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Author Topic: The Secret History of the Nonexistent Dominion VP Cards  (Read 3617 times)

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The Secret History of the Nonexistent Dominion VP Cards
« on: June 20, 2013, 11:22:59 am »

I feel like, when people say, why aren't there more kingdom VP cards, they are thinking there is some magical simple compelling "1 VP per 3 Action cards" that I missed somewhere. There are a few things left to try, and then the general large category of "it happens to be worth points but really does something else," but I did the classic VP cards, they are in sets already. That's how it looks to me.

But hey let's look at this in more depth, see what there is. There are four categories, based on how the VP is determined: 1) cards that care about your personal position, 2) cards that care about other data in the game, 3) cards that don't care about anything, 4) cards that care about stuff outside the game.

#4: Care About Outside Stuff LOL

I like these lists to be complete. #4 is obviously a non-starter - in a strategy game, it is not so great to do "worth 3 VP if it's Tuesday" or "worth VP equal to your age in years divided by 10, rounded down" or "worth 2 VP this game and next game."

#2: Care About Non-personal Game Data

There are piles of cards, there's the trash. You can try things like:

- worth 1 VP per 3 victory cards in the trash.
- worth 1 VP per 2 estates left unbought.
- worth 2 VP if the provinces didn't run out.
- worth 1 VP per province in the deck of the player with the most provinces.
- worth 2 VP for the player to your left.
- worth 1 VP per attack card opponents have.
- worth 2 VP if you have more of these than any other player.

I tried the first of those in both Seaside and Dark Ages. The Seaside one was called Landfill, and also trashed cards from supply piles. Since you can profit from it being built up, regardless of who does it, what would happen is, we'd fight over them, and then the player with more of them would build it up while the other didn't. Only, if we split them 5 to 3, the difference isn't enough to make it exciting. At first it seemed like it had promise and was a shoe-in, but it was just no fun, it had no fans whatsoever. In my mind City is a fixed version - City is something we can all build up and/or profit from, but plays much better. Forager and Trade Route are in this family but play much differently from City. Anyway you might think it would work as a VP card but man it didn't. I revisted it in Dark Ages; there another key issue was how much caring about the trash varied in power level from game to game.

Caring about piles like the next two do is something I tried briefly without actually making up a card image for it. I didn't give it much of a chance, but it sounded bad and didn't dazzle me when I tried it.

Caring about other players' decks is a non-starter, it's too hard to count your score. The last one is maybe easy enough but not super compelling.

#1: Care About Your Stuff

We can further subdivide this into caring about your final deck, about other normal information about your game state at the end of the game, or about something else that normally isn't tracked.

Something like "Worth 2 VP if it's in your hand at the end of the game" is not going to be loved, and so much for that.

You can add data and refer to it, but you'll need components to do that. Prosperity did it directly with VP tokens. A VP card could have cared about coin tokens - "worth 2 VP if you have at least two unspent coin tokens at the end" - and possibly I would have tried to find a good card there if Guilds had been large. It didn't sound exciting and space was limited. You can add counters and count things with them - worth 1 VP per time you shuffled, and you pile up the counters. That requires including specific components and well that's a hurdle, components cost money. In general it's better not to need them. Anyway it's not normally an option, it requires committing to the components, sometimes it will be too wonky (for that example we have to count shuffles in case you buy this card but maybe you won't even), and Guilds in particular was not getting more than coin tokens, it was them or nothing.

So then there's caring about your final deck. This is what the classic exciting VP cards do. Gardens cares about the total number of cards. Silk Road about VP cards; Vineyard about actions. Feodum cares about Silvers and Duke cares about Duchies. Fairgrounds cares about variety.

Counting treasures seems too much like Gardens. It's different, if there were dozens of expansions I would do it at some point and not feel bad about it, but man, it's unexciting. Counting attacks or reactions or some other type only works if the card ensures the type is out ala Young Witch or by being the type, and then it's too likely to just be counting itself; I tried a card that just counted copies of itself, it didn't work but turned into Duke. Counting Curses is really a non-starter. You could count Estates; that's one of the better ideas I'm listing in this essay, but again I am going to use that word "unexciting;" I already have Silk Road. It seems silly to count Provinces or Golds, although I tried a prize VP card that counted Golds. Counting Coppers again seems too much like Gardens though it isn't identical or anything. Like, for any card, that card is in a set instead of some other card. A VP card that counts Coppers or treasures is in a set instead of whatever else. They may not have nonzero merit, but whatever else is probably better. People think of adding up the total value of your treasures, and I playtested such a card, but treasures worth varying values kind of put the kibosh on that.

