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Reverend Zed

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New Card Type in 2nd Stage of Testing: Avatars
« on: October 10, 2017, 10:40:48 pm »
+1

Greetings Dominion Folks. Though its my first time posting here, I have been designing fan cards for various games over the years, & thought I should take a crack at making something for Dominion.

My friend broke out his old boxes & we started playing again recently, & I noticed that the game lacks an element that most would deem unnecessary, though in my opinion could add flavor to more casual games.

Though the game is admittedly about the kingdoms, I wanted to add a "face" to the game, sort of a rudder by which to guide the theme of your build choices.

The first drafts were priced lower, but my friend said to raise the costs, stating they were too good for the cost of the card. That's where i could use some help is with the pricing of the cards, any feedback would be appreciated.


-Rules for Avatars:
Avatars, are cards used to represent the player & each is unique. Each player chooses one Avatar before the game starts, the player who goes first chooses his Avatar first.

Avatars are placed upside down (or face down) next to the players deck. Avatars cannot be activated without paying the Avatars buy cost, which counts as a buy. Once bought, the Avatar is turned back upside (Face up) & it is now active (since Avatars can only be activated during the buy phase, & their actions can only be used during the action phase, their non-static actions cannot be used the turn they are activated). Avatars are permanent once activated, & never get placed in a players deck.

Avatars have one static ability (always active, usually adding victory points in some fashion), & three active abilities. Avatars can only use one of their active abilities on each of your turns during the Action Phase.

I know the guidelines frown on using "permanents," but the avatar design was inspired by the old Vanguard cards, and the people that have tested them so far have no complaints, & in fact like them & think that they offer some new flavor to a game that we enjoy playing.

-Example Avatars:

Merchant Prince: Cost (5)
Avatar
Static Ability: +1 to your total VP for every 3 Gold or Platinum in your deck.
Ability1: +1 Buy.
Ability2: +1 Card, discard a card.
Ability3: Choose one: add a treasure token to Merchant Prince, or, remove any treasure tokens on Merchant Prince & gain $1 for each token removed this way.

Voodoo Priestess: Cost (5)
Avatar
Static Ability: +1 to your total VP for every 5 curses in each of your opponents decks.
Ability1: +1 Action.
Ability2: +1 Card.
Ability3: +1 Buy.

Bulgrim: Cost [8] [Prototype costed 6]
Avatar
Static Ability: +1 to your total VP for every 4 Action cards in your deck.
Ability1: Choose one: +1 Action, or +1 Card.
Ability2: +$1 for each Action card in your Discard pile.
Ability3: Reveal cards from your deck until you reveal an Action card. Discard any other cards & play the Action card.

Does Bulgrim do too much for a 6 cost card? At the cost of 8 he rarely got used at all, & even when activated they only get one action per turn. What do you think?
« Last Edit: October 11, 2017, 05:44:21 pm by Reverend Zed »
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Drab Emordnilap

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Re: New Card Type in 2nd Stage of Testing: Avatars
« Reply #1 on: October 10, 2017, 11:02:48 pm »
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So Bulgrim has four options? I mean, his ability 1 is the same as the Voodoo ability 1 and ability 2. Just feels weird to put two abilities into one like that.
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Asper

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Re: New Card Type in 2nd Stage of Testing: Avatars
« Reply #2 on: October 11, 2017, 04:20:22 am »
+4

Three remarks:

First, the usefulness of these will highly depend on the kingdom, meaning that objectively, there will always be one ability better than the others. Considering that the first player usually has an advantage already, this makes the game seem rather unfair.
Second, active abilities are basically Events, as seen in the Adventures or Empires expansions.
Third, static abilities are basically Landmarks, as seen in the Empires expansion.

The main novelty of this over Events and Landmarks is the asymmetrical choice at the beginning, but I fail to see that as an advantage of the concept, to be honest. In my opinion, you should either allow players to pick the same abilities or reward abilities as part of the game for achieving something, similar to Cornucopia's prizes.

Gazbag

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Re: New Card Type in 2nd Stage of Testing: Avatars
« Reply #3 on: October 11, 2017, 12:14:04 pm »
+1

The first thing I'll say is that this seems like a wacky and fun idea that seems like a good fit for a fan card so I like that but I'll outline a couple of problems I think they have.

I think each one of these has too much going on. 3 options and an additional static effect just seems like too much and I agree with Asper that the vp part is pretty well covered by Landmarks. Also with just 3 examples there is already substantial crossover in abilities with +1 Card, + 1 Action and +1 Buy showing up multiple times already.

