Clearly, this game caught enough attention of mine. As I visit their forum, I have noticed very recently that they have just modified their resource system to avoid infamous “mana screw.” This is type of things I love to talk about as analyzing TCG game’s design/mechanics is something I truly enjoy. So let’s take a bit more closer look at this.
What resource system does Forgotten Myths use?
There are four basic types of resource system that the TCG can use. Forgotten Myths uses what I categorize as card based resource system (CRS). The other games use CRS include Magic the Gathering, Carte, WOW TCG and HEX.
*For other types of resource system, please see my dedicated article at Utopian Chaos here.
Among the four types of resource system this provides the best potential, but it does not come for free of drawback.
What are the Pros and Cons of CRS?
This is the most complex form of the resource system. The trading card game gold standard Magic the Gathering uses this resource system type. In CRS, the game’s resources are actually represented by dedicated “resource card.”
The main advantage of using CRS is its potential for dedicated mechanic expansion in respect to resource card. Since the resource themselves are card, you can basically create special card with resource type and have special effects. For example, you can have a resource card turns into a creature/troop/character. How about trigger abilities for non-resource cards based on the event when resource enters into a play?
Basically, the potential is limitless. Developers can easily make multiple sets just focusing on resource cards and create unique abilities/mechanics for them. This is the most robust form of the resource system implementation.
The other major advantages of this system are adding even more emphasis on good deck design as well as variance among games. The variability in drawing resource cards will result in every game to be different. In order to avoid/minimize infamous resource screw, player(s) need to put a deep thought into how many resource cards to be included.
Another aspect of CRS I like is the moment of “Como’n my resource! YEAH!” or the opposite of “Son of …, where is my resource!!” I call these “emotional attachment” to resource cards.
The major complain people talk about with CRS is the infamous mana screw. Also for the beginners, resource management will add another layer of hurdle because including wrong number of resource cards in one’s deck can readily lead to nobody likes mana screw moments.
See here for further discussion related to this topic.
CRS is the most robust resource system with limitless potential for expansion in respect to the game mechanics. In addition, this system provides variance, and more emotional attachment to resource cards. However, these do not come with free of risk. It is this system that has the infamous mana screw. Currently, most depth driven dTCG use CRS, which are desktop exclusive. Alternatively, all mobile dTCG have non-CRS with exception of upcoming dTCG, HEX. This is most likely related to the fact that general belief of mobile market is “simple, easy to learn and quick play” environment. Use of CRS will add several additional layer of complexity which some may enjoy and other will simply feel unnecessary evil.
What is Mana screw?
According to “Managing Mana Screw” article from daily magic on 4/28/2007, there are three types of mana screws.
- Proportional lack of resource [relative to non-resource cards] (resource screw)
- Proportional flood of resource (resource flood)
- Absence of a main color resource [in multicolor deck] (color screw).
How is Forgotten Myths trying to address mana screw?
With current version of implementation, there are 3 things that they are doing to solve mana screw.
- Minimum Hand Size of 5.This may be one of the most unique mechanics in this game, and undoubtly the most important mechanics to fight against mana screw. Your hand never depletes below 5 at the beginning of your turn i.e. if you use 4 cards previous turn and have only 1 left then next turn you can draw 4. By a pure luck, you may still get a bad draw for one turn, but with this there is a good chance you can recover next turn with a catch (see flaws section).
- Unicolor deck restriction.Nothing can beat this approach to eliminate color screw. Basically only one type of energy card are available in the game, and that’s because you are only allowed to include one color (excluding neutral color cards which can be included with any color). So no multicolor, no multi-mana resource, hence no color screw.
- One time resource discard for free additional draw per turn.How this works is simple. If you have extra resource card, once per turn you can discard and draw another card for free instead. This is basically solution to the mana flood situation.This may sound to have the minimal impact of all 3 things, but I actually like this concept. This is very similar to one of the most favorite form of resource system I have seen in dTCG, which was from Carte.
