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Author Topic: Interview with Donald X.  (Read 2115473 times)

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Holger

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1250 on: April 17, 2014, 09:25:38 am »
+1

Is there a specific reason why "+3 Actions" and "+2 Buys" were only used on a single card each (Crossroads and Squire), or was it a coincidence?
Sir Martin?

Oh, right. :-[  1.1 cards then...
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Tables

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1251 on: April 17, 2014, 11:55:40 am »
0

Huh, that's very interesting. As it happens, haste is my favorite ability in Magic, so thanks for that.

Sorry for being completely off topic, but I feel like I recognise your username from elsewhere. You don't happen to be a Zelda speedrunner do you? Sorry if that makes no sense (you can look it up if I'm wrong and you're curious I suppose...)

Yup, that's me. Though I guess I don't do much speedrunning anymore. More into modding at the moment.

Ah, yeah, thought I recognised your name from a hack I saw Runnerguy playing. (This is my last off topic post, sorry everyone else).
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...spin-offs are still better for all of the previously cited reasons.
But not strictly better, because the spinoff can have a different cost than the expansion.

KingZog3

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1252 on: April 17, 2014, 12:47:51 pm »
+1

Huh, that's very interesting. As it happens, haste is my favorite ability in Magic, so thanks for that.

Sorry for being completely off topic, but I feel like I recognise your username from elsewhere. You don't happen to be a Zelda speedrunner do you? Sorry if that makes no sense (you can look it up if I'm wrong and you're curious I suppose...)

Yup, that's me. Though I guess I don't do much speedrunning anymore. More into modding at the moment.

Ah, yeah, thought I recognised your name from a hack I saw Runnerguy playing. (This is my last off topic post, sorry everyone else).

You could have PM'd him.
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pacovf

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1253 on: April 17, 2014, 04:11:12 pm »
+3

Huh, that's very interesting. As it happens, haste is my favorite ability in Magic, so thanks for that.

Sorry for being completely off topic, but I feel like I recognise your username from elsewhere. You don't happen to be a Zelda speedrunner do you? Sorry if that makes no sense (you can look it up if I'm wrong and you're curious I suppose...)

Yup, that's me. Though I guess I don't do much speedrunning anymore. More into modding at the moment.

Ah, yeah, thought I recognised your name from a hack I saw Runnerguy playing. (This is my last off topic post, sorry everyone else).

You could have PM'd him.

Wow, so soon? Tables is more traditional than that. Share quotes in at least three different threads before the first PM, my mother always says.
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soulnet

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1254 on: April 17, 2014, 04:30:22 pm »
0

Wow, so soon? Tables is more traditional than that. Share quotes in at least three different threads before the first PM, my mother always says.

So GokoDom is actually a swingers club?
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Donald X.

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1255 on: April 17, 2014, 04:52:40 pm »
+1

Is there a specific reason why "+3 Actions" and "+2 Buys" were only used on a single card each (Crossroads and Squire), or was it a coincidence?

A "super Village" giving +3 Actions each time you play it might work at $4 (or $5?), I think. (Though it wouldn't be too interesting without some extra twist.)
+2 Buys isn't that much better than +1 Buy, but it might have been an interesting boost e.g. for Woodcutter (and/or Nomad Camp) to have a second Buy. (This would have made Woodcutter/Gardens quite strong, but still far weaker than Beggar/Gardens, and probably also weaker than Squire/Gardens, so it should be an okay combo.)
Doing them a little made them special, and they aren't things you always care about anyway. Fishing Village lets you play lots of actions and that felt good enough there; Crossroads doesn't feel so much like the +3 Actions card to me, despite saying it. And there's Tribute but being unreliable is different. I put off +2 buys for a while, since mostly you just care about it for Gardens or Bridge etc., but finally I did it, hooray.

At one point Crossroads gave you +1 action per action card in your hand; sometimes you would have no idea how many actions you had left.

If I had it to do again, I might give Bag of Gold +3 Actions. That is again just a weird fraction of a card.
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soulnet

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1256 on: April 17, 2014, 04:56:06 pm »
0

If I had it to do again, I might give Bag of Gold +3 Actions. That is again just a weird fraction of a card.

