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Author Topic: Interview with Donald X.  (Read 2138129 times)

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dz

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #5525 on: October 21, 2023, 07:16:22 pm »
+2

What can you tell us about Rising Sun (the board game, not the Dominion expansion)?

Do you meet with IRL playtesters at a game store, or do they come to your house?

What are the chances that you do something like this or that again?

What card avatar do you use on TGG?

Nowadays, do you prefer to use "each time" instead of "when"? (Frigate and Deliver both use “each time.”)

What do you think of those Quartermaster games where they gain a bunch of cards, but the cards just sit on them forever and you never put them in your hand?

What do you think of Falconer, aka my favorite Dominion card?
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Donald X.

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #5526 on: October 22, 2023, 03:16:02 am »
+8

What can you tell us about Rising Sun (the board game, not the Dominion expansion)?
- It's the new Dominion expansion, best guess currently is that it will come out in March.
- Art has started, unless it hasn't, I sent Jay the artist notes but haven't seen any sketches yet.
- Spielbox wanted a promo and to find out if a new expansion was coming, and we told them the name and estimated date, and they immediately put that up on a kickstarter. So that's how you guys know this set is coming already.
- The promo has no special connection to the expansion.
- More information may be a few months away. I really don't know, but we get nothing special out of getting people excited now about a set coming out in March.

Edit: man I don't know how I was supposed to read this question correctly. All I know about the board game is that it exists.

Do you meet with IRL playtesters at a game store, or do they come to your house?
I do both. At various points in my life it's been all one way or all the other or always both. Currently I have games twice a week at my place and then sometimes make it to a game store. Where I play with whoever wants to play.

What are the chances that you do something like this or that again?
Ah, Swindler. Everyone complained about me thinking about that last turn but man this game is tricky. I don't even remember doing that commentary.

They both could happen again. It's never super-exciting to play because I mean I'm just some guy. With the quarterfinals happening for the Championship now, I immediately thought, I could do some commentary. I can always pointlessly tell stories about cards, or mention what the TGG bot would be doing. I haven't felt like stepping in and treading on any of the other speakers yet though.

What card avatar do you use on TGG?
Smugglers! And man, there's a card to crush the bot with. It will just endlessly pass on buying cards.

Nowadays, do you prefer to use "each time" instead of "when"? (Frigate and Deliver both use “each time.”)
I think probably "each time" would have been better in general from the start, though now there's a lot of weight behind "when" so probably I keep using that in most places.

What do you think of those Quartermaster games where they gain a bunch of cards, but the cards just sit on them forever and you never put them in your hand?
If the set had had even more time spent on it, maybe it would have come up, and I might have tried a version that always alternates, see how that goes (if there's a card, take it, otherwise gain a card onto it). The bot has taught me to be terrified of Quartermaster pile-outs; it will get out four of them in any game with it, and they will pile up cards. I like having the card be as flexible as possible, but it certainly looms, this ability to just stock up cards you're never taking.

What do you think of Falconer, aka my favorite Dominion card?
I still like it fine. I'm a big fan of the Sheepdog family in general, Reactions that you can play in some circumstance. That's how Reactions should have always been, and started out as, and at last they got back there with Sheepdog.
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Will(ow|iam)

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #5527 on: October 23, 2023, 05:07:49 pm »
0

Does Rising Sun have any "Whoops this card is flawed in concept" outtake cards that you can show us yet?
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LibraryAdventurer

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #5528 on: October 23, 2023, 06:12:41 pm »
+1

Does Rising Sun have any "Whoops this card is flawed in concept" outtake cards that you can show us yet?

I think you'll have to wait for the secret history for that kind of thing...

Donald X.

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #5529 on: October 23, 2023, 06:13:07 pm »
+6

Does Rising Sun have any "Whoops this card is flawed in concept" outtake cards that you can show us yet?
I'm looking at the secret history, thinking, "the secret history needs its fun too."
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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #5530 on: October 23, 2023, 11:23:29 pm »
+2

Does Rising Sun have any "Whoops this card is flawed in concept" outtake cards that you can show us yet?
I'm looking at the secret history, thinking, "the secret history needs its fun too."