Cards have other data. There was a VP card long ago (called Gardens at the time) that looked at cost; it counted cards costing $2 or less. That's even more like Gardens than the other things like Gardens. You could just care about expensive cards. Part of the issue with counting Provinces or Golds or expensive cards is that you aren't pushing hard in a new direction; Fairgrounds says "get one of everything!" and Gardens says "big deck!" and those aren't your normal battle cries, but getting Provinces and Golds and $5's is something you already wanted to do. There are card titles; as a complement to Fairgrounds you can care about having a lot of copies of one action card, doesn't matter which one, and I playtested that in Dark Ages (it had no fans). Expansion symbol is a non-starter, and referring to card text is both probably not great and possibly trouble for a game in multiple languages.

More complex math is not great. There's min: "1 VP per Estate or per Gold you have, whichever you have fewer of." That's on this list I'm going through but I never tried it. I dunno, I'm not dazzled but it's a top contender. You can subtract: "worth 10 VP, -1 VP per Duchy or Province in your deck." There might something there although I'm less convinced there. Inverting Vineyard - VP for not having actions - doesn't sound fun at all; inverting Fairgrounds is no fun; inverting Gardens encourages a deck people already build when they can. Inverting Silk Road sounds kind of interesting but I'm not optimistic that it would play well.

You can check a condition rather than have a "per." "Worth 3 VP if you have no Silver." This kind of thing is simple and would be a good area to look at. Probably requiring you to have stuff is going to end up too much like existing card-counters, but not necessarily, and requiring you to not have something is more different. I haven't tried anything in this category. If I needed a pure VP card today (not an action etc.) I would start here.

#3: Don't Care About Anything

This is really the big category of remaining space. You can make an action card and stick 2 VP on it and bam, a victory card. The main problem here is that that's only a central idea once, and I did it in Intrigue; any future card that just has 2 VP slapped on it, the rest of the card is the idea, the new exciting part. The 2 VP is just along for the ride, although the card text can involve victory cards to at least make it specifically relevant. You can make cards that do exciting things and also happen to be worth points, and it's fine, but in general I want a good reason for the VP part, and complexity is an issue too; the rest of the card has to be simple, since the dividing line and big shield are taking up part of the text box.

Here are more ideas from the list, that are worth fixed amounts but where there's not just an irrelevant action part.

- worth 5 VP. instead of paying for this, you may trash two cards from your hand each costing $5 or more.
- worth 4 VP; the cards in the stack have different costs and are probably sorted.
- worth varying VP, again the cards in the stack vary ala Knights.
- worth 3 VP. may pay $3 and trash it to gain a province.
- action that may be trashed to gain 2 estates.
- worth 1 VP, one-shot action.
- worth 2 VP, set aside when bought.
- worth 2 VP, Scout

I tried an alternate cost in Cornucopia. I never tried the varying stack but it never sounded great, and I had Knights, they were doing that trick. At one point Minion could also be trashed for 2 Estates; that idea continued to sound cute but never made it anywhere. I never tried the inverse, a VP card you can trash for an effect; it sounds cute although unlikely to be popular. I already did Island, and probably like that way more than an automatic Island; the related Guilds / Hinterlands outtakes that did Inn-like things didn't work out, man they got their chance. You can do stuff like Scout or Crossroads or whatever as a VP card, that's an okay space.

Hinterlands had a when-gain VP card, and Dark Ages a when-trashed one (that was also a formula based on your deck, although I did playtest a when-trashed VP card that wasn't). These are VP-reaction cards in disguise. Farmlands has value despite being dead, because you can turn it into a Province by buying another Province. Tunnel is a blatant VP-reaction; there it's part of the concept that the card is dead without the reaction (and the non-reaction part had to be really simple). So that's a thing: a sufficiently simple reaction that's specifically interesting on a dead card can go on a VP card.


So I could try min, or a threshold that wants you not to have something. I haven't praised these ideas so much but really sometimes you have to try the card to know what you're dealing with; they might be good. I can do stuff with counters but only if there are new counters provided. I can put VP on a card that refers to VP cards, or on a reaction where the dead quality of VP cards is relevant; there are totally reasonable things to do there. And in the end I can just slap VP on whatever new card that's already exciting and simple enough, for the sake of having a victory card, although that's never going to sound that compelling.

For Guilds I playtested two cards in the "care about VP cards" category, as described in the Secret History; an action that referred to VP cards, and an overpay card that got you a deck temporarily somewhat free of VP cards, in an Inn-like fashion. The overpay card wasn't good enough. The action was okay but I wanted something better.

Overall you can look at this as a specific example of one of the general virtues of not doing more expansions. There are VP cards left to make, if you have to make more, but I already did the simplest most compelling ones.

I try to be thorough, and maybe I missed something anyway, but this post isn't a clarion call to post fan cards; take it to the variants forum guys.
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