Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dragons and Angels

How much does it matter that we try to destroy each other with Dragons rather than Unit #8?  I was pondering this recently as I am at Hobo's house and he is convinced of the necessity of having lore and flavour match the effects of cards.  For example, in my game FMB I have a card called Tunnel.

Spell - Tunnel

Choose a friendly unit.  Move that unit onto any unoccupied Mine you control.

To me this seems entirely fine, finished even.  However, he pointed out that you are allowed by this card to move stunned units that cannot otherwise move.  Given that it isn't much of a Tunnel but more of a 'teleporter to a mine'. It makes me think a lot about how much this sort of thing matters to various groups.  Clearly if you get a group of veteran players who are focused on competitive play they will use any tactic, any card and any strategy to win regardless of the flavour or lack thereof.  I am sure that new players and especially casual players will be attracted to a game in large part based on how well the flavour matches and how cool the things are.  Having unit #8 kill unit #6 is fine and all but when your Dragon gets to breath fire in a line and roast a bunch of Goblins it is much more fun.

So how much of a game's eventual success is based on these things?  Chess is obviously immensely successful and yet it has absolutely zero flavour surrounding its name choices aside from the 'pawns are crap' theme, which isn't really anything at all.  Magic: The Gathering clearly has a huge component of flavour as people love to make theme decks, become enamoured of particular colours and love using cards with fantastic artwork or text regardless of their actual functionality.  Of course there is the trouble that any specific example of flavour is going to be contentious and there are no right answers.  I thought Tunnel was a great name and nobody else has disagreed until Hobo.  I could call it Rapid Reinforcement, say, or find something else but I had a fondness for Tunnel (You are tunneling to a mine, see?  See?) and since a vague, inexplicable fondness is exactly what I am going for I find it hard to change.

I suspect this matters a lot in playtesting and the most at launch if you are making a game.  You need to have people experience that initial excitement, that first glimmering of interest before they really understand the mechanics at all.  You also need casual players to be a base of people so the hardcore players, who care more about balance and mechanics, have people to play with and to introduce them to the game. While I think the flavour in FMB right now is fine I guess I need to turn it up a notch and really make some crazy, interesting mechanics with rock throwing cyclopses, tough giant bears and murderous devils.  I am not changing Tunnel to something else though.  Screw you Hobo.


  1. Just tell Hobo that "tunnel" refers to quantum tunneling.

  2. Another option: The tunnel is frictionless and semi-circular, appearing directly under the creature to be transported and disappearing at the exact moment that gravity slingshots them to ground level on the other side.

    Oh, even better, it's not frictionless, but it is smooth and sloped so they can slide down it. This also explains why it can only go to a mine, because it can only take them to a place with lower elevation and mines go underground.