It is also a strange thin to tack on a card that gives Gold. Maybe "Bag of $5-costs" could use +3 Actions better.
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Donald X.

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1257 on: April 17, 2014, 04:59:48 pm »
+4

If I had it to do again, I might give Bag of Gold +3 Actions. That is again just a weird fraction of a card.

It is also a strange thin to tack on a card that gives Gold. Maybe "Bag of $5-costs" could use +3 Actions better.
The idea wouldn't be to turn it into University, the idea would be to raise up Bag of Gold a little relative to the other prizes, both in terms of play value and specialness.
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Witherweaver

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1258 on: April 17, 2014, 05:02:26 pm »
0

If I had it to do again, I might give Bag of Gold +3 Actions. That is again just a weird fraction of a card.

It is also a strange thin to tack on a card that gives Gold. Maybe "Bag of $5-costs" could use +3 Actions better.

Nah, you'd just rename it to Bag of Actions and tack on the "Gain a Gold"
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soulnet

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1259 on: April 17, 2014, 05:10:20 pm »
+18

The idea wouldn't be to turn it into University, the idea would be to raise up Bag of Gold a little relative to the other prizes, both in terms of play value and specialness.

I understand that in many countries going to a University requires a Bag of Gold.
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Kirian

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1260 on: April 17, 2014, 06:52:24 pm »
+8

The idea wouldn't be to turn it into University, the idea would be to raise up Bag of Gold a little relative to the other prizes, both in terms of play value and specialness.

I understand that in many countries going to a University requires a Bag of Gold.

Or a Bag of Debt at the very least.
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Jdaki

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1261 on: April 17, 2014, 07:12:11 pm »
0

It would have a nice combo with Diadem too!
(Not Student loans)
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KingZog3

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1262 on: April 17, 2014, 10:34:44 pm »
0

It would have a nice combo with Diadem too!
(Not Student loans)

Loan and Bag of Debt would not combo together I don't think...
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serakfalcon

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1263 on: April 18, 2014, 01:30:12 am »
0

It would have a nice combo with Diadem too!
(Not Student loans)

Loan and Bag of Debt would not combo together I don't think...

Well, you start with Loan, and later when you find yourself with Bag of Debt all your Gold keeps disappearing.
At least you don't have to worry about Taxman!
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Ozle

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1264 on: April 18, 2014, 07:31:11 am »
+1

It would have a nice combo with Diadem too!
(Not Student loans)

Loan and Bag of Debt would not combo together I don't think...

Well, you start with Loan, and later when you find yourself with Bag of Debt all your Gold keeps disappearing.
At least you don't have to worry about Taxman!

You should ALWAYS worry about the Taxman!
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Holger

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1265 on: April 19, 2014, 04:26:30 pm »
0

Is there a specific reason why "+3 Actions" and "+2 Buys" were only used on a single card each (Crossroads and Squire), or was it a coincidence?

A "super Village" giving +3 Actions each time you play it might work at $4 (or $5?), I think. (Though it wouldn't be too interesting without some extra twist.)
+2 Buys isn't that much better than +1 Buy, but it might have been an interesting boost e.g. for Woodcutter (and/or Nomad Camp) to have a second Buy. (This would have made Woodcutter/Gardens quite strong, but still far weaker than Beggar/Gardens, and probably also weaker than Squire/Gardens, so it should be an okay combo.)
Doing them a little made them special, and they aren't things you always care about anyway. Fishing Village lets you play lots of actions and that felt good enough there; Crossroads doesn't feel so much like the +3 Actions card to me, despite saying it. And there's Tribute but being unreliable is different. I put off +2 buys for a while, since mostly you just care about it for Gardens or Bridge etc., but finally I did it, hooray.

At one point Crossroads gave you +1 action per action card in your hand; sometimes you would have no idea how many actions you had left.

If I had it to do again, I might give Bag of Gold +3 Actions. That is again just a weird fraction of a card.

