Saturday, November 8, 2014

NoBloMo #7 - Are There Neglected Cards and Components in Board Games?

After playing a lot of Star Realms and reading people talk about their favorite cards to get during matches, it got me thinking about the cards that people DON'T go for. Then it got me thinking more about the CCG (collectible card game) and LCG (living card game) scene out there, about cards that never get any playtime because other cards eclipse them completely. Now, I'm not entirely sure how the metagame is for something like NetRunner (if anyone can enlighten me, let me know), but I'm sure there may be some cards that no one even bothers with at all when deck-building.

What I'm getting at is, are there cards and components in board games that suffer the same fate? As in, are there things that people absolutely stay away from using, simply because they're trite, worthless, and only exists for "newbs" to play with?

The Same Routine

I'm sure everyone has a particular tactic that they enjoy using which focuses more on certain components than others. And, if it helps lead you closer to that win, why wouldn't someone use that strategy? You might say this is an exploit of sorts, and it may be. But what makes a game good is if the designers are aware of it, and provide changes in gameplay to allow equal circulation of the less-favorable abilities and whatnot.

My go-to argument for broken or neglected cards probably has to go to any CCG early on, like Magic: The Gathering or Yu-Gi-Oh. In there, you'll find LOTS of cards that people just never cared for. Normal monsters, or cards that didn't give many abilities or actions. Everyone wants those special action cards that do more per turn, or the rare cards that everyone's seeking and trading for. All of a sudden, your deck now "must have" these cards in order for you to even have a chance at winning tournament matches. In a game where less cards = drawing what you need more frequently, the "need to have" cards number close to the minimum deck requirement, leaving little room to add your own customization. I've written about this before, and it has taken me out of the hobby entirely.

Things Board Games Do Right

There are a few things that board games do to mitigate this issue, and fortunately many employ these into their gameplay to have players "deal with it."

Things like randomly-allocating resources evens the playing field for favorable actions. It forces players to see what's available, then make the best possible choice out of what they got. The random selection of guilds in Belfort is a good example. Any game that gives players secret objectives also can influence players' gameplay styles. Playing Dead of Winter is different every time, since secret objectives require you to slightly adjust your actions to benefit your own goals.

Some games also provide a balanced system that counters imbalance in gameplay. Nothing comes to mind, but I've seen systems that give negative actions for acquiring powerful items early in the game, and others where doing the minor, lesser actions give long-term rewards in the end. 

What games do you feel have lesser-used actions and components? Do you feel like they're worthless in the game?
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