【HEX】 Mechanics Analysis: Resource System

Those of you who is frequent visitor to this blog by now should have figured out that I enjoy analyzing/dissecting the game mechanics as much as the TCG itself.  To me the mechanics of the game itself speaks the potential what the game is capable of in the future.  So in next few days, I will try to look into each of the HEX game mechanics, and hopefully for those who have never played TCG that is as sophisticated as HEX, these series will provide some basic understanding.  In this first of the series, let’s take a look at HEX’s resource system

What’s resource?

Most TCG have some sort of resource system so that you won’t be casting a ultrapowerful card on turn 1.  Basically, the resource pays the cost to use a specific card.  For example, you may have a card that says it cost 5 resources to use.  So you have to have the 5 resources.  These resources are usually something you build up.  In magic, it is called “mana” and represented by “land card.”  In game like Shadow Era, you don’t have a specific card but each turn you can sacrifice one of your card into a resource pile to build up the resource.  Some game like Infinity Wars has automatic resource build up system i.e. each turn your cumulative resource point automatically increases.Si

What resource system does HEX use?

Very similar to that of Magic the gathering.  You have dedicated resource cards which are five types:  Ruby, Diamond, Saphire, Wild and Blood.

General rule is you may only cast up to 1 resource per turn.

Issues with resource card based system

Perhaps nothing is perfect but resource card based system have their own flaws. Two major ones often talked about in Magic the Gathering are mana flood and mana screw.  Basically, you only draw a card per turn and the card can be either resource card or non-resource card.  So you can get into a situation where you have lots of resource cards in your hand but no card to play.  This is mana flood.  The opposite is you have tons of non-resource cards but you don’t have enough resource card in your hand to build up your resource i.e. you cannot pay the cost to use those cards in your hand.  This is mana screw.

People talk about statistics and based on which try to put certain number of resource card in a deck; however, due to pure luck one can still get mana screw or flood.

Thus many newer TCGs try to address these issues one way or other by modifying the resource system e.g. sacrifice based system, automatic resource build up etc.

Is charge the solution to mana flood?

One relatively unique feature that HEX uses is that resource card does not just build your resource but also will charge your Champion.  The champion is representation of you in a game, and each of them has a special ability that you can use when enough charge power accumulates.  So you can keep placing resource card and it won’t be just a waste since you are still charging your Champion.  Whereas in other game, once you hit certain amount of resource, placing additional resource may do nothing for you.

Not perfect but certainly better than nothing.

Is threshold the solution to mana screw?

In HEX, once you have resources on the board what only matters are two things: Do you have enough resource to cast the target spell?  Do you have enough threshold for the resouce type to use the target spell?  The second question is an unique system to HEX and perhaps Cryptozoic’s solution to mana screw.  Let’s take a look at specific example.

In order to use the above card called Zoltog, you need 4 resources which is the cost of it.  But also you have to have threshold of 2.  The red is reprentation of ruby so 2 ruby threshold.  This means that two of your total resource on the field must be that of Ruby type.

In HEX here is what happens.  Let’s say you have 2 Ruby and 6 Diamond i.e. total 8 resources available.  Since you’ve met 2 threshold requirement of Ruby, you can actually cast 2 Zoltog if you have them in your hand.

Whereas in game like Magic, each card have its specific resource requirement based on the type, so you may have to have 4 Rubies i.e. two for each.

This may not seem a lot of change, but it should certianly affect playability of card.  Is this a perfect solution?  I don’t think so.  The first game that the lead designer Ben Stoll played certianly still seemed to suffer from not getting resource card on time.  So mana screw does still happen.

Benefit of resource card based system

Some players prefer sacrificial system for resource system.  The reason is the system certainly takes care of mana screw and flood.  You can sacrifice any card you want and build up a resource so as long as you have a card in your hand you can continue to build up resource or stop making resouce, its your choice.

One draw back with this approach is you will not see special mechanics based on the resource building.  Some players enjoy resource management, and Magic even had special set/blocks dedicated for resource cards.  The dedicated card means there is always potential to add some special effect in the future.

For example, what about 1/2 resource?  You can actually charge your hero by 2 points at once.

What does Cyptozoic think about their resource system?

During the interview on Mozu Report, the game’s lead designer Ben Stoll specifically said he enjoys the thought process of if he could draw a resource card next turn to allow him to cast target spell.  So the luck element is certainly something he enjoys, which means it is unlikely that we will see further modification/change in the system to eliminate or further decrease the chance of mana screw.

Overall Impression

I am actually grateful that HEX decided to have dedicated resource card because that gives the game potential to expand on resource system in the future.  Certainly, they have put some serious thought on this and made whats appear to be small but probably significant changes to basic resource card based system like Magic so mana screw  and flood are less notable.  However, overall resource system wise I still put Carte is the best resource management system in TCG, which uses combination of dedicated resource cards + optional sacrificial system.


Carte’s Resource System

In case you are interested why I believe the system is the best. Here is what Carte system does.

It has its own dedicated Resource cards.  If you use it to up your resource pool, you get a bonus effect e.g. the most basic form is draw a card i.e. you don’t lose your hand card number from it.  Also, the mana you added is immediately available for use the turn.

However, in an event where you have no resource card in your hand, you can actually sacrifice any card.  Doing so have obvious disadvantage compared to resource card.  The disadvantages are you get no special bonus effect,  and the additional resource won’t be available until the following turn.

This system essentially takes complete mana screw away.  If you are unlucky enough, you would still see disadvantage from not drawing resource card as you continue to lose hand cards total, and one resource behind your opponent; however, never as bad as you just cannot draw a resource card hence do nothing turns after turns due to pure poor luck.


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