Thanks for the answer! Keeping them special by doing few makes sense. FV does give +3 Actions in total, but distributing them over two turns often makes them more useful than a "vanilla" +3 Actions card. And there's KC, of course...
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Eistee

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1266 on: April 22, 2014, 09:43:32 am »
0

You have mentioned earlier that you would recommend Mark Rosewater's "Drive to Work" podcast and his articles when it comes to good learning material about game design even if you do not agree with everything Mark says.

Since I am a huge fan of "Drive to Work" and the written stuff by Mark as a whole, I am curious which on parts of Mark's "philosophy" you do not agree on.

And while we're at the subject - from the top of your head, what is (one of) your favourite article(s) and podcast(s) done by him?

I know these questions might not be very easy to answer and even uninteresting to some. Please note that I also do not agree completely with everything he says, but I  but I'm just a curious guy and , well, honestly I just wanna know what you think.

Thank you for your time and I'm looking forward to your answer.
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Donald X.

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1267 on: April 23, 2014, 04:21:02 am »
+2

You have mentioned earlier that you would recommend Mark Rosewater's "Drive to Work" podcast and his articles when it comes to good learning material about game design even if you do not agree with everything Mark says.
Well I read his articles and blog. There is just too much podcast for me to keep up with.

Since I am a huge fan of "Drive to Work" and the written stuff by Mark as a whole, I am curious which on parts of Mark's "philosophy" you do not agree on.
I don't want to do the research, so I'm just going to consider two classic major issues: bad cards and mana screw.

* Bad Cards *

Mark's stance is that there have to be bad cards. I agree although I would explain it with some different specifics.

Cards are aimed at different kinds of players, which is good, and that means that some other player's good card is a bad card to you. That's straightforward.

For constructed you can make more cards playable by making more cards narrow. You can go to the extreme of making all cards so narrow that all cards are playable in constructed, endlessly, with no power creep. This doesn't work because it means all of the decks are pre-built and all of the cards are overly complex. Mark has never touched on this but that's fine, it's a footnote really. I guess you can note that Netrunner is trying to use this approach; cards are limited as to what deck they can go in (to a certain degree), in order to make more cards playable. Anyway without going to bad extremes, not all cards are playable in constructed, because you have your choice of cards to play with and they cannot all be exactly as good.

For limited they prefer not having a flat power curve. I think that's sensible although I might not take it as far as they do. It's fun having cards where you're not sure if they're good enough, and that means having cards close to the edge of playability, with some on the wrong side (depending on your deck and stuff).

If a card is unplayable in constructed, which many will be, and unplayable in limited, which many will be, then it should be playable in casual - which all such cards can be. Being playable in casual just means giving you a reason to play it. People with very few cards will play whatever you give them, but that doesn't count; you can just do so much better. The game is better if more people like the worst cards, and it's not even hard to achieve. There are many things casual players enjoy that you can do with the weak cards.

For many of the last twenty years they have made some cards that were no good in constructed, limited, and casual - complete wastes of cardboard. They have all but solved this problem at this point. Sometimes they make a common that I'm just not playing in limited/constructed and which has no draw for casual; generally a vanilla guy or french vanilla guy. It's not every vanilla guy though, some of them have reasonable stats for limited or a relevant creature type for a recently-supported tribe.

* Mana Screw *

Mark's stance is that mana screw is good for the game and that there's probably no better solution. My stance is that it does good things for the game but obv. you can do better, you can have the good things without the bad.

Magic's resource system does some good things. It's nice having randomness affect your resource development. It's nice that you can beat a better player due to the luck of the draw.

What's awful is not getting to play. I don't draw enough lands and just get to watch you play; I draw nothing but lands, same deal. You can argue that the game is at least over quickly; man, not good enough. Not getting to play goes against the premise of being a game. I can instead play a game where I get to play the game; I'm not playing a game I don't get to play. I am all for luck giving me a disadvantage sometimes, but I have to be able to fight against it, not just pass until I'm dead.