The secret histories are one of my favorite parts of a new expansion coming out! Have you done secret histories for some of your other games? If so where can they be found?

market squire

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #5531 on: October 24, 2023, 04:22:07 am »
+2

Does Rising Sun have any "Whoops this card is flawed in concept" outtake cards that you can show us yet?
I'm looking at the secret history, thinking, "the secret history needs its fun too."

The secret histories are one of my favorite parts of a new expansion coming out! Have you done secret histories for some of your other games? If so where can they be found?

On BGG - recently I looked for all the threads he started there, most of which are secret histories. :)
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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #5532 on: November 03, 2023, 09:35:39 pm »
0

Are there cards that haven't been replaced that you think are stronger than you thought they were during playtesting? Any that you now think are weaker than you thought they were?
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Donald X.

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #5533 on: November 04, 2023, 01:18:49 pm »
+2

Are there cards that haven't been replaced that you think are stronger than you thought they were during playtesting? Any that you now think are weaker than you thought they were?
While I talk more about card power level than I used to, I still try to steer clear of it. It's like a spoiler. It's not my role. And such an open-ended question, man, it's so easy to avoid answering. Ask players instead.
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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #5534 on: November 06, 2023, 04:53:00 pm »
0

Are you likely to answer questions of the form "What problems were caused by this obvious-ish card idea I have that I assume you also had years ago and never made into a set because it had non-obvious not-worth-solving problems that you found in playtesting" ?
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Donald X.

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #5535 on: November 08, 2023, 09:54:29 am »
+1

Are you likely to answer questions of the form "What problems were caused by this obvious-ish card idea I have that I assume you also had years ago and never made into a set because it had non-obvious not-worth-solving problems that you found in playtesting" ?
No, but you could post it in variants and possibly LastFootnote will tell you.
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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #5536 on: November 08, 2023, 08:24:53 pm »
0

Didn't know this thread existed :o

Some questions, feel free to redirect me if you've answered them before:
  • What's your approach for designing a cardpool? Does it differ between mixes and expansions? Do you do any math to figure out how often you expect Kingdoms to have e.g. an attack? Or do you just playtest a ton to see how a sufficient number of Kingdoms feel?
  • Do you have an opinion on how the full random cardpool currently is? Do you ever wish you could, for example, dump 30 villages into the pot?
  • Taking a longer view: there're two interesting trends I've seen over the last few years with the full cardpool. One, we've been trending towards faster and faster games turns-wise across all skill levels. Two, individual cards and pairings of cards (from combos such as Donate/MS, to interesting in-set interactions such as Silver Mine/Rope, to card+archetype such as Proc/Horse) become less and less frequent as time goes on. Do either of those matter to you?
  • Have you played many other deckbuilders? And if so, are you willing to comment on their design decisions or things they've changed? As one example, I've been having a lot of fun playing Astrea, a dice-focused deckbuilder (5 second pitch: StS but with dice instead of cards, so something like a grandkid of Dominion), and find it really funny how it inherited the whole "discard your hand at end of turn" thing from StS, which explicitly chose to follow the Dominion rather than Magic paradigm there.
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Donald X.

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #5537 on: November 09, 2023, 03:40:02 pm »
+5

What's your approach for designing a cardpool? Does it differ between mixes and expansions? Do you do any math to figure out how often you expect Kingdoms to have e.g. an attack? Or do you just playtest a ton to see how a sufficient number of Kingdoms feel?
I worry about the percentage of cards that are: villages, +buy, draw, trashing, attacks/interaction, $5's, other costs, cantrips, $5 cantrips. And how much the set mechanics are used. Sometimes other factors mess with the numbers; especially, the idea that terminals that use an Action from your hand, e.g. Remodel, count less towards how many terminals you have.

For expansions the idea is always, that you might own any mix of expansions, and I want to have a good percentage of everything no matter what.

For mixes (tournaments run on the discord using 75 cards I've picked out from across expansions), well I've specified the entire environment, and sometimes that environment specifically wants to be light on something or heavy on something.

