monsters
    • Lands
    • Secret Goals
    • Staff (people you can hire)
  • Pool: hidden   
  • Opponent choices: hybrid (most cards played immediately, some remain hidden)
  • Pool size: 8 cards per player per turn 
  • Pool Compilation: random subset (215 cards → 82 Land Cards, 78 Monster Cards, 13 Staff Cards, 21 Event Cards, and 21 Secret Goal Cards) 
  • Usage of Pool: completely
  • No. of Picks (per turn): 1 per turn 
  • Restriction of picks: none
  • Number of rounds drafted: 4
  • Number of Players: 2-5
  • Synergies: Season cards → Monster Types, Hidden Goals, Lands build upon each other, Creatures require specific lands
  • Special Feature (what we can learn from it)
    • Season Cards (Mix of public and private goal)
    • A public Goal is revealed before each round that is a combination of something everyone can achieve and something only one player can keep. I love that concept. What this does to the drafting aspect of the game is that it changes the value of cards for everyone. From a design perspective, this means you can come away with fewer cards in the drafting pool because you change the value of those cards based on the goal cards. 
    • Land Cards and Monsters

The concept really reminds me of Mana in Magic. And I am not yet sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing. I love the idea that you draft the resource and the reward together from one pool. However, in Magic it is kind of a problem when you draw too few mana at the beginning of the game or too much mana at the end of the game. And the same could happen here. Land cards are super important in the beginning and more or less useless at the end of the game. And that is typically something you really want to prevent in a game. Magic has implemented a lot of variants to mitigate that problem by taking mulligans, using mechanics to allow you to look at the top of your deck and discard cards you don’t want or straight up search your library for lands. I haven’t played the game and I am really looking forward to trying it at Spiel in Essen to see how this works out.  A possible way to mitigate that problem could be to have separate piles of cards for each phase and simply put more of the land cards in the earlier season and less of them in the later seasons. But maybe I am wrong and the self-correcting element of drafting games mitigates that problem by itself.

Magic the Gathering

  • Components drafted: cards
  • What do components represent: Deck of cards containing creatures, spells, mana
  • Pool: partly hidden   
  • Opponent choices: guessed
  • Pool size: 45 cards per player
  • Pool Compilation: Subset (Randomness through booster packs)
  • Usage of Pool: completely
  • No. of Picks (per turn): 1
  • Restriction of picks: unrestricted
  • Number of rounds drafted: 3 round. Each player opens a 15 card pack per round
  • Number of Players: #
  • Synergies: numerous
  • Other forms of drafting
    • Rochester Draft
    • Winston Draft
    • Rotisserie Draft
    • Fact or Fiction Draft

Artifact

  • Components drafted: cards
  • What do components represent: Heroes, Spells, Items
  • Pool: hidden   
  • Opponent choices: unknown 
  • Pool size: 12 cards per player/round (60 total per player)
  • Pool Compilation: random subset from the entire set
  • Usage of Pool: completely
  • No. of Picks (per turn): 2 per turn 
  • Restriction of picks: 
    • In any given pack you can only select one hero – you can’t just grab two amazing ones.
    • If no hero is chosen before the end of the pack, the player will be offered a random generic hero.
    •  colors matter (only allowed to put spells into your deck if the colors match the heroes of your deck)
  • Number of rounds drafted: 5
  • Number of Players: 2-5
  • Synergies: numerous
  • Special Feature (what we can learn from it)
    • Golden Ticket: Is a card that is more or less a placeholder for a random item. By this, you add a push your luck element to the draft which I like a lot. 
    • Color Identity Problem:
      • I think Artifact is a great game, but it has a problem. And the problem is the color identity. Because you can only play spells that match the color of your heroes you have several problems. First of all, in the draft, you ignore a lot of the cards because they’re not relevant to you. It’s similar in Magic, but it feels easier to play a card of a different color by adding 1-3 mana of that color to the deck. This is not so easy in Artifact because it is hard to get the strong heroes late in the draft. But I find it even worse during the game. You can only play the spells if you have a corresponding hero in the same color on the battlefield. Unfortunately, this too often leads to the fact that you can’t perform any action on a certain lane because the hero dies unexpectedly before. That’s just not a good feeling. For me, the color identity in Artifact is too restrictive.