I disagree with Asper about these being similar to Events, the closest comparison I think these cards have that exists in dominion is Hireling and Prince. Comparing Avatars to Hireling we see a pretty huge gulf in power level. They cost a similar amount but don't have to be drawn and played before you get the effect, they have stronger and more flexible effects and give vp on top of that! I don't mind these being a bit more powerful because you only have access to one but I think this is a little too much at the moment.

I would suggest each one having just 1 ability. This will allow them to be much easier to balance and also give them a bit more character e.g. Merchant Prince's static and 3rd ability clearly point towards a treasure and money theme but ability 1 and 2 are kind of just diluting that theme and give the card more flexibility than it really needs. I would say with this one just stick to option 3 and maybe change it to give you a coin token each turn so as to not add any unnecessary new tokens to the game.
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Asper

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Re: New Card Type in 2nd Stage of Testing: Avatars
« Reply #4 on: October 11, 2017, 12:58:54 pm »
+1

I disagree with Asper about these being similar to Events, the closest comparison I think these cards have that exists in dominion is Hireling and Prince. Comparing Avatars to Hireling we see a pretty huge gulf in power level. They cost a similar amount but don't have to be drawn and played before you get the effect, they have stronger and more flexible effects and give vp on top of that! I don't mind these being a bit more powerful because you only have access to one but I think this is a little too much at the moment.

I was thinking of Events like Inheritance or those that add tokens to supply cards. Similar Events could give you tokens with static, non-card related abilities. Example:

Quote
Revenge of the Chancellor, Event, 5$
Take your Chancellor token. If you do, at the start of each of your turns' clean up phase for the rest of the game, you may put your deck in your discard pile.

[Edited the example to be less horrible.]

Gazbag

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Re: New Card Type in 2nd Stage of Testing: Avatars
« Reply #5 on: October 11, 2017, 03:25:19 pm »
0

I was thinking of Events like Inheritance or those that add tokens to supply cards. Similar Events could give you tokens with static, non-card related abilities. Example:
Ah right I see what you mean, although no events currently work like this so I'd worry more about the actual effect than the best way to implement it first.
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josh56

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Re: New Card Type in 2nd Stage of Testing: Avatars
« Reply #6 on: October 11, 2017, 03:40:30 pm »
0

The abilities vary too much in strength. Why would you ever choose +1 Card on Bulgrim while Ability3, a half-Golem, digging for an Action card and playing it, is available?
Also, with Hireling in the Kingdom you'd always buy the Avatar which provides +1 Card before you buy a Hireling.
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Reverend Zed

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Re: New Card Type in 2nd Stage of Testing: Avatars
« Reply #7 on: October 11, 2017, 05:47:38 pm »
0

thank you everyone for the great feedback, i will be making changes to the OP based on your suggestions.

Considering that the first player usually has an advantage already, this makes the game seem rather unfair.

thank you for pointing this out, would it be a good idea to instead allow the player who goes last to pick their avatar first?

I would suggest each one having just 1 ability. This will allow them to be much easier to balance and also give them a bit more character e.g. Merchant Prince's static and 3rd ability clearly point towards a treasure and money theme but ability 1 and 2 are kind of just diluting that theme and give the card more flexibility than it really needs. I would say with this one just stick to option 3 and maybe change it to give you a coin token each turn so as to not add any unnecessary new tokens to the game.

I did consider giving them just one ability at first, & through the playtests people mostly used the avatars 3rd & "best" ability, but having variety is what might set them apart from other cards. As a "face" card, i would like to have them stand out from other cards. As for functionality, only one of their abilities can be activated per turn, & while the first ability is a simple +1 Action or +1 Buy, the second is usually situationally benificial (Bulgrims 2nd ability adds +$1 per action card in your discard pile, while not useful most of the time, it is in synergy with the Avatars focus on action cards in your deck).

Quote
Also with just 3 examples there is already substantial crossover in abilities with +1 Card, + 1 Action and +1 Buy showing up multiple times already.

Apologies for the Voodoo Priestess, she was the baseline "template' for the rest, in terms of cost, static ability, & 3 different abilities to choose from. I kept it in the example to make it simpler to digest that they have 3 different abilities.

So Bulgrim has four options? I mean, his ability 1 is the same as the Voodoo ability 1 and ability 2. Just feels weird to put two abilities into one like that.

