Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Game Balance

In Collectible Card Games, balance is a very interesting concept.  I mean, you want to have some stronger cards in your set, and a few really tough ones so that people get excited about collecting and playing those cards in their decks.  So, how is it that a game can be balanced if some cards are so powerful?

Achilles heels

One way to impact the powerful cards is to instill some weakness in the card itself.  Make the special rule such that it’s powerful impact only comes into play in certain circumstances.  This is the limit on “The Work of God” and “The Glory of God”  Their Ability only triggers when they’re together.

Other Powerful Cards

Another way to temper the power of a big bad card is to have other big bad cards that can stand up to it.  In Magic or Yu-Gi-Oh, the biggest baddest monsters always have to deal with other bigger, badder monsters.

High costs

In the economy of the game, more powerful cards should be harder, or “more expensive” to play.  Pearl verses, for example, all cost a sacrifice cost of at least 3 to play, one even costs 4.


One simple way to balance out powerful cards is to make them rarer.  This can be done either in the game itself, by using the “Unique” special rule, or in the meta game, by including fewer of the powerful cards in the sets or packs.

Ultimately, it takes a lot of playtesting to determine if a set of cards is balanced.

Brendon and I made decks tonight and played a game or two. I’m very pleased that both of our constructed decks played very well against the other.  Neither one felt to be too overly powerful.    I don’t mind if a deck is powerful, as long as it’s not an automatic win every time.  As long as something can bring it down, it’s good by me.

Last week, we also playtested some games with random decks made from a set of one of each card.  That played out pretty well.  Then, we added an extra set of “normal” (not powered) verses (so there were two of each of those, and one each of the strong verses).  Those games played out pretty nicely as well.

I’m still finding verse with ambiguous wording, or other errors, but those are becoming fewer, and I’m getting more and more confident in the balance of the verses.  It’s exciting.


Mark has a lifelong testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church). Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his Dutch Oven blog.

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