Deck Design guidelines

Tips, Tricks and Pearls of Wisdom

Deck Design guidelines

Postby Keypunch » Sun Apr 06, 2008 10:33 am

Because I haven't seen a post like this, I thought I'd put my personal deck design guidelines, here, so that people who want to put their hand to designing their own decks have a pointer.

First a bit of philosophy:
Every deck needs a "strategy". In the most abstract this means you've got a certain goal (by default "kicking the AI's ass", but some people like to play the game differently and set their own goals, like "having a big nuke at turn 20") and you've devised a way to achieve this goal.

To give an example, the deck strategy can be very specific "I'll use Burwell Puller and 4 Marines to airdrop into his base", or it can be more generic, like "I'll get a good general, with a stack of infantry and a heavy hitter".

My deck strategy is usually rather conventional: Build a strong stack that can beat up my enemy's stack. A secondary aim is "Recon Early, Recon Often".

Implementation:
Note, that all numbers are approximately. These are guidelines, not rules.

10 heroes: 4-6 commanders (generals or scouts), 2-3 agents and 2-3 administrator/researchers
30 units: 6-8 reconnaisance unitsm, 6-8 (medium) infantry, 6-8 heavy hitters, 6-8 "other units" (artillery, special ops, AA, Mobile Supply, etc.)
10 non-units:
8 facilities: 2-4 outposts, 1-2 each of labs/academies/intel, 1-2 production facilities (optional).
2 air: 1-2 each of an air-to-air fighter and a ground attacker (helo/bomber)

Which makes for a total of (approx.) 50 cards, worth 175 points.

The idea is that in my initial hand, I want a high chance of having either a hero or a recon unit (they make up close to two-fifths of the deck), since the key to my style of play is to expand fast! On turn 1, I prefer to be able to play a recon unit, so that by turn 5, I'll have an idea of my surroundings, either already have got my resources flowing, or am about to.

If my initial draw is crap, I'll discard infantry and facility cards, to get to the heroes/recon.

In the early stages, one unit (a stealth hero, or commando unit) is usually assigned to "deep recon", while the rest applies itself to mapping out the hexes that are in supply.

In the mid-game (which starts around turn 10-15), I've got a good map of my immediate surroundings and captured or am about to capture the resources present. My deep recon has sussed out the general location of one of the enemies. It's also time to get the "deck strategy" in gear. But in order to do that, I need to draw the right cards. So, at this stage, cycling through my deck becomes a high priority. Playing/drawing at least a card per turn. Discarding (or just dumping somewhere) superfluous recon units. The local recon screen turns static, put in key locations, where they'll give an early warning of any enemy troop movements in my direction. The "deep recon" keeps moving about, trying to pinpoint the enemy. Perhaps messing with his resource collectors or heroes.

Usually, without too much adversity, somewhere between turn 20-30 (on a normal or large map), the endgame starts. I've got the majority of my cards in play, pinpointed the enemies' base(s) and my resources go to executing the deck strategy (moving that large stack around, dropping gen/tech on them, developing tactics, dropping bases to strategically increase supply routes). The deep recon either goes still, making sure no surprises turn up on the route, or, in case of an assassin/saboteur, it goes for the throat, killing the enemy leadership or blowing up their stuff.

Most of the time, victory is achieved anywhere between turns 30 (normal map) and 50 (large map).

Note:
This deck design works best for normal/large maps and is a guideline for 175/5 or 175/10 point decks. It also works slightly better for Humans/Mutants, because of their more balanced nature in regards to initial resources.

In my experience, bigger decks simply don't work well, because it will just take longer to draw the cards you need, while duplicates of certain cards (like facilities and aircraft) end up clogging your hand.

I'm very much interested in other deck design guidelines! Especially if you know ways to make those 225 or 275-point decks work.
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Re: Deck Design guidelines

Postby Clocknova » Sun Apr 06, 2008 3:24 pm

If you play on huge maps, as I do, the 225 point deck works quite well, especially if you keeps the total cards relatively low by including some high point cards. It also helps to use 15 points of tile cards to give you an initial resource boost. I really like the options that this type of game gives me. I include 8 marines and the Puller card in my deck, and slowly build up my marine jumper stack as the game progresses. By the endgame, I've got the full stack, usually pimped out to the hilt and ready for action. Of course, the order that cards are drawn sets the strategy for the game, which makes things really interesting.
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Re: Deck Design guidelines

Postby twentyeighth » Tue Apr 08, 2008 9:31 pm

Keypunch, I agree that a preliminary direction is needed for proper deck creation, but "laying the pipe to the AI" isn't quite good enough because, well, that's fairly expected :D .

To further your advice I suggest that a player evaluates the function of each card after deck creation. If s/he can explain that card's use within the deck's theme then it stays. Otherwise, it goes.

I also tend to target map and resource distribution so that my decks become highly specialized. I'm sure there are others who can argue favorably towards generalized decks. I'd like to hear their approaches as well.

Simple math to determine card draw predictability also helps.

Good thread.
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Re: Deck Design guidelines

Postby Vide » Tue Apr 08, 2008 10:05 pm

My preferred game setup is huge map, common resources and specials, against three opponents (with the resource bonus) and a cult. To this end, I want at least a 225-point deck, and usually go for 275. 15 points of tile is also standard. This is not just a reflection of the map size, but also my playstyle; I play defensively and patiently, with a fast game being one that ends by turn 50. To the defensive end, I'll not always burn my tile points on extra resources, but might go with a minefield or four, or perhaps just some rugged terrain to cut off supply lines to my headquarters. If I'm taking an expensive home tile, I may also take cheap blank terrain so I can still cram my base into a corner where I'll have at most one enemy to contend with early on.

I tend to expand slowly, clearing an expanding ring around my HQ of hostiles and not infrequently laying out minefields to slow or destroy enemy probes. I may send an early probe (or saboteur) to take out the nearest HQ if it's weakly defended, but just as often I might not fully engage an enemy until one or two factions are destroyed. When I do sally forth to end the game (or just to take out a menacing cult), I tend to have one or two very strong stacks showing the fruits of intense research. Also, tho' I know this marks me as odd by some standards, I'll rarely leave any base w/o a garrison, and this often serves me well, as the turn or two that the AI sieges me is often enough for the (generally close-at-hand) super-stack (or super-stack-in-training) to arrive. This means my deck tends to be diverse, with light, heavy, and artillery units all evenly represented.

Two observations arrive quickly from this: first, I need to be very sure of my recon because enemies will usually have time to get nukes, and thus an unseen forward base could quickly spell my end. Second, I very often find myself facing armies incorporating "interesting" units derived from neutral sites due to my measured expansion pace.

My games tend to be long, but that's fine; if I've not lost in the first 15 turns, I'm almost assured victory, and early loses almost never occur. I've found this still works on a large map, but it's a far tighter matter.