I got the idea from the pawn card, giving you options to choose from never hurts, his cost is much higher than the other Avatars so I decided to give him more options.

-----------
As for reducing the avatars to one single ability, i'm all for that if thats what people prefer. However, my main question concerns their pricing for the sake of playtesting, as is. If through playtesting we find that only 1 ability is preferred, we will absolutely concur with the general consensus.

As it stands so far, the Avatars are expensive, & a $5 cost card is usually better (& preferred in playtesting) to an avatar that as was said earlier, is only as beneficial as your choice of deck building.

EDIT: Here is what the Bulgrim Prototype looked like for the first playtests:
« Last Edit: October 11, 2017, 07:30:57 pm by Reverend Zed »
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Jack Rudd

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Re: New Card Type in 2nd Stage of Testing: Avatars
« Reply #8 on: October 13, 2017, 06:56:40 am »
0

Bulgrim looks very strong to me, even at $8. I'd test him out in a game with Ironworks and see how he plays.
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Drab Emordnilap

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Re: New Card Type in 2nd Stage of Testing: Avatars
« Reply #9 on: October 13, 2017, 09:32:21 am »
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 The thing was saying "this avatar is too strong" or "this avatar is too weak for its cost" is that, because this is a new concept that is in addition to everything to me and it was already doing, they are all going to be "overpowered" in a vacuum, and that OPlayer with one of these should always beat a player without one.  The challenge is making the avatar is roughly balance among themselves, because it's relatively unproductive to compare the cost of purchasing an avatar to the cost of purchasing a card, other than to make sure that the avatars are worth purchasing at some point in both games (because if they work, it'll be like were playing without them).  So it's not as easy as looking at a band called the cops five and draws cards on terminally and seeing how comparable it is the laboratory. This is a whole new thing but you can kind of set the cost to benefit ratio wherever you want, as long as that ratio is relatively consistent across all the avatars.
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Asper

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Re: New Card Type in 2nd Stage of Testing: Avatars
« Reply #10 on: October 13, 2017, 10:27:34 am »
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Considering that the first player usually has an advantage already, this makes the game seem rather unfair.

thank you for pointing this out, would it be a good idea to instead allow the player who goes last to pick their avatar first?

It's better, but still problematic. As I said, my suggestions would be to allow mirroring abilities or making them available in-game as a reward.

josh56

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Re: New Card Type in 2nd Stage of Testing: Avatars
« Reply #11 on: October 13, 2017, 01:55:38 pm »
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The challenge is making the avatar is roughly balance among themselves, because it's relatively unproductive to compare the cost of purchasing an avatar to the cost of purchasing a card, other than to make sure that the avatars are worth purchasing at some point in both games (because if they work, it'll be like were playing without them).
That balancing the Avatars among themselves is even more important than balancing a Kingdom card to which everybody has access should be obvious. No disagreement here.
But if an Avatar is cheaper and stronger than Hireling, a card which is a mandatory buy when you hit 6 early in many Kingdoms, it is not balanced from a holistic perspective; it is something you will nearly always go for when you first reach 5.

Powerful options provide pseudo-choices and don't make a game more interesting. It is like the specialists in Russian Railroads, too good to not always be immediately taken and thus a grave design mistake (not to mention that getting access to private action spaces in a worker placement game is contradictory to the very essence of this game subtype).

If Dominion had an Event that costed 1 and said "+1 Buy; draw 10 card at the start of your next turn." you could rightfully argue that an Event cannot be directly compared to Action cards and I could rightfully argue that such a powerful Event would virtually always be bought which makes it bad and boring.
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Asper

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Re: New Card Type in 2nd Stage of Testing: Avatars
« Reply #12 on: October 13, 2017, 07:01:50 pm »
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The challenge is making the avatar is roughly balance among themselves, because it's relatively unproductive to compare the cost of purchasing an avatar to the cost of purchasing a card, other than to make sure that the avatars are worth purchasing at some point in both games (because if they work, it'll be like were playing without them).
That balancing the Avatars among themselves is even more important than balancing a Kingdom card to which everybody has access should be obvious. No disagreement here.
But if an Avatar is cheaper and stronger than Hireling, a card which is a mandatory buy when you hit 6 early in many Kingdoms, it is not balanced from a holistic perspective; it is something you will nearly always go for when you first reach 5.

