Today I’m just going to lay out the basics of an idea I have been working through. It’s not completely finished yet, but if it plays as well as it looks, I think it will make the game a lot better.
When playtesting Algomancy, I often had a lot of fun in the first few turns of the game. Looking at the overwhelming possibilities that were presented to me, it was fun knowing I could explore any one of a number of different directions.
For example, I’ve got an interesting early start with a tokens archetype thanks to the crazy enabling abilities of Icon of Prosperity. I’m making a bunch of flowers and life is good.
The problem that I noticed is that when your opponent kills your big enabler, that fun and synergy can stop in a moments notice. Once Icon of Prosperity dies, I’m at the whims of the draft cards to help me establish something new and continue the fun.
Of course, the game is completely full of awesome enablers so you can move on fairly easily. But even if you find a new enabler to replace the old one, there is a lack of continuity that is somehow unsatisfying in some cases.
Once I start playing flowers and doing fun flower things, I don’t really want it to stop. There is a certain amount of time I want that experience to last so that it feels meaningful. I want the player to think “I am in the Flower archetype” so they can get really excited about new flower enablers or payoffs that show up in the packs. This doesn’t need to last the entire draft, but I think it should be able to extend beyond a single turn cycle.
If you take Icon of Prosperity, play it and it immediately dies that turn, its hard to get that feeling. The cards and abilities feel very temporary in cases like this.
To combat this, I want to add some inertia into the game. Some way to make the abilities and fun a little bit stickier, so that even if your card gets killed immediately there are more lasting benefits of having selected that specific card.
I don’t have a name for the mechanic yet, so we’re going with “Grafting”. Augmenting or modifying are also options. Either way, the name doesn’t matter right now. Let’s just talk about the idea.
If you look at Dryad Scout’s ability, there is a little 🔀 symbol in there denoting the ability is viable for this mechanic. The general formula for abilities is Cause -> Effect. What this symbol does is allow you to modify the cause or effect of your ability with another card that has that symbol. For example, if we re-make Icon of Prosperity with this template, its ability would look something like this:
There are a lot of different ways to enable the “Grafting” mechanic, but for now I’m thinking that it will be a one time activation out of the graveyard and can be placed either on top or bottom of an existing card by paying the cost of the original card. Once the card that has been grafted onto dies, you shuffle the grafted card back into the draft pool instead of your discard. (or perhaps both cards?)
So in the example above where our Icon of Prosperity died, we now have the ability to graft it from our discard onto another one of our cards and keep the effect going. Below are the two possible example configurations we could create by grafting our Icon onto the Dryad Scout.
(Note: I am still not sure about being able to graft on top of the card, as it makes the concept of single use really difficult to track. If you can only graft beneath the card, it becomes a lot easier. But the possibilities are much more limited. So it may only be the first option that is possible. Or perhaps I get rid of the single use clause? If you have thoughts on this please share them! Update as I am writing this: I could also just shuffle back both grafted cards always, so there is a bit of risk in using the ability that you lose what it was put onto as a potential option for grafting later.)
The card on the left now says “When Dryad Scout deals damage to an opponent, gain one life AND create a 1/1 flower token.”, and the card on the right now says “When another nontoken Flower enters play, create a 1/1 flower token AND gain one life. (Another note, the wording may work better as OR, but I like starting my ideas with the biggest possible and only cutting back when playtesting says otherwise.)
Not Just Creatures
There is no real reason why this graft mechanic would need to be limited to only creature abilities. Spells should work with them just fine too! Once you’ve cast the spell and it is sitting in your discard pile, being able to pay its cost to graft it onto an existing creature can really add some oomph. The Dryad Scout below would bring back creatures and gain life whenever it hit a player!
I haven’t exactly figured out a way to handle spell-on-spell grafting. Perhaps you pay the cost as you cast it and remove the card from the discard pile? I’m not sure if I like that, as it would make you need to be aware of your opponent’s discard during combat, which is a lot of things to look at. But I will keep it in mind nonetheless.
I think this ability has a ton of potential to add depth into the game without the need for lengthy textboxes. It mimics my idea of ability combos (which I discuss here) in that it moves the game towards emergent complexity, rather than individual card complexity. This allows me to simplify my designs even further while actually adding even more depth into the gameplay.
I think this mechanic will do a lot towards the replay-ability of the game, since each card can take on an almost unlimited number of roles in any given situation.
Right now I am planning to test this with an unlimited number of grafts possible onto a single card. I suspect this will be a bad idea but I may as well test it.
I am extremely aware of the potential this may create for infinite combos. I will be explicit in my design of these cards to prevent this from happening. “Only once per turn” clauses may be necessary in some cases.
The potential to immediately play a creature and then graft onto it before your opponent can interact is a little scary, so I am exploring the idea of grafting being a mechanic you can only do at end of turn as opposed to main phase. This means your opponent would get a chance to interact with any creatures you play before they are grafted with crazy abilities.
Right now this is only templated for triggered and activated abilities. Being able to graft static abilities would be an awesome addition. Because static abilities don’t require any trigger, they should in theory be graftable onto any card. I can maybe using a different symbol to demonstrate that a static ability is graftable.
Moving the graftable portion of the ability to a new line may be a good idea? Something like this. To help with visibility. The downside is it will make all the textboxes substantially larger.
Along those lines, moving the textbox to the very bottom of the card may help make things look better, so there is no card border between grafted cards? It will make it more difficult to identify the bottom card at a glance though. This is a quick mockup that I made a little bit ago of how that might look. It is hard to tell, but basically there would be a black border on the bottom of the cards so when two overlapped they would look more like one card with an extra ability.
The downside is that it makes it fairly difficult to tell if a card has been augmented.
Below is how the ability currently looks in person (with my poor print quality test cards). This was before I had added the ability icon. It is also an example of a combination that might be a little too powerful.
Anyway, that’s all I have for today! There is obviously a lot of design changes with the individual cards that would need to take place in order to make this happen, so please let me know how you feel about this mechanic in the comments!
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