About this time last year I was thinking about balancing cards in games. I had just received a Kickstarter game and played it a bit, only to find that I was a little disappointed in the way some of the cards were strictly better than others. A quick look online showed that I was not alone in my thinking, there were a few cards people complained were simply “too good.” By my concerns went deeper…
It’s disappointing when another player draws a card that seems to give them an unfair advantage over you, but it’s as bad if not worse to draw a card that seems to give you an unfair disadvantage compared to everybody. This particular game seemed to have both of these pitfalls, and while people were complaining about it I asked myself: how would I have done it differently?
What I came up with was a description of the process I normally follow, which I formally outlined and posted on my game design blog in a post called Balancing Game Elements.
In that post, I urge designers to make sure their game elements are balanced – that is to say similarly powerful. This is especially important when the elements are obtained by a random draw.
To be clear, the goal is not to make every element in the game identical. The goal is to make sure that one element isn’t strictly better than another, and that one player doesn’t get an big unfair advantage based on the luck of the draw.
I’ve had a few people reference that article lately, and so I thought it might be worth bringing up again. I hope this helps both fledgling and veteran designers find ways to strengthen their games by providing a method to balance things!
Now, if someone could just write a comprehensive article about game end triggers and dynamics… that’s an area I could really use some help in!