Powerful options provide pseudo-choices and don't make a game more interesting. It is like the specialists in Russian Railroads, too good to not always be immediately taken and thus a grave design mistake (not to mention that getting access to private action spaces in a worker placement game is contradictory to the very essence of this game subtype).

If Dominion had an Event that costed 1 and said "+1 Buy; draw 10 card at the start of your next turn." you could rightfully argue that an Event cannot be directly compared to Action cards and I could rightfully argue that such a powerful Event would virtually always be bought which makes it bad and boring.

I don't agree to this. Even if something is always good and you will use it in any game, it doesn't necessarily make the game worse. The Event you suggested is bad because it makes the game bad, not because it will always be used. At least that's what I think. Donate, similar to Chapel, is almost unskippable, but both leave room for meaningful decisions. Your Event is more like Rebuild: Always required but uninteresting.

josh56

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Re: New Card Type in 2nd Stage of Testing: Avatars
« Reply #13 on: October 14, 2017, 01:12:07 am »
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but both leave room for meaningful decisions.
That was precisely my point, that an instant Hireling for 5 plus some provides anything but interesting decisions; you will always go for each when you first reach 5.
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Reverend Zed

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Re: New Card Type in 2nd Stage of Testing: Avatars
« Reply #14 on: October 16, 2017, 07:05:58 pm »
0

Alright, after continued playtesting despite what josh56 would be saying, all evidence points to the contrary.

At a cost of 8, Bulgrim was only bought twice, even when i had enough to purchase, because our games have a very short duration & there is hardly enough time to reach a buying power of 8 & already/ instead be buying provinces.

The only two options were to slow down play (nope), or use silver spamming with masterpiece, which has better avenues of victory anyway.

Of the two times that Bulgrim was used, he mainly used his "half golem" ability, which had little effect against a silver/ masterpiece build. And only accounted for 3-4 VP at the endgame using a market/peddler build.

My opponent really is fixated on a silver build, & even the avatar i made to benefit a silver deck was used only twice. Not to mention he was the only player able to regularly afford the avatar.

The other build opponents tried was an Avatar designed for play with Alchemy cards, only bought it once, & it did not change the game significantly. The silver build won 3/5 games, all without an avatar. Real playtesting shows that they do not change gameplay significantly.

Avatars used in playtesting:
Bulgrim: Cost [8] [Prototype costed 6]
Avatar
Static Ability: +1 to your total VP for every 4 Action cards in your deck.
Ability1: Choose one: +1 Action, or +1 Card, or Trash a card from your hand.
Ability2: +$1 for each Action card in your Discard pile.
Ability3: Reveal cards from your deck until you reveal an Action card. Discard any other cards & play the Action card.

Silver Serpent: Cost [9]
Avatar
Static Ability: +1 to your total VP for every 4 Silver in your deck.
Ability1: +1 Card, +1 Action.
Ability2: Gain a card costing up to $4.
Ability3: Gain +$1 for each Silver in your discard pile.

Xantcha: Cost [5]
Avatar
Static Ability: 1 to your total VP for every 4 Curses in your deck.
Ability1: +1 Card.
Ability2: Discard the top card of your deck, if its an action card you may play it.
Ability3: Gain $1 for each card you choose to discard during the Action phase.

Merchant Prince: Cost (5)
Avatar
Static Ability: +1 to your total VP for every 3 Gold or Platinum in your deck.
Ability1: +1 Buy.
Ability2: +1 Card, discard a card.
Ability3: Choose one: add a treasure token to Merchant Prince, or, remove any treasure tokens on Merchant Prince & gain $1 for each token removed this way.

Manshoon: Cost (7)
Avatar
Static Ability: +1 to your total VP for every 4 Potions, Gold, or Platinum in your deck.
Ability1: +2 Cards.
Ability2: Gain either a Silver or a Potion, you ma put it on top of your deck.
Ability3: Gain +$2 for each Potion in your discard pile.
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Gazbag

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Re: New Card Type in 2nd Stage of Testing: Avatars
« Reply #15 on: October 17, 2017, 08:56:22 am »
+1

Alright, after continued playtesting despite what josh56 would be saying, all evidence points to the contrary.

Okay so it would be good to know a bit more about the context you've been playtesting these in. It sounds to me like you're playing 4 player games? This would explain why you're not seeing games where Bulgrim is super op. I don't have much experience with 4 player games so someone else can probably add more but as far as I'm aware the winning strategy is often to just get Silvers and a few actions and green asap because the games end really quickly, so that could explain your findings.