Mark cites how Duel Masters tried letting you play cards face down as lands, and how that wasn't as good; Mark cites how no-one has solved this problem yet for a Magic-like game (which would never be too convincing). But really. Hearts doesn't have mana screw, look at that. Dominion doesn't have mana screw; when you have poor luck, your opening buys are on the bottom, but you still get to play all those turns. You can get so many Curses/Ruins that you have dead turns, but that's a state your opponents worked to bring about, not just a bad draw.

Anyway there's nothing magical about mana screw, no game needs it. The things the mana system brings to Magic are good; what would be better is having the good things but not having mana screw. I can believe that Duel Masters wasn't the solution for a Magic-like game but it's silly to think you can't do better.

And while we're at the subject - from the top of your head, what is (one of) your favourite article(s) and podcast(s) done by him?
This is just going to be too hard to research. I don't like the articles where the cards talk to each other. Mark ranks his own articles once a year and that's probably a pretty good guide.
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soulnet

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1268 on: April 23, 2014, 02:33:52 pm »
0

I just saw the video presenting Piņa Pirata. It seems like a much simpler game than Dominion or Kingdom Builder. My question is, does the simplicity translate into easier to design? Maybe less playtesting needed? If it is true, is there some aspect in which Piņa Pirata requires more work than, say, Dominion? (maybe intended for younger or less gamery audience require more attention to some details, or different kind of playtesting?)
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LastFootnote

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1269 on: April 23, 2014, 03:29:10 pm »
0

I'm sure you've answered this somewhere before, but I cannot find it for the life of me.

I have a friend who, when playing Dominion with folks other than me, plays with a few house rules. The one he's most adamant about is each player getting an equal number of turns (not counting extra turns, presumably). I can think of some reasons that equal turns would not improve Dominion, but I'd like to hear your reasoning. Why doesn't Dominion have equal turns like, say, Kingdom Builder? Thanks.
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Donald X.

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1270 on: April 23, 2014, 05:47:27 pm »
+5

I just saw the video presenting Piņa Pirata. It seems like a much simpler game than Dominion or Kingdom Builder. My question is, does the simplicity translate into easier to design? Maybe less playtesting needed? If it is true, is there some aspect in which Piņa Pirata requires more work than, say, Dominion? (maybe intended for younger or less gamery audience require more attention to some details, or different kind of playtesting?)
I wouldn't say that rules simplicity is what tells you how much work the game will take. Sometimes simple rules are hard to come by, and anyway cards with rules on them are a big trick here, those are all rules, they count. You learn the game quickly when most of the rules are on cards, it's a sweet trick, but the rules are still there.

Being lighter does save time. Playtesting still has to determine what's fun and what isn't, what causes confusion, what problematic combos there are. Power level isn't so much an issue though, except at extremes, and not always then.

Piņa Pirata the game was easier to design than Dominion, because it's Crazy 8's but you add a rule each hand. Dominion the game wasn't that hard though, the bulk of it I worked out in a few hours (not counting the work that led up to the idea, Spirit Warriors II and all that, or work on other games that informed this work, like already knowing that I like attacks to hit all opponents). I changed it in important ways later, but the few-hours version is extremely recognizable. Piņa Pirata's cards were much easier than Dominion's cards, because of the balance reason; a Piņa Pirata card can have a huge or minor effect, and there's no cost on it.

From the first version to the published version, almost every non-basic Dominion card changed in some functional way. I am looking at the original file of rules for Jailbreak (the original name/flavor); some of these cards have changed, but, aside from flavor (many of them have had five different names) and what suit is referred to (itself an aspect of flavor although it functionally matters what set of things go with a particular suit), many of them are identical to the original versions. Okay out of the first 10 in the oldest file, 5 survived unchanged except for flavor/suit, 3 got important tweaks, and 2 died.

Kingdom Builder required a lot less work than Dominion. The rules again didn't change much from the initial set, which hadn't been easy to find but it's hard to measure that. For sure the rules took more work than Dominion's, if you don't count work on Spirit Warriors II. Anyway I tweaked the boards, the scoring cards, the abilities; I actually changed the boards repeatedly, but many of the abilities immediately worked, and many of the scoring cards never changed. It's probably fair to say that I spent more time coming up with the initial rules, with zero games played (starting from a deckbuilding game premise) than I did changing things once I'd played it.