League of Legends / Dota

The last game for today is not a game it is a genre of games in which Hate Picking and counter picking plays an important role.  In fact, it is almost the entire reason for the draft. The genre I talk about is moba games. Especially league of legends and dota.

In Moba games two teams of players are paired against another. Each player is controlling a single hero chosen from a large pool, each with a unique set of properties. There are more than 100 individual heroes resulting in an infinite number of potential team combinations. During the draft the teams first ban some heroes which are then removed from the drafting pool. Then the teams choose their heroes in alternate order. 

What makes this drafting method interesting is the fact that Moba drafts also bring the consideration of skill to the drafting table. Since the pool is very deep, a player may be more or less comfortable or familiar with a given hero. If two well-known teams play against each other it is typically known which heroes are preferred by the players and the banning is a way to ensure players don’t settle with an optimized team composition. This also helps to balance the team compositions in general. If one combo is too strong it will typically be banned or one of the combo pieces is counter picked in order to deny that combo from the other team.

In Dota, each team bans two units, then picks three, then bans a further three, then picks a final two, for a total of five picks and five bans each. In League of legends, all bans are carried out before the picks happen. Banning is also important to remove heroes and compositions that are particularly strong against your intended team compositions. 
For me, the banning aspect and the counter picking aspect is super interesting and I would love to see this more in tabletop games as well.

Conclusion – How to design a good drafting game

The most important question I have asked myself is: What makes a drafting game fun: 

A draft needs as many interesting choices as possible

  • You can tell that a drafting game is good when you look at your choices and you want multiple of those cards. 
  • That also implies that there are no card in the pack that are completely useless. For example lands at the end of the game in carnival of monsters.

Support different tactics

  • The value of the cards should be different for each player and depend on his chosen strategy. 
  • For example, cards that give you a fixed amount of victory points or gold are not as interesting as cards that give you victory points or gold in dependence of other cards you already drafted. Let’s say +1 gold for each green creature.
  • And in order to do so you need cards that help players to identify a certain strategy and to evaluate if that strategy is open or already occupied by another player. Magic does this in a great way in some of their sets. Let’s say their set is about 2 color combinations and each of the 10 two-color combinations has its own tactic. Then they put one strong multicolor card into the uncommen slot of the set and give those cards an abilitiy that strongly relates to the strategy of that color combo. If you see a card like that as 4th or 5th pick you know that this strategy is open and that you can go for it.
  • The advice would be to design your cards with different strategies in mind and make sure that there are some cards that stand out in explaining the strategy and pushing players into that strategy.  
  • A good example I talked about today  are Quest Cards: Giving the players some form of direction and guidance to develop their strategy

Some form of progression 

  • That brings us to the next point. In my strategy I want to see some form of progression during the draft. 

Building an engine, improving your soldiers, building up a resource that you need to pick stringer cards. Some building blocks that become stronger and stronger the longer the draft goes

Card interactions & Combos

  • The core of many drafting games is about set collection. Identifying cards that work well together and are stronger in combination than each of them individually. This can be very obvious combos like 3 nigiri in sushi go or more complex ones like
  • Every single card has a unique ability like it is in Greed and an easy way of referencing each other. For example via card types, colors or icons. A good card layout helps a lot to identify these combos and interactions. In some games the combo pieces are even written on the card. How obvious you want that combos to be really depends on your target group. Especially the age you want your game to be for. 

Flexibility 

  • Multipurpose cards
  • Ways to discard cards for some benefit
  • This can increase the hate drafting aspect and reduces the problem that each card needs to be valuable for each player.

As I have hopefully demonstrated, drafting is a fascinating mechanic. It’s capable of creating a huge amount of tension and engagement. It requires strategical thinking, long term thinking and the ability to change your strategy on the fly. I hope there will be released much more drafting games in the future. I am more than willing to produce another 3 episodes about that topic 🙂

Tags

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

top