first of all I would like to congratulate you for a fantastic job done with Faeria so far! I installed the game as it went live on Steam and I had a great time learning the basics. All my teamates in EnLightning Gaming who were interested in competitive CCGs on a digital platform also installed the game and we had long discussions about the design choices and the potential for eSports. Below is a summary of our thoughts so far on competitive gameplay mechanics, as per anything else in the game we don’t have any strong opinions and believe that it has a very good overall design with any issues being addressed somewhere else in the Feedback and Suggestions board.
On Predictability and Strategic Play in battlefield development and resource management. This, we believe, is the prime example of why this game really stands out in the CCG market. Faeria and lands directly determine the configuration space of game-states (how games plays out) and their generation and management is predictable and symmetric for both players (wells and power-wheel are identical for both players). This creates a Chess-like layer of strategy, only at the level of land placement and Faeria farming, that makes Faeria more akin to perfect-information RTS games than any other digital card game. This is a feature that we greatly praise since history has proven that games like Chess or Starcraft, both sharing the symmetry and, to a degree, the perfect information of positional play and resources, excel at creating deep 1v1 experiences with ample room for serious competitive play.
On Card Design and Deck Building. Card types (creature, struture and event) and card design (Faeria cost, colour requirement, attack and life…) together with the current diversity of effects provide a very heathy starting point for competitive deck building. The redundancy ratio (copies of the same card per deck) is 3/30=1/10 which is far better than Magic: the Gathering’s or HearthStone’s 4/60=2/30=1/15. This fact combined with the overall higher draw rate in Faeria as compared to MtG and HS (mainly due to the power-wheel draw option) makes deck archetypes in Faeria more predictable and consistent than in other card games. Again, we believe that this builds on top of the predictability of land placement and resource farming described above to consolidate Faeria as an obvious candidate for a serious card game eSport.
On Strategic Depth and Skill Ceiling. There are two metrics that provide a rough way to compare the strategic depth of turn-based strategy games, which one argues is directly related to the skill ceiling: Cumulative Decisions (CD) and Configuration Space Growth (CSG), we briefly define them and give estimates for Chess, HearthStone and Faeria at the bottom of the post. Simply by looking at the summary tables presented at the end of the post it becomes clear that, at least at the level of raw amounts of decision making and game variability, Faeria is closer to Chess than it is to HearthStone, in fact, only looking at this aspect of the game, Faeria has even higher metrics than Chess (mainly due to movement/attack mechanics in the hexgrid and the power-wheel). We regard this as enough proof that the basic design choices made for Faeria, as discussed in the lines above, set the ground for very deep and nuanced competitive play that, provided a balanced card pool (see the item below), will give a virtually indefinitely high skill ceiling, similar to that of Chess, where the better player has a very high win rate over a lesser player. This is yet another strong reason why we would pick Faeria as our turn-based eSport of choice for serious competition in the present-day digital market.
On the Card Pool and Randomised Effects. The existing card pool for Faeria is sizeable, diverse and, overall, seems to encourage the standard CCG and resource-based strategy game archetypes (aggro all-in, aggro midrange, fast control, economic control, combo…) in a balanced manner. However, and this is pretty much our only criticism, we are disappointed to find a fair amount of built-in randomised effects in the current card pool. We hope the above three points help justifying our disappointment: Faeria doesn’t need the added randomness to work, potentially really well, as a competitive 1v1 strategy game. A shuffled deck provides a level of variation that is welcome, specially with the extra consistency given by Faeria’s deck building rules, and whose probabilistic nature is well-understood and symmetric for both players. Players can count played copies of cards and make educated guesses quickly computing simple probabilities in their heads (as any competitive MtG player is used to doing) which adds a layer of “probabilistic” decision-making on top of all the other “deterministic” mechanics described above. We regard this as a positive feature of the game since optimal, possibly probability-based, plays can be decided by an average human player within the time limits of a turn in the game. The problem with built-in randomised effects, such as those of Spellwhirl and Hellfire, is that a similar way of making educated guesses is no longer possible within the time limits of a turn. We will not elaborate too much on the notion of taming randomness as a game mechanic, something that is required in any strategy game involving built-in randomness, but we feel that, beyond the well-known and de facto manageable randomness of a shuffled deck, Faeria doesn’t need any further source of probabilistic variability.
We hope this is useful for the future of this game as we believe it really has a chance at becoming the next big turn-based eSport. I personally will carry on playing and posting further comments in the future.
See you in game!
Metrics for Strategic Depth in Turn-Based Strategy Games
CD and CSG are functions of the form m(t) where both m, the metric, and t, the number of turns elapsed, are integers; as we shall see that they are not completely independent from each other but together provide a good insight of how a player’s strategic options develop in the course of a game. CD is the total number of different decisions that a player could have made after a number of turns, including all the potential ramifications. CSG is the total number of game states that become available for a player to access through decisions after a number of turns. Here we would like to compare three games: Chess, HearthStone and Faeria; and in doing so we will make some simplifying assumptions (like considering an “average” competitive deck for HS and Faeria and “sensible” moves for Chess) and take averages to illustrate the notions of CD and CSG - this is so that we can keep this discussion concise, obviously one can apply game theory and discrete mathematics to gain increasingly deeper understanding of turn-based games but this is not our aim in this post. Let us consider Chess first, piece movements are the decisions and board configurations are the game states, we can thus estimate: CD(Chess)=(10,85,300,2000,…) exponentially blows up very quickly, and CSG(Chess)=(10,27,40,55,78…) as the game progresses and players lose pieces the CSG stabilises at an average of ~80 and eventually decreases, the upper bound for total distinct states accessible via piece movement in a single turn is not too diferent (certainly of the same order of magnitude) as the average stable value since it is estimated at around ~300, a number that results from considering the number of squares, average number of pieces and average number of legal movements in a Chess game. For HearthStone decisions are playing cards, attacking or activating abilities and game states are cards on the board and life points, then we estimate: CD(HS)=(1,3,6,9,11,19,42,…) grows geometrically, much slower than exponential, and CSG(HS)=(1,1,1,2,4,7,12,…,) the CSG stabilses at an average of ~12 after a few turns and due to the built-in limitations of the game (board size, deck size and mana storage) the CSG is bounded above by ~250. On to Faeria, decisions and game states are a combination of the corresponding notions introduced in Chess and HS with the addition of land placement, then we have CD(Faeria)=(20,58,300,1500,5000,…) exponentially blows up very quickly, the reason for this fast increase in game options is the combinatorial contribution of land placement in the hexboard and the constant use of the power-wheel. The second metric is CSG(Faeria)=(18,33,47,80,…), land placement and creature movement/attack makes up for the relative low count of “moving pieces” in the early turns and makes Faeria’s CSG very similar to that of Chess (which has a high count of moving pieces in the early turns). Faeria games will take longer to reach an average CSG, if at all reached, and the number of turns to get there will vary greatly from game to game. Faeria’s 36-tile hex grid, together with the movement and attack mechanics already implemented in the game, makes for a ridiculously high upper bound for CSG at ~2000, this is an estimate of the theoretical maximum but the average game will stabilse at around ~130. In summary:
(early) Cumulative Decisions
Configuration Space Growth
Chess: avg 80 , max 300
Hearthstone: avg 20 , max 250
Faeria: avg 130 , max 2000