For Infiltration, the item cards didn't need to be so balanced, because you drafted them (a variant in the published version), and the rooms naturally could vary from awful to great. I did change some cards to get rid of confusion and no-fun, but it wasn't a lot of work. The rules were very easy; the one thing I tweaked multiple times was how to track stuff getting smashed open.

For Nefarious, the invention cards required very little work, because I could do the math to cost them. Most of them were just instantly perfect. Some did change due to being ones I had to guess at, or to tweak the frequency of different kinds of effects. The rules were again easy, although I pared it down from a more complex game. The twists were the focus of work; again they don't need balance, but they need to avoid bad situations (which I didn't, the published version got a combo that makes the game unplayable) and be fun. I made twice as many twists as the main game got, paring it down repeatedly.

I changed the rules for Gauntlet of Fools early on, but quickly got close to where it is. I tweaked the boasts and classes/weapons a bunch; I didn't tweak the monsters much, although I added more. I wrote a program to play the game so I'd have an idea how much combinations were worth, so I could avoid the case where you want to put all 6 boasts on the best guy and still just beat the worst guy. It turned out there was a big divide, a set of good classes and then a gulf and then the rest, and I spread them out more.

Monster Factory took very little work relative to anything else. I tweaked the topology mix a little; otherwise the only thing to change was the rules, and Nina and I did change them.

Greed is a drafting game; I tweaked the cards a lot over the years, but balance was only a factor at the ends (no cards too ridiculous or useless). Unannounced upcoming game has some cards where I did the math, and some where balance was a factor. I changed the rules on that one a lot more than I usually do.

Overall the trend is definitely that balancing cards takes more time than anything else. When they don't need to be balanced, or want not to be balanced, there's still time to put in making them fun and unconfusing and avoiding bad interactions, but that's just way less work. And when they do need to be balanced, sometimes there is math you can do that solves that problem for you. Aside from cards, the rules can be easy or hard to work out, but even when they take a lot of time, they take less time than the cards do.
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Donald X.

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1271 on: April 23, 2014, 06:41:36 pm »
+9

I have a friend who, when playing Dominion with folks other than me, plays with a few house rules. The one he's most adamant about is each player getting an equal number of turns (not counting extra turns, presumably). I can think of some reasons that equal turns would not improve Dominion, but I'd like to hear your reasoning. Why doesn't Dominion have equal turns like, say, Kingdom Builder? Thanks.
First, most people who aren't serious gamers don't even notice that it's a thing. They do not say, well you got one more turn than me; they have no idea that this is the case. They really really don't notice it. If there was no tiebreaker rule they would never notice it.

Second it's simpler to not finish the round. Originally there was also no tiebreaker, so you didn't have to track who went first at all. The tiebreaker was added as a compromise; Valerie and Dale wanted an awful turn-order tiebreaker, and I guess could not understand the reasoning that explains how awful that is. They said live with it, I said I won't, Jay said I'm going with the game designer (later I realized he had to contractually). But I agreed to a number-of-turns tiebreaker because that didn't have issues, beyond the tracking. It's fairer but you can argue that it's better for casual players to have no tiebreaker, because then they don't have to track who went first and you aren't drawing attention to this advantage. Serious players sometimes desperately want a tiebreaker, they want a winner even if it means counting random data; casual players, not so much, they are happy to tie, especially in a multiplayer game where some players are not in on the tie.

It's obviously good to go first, but people are used to that, in game after game with turns it's good to go first, equal turns or not.

The end condition means if you finish the round you then want to add Provinces, so that those turns aren't lame. That's not always relevant and doesn't always do the trick, but you know, often it's relevant and does the trick. So you add say 8 Provinces, it's a physical game so we still need to draw the line somewhere. We turn the bottom 8 sideways so we know when the game end condition is hit. People talk of "phantom Provinces" but you know, why not solidify those phantoms. Anyway you could do this, but it's a negative, it's more work and wonkier, even if just a little more work and a little wonkier.