At a cost of 8, Bulgrim was only bought twice, even when i had enough to purchase, because our games have a very short duration & there is hardly enough time to reach a buying power of 8 & already/ instead be buying provinces.

The only two options were to slow down play (nope), or use silver spamming with masterpiece, which has better avenues of victory anyway.

Of the two times that Bulgrim was used, he mainly used his "half golem" ability, which had little effect against a silver/ masterpiece build. And only accounted for 3-4 VP at the endgame using a market/peddler build.

My opponent really is fixated on a silver build, & even the avatar i made to benefit a silver deck was used only twice. Not to mention he was the only player able to regularly afford the avatar.

If you're playing 2 or even 3 player then perhaps you had some particularly weak kingdoms with not much going on or maybe just missed the optimal strategy, unsupported Market/Peddler isn't the best but obviously I haven't seen the games so I can't really comment on that. Maybe post some kingdoms you played and explain what everyone did so we have more to go off? An unsupported Masterpiece deck shouldn't win a 2 or 3 player game in my experience, but Masterpiece might be an amazing card in 4 player I don't know. I'm also not sure what you mean by slow down play.

Also you mention a Silver/Masterpiece build a few times, did every game you played feature Masterpiece? If your playgroup finds Masterpiece to be a dominant card then maybe you should shy away from including it when playtesting because it might be skewing your games.

So a little more on Bulgrim, note that what I'm saying is looking at the context of 2 player games. In terms of it's power level 3-4vp that doesn't add a dead card to your deck is very competitive with Province and would have to cost $7-$8 on it's own, it's also not uncommon that you end up with 20+ Actions in your deck either in which case Bulgrim will be worth even more.
Calling Bulgrim's effect a "half Golem" is a bit misleading as getting a free half golem (i.e. one which doesn't cost a card space in hand or an action to play) is on very similar power level to having a self-scheming Golem, arguably better as there is no risk of turning over 2 terminals and prematurely ending your action chain. Golem costs $4P so self-scheming Golem would have to cost $5P or even $6P, which is obviously not directly comparable to $8 cost but is very close. You seem to be saying here "I paid $8 and only got a half golem and 3-4vp" I'd be saying "I got a half golem and 3-4vp and I only paid $8" Hopefully this helps to explain why people are telling you that it's too good.
In terms of design I would say that you pick the golem option over 90% of the time, very occasionally taking the money and almost never trashing. The +1 card and +1 Action options seem useless next to the golem effect. I would strongly consider whether the other options are worth all the extra words with them being so situational or just scrapping the golem effect for something of more reasonable power level.

I do agree that it's more important that these are balanced amongst themselves than balanced compared to regular kingdom cards (although I see no reason why these shouldn't be both) but I don't think that is possible in their current form, one will have a vp effect that is better than the others on a given board and will give the player with first choice a huge advantage. The first step to making these balanceable is to either scrap the vp aspect of them as Landmarks cover this space really well already, or if you insist on keeping it change it to a threshold to mitigate the effects of one getting out of hand and being unbeatable, something like "Worth 5vp if you have 10 Silvers in your deck at the end of the game".
 
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Asper

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Re: New Card Type in 2nd Stage of Testing: Avatars
« Reply #16 on: October 17, 2017, 09:37:35 am »
0

"Nobody bought it." does not mean "It's bad.".
Rebuild was never bought, and it lead Donald X to falsely believe it was weak.

josh56

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Re: New Card Type in 2nd Stage of Testing: Avatars
« Reply #17 on: October 17, 2017, 07:11:30 pm »
0

Alright, after continued playtesting despite what josh56 would be saying, all evidence points to the contrary.

At a cost of 8
I never said that 8 is a decent price, only that 5 and 6 is definitely too cheap as the card is an instant Hireling plus some cherry on top of it.
It should be obvious that the way to fix the card is not to increase the cost to Province-level but to make it weaker.

Quote
At a cost of 8, Bulgrim was only bought twice, even when i had enough to purchase, because our games have a very short duration & there is hardly enough time to reach a buying power of 8 & already/ instead be buying provinces.
If Xantcha was available and nobody bought it that was either very bad play or a misevaluation of the other Avatars (not buying an instant Hireling for 5 in the hope of soon reaching 7,8 or 9 to activate a stronger Avatar. Either way, Xantcha is strictly better than Hireling (except for beign available only once) and thus underpriced/overpowered.
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