The Card Game Team Shares Their New Year’s Resolutions
Happy (belated) New Year, card game fans! For this designer journal, Nate French decided to take a cue from the season and asked a number of the FFG card game team members if they had any New Year’s gaming resolutions for 2019.
The question was left open-ended, allowing each designer to comment as gamers and competitors, as designers in a general sense, or as the designers of their specific game line. Here’s a peek into the card game team’s gaming lives for the upcoming year!
My resolution this year involves writing as much as physically possible (at least, until I fall asleep on top of my keyboard, anyway). As the lead developer for Arkham Horror: The Card Game, my job requires not just card design work, but also a substantial amount of creative writing, as well as story planning and outlining. When I first joined the card game team in 2012, I had no idea how much fiction writing would become an integral part of my workflow. While creative writing has always been one of my core interests, I never thought I would have the chance to flex those muscles in a professional capacity. I’ve spent the last couple years trying to improve my writing skills as much as possible, not just for the sake of future Arkham products, but also for my own personal satisfaction.
What I noticed last year is that I have a tendency to hit “invisible barriers” every now and then while I am writing. Sometimes it’s just a thought or a sentence that I can’t quite express the right way. Other times it’s a whole story beat that eludes me. My goal this year is to reach the point where I can crash through these barriers without a second thought—or, at the very least, find a way to work around them so they don’t completely stall my word count. Last November I participated in NaNoWriMo, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month, as a self-improvement exercise to help me break through these invisible barriers. The story I ended up with is one I am proud of, and I hope to take the lessons I’ve learned and apply them to my writing in Arkham. I am also hoping to write so much in this upcoming year that when November rolls around again, I can crush NaNoWriMo in 2019!
My personal gaming resolution, inspired by Nate French, is to “get good” at chess. (That is, reach a point where most people who play me would say “yeah, he’s pretty good.”) It’s a game I’ve known how to play as long as I can remember, but never really got into. I’ve been playing a lot more the last few months and finding it fascinating. Some concepts, like material and tempo, translate reasonably well from the board and card games I’ve played. Other ideas, like positional tactics, feel totally foreign to me, and it’s been fun to try to develop in those areas.
I think chess also holds some important lessons for design, which I’ll be looking to incorporate in the new year. In terms of rules and game mechanics, chess is far simpler than most board games I’ve played, and certainly than any LCG. Yet it is a premier competitive game that supports an unmatched level of study and analysis. This is an important notion—the idea that strategic depth is not contingent on mechanical complexity—that I’ll try to carry forward in my own designs.
While 2019 will be all about the Convergence cycle for Star Wars™: Destiny players, we developers basically work a full year in advance, so I’m currently looking ahead to the game's tenth set, which is the start of the cycle that will release in 2020. These are my goals for that cycle:
- Push the envelope. Now that Star Wars: Destiny is more than two years old, some of the novelty has worn off and much of the original design space has already been well explored. As the game matures, it becomes necessary to carve out new design spaces. The Legacies cycle achieved this with the addition of a new symbol (indirect damage) and a new card type (plots). The Convergence cycle endeavors to do this with the addition of downgrades and tribal mechanics. To keep the game fresh and constantly evolving, I am looking to do even more in Set 10 to shake up the game, while of course still honoring what makes Star Wars: Destiny so special in the first place.
- Offer exciting new playstyles. While the meta has been incredibly diverse over the last year in terms of the teams that players have been bringing to tournaments, all these various decks can really be boiled down to a small number of archetypes. Most of the decks fall under the Aggro or Vehicle archetypes, both of which have the same game plan: throw down damage faster than your opponent. I would like to see more of the other archetypes that put a wrinkle in that game plan, like Mill, Control, Combo, or Mid-Range, as well as perhaps even opening up a whole new archetype.
- Connect to the players. I would like to get to more conventions this year and make an effort to meet some of the players and content creators that make the Star Wars: Destiny community so great. If you run into me at an event, don't be shy! I'll be happy to talk with you and hear what you'd like to see in the game.
Over the last several years, I’ve found myself buying games that I am excited to play, but then I never find the time to actually get them to the table. This year, I plan on making the time to try and play a game I’ve never played before each and every week. My motivation for this comes from wanting to expand my horizons, both as a gamer and as a designer. Exploring a greater variety of games will give me greater perspective on design as a whole and hopefully provide further inspiration for my work! I’m looking forward to updating my progress on Twitter as well!
My gaming resolution is to play and study more games that excel at marrying theme to mechanics.
As a gamer, I’m always focused more on the mechanics of a game than the theme. No matter if the game is about ninjas or dinosaurs or aliens or 16th century France (with the exception of games about ninja dinosaur aliens in 16th century France), at the end of the day, most games boil down in my mind to a process of moving cubes and tokens, rolling dice, and playing cards. And that’s usually enough for me. If great art or a good story accompanies the experience, cool, but I rarely feel that these things affect my enjoyment of the game.
However, as a designer, I know that for many, theme is wildly important to the experience, and having a theme that is disassociated from the mechanics can ruin their enjoyment. Conversely, having a strong theme that integrates seamlessly with the core system can often make a game that has less than stellar mechanics seem greater than the sum of its parts.
Throughout this year, I plan to play games that do a good job of merging theme with mechanics. My hope is that in studying games that do this well, I’ll refine my ability to do this for the games I work on, and craft more powerful thematic experiences for the players who seek them.
My gaming resolution for this year is to take advantage of an opportunity this summer to fulfill a life dream and play in a World Series of Poker event.
I began dabbling with poker in 2005 (back in the “boom” era), and I have been playing and studying regularly since 2013. I’ve always thought in the back of my mind that I’d like to play a World Series at some point, but never quite pulled the trigger. A number of circumstances have come together to make it clear that this is the year for me to take the plunge.
To prepare, I have been playing more, studying more, and am also now learning from a professional coach. My goal is to do all I can to immerse myself in the game over the next five months. This type of focus has re-connected me with everything I love and obsess over about games: the communities, the metagame, the analysis, the sense of working at something and getting better over time. Whether it’s poker, chess, the A Game of Thrones CCG, or the newest game I’m working on, I am happiest when a game rises up like this and consumes me.
Regardless of the results (for variance will ultimately be variance), I feel that this experience will help me grow as a competitor and as a designer, and I am immensely grateful for the path this year has placed in front of me.
Thanks for reading, and may you succeed with all of your own New Year’s resolutions!