When I first made Dominion, the initial end condition was "any empty pile." It directly answered the question, "what if I want a card and there aren't any left." Yes you could buy the last card and have another buy left. Anyway I needed an end condition, I picked that one, that was what it started as. We would usually empty the Provinces. Sometimes you would go for say Remodel and need to worry about how many you left in the pile (there were ten cards in each action pile; leave four Remodels, that's my advice), and who was winning when the piles got low.

The end condition was the end condition, it didn't have a "finish the round" clause. I had never had a "finish the round" clause in any game and did not start here. I had a lot of simultaneous play games where everyone got the same number of turns naturally, but when I had turns, the game ended at some point and we would not necessarily have had the same number of turns. Again, like in most games. I was not constantly playing commercial games that finished the round either, except ones where this was in some way natural as with simultaneous play. Like, in Medici, you finish the round in that you play until the boats are all full; in Through the Desert, you don't finish the round. We never thought "wow some players get more turns in Through the Desert, what's up with that." We never wondered why the round didn't finish for Settlers of Catan or Cartagena or Carcassonne or whatever game.

I always had the "winner goes last next game" rule. Despite going last, the best player did fine. It was obviously good to go first, but it wasn't wrecking the game. We would always play multiple games, and if you weren't winning, you would probably get your chance to go first. You don't want to be sitting on the wrong side of the best player; this never made anyone change seats.

There was never a point where we thought, man this needs fixing, how about finishing the round.

As I said above, once RGG had the game, late in the going, Valerie and Dale wanted a turn-order tiebreaker to address the advantage to going first. That was awful, like I said - oops you lose despite not actually getting an extra turn this game, due to this in-your-face coin flip. And hey it doesn't do anything about the case where you don't tie, where the advantage is so meaningful that it just wins for you. Anyway that awful thing was what they suggested to address turn-order advantage; that's all that came up. It was bad and I got to shoot it down, hooray.

Once Dominion was in the wild, some people felt like they needed to finish the round (as always, play whatever variants you want, I don't mind). When this news hit I did not feel like I had blown it or like I wanted to shift to playing that way. I think it's much better to play multiple games and rotate who wins (or, even better, have the winner go last).

This did make me aware though that some people would be like that, that they would want to right this particular injustice in future games.

So then one day I made Kingdom Builder. The game end condition was going to be someone running out of pieces - obv. I didn't want them to get more turns with no pieces. And it seemed like, the player running out of pieces is ahead, they played more pieces, pieces are how you score points. They may have been playing more dead pieces but you know, they have the advantage here. So, I could finish the round, like all those people wanted for Dominion. So I tried it out, I had the round being finished from the beginning. It worked fine so that never changed. It addresses turn order advantage to such a degree there that Queen thought the last player had the edge, due to Lords (as you can see from their rule determining who goes first), although I think obv. the first player has the edge in games without Lords and even some games with Lords.

Nefarious, Infiltration, Greed, and Gauntlet of Fools are all simultaneous, with no turn imbalance to be addressed. The way Monster Factory works, finishing the round (by say reserving some tiles for that situation) would not mean much, and obv. it's not worth the extra complexity. It doesn't make much sense for Piņa Pirata and is not too relevant for its audience. Unannounced upcoming game has turns and does not finish the round, although there is a thing to reduce turn-order-based advantages.
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jotheonah

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1272 on: April 25, 2014, 12:12:55 pm »
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Donald, were you one of the designers approached for Magic 2015's guest designs? If so, why aren't you designing a card? If not, would you participate in a future round if asked?
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"I know old meta, and joth is useless day 1 but awesome town day 3 and on." --Teproc

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Marcory

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1273 on: April 25, 2014, 12:17:50 pm »
+1

Look at post 1244 (it's probably on the previous page, but that depends on your posts-per-page view settings).
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soulnet

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #1274 on: April 25, 2014, 12:18:45 pm »
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Donald, were you one of the designers approached for Magic 2015's guest designs? If so, why aren't you designing a card? If not, would you participate in a future round if asked?

Literally one page before:

EDIT: Ninja'd
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