By now, I am sure you have all figured out that my current top TCG is “Infinity Wars.” The game is much deeper than pretty much any other TCG on mobile dedicated platform. However, when it is compared to goldstandard like Magic the Gathering or desktop dedicated TCGs like Carte, there are still missing pieces (in my opinion of course). In this article, I am focusing on one of the aspect that I truly wish to have the game implemented. I have already touched this subject on other article, but decided to make a dedicated one as I truly believe this is important concept.
What is instant/intercept play?
The word “instant” came from the game Magic the Gathering. In Carte, it’s called burst magic. They are a specific card type that a player can cast any time during the game including during opponent’s turn. It essentially provides “interception” ability against opponent’s move despite its his turn. Basically the absence or presence of instant/intercept play separates TCG into purely turn based TCG vs. more dynamic interactive TCG. By no means this is an exhaustive list, but here are some games that provides instant/intercept play vs. purely turn based.
|Purely turn based (PTB)||Dynamic Interactive Play (DIP)|
|Infinity Wars||Magic the gathering|
|Shadow Era||Yu Gi Oh|
|Eye of Judgment||World of Warcraft|
Whether you like one type of game play or other, or perhaps don’t care but you may be able to see some general pattern here. Generally speaking, dynamic interactive capability possessing games are not on mobile platform. Note that “Duels of Planeswalker” is toned down version of Magic and not the same as full blown unlimited Magic that is on PC, called Magic Online.
Why do we want intercept play?
Another mechanics, more variation in the game play. Furthermore, the true feel of that you “countered” opponent’s move comes when you actually act against opponent’s particular move at that instant when he/she attempt rather than waiting for your turn to come. In fact, there is even a specific deck type focused on intercept play.
Why so many games does not haveintercept play?
- Simply some people don’t like the mechanics.Some people simply hates the concept of your move can be truly countered at the moment you do something. The greatest example is Magic’s spell called “cancel”. This spell can negate pretty much anything that your opponent tries to cast. So he/she may decide to cast a gigantic creature, or super spell and as soon as she tries to put the card on the board, you can say “wait. I am going to use cancel spell [to cancel it].” If you are countering, I am sure you feel pretty good, but if you were the one got countered may even feel cheated.
The creator of Shadow Era actually does not like this type of interaction and therefore, specifically stated the game will never have instant like card.
- Difficult to implement on digital worldSecond major reason is difficult implementation on digital world. Magic Online as in the real physical card game allows true instant play. However, because it allows such, each player have to essentially hit “No” after almost every move your opponent makes to specifically state you are not using instant against what has just done by your opponent. This interaction simply gets annoying really quickly, and someone can abuse it i.e. instead of hitting “No”, wait until the whole automatic timer expiration i.e. you have to wait 10 seconds after every move you make.In physical world, you have to just shout that you have a counter, so it’s an easy trick but digital world this is just not the case. If you let computer decide whether you even have an option to use instant i.e. have instant spell in your hand, then you are basically telling your opponent that you got some sort of instant in your hand. Though not a same as completely revealing your hand, but still this provides unnecessary and unwanted information leak.
What’s the solution?
Whether it was intentional or not, Yu Gi Oh had a pretty good solution against issue #2 listed above. (Note issue #1 is subjective preference so no solution). It is called “trap card”.
Conceptually, this is identical to what Magic’s cancel does. The difference here is that in Magic, instant cards come directly from your hand i.e. to allow this type of implementation computer must ask a player after every move even the player does not have “instant” spell in his/her hand i.e. Issue #2 arises.
Whereas with a trap card implementation, a player put trap card on the field faced down before he/she can use it. So the presence of potential intercept capable card is no longer hidden against opponent. I.e. in digital world, computer only needs to give an option to a player to for potential intercept when there is a trap card on the field.
Passive vs. Active Trap
For those of you who play Shadow Era (which should be fair number of my blog reader), you may argue why I placed Shadow Era on the PTB rather than DIP when there are clearly trap cards. The reason is based on this “passive vs. active trap” difference.
In passive trap, traps are triggered based on a specific event. So you as a controller of the trap really does not have a control once the trap is placed on the board. It just simply triggers whenever the condition is met. Here is an example,
Your opponent can cast 1 cost Ally or 6 cost Ally. This card can kill either as long as its the first one summoned. So generally speaking, once you know what types of traps are there in the game, even there is a trap against you, you technically have a control whether to have the trap triggered or not. Here is a third trap card in the game (which is from upcoming first expansion).
Now the other trap in the game in case you don’t know is called Net trap and rather than destroying next summoned opposing ally, it disables for 3 turns. My guess is there will be at least one more trap card in the next expansion. But looking at above three, it still gives opponent player control over the what trap to be executed and even potentially result in “information leak.”
Here is an example,
Player A: Cast a trap (faced down)
Player B: You know a trap is there. You don’t want to have your ally killed/disabled but if it is going to happen, you’d rather have it against your cheap ally. So you cast a 1 cost ally rather than 6 costing ally. If trap goes off, you have successfully consumed opponent’s trap, and saved your precious expensive powerful ally. Now if it didn’t trigger, you now know what the trap exactly is. Because the other two should have been triggered automatically, so the trap must be “Rolling Boulders”. You can now safely continue to cast allies up to cost of 4 without a fear.
Obviously, as the number of trap increases this will change but the underlying fact the trap is passive i.e. opponent has more control than you remains.
In contrast, Yu Gi Oh’s trap is “active”. You as a owner of trap can make a decision whether to use the trap when the triggering event is met. This distinction is what makes Shadow Era still PTB rather than DIP.