Do you have an opinion on how the full random cardpool currently is? Do you ever wish you could, for example, dump 30 villages into the pot?
Later sets ramp up the percentages slightly to deal with the fact that there are so many cards; it's just a math thing you're stuck with.

I'm happy with how things have gone. I didn't know to value $5's as highly in the very early days, but I caught on and also got to revisit the old sets. Probably more interaction would be good; it's hard to come by interactive cards that work well and aren't identical to things already existing and aren't hated.

Taking a longer view: there're two interesting trends I've seen over the last few years with the full cardpool. One, we've been trending towards faster and faster games turns-wise across all skill levels. Two, individual cards and pairings of cards (from combos such as Donate/MS, to interesting in-set interactions such as Silver Mine/Rope, to card+archetype such as Proc/Horse) become less and less frequent as time goes on. Do either of those matter to you?
The intention isn't to speed up games; I think part of this is, I responded to how players in general were less fond of attacks than I'd expected, and well if you have fewer attacks, the game is faster. But really, what matters is that we had a fun game; I'm happy to make a one-turn game if it's fun.

It's great to have random pairs of cards come up less often; it makes those games more special. Pairs within sets will always come up plenty, because again many people do not own everything. And then there are all the people who mostly play the recommended sets, which will showcase some of that stuff.

Have you played many other deckbuilders? And if so, are you willing to comment on their design decisions or things they've changed? As one example, I've been having a lot of fun playing Astrea, a dice-focused deckbuilder (5 second pitch: StS but with dice instead of cards, so something like a grandkid of Dominion), and find it really funny how it inherited the whole "discard your hand at end of turn" thing from StS, which explicitly chose to follow the Dominion rather than Magic paradigm there.
In general I avoid deckbuilders, because I still might make more, and I don't want any "oh he copied this from someone else." Man, I didn't, let's get that straight. My notes for a Dominion Dice game go back to before Dominion was published.

I have specifically avoided Slay the Spire. Sir Martin always says how great it is and well, glad you're having fun, but, it's not for me, I can play other games.

I have played a few though, I mean like once each. Off the top of my head:
- Eminent Domain - one of my go-to examples from years ago of how you could be inspired by Dominion without copying every decision I'd made. It's got a Puerto Rico aspect to it and I mean from one game it was fine.
- the Knizia one - I was very sad to see how little he innovated here. Bleah.
- the cows one - Your deck is cows, you make circuits on a board and periodically show them off? I Chapel'd down and won, hooray. It was fine and also again not very derivative, hooray.
- the one with a bag of pure vanilla chits that are like Monk and Knight and things? - And the sequel. It had a certain charm. The uh special ability tiles needed tons of work, both the mechanism and then what they were.

I've never played Ascension, but for me it will always be the game I chose not to make. I outline this in that old BoardGameNews article, from when Dominion was first published. I considered a line of cards and you buy one (I think the editor, W. Eric Martin, referred to that as Show Manager style), and thought, it will suck when a good one shows up and someone else gets to buy it. I considered a mix of resources; one seemed better (and when I tried adding a resource, it was the least popular mechanic ever).

People always talk about how other games don't restrict you to one Action per turn. I of course did that specifically so that I could then break that rule; it gave me something to do, a way to vary cards. It's not that you absolutely have to have that; in fact your game doesn't need to be a Dominion rip-off at all, it can be say that you build a set of cows you're showing off once per lap, and then "action limit" is a nonsensical term. I mean really that's it: for people trying to just copy Dominion, well I think the best game there is the one I made, and I mean of course; I didn't intentionally do something I thought was inferior. I've endlessly gone over ways I've blown it, e.g. how Reactions work (should all be played Sheepdogs not revealed Moats), or how the Curse pile scales, or the whole "what if the card is gone" scene (e.g. Procession'd Durations); but these aren't anything people are talking about in this context.
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dz

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #5538 on: November 15, 2023, 07:51:12 pm »
0

Do you have plans of updating cbtest14? Is this a reference that anyone else will understand?

When you need new playtesters, how do you decide who to invite? Do you narrow down a list of potential candidates and then interview them?

What do you think of Exploration post-errata? It and Bonfire have been the 2 cards that people are the most sad about.

