It’s three years later, and I’m still playing Pathfinder Adventure Card Game. With a total of 87 plays (including 39 of the original Rise of the Runelords game), it’s on the verge of surpassing Dominion as my most-played deckbuilder. During those three years, Paizo has also released three new adventure paths for PACG — essentially, three different games using the same core systems. So this week I’m going to look at each of these variants and see how each has changed the deckbuilder genre, for better or for worse — or alternatively how they changed the other major aspects of PACG’s gameplay, which fall into the cooperative gaming and adventure gaming genres. If you’d like to read my previous articles on PACG, take a look at A Deckbuilding Look at Pathfinder Adventure Card Game and Return to Pathfinder Adventure Card Game — The Campaign. Continue reading
I was fooled by AEG’s Trains-Plains-and-Automobiles (“Destination Fun”) branding, which is actually three different games with three different mechanics. Except Automobiles is a bagbuilding game, so it actually is in the same category of gameplay as Trains, and even offers the same mix of relatively simple ***building play with a physical board.
In Automobiles,you’re racing cars around a track. Each turn, you pull some cubes from the bag, and use those to your benefit. White, gray, and black cubes move you around the track in specific lanes — but they also give you worthless brown wear cubes. Special blue, green, purple, red, and yellow vary their effects from game to game and tend to give you improved movement on the track, improved purchasing power, or the ability to junk those annoying wear cubes.
Each turn you’ll use some of your cubes to buy new cubes and some for their special powers. The ultimate object is to get around the track faster than your opponents.
Valley of the Kings is an older game from AEG that’s one of the smaller deckbuilders, coming in at just 96 cards. Though a lot of its mechanics look familiar, there’s also enough variation to keep things new and interesting.
Valley of the King already has two standalone expansions: Afterlife and Last Rites.
In Valley of the Kings (2014), the object is to leave behind a great tomb. Much of the basic play is what you’d expect. You play cards for either special actions or for gold, which is used to buy additional cards. However, each turn you can also “entomb” one card: you basically filter it out of play.
The catch in Valley of the Kings is that your entombed cards make up all your points. And, it’s entombed sets of cards that really score. If you entomb a bunch of different cards all in the same set, then you score a bunch of points! Continue reading
Styles of Building Play
Though Dominion is all about deckbuilding, a few variants of that core gameplay have appeared.
Deckbuilding. Dominion (2008) debuted the core idea of deckbuilding play. Players start with a deck of mediocre cards that allow them to undertake actions. Over the course of the game players add new, better cards to their deck and remove old, worse ones. Each turn, they’ll randomly draw some of those cards; hopefully they’ll be a coherent set that allows them to take great actions.
Dicebuilding. Quarriors (2011) was the first dicebuilding game. Here players instead start with a handful of dice and buy new ones to improve their dice pool over time. The randomness of the play is moved: where in a deckbuilding game, players draw random cards, in a dice building game, players instead roll random results. This somewhat constrains the randomness: where deckbuilding games tend to be binary (you get a result or not), dice building games tend to have more nuance (you get a result, but its level of effect varies). Dice building games are also theoretically simpler than deckbuilders, as you can’t fit complex effects on a dice face — but Quarriors fought against this limitation by linking dice to reference cards, which was a bit exhausting.
Of course Quarriers also involved a bag: you draw six dice from up to twelve in the bag each turn. But, it’s better to keep that aside for the moment, as the use of a bag defines the newest sort of *builder game … Continue reading
With that said, deckbuilders are growing more outré too. Both of this month’s designs have basic mechanics that you could have found in second-generation deckbuilders following Dominion (2008), but they also incorporate much weirder elements, like the plastic cards of Mystic Vale … and the plastic armies of Tyrants.
Tyrants of the Underdark (2016) is a game in two parts.
On the one hand, some cards give you Influence. That’s used to buy cards from a central tableau. The default cards can be used to generate influence or power, while a random array of six market cards can provide players with more varied powers.
On the other hand, some cards give you Power. That’s used to affect the game board. You can use your influence to deploy troops or to assassinate troops, slowly expanding across the Underdark and taking control of central locations, which are worth victory points.
It’s now been almost eight years since Dominion changed the face of gaming by introducing a dominant new style of play. Long gone is the day when a semi-clone could be released that just moved Dominion into the dungeons or the scullery. Instead new deck builders must have dramatically different styles of gameplay … or even dramatically different styles of components.
And that’s an intro to Mystic Vale (2016) which features transparent cards made of plastic!
In many ways, Mystic Vale is a pretty traditional deckbuilding game. You buy cards that can generate money (mana), then use that money to buy new cards. The most valuable cards are worth victory points, while some cards also generate victory points when played.
The big innovation of the game is that the “cards” are actually plastic card sleeves that are used to hold transparent cards. You can slide up to three transparent cards into each sleeve, provided one shows its powers at the top, one at the middle, and one at the bottom. So, you’re not exactly “deck building”, but you’re “card crafting”, since you’re improving the cards already in your deck. But, it really amounts to the same thing — especially when you consider that some card sleeves are empty at the start of the game. Continue reading
Over the Christmas holiday I was fortunate to play a new-to-me deckbuilder, the Lord of the Rings Deck-Building Game (2013). It’s based on the Cerberus Deckbuilding system, which is the same game engine used by DC Comics Deck-Building Game (2012). In fact, it seems likely that the two games were developed in parallel, as DC Comics appeared in December 2012, and Lord of the Rings appeared just a few months later, in April 2013. As such, the games are pretty similar.
I already covered the core of the simple and light DC Comics game in a previous article, but Lord of the Rings still deserves a bit of discussion for how it updates and adjusts the Cerberus system. Continue reading