So as you can see the developers have tried to address all 3 components of “mana screw.” I admire their attempt here, and this is one of the reason I am keeping my eyes on this game. Because if they continue to try, they may eventually arrive to the best system. The key part of sentense here is continue to try. Because I personally don’t think current mechanics is not the best. In fact, despite the use of CRS system I feel like Forgotten Myths are really not getting the benefit/fun part of the resource system, and yet current solutions are basically making CRS into more closer to automatic resource system (ARS). So in the following section, let me explain what is going wrong here (of course in my personal opinion.)
Flaws in the current system
- Unicolor/single energy type
This is the easiest one to complain. It is easier for designers to limit card mixtures as unexpected combination of card is the one that typically result in broken balance in the environment, which certainly as developer likes to avoid. However, what makes the TCG fun is those variation and combination, of course without broken cards/combos. So limiting such is not the best approach.
Proposal: Potentially, they could make interaction among the same color be so strong that most people won’t even try multicolor approach. Of course, there will be always people who try as challenge like that would be fun by itself. Other thing I have seen include penalizing use of color that is not the theme. Since this game does not have hero/champion, what decides the primary color of the deck becomes a bit tricky.
But in all honesty, the use of multiple different colored resources for each color spell is the way to go. As that what provides challenge to players by balancing the ratio, and prevents most players from going too crazy on mixing all colors. Most importantly, I think this is what provides the benefit of CRS with strategic deck building challenge.
- +1, +2, +3 is not the best approach.
Currently, there are 3 energy cards. One gives +1 energy, second gives +2, and the third one gives +3. You have read this right. +3 gives 3 and +1 gives one. Use of +3 are limited due to the rule of you cannot include more than 2 epic cards in a deck.
So what’s the point of using +1 over +2? The answer is nothing. If you have +2, replace with it. This is just a poor design.
Proposal: Give +1 some bonus such as +1 energy give immediate energy that turn, but +2 energy won’t take its effect until the following turn.
What’s the best system?
The best is relative term. WoC believes Magic’s current system is the best so is Cryptozoic. Despite with occasional mana screw due to pure chance, that is a side effect of their resource system’s strength, which are the variance in game play i.e. no game is ever the same. (see here for further detail of this discussion).
Personally, Carte’s system is the best balance between the two as stated several times in the past. Since I’m linking this post to official forum at Forgotten Myths, let me explain again how this system works with some tuning from original Carte system based on my personal preference. Here are the general system design.
- Playing energy card will give you 1 draw.
- Basic non-color energy is +1.
- User may sacrifice any card for 1 energy.
- Color energy i.e. red energy, black energy which are +2 but have to wait until following turn to get +2 effect, and those energy can be only used for the specific color.
- No five minimum card.
Now let’s see how these can solve the mana screw.
- Mana Screw
Sacrificing option always give user a chance to build energy even if you don’t have energy card in your hand. However, this should have some drawback, which is you lose one card.
- Mana flood
Having too many resource cards? You should keep casting energy card because it will get you another card. In early game, as both player have to build resources, one who uses resource card always have advantage because you will not lose your hand size; whereas, one who goes with sacrificing option will continue to shrink their hand.
- Color Screw
Having basic resource as option for any color to use, you can always avoid color screw. But if you so desire to go with single color, you are better off using +2 resource card which is definitely far superior. But again, using this in your non-unicolor deck may potentially put you in the spot for color screw but that’s by deck design rather than system flaw i.e. strategic planning is needed here.
The above system will also provide additional benefits.
- +1 vs. +2
By making +1 as neutral energy card, it is a good supporting option for multicolor deck. To further make +1 appealing, you gain immediate energy with its use but +2 won’t take its affect following turn. Lastly, +2 won’t give the extra draw. So if you use +2 you will quickly get much higher resources but it is with a trade of potential color screw, loss of hand size etc.
- Multicolor deck support
+2 resource benefit are so huge that most player probably prefer that over +1, but it will require some serious thought into the deck design how many of each color to include, whether to choose +1 neutral energy etc. This is basically addition the strategical depth and challenge that Magic and HEX are claiming CRS provides!
I am not a game designer, and never have been. So there may be more critical things that’s going on when designing these things, but I truly believe the resource system is foundation and extremely important component of the dTCG. So if nothing else, I am glad that developers of Forgotten Myths are putting another thoughts into this. Of course, my biggest hope is that they will incorporate the type of resource system that I suggested above.