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theory

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The Secret History of the Recommended Sets of Ten
« on: June 17, 2011, 04:53:36 pm »
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Quote from: Donald X.
My friends just wanted to play Dominion, so I made a bunch of expansions. I don't know how many expansions will actually come out. That depends on how well the first two go over and stuff.

Here is The Secret History of the Recommended Sets of Ten.

I knew the main set had to have a "starting ten." In general, if you give people a random subset of your thing to see, they will see the worst possible subset. No matter how much you try to make it so that any given subset will be good, they will find the worst one and have the worst perspective on your uh thing. The solution is to dictate that first subset. This all sounds kind of odd but really, it comes up for other games. I usually try to make my games have lots of variety and so this is often an issue.

So the main set had a starting ten from early on. I knew I wanted to specifically include certain things and not include others. It had a good mix of costs and abilities. You know. Not too many confusing cards, several obvious strategies.

In development that starting ten got worked on a lot, especially by Valerie. It was tweaked repeatedly in order to try to make sure that those initial games worked well. You absolutely have to have Village, so new players can salvage a deck with way too many actions. Remodel helps there too, and gives you a strategy by itself. And so on.

Then one day they wanted some more recommended sets. For people who didn't want to dive right in to playing random sets of ten. The intention was always that you'd play a random ten. A lot goes into making that random ten work, and as far as I'm concerned it works great. You see the occasional game with no card costing $5, or play three games in a row with no +2 Actions card, or whatever, and that's great. Those games give you different experiences. But anyway some people want those pre-programmed sets at the start, and okay, it's easy enough to provide them.

So I spent a few hours coming up with five lists of ten. You want each card to appear at least once in the six total lists. You want a variety of costs in each list, and a variety of strategies. And then the lists have themes that show off different kinds of games.

I sent the five lists off to Valerie and Dale; they played them each like two times I think, changed one card in one of them, and that was it. They went into the rulebook. To date I have never played any of them. I played the starting ten, that's it.

I didn't play the Intrigue lists either. You know, there's no point making the lists before you know what's really in the set and how much everything costs and so on, and by the time we are at that point, I am testing a later expansion. And they're heavy. I don't just cart them all to game nights. Anyway I'm not too worried about them working, because you know, random ten works. I have played a ton of random ten with whatever it is; it's solid. We don't pick what to take out for next game either; we swap out the four cards that have been on the table the longest for fresh ones (obv. that means the first two times you are just arbitrarily swapping out cards based on how they got dealt to the table). I mean I think it's fine to pick what to take out. I guess it comes up for us sometimes; someone grumbles about curses or whatever it is, and, okay dude, we can take that out now, plenty of other cards to test. I am just saying, I play a lot of random, I have a lot of confidence in random. And if random works then me picking ten cards probably works fine too.

Anyway if you want more sets of ten, I am not the guy to come to. I am too busy writing essays on secret histories of things. It's easy to make a set of ten though. Try it out! Here are some approaches:

- Deal out a random ten, then tweak it. Look for a theme to them and improve on it.
- Pick a card. Then pick a card that's a combo with it. Then a card that's a combo with the 2nd card, and so on. A combo chain.
- Pick a card. Make a set of ten that tries to make that one card as good as possible. Just, everything that that card could want. If it works, everyone will buy that card, but that's fine. Conversely you can pick a card and try to make it horrible.
- Pick some aspect of a card and focus on it. Include all of the cards with that aspect, and if there aren't ten, throw in more cards that resemble those, or go to two aspects. For example: All cards costing $5. All of the +1 buy cards, rounded out with cards that gain you cards directly. All cards giving +1 card +1 action.
- Non-functional themes. Nothing but people. The ten cards that you most like the art for.

Some of these approaches will give you radically messed up games, but that's great; you would never see those games otherwise. Anyway it's hard to go wrong.
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