You've called Souk a "problem card" (along with Fortress). In what situations does it break the game? Is the +$7 the problem?

How do you feel when people hate on Allies for leading to “slow games” when (let's be honest) their complaints are actually about pre-errata Voyage and Warlord?

What tips do you have for brainstorming new cards (Dominion or otherwise)?
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Donald X.

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #5539 on: November 16, 2023, 02:12:48 pm »
+5

Do you have plans of updating cbtest14? Is this a reference that anyone else will understand?
I stopped updating it in June of 2010. Probably that was right around when we started testing on isotropic.

When you need new playtesters, how do you decide who to invite? Do you narrow down a list of potential candidates and then interview them?
No, nothing like that. There's no one set thing. When I was doing Adventures I looked at what people were posting and who was doing well in league; I wanted some mix of "is good" and "posts a lot." When we were testing on dominion.games I kept inviting more people who were good, hoping they would somehow get in some games, until I'd invited one too many and one leaked information.

One key thing I have learned is, if someone offers themselves up, I can't have that person. So now you know. It's a filter on who they are that makes them a poor candidate.

What do you think of Exploration post-errata? It and Bonfire have been the 2 cards that people are the most sad about.
It hasn't bothered me.

You've called Souk a "problem card" (along with Fortress). In what situations does it break the game? Is the +$7 the problem?
It rewards you in a big way for not having cards in hand, which can be trivial e.g. with Villa.

How do you feel when people hate on Allies for leading to “slow games” when (let's be honest) their complaints are actually about pre-errata Voyage and Warlord?
Allies is a decision-heavy set, that's part of its character. So I mean it's fair to find it slow. It's not something I can do every time out, but there are people who appreciate those kinds of cards.

What tips do you have for brainstorming new cards (Dominion or otherwise)?
It's hardest when you don't have anything yet; you can build on what you've got, once you've got some stuff. At the beginning, it was a real question, would I even manage 20 good cards for Dominion.

Here are some classic tricks.
- Look at all of your data, and see what triggers and effects it produces, then pair them up.
- Look at all of your rules, and see which ones you can make exceptions to.
- Consider different basic forms of program flow and what they get you.
- Look at what you've got so far; see what will work with it.
- Categorize what you've got so far; see what holes there are that you can try cards for.
- Look for classic variations on what you have so far; especially, little, big, and lots.
- Flavor can inspire new ideas.
- Look at your other games, see what ideas from there will port over.
- Look at the world through the lens of rules on cards. Any random time when you have an idea, write it down.
- Look at what didn't work in the past that maybe now you can fix up.
- When you've got 15 expansions, you really want a strong direction to help you get going. You've got a mechanic to try and you put it through its paces.

Here are some examples of those.
- You have $, you have cards in hand; we could let you somehow make $ based on the cards. We can say discard them (Vault), or count them in reverse (Souk).
- The rules have phases going in a particular order. We can mess with the order (Villa); we can add a phase (Night).
- There are so many very basic program flow things. We can give you a choice of costs (Animal Fair), choice of effects (Pawn), just do multiple things (Jack of All Trades), do some things now and some things later (Durations). You can do loops, e.g. repeat-until (Library).
- Let's see there are a bunch of Villages, maybe something can interact with those (Diadem).
- At one point I looked at all the basic pairings of resources, what had I not done yet that was worth doing. Not for e.g. Bazaar and Worker's Village, which had just been saved for later. I don't remember if I got a specific card this way.
- Hamlet is a little village, Bustling Village is a big one, Port is two villages.
- Siren is an example of a card that started with flavor. What would a Siren do?
- I'd had Durations in games for years; Greed for example is from 2003, though it was published after Dominion, and has a few Durations. An idea from Rising Sun ultimately goes back to Nefarious.
- I do write down ideas whenever I have them. I'm looking at a notebook page from work on Adventures; the first thing is the VP card that turned into Wall.
- Horn of Plenty is an example I've talked at length about where the original card ("+$1 per Action you played this turn") failed (turning into Conspirator at the time) but I remembered it and worked on it more.
- Plunder had multiple themes from the start, it had Treasure - Durations and next-time Durations and Loot all on day one. So I could get right to looking at, what could I do with these mechanics.

