Multiplayer and Combat Priority Changes — Algomancy Development Log 5

Hello! It’s been a while since my last post, and so much has happened! A short recap:

  • Digital playtesting is now openly available for anyone! More info on that here.
  • I have updated hundreds of cards, which you can automatically see when I make changes in the discord’s #card-changes channel. Right now I have to manually push these to the client daily, and I usually announce in the discord when that happens.
  • I created a discord bot that allows you to view card images by typing “$card cardname” and am beginning to add a rules feature as well (which will pull information from this rules glossary).
  • We ran an 8 person Algomancy tournament last weekend, (congrats to Shadyshores for winning it!) and there is another, larger coming up this weekend! You can find it in the discord events, or here.
  • 4 player games are now possible, which you can access through the drop down menu in the playtesting lobby (shown below).

Problems With Initiative

Since we’ve been able to run a few multiplayer games, a key problem with the basic game flow became a lot more apparent. This effect was present in single player games as well, although less pronounced. So I expect this change to have a positive effect on all types of Algomancy gameplay.

The problem was twofold: First, having the initiative was exclusively downside. This isn’t a problem necessarily, as the effect is traded each turn. But it can lead to a negative experience when half of the turns are played from a disadvantaged position.

The second, and much more impactful problem was essentially that players could “run away” from your attackers. In single player this happened when a player attacks with something like fireball guy below:

When he attacks, he conjures a fireball in his skirmish that can only be used in that zone. So if your opponent had a creature you wanted to kill, for example Elusive Pummeler, they could simply attack you with it and escape from the fireball unharmed. In fact, if they attacked with all of their creatures you couldn’t use the fireball on anything (except their base, which is good but not as useful as removing a creature).

In single player, if you had a removal spell for the elusive pummeler, you could guarantee the ability to interact with it by attacking with one creature. Then, whether the opponent attacked or not you would be in the same region as the pummeler and could cast spells on it.

In multiplayer, the other player can simply attack your teammate with every single creature, leaving you with absolutely zero targets and a lot of wasted mana. If you have resources open for removal spells, then the defending player can run away from you and waste your mana. If you don’t leave resources open, they can attack you and punish you for not having interaction. It makes it really difficult to interact with anything, and particularly tough to deal with an annoying creature even if you have the removal for it!

The Fix – Combat Priority Changes

Fortunately, it seems that the solution to this problem is fairly simple: Give the team with initiative priority after they attack, BEFORE the other team gets to attack. You can cast spells, resolve creature abilities, etc. during this time (and the defender can still react through spells and abilities, but they cannot move their creatures away from you until after the priority step has passed.)

This means you could send over a fireball guy and resolve your fireball on the elusive pummeler before it has a chance to get away. You can guarantee your targets for removal spells will still be there when you arrive, so you won’t waste open resources trying to kill something that you can’t target. With initiative you get to set the terms of engagement.

This makes sense to me flavorfully and I think really helps push the initiative into a healthier direction by giving it a balance of upside and downside. Yes you do have to move first, allowing your opponent to react. But your action now comes with a bit of, for lack of a better word, Initiative. As the first mover you set the terms of combat and can guarantee that creatures will be around for your interaction. This allows you to remove things like Fireball Guy from the opponent’s board before they get a chance to attack with it and get their combat triggers.

Overall I hope this change will be a net positive for the two reasons I mentioned. First, as a balancing change to solve a problem. But also to help reduce the amount of negative feeling a player had when playing with the initiative. Players in my discord even started referring to it as the “Obligation”, which I think was fairly appropriate given how it used to work. Hopefully it can live up to its original name now.

Ramifications of This Change

The biggest impact of this rules change is in the functionality of conjured spells. Previously there was only one attackers step, so all of the conjured spells would fire off at once. Now there are effectively two.

For now, I am going to say that players have the option of using conjured spells in either of the two attack steps. If a spell is not used in one, then it must be used during the other.

I am also adding the rules change that conjured spells that are made during the main phase must be brought with into combat if they wish to be cast there. (Effectively, you need to declare each conjured spell as an attacker). There is no formation for the spells or anything like that, but the logic is that they are all traveling together.

For example, I cast a Flame Juggle on my main step when my opponent has initiative.

When they attack me (with fireball guy, for example). They also will have some conjured fireballs. After their declared attackers, they MUST use their fireball from fireball guy (because this is the only declare attackers step it will encounter).

I then have the option to use my fireballs at that moment, or carry them with me if I do make an attack into another location. If I do neither of those two options, the spell will go away.

IF the above ruling proves too complicated, I could foresee a world where conjured spells move towards “You can play them any time during combat”. Like face-up quick spells. I am hoping to avoid that, as I think the different speeds provide some interesting variation between them and quick spells. But we will see.

What’s Next

I think I am going to start working on another faction for Algomancy. This will help make multiplayer a lot better, as the card pool is potentially too small to finish a longer 4 player game. I’m leaning towards water, but earth is also tempting 🙂

I’m going to be running regular tournaments in the discord, as well as scheduled 4 player events for those who are interested. Check the events for more info on those!

I know there is a problem with the first turn or so of the game, so I am working on a fix for that. The default play of swap 2 historic cards for stuff and take 2 resources seems to be increasing the variance of games a bit more than I would like. So I may do something to slow things down.

I also recognize there is a problem with how historic cards are selected, as the variance of one random card is a lot less appealing than a guaranteed pick from a pack. So I will be working on this too.

I am planning on some major terminology changes, perhaps replacing “Attack” with “Journey” and “Skirmish” with “Region”. Then using “in formation” to mean in combat, and in this region to mean nearby. This may clear things up in situations where creatures are created in the “attacking zone” but aren’t attacking. This idea is almost finished, but not quite enough to complete yet.

Alongside the above rules change, modifying card text to make the separation of regions more apparent is something I am going to work on as well.

2 thoughts on “Multiplayer and Combat Priority Changes — Algomancy Development Log 5

  1. Great work. As always. How do you find time for all of this? 🙂 This does not stop to amaze me how productive you are. “Magic” community needed you. I am getting closer and closer to just printing it all and start preaching about this game in my play group 🙂

    • Hey thank you! And haha I just love what I do so its not really a burden to “work” long hours on it 🙂 and that would be awesome! I will be making print sheets available for the first two factions very soon! (probably by the end of this week).

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