Game like Carte realizes this distinction exist and therefore has actually both “trap card”, which in Carte is passive but also has “instant” equivalent cards called “burst magic”.
Infinity Wars ~ Set/potential for the best? ~
Infinity Wars have a very interesting mechanics called “Simultaneous play.” By itself, you can now have a “speculative counter play” i.e. you predict what is going to happen and make a counter based on the prediction. However, these are not the same as true intercept i.e. you actually see what opponent does and counter at the moment. So can the Infinity Wars implement “true” i.e. intercept type counter mechanics?
I believe “simultaneous play” provides a phenomenal ground for potential support of the true counter mechanics. There are four potential methods I can think of.
1. Trap Cards
Basically, just as in Yu Gi Oh. Create an trap card and have them placed on the support zone as faced down card. If a trap card is present on the board, that player get a time to decide whether to use the trap or not.
Now, simultaneous play provides actually a benefit here. Since the actual execution of cards by each player are already decided during by the time the resolution phase initiates, developers can make it so that the trap user can see all the actions i.e. new character deployment, character movement, and chains of abilities to be executed to the trap user. Perhaps, this can be indicated by semitransparent appearance to represent the fact, these are actually not yet resolved cards. And based on these, trap user can decide whether to use his trap or not during the resolution phase.
The benefit of this approach is if opponent has to wait, he/she does not have to wait for every action but rather just one time per turn (same phase). So no information leak what your trap is, and the extra waiting only happens when there is trap on the board.
Place this face down. You may use this trap any time when there is change in opponent’s battle field. When the trap is executed, all the cards on opponent’s battle field receive 3 damages.
2. Ability Based Intercept
Perhaps most realistic chance for potential implementation though personally the least favorite of all is have intercept as ability of some characters or locations. Both you and opponent see the potential intercept is there so not much surprise, but in order to use these abilities you have to pay resource just as in other abilities in the game. So you can potentially use this as strong bluff. The actual mechanics is basically if you have enough resources save up i.e. unused during your action phase, and specific even that you can intercept occurs during the resolution phase, the computer gives you the option to intercept.
The reason behind paying beforehand is to give options of which intercept to use if there are multiple types on the board instead of requiring to spend resources for all before they even become option.
Pay 3: You may cancel a target opponent’s ability.
This 3 resource paying can be decided at the time of resolution phase as described in Trap cards section. But clearly, you have to have unused 3 resources in order to even get this as an option. The potential advantage of this is not requiring to add any new card type, no potential wasting of time in terms of computer wasting time on NOT even possible intercept condition, and add new level of bluff power i.e. your opponent may fear to get intercept. The downside is again no true surprise exist there.
3. Disassociate Resolution Phase = Time Card
This may perhaps be a bit overpowered (or not) type of intercept but perhaps only possible because of “Simutaneous play” mechanics. Basically, have a card that allows you to completely do your turn after seeing what opponent does/is going to do. For this type of play, I may even create a new card type as well, called “Time Card.” Conceptually, these cards change the “time.” You can now basically see a future. This one is probably the easiest to show examples.
Vision of Magic
Type – Time
You can see opponent’s abilities cards before completion of the resolution.
Vision of Fight
Type – Time
You can see opponent’s battle field change.
Vision of Summon
Type – Time
You can see opponent’s newly summoned characters.
Vision of Hand
Type – Time
You can see opponent’s Hand.
Vision of Deck
Type – Time
You can see opponent’s next 5 cards on the deck.
Basically, by saying these are time card basically you will do your actual actions after opponent’s decide everything i.e. hit his “End Turn” Then computer selectively shows the part of the pending action taken by the opponent. So these card itself don’t really cancel, or directly counter your opponent’s specific card BUT since you now can really see what he/she does, you can counter with regular cards you have. For instance, you can decide to use Mass Death or not after Vision of Fight, what characters are about to be on opponent’s board.
The last option is basically the famous instant spell on Magic or Burst Magic on Carte. You can cast this type of card directly from your hand as long as you have enough resources saved up. Again, “simultaneous play” provides great potential for this. As described in trap, both players can potentially see all the board changes, chains of abilities that are about to happen. Then there can be a specific time break like 5-10 seconds, and if you have an instant, you can just cast it there.
This still will create additional extra time between each turn that may perhaps be unnecessary for majority of time; however, unlike other games, this is not based on every move but rather once per turn so should not be too bad. In fact, developers may be able to find a ideal time for this. Basically, let’s say give 5 seconds to decide whether to “Intercept” or not. If answered yes, give another 30 seconds. Obviously, you only get a choice of saying “yes” when there is valid “instant card” in your hand; however, your opponent won’t know if you said “no” or it was automatic time out. This is because once you are good player and if wants to avoid unnecessary information leak, you probably won’t hit “yes” and not choose to use “instant”. Though you technically can, but by doing so you have now almost made your own mistake leaking information rather than systematic issue.
Type – Ability Instant
You can cancel the selected card from its resolution.
Now I don’t know what you all think, but I truly want to see “intercept” mechanics in the Infinity Wars. That is the reason why I spent time writing this post, and hopefully one of the blog reader who may be more creative than I am, which probably most of you are, stands up and say “here is a better way of intercept in the game.” And hopefully that can catch some of the developers attention. Personally among the four different way of developing intercept, I actually like to see all of them implement as each provides “true intercept” but in a different way. Simultaneous play does not actually take away the potential of “intercept” play but rather I believe give the greatest potential of all digital games if Lightmare decides to implement one.
For discussion, please cast your opinion/vote on official infinity Wars forum: http://lightmare.com.au/forum/index.php?topic=495