Of course there are other ways to get card ideas too. Village for example, the idea was to limit Action plays specifically so I could make that card. Cards needed things to do.
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Will(ow|iam)

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #5540 on: November 20, 2023, 03:36:31 pm »
0

Trait outtake from the secret history of plunder
Quote
Instead of following its instructions, may play cheaper card with restrictions. Way of Band of Misfits. Ways were poor here, and Band of Misfits is awful here. So slow.

Why are ways poor in traitland?
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Donald X.

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #5541 on: November 21, 2023, 01:16:35 pm »
+1

Trait outtake from the secret history of plunder
Quote
Instead of following its instructions, may play cheaper card with restrictions. Way of Band of Misfits. Ways were poor here, and Band of Misfits is awful here. So slow.

Why are ways poor in traitland?
Because they're Ways. We had Ways, they were called Ways, they're in Menagerie.
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Will(ow|iam)

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #5542 on: November 21, 2023, 11:08:44 pm »
0

Trait outtake from the secret history of plunder
Quote
Instead of following its instructions, may play cheaper card with restrictions. Way of Band of Misfits. Ways were poor here, and Band of Misfits is awful here. So slow.

Why are ways poor in traitland?
Because they're Ways. We had Ways, they were called Ways, they're in Menagerie.

You also had landmarks but that didn't stop plateau shepherds from making its way into Allies. (not to mention Obelisk and the project-y events, but their mechanics weren't in a set yet.)
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Donald X.

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #5543 on: November 22, 2023, 01:30:37 pm »
+2

Trait outtake from the secret history of plunder
Quote
Instead of following its instructions, may play cheaper card with restrictions. Way of Band of Misfits. Ways were poor here, and Band of Misfits is awful here. So slow.

Why are ways poor in traitland?
Because they're Ways. We had Ways, they were called Ways, they're in Menagerie.

You also had landmarks but that didn't stop plateau shepherds from making its way into Allies. (not to mention Obelisk and the project-y events, but their mechanics weren't in a set yet.)
That line of reasoning never gets you anywhere. Each example you can find will either be one I would do differently today, or an exception with good reason.
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Will(ow|iam)

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #5544 on: November 22, 2023, 04:55:33 pm »
0

Trait outtake from the secret history of plunder
Quote
Instead of following its instructions, may play cheaper card with restrictions. Way of Band of Misfits. Ways were poor here, and Band of Misfits is awful here. So slow.

Why are ways poor in traitland?
Because they're Ways. We had Ways, they were called Ways, they're in Menagerie.

You also had landmarks but that didn't stop plateau shepherds from making its way into Allies. (not to mention Obelisk and the project-y events, but their mechanics weren't in a set yet.)
That line of reasoning never gets you anywhere. Each example you can find will either be one I would do differently today, or an exception with good reason.

Which category does plateau shepherds fall into?
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Donald X.

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #5545 on: November 23, 2023, 12:40:37 pm »
+2

Trait outtake from the secret history of plunder
Quote
Instead of following its instructions, may play cheaper card with restrictions. Way of Band of Misfits. Ways were poor here, and Band of Misfits is awful here. So slow.

Why are ways poor in traitland?
Because they're Ways. We had Ways, they were called Ways, they're in Menagerie.

You also had landmarks but that didn't stop plateau shepherds from making its way into Allies. (not to mention Obelisk and the project-y events, but their mechanics weren't in a set yet.)
That line of reasoning never gets you anywhere. Each example you can find will either be one I would do differently today, or an exception with good reason.

Which category does plateau shepherds fall into?
Plateau Shepherds is fine. No regrets.
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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #5546 on: November 28, 2023, 04:35:01 am »
0

Since you errata'd Possession with the multi-turn errata, have you considered it giving even more errata? Such as:
a) Treating returning to its pile the same as trashing. (so that Way Of The Horse can no longer nuke decks)
b) Putting the deck on the discard at the end of the turn, so that the normal turn cannot be ruined by topdeck shenanigans, or by triggering nasty shuffles?

Obviously, this'd make Possession even more wordy, and probably still as inpopular, so I'd totally respect it if you actively decided against it.
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Donald X.

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #5547 on: November 28, 2023, 12:52:47 pm »
+2

Since you errata'd Possession with the multi-turn errata, have you considered it giving even more errata? Such as:
a) Treating returning to its pile the same as trashing. (so that Way Of The Horse can no longer nuke decks)
b) Putting the deck on the discard at the end of the turn, so that the normal turn cannot be ruined by topdeck shenanigans, or by triggering nasty shuffles?

Obviously, this'd make Possession even more wordy, and probably still as inpopular, so I'd totally respect it if you actively decided against it.
I have not.

It only got the multi-turn errata because that was a sweeping change. I reached the point eventually where I just decided to ignore Possession; it's that messed up.

I'm not super into those changes otherwise. I try not to errata cards beyond fixing the rules and making text clear.
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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #5548 on: November 30, 2023, 04:44:07 pm »
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Do you have any resources you'd recommend for a hopeful game designer?

I've read a lot of game theory stuff, but, surprisingly, that is more about econ than fun games.

I'm struggling to find a way to make sure asymmetrical game play is balanced. Any suggestions on what to research?   
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Donald X.

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Re: Interview with Donald X.
« Reply #5549 on: December 01, 2023, 01:59:20 pm »
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Do you have any resources you'd recommend for a hopeful game designer?
BoardGameGeek probably has some stuff?

Writers write; game designers design games. Make a bunch of games and you will learn things; that's all I had myself.

The biggest lesson I can pithily sum up is: it has to be fun to lose. Mostly people lose; you have say four players, only one winner.

I've read a lot of game theory stuff, but, surprisingly, that is more about econ than fun games.
My introduction to game theory was the William Poundstone book Prisoner's Dilemma. It had some cool stuff, and made me think, I should make a game theory game, since games were not really so related to game theory. And I did, Pirate's Dilemma. It made you read 8 cards a turn and consider a 2x2 grid of payoffs. I later simplified this concept down to 2 cards; still a payoff grid but with a hidden axis. That was still hard for a lot of people but seems usable in an actual game. That particular game, man it had a few hardcore fans but it never felt close to publishable.

I'm struggling to find a way to make sure asymmetrical game play is balanced. Any suggestions on what to research?
Obviously the main things you can do are:

1) make the game as balanced as possible aside from that aspect;
2) playtest a lot

Once in a while you can just do the math on a bunch of things; usually not though. Sometimes you can do computer simulations.

In the world of non-Donald-X. games, politics is frequently used to balance asymmetrical games, but I hate that.

In general games are asymmetrical; an asymmetrical game just pushes this more. In Dominion for example, we have the same options, isn't this super symmetrical? But the idea is that the board is actually a puzzle, that it's not just clear what the best thing to do is. So the different cards are desperately trying to be close in power level. They have more leeway to vary than if we just started with different cards, but this element is still there. In a less symmetrical non-asymmetrical game, it will be like, you draw a hand of random cards at the start; there we go, it's asymmetrical. So it's really not such a big leap to a fully asymmetrical game.

The biggest thing is just, well with say that hand of random cards, even though players figure out, "these are the better cards these are the worse ones," that doesn't cover every possible hand. Whereas with the asymmetrical game, maybe you have five roles, and well, players work out the best and worst ones and so much for that. You could try to mitigate this with the other kinds of asymmetry, e.g. those starting hands. There's also uh general "make the players balance this" things e.g. bidding, but, well for me it would need to feel like a great fit otherwise or I wouldn't be satisfied. I mean if it was a bidding game, with another varying start condition so this wasn't merely "have people figured out the overpowered role yet," then it could be fine. We turn over two Twists to modify the game, they change how good the roles are, we bid on roles, and then go on to bid on other things.

Drafting can actually make it good to have disparity - you don't want highs too high or lows too low, but may actively want cards to not all be just as good. So you could draft roles plus other things at the start. I don't need to first pick a role but can only take one. Instead of "someone is handed the best role" it's "someone has the first option at the best role, but may still value something else over it." You can even make that typical, I mean make the other things you draft at the start tend to be more significant than the roles. Well now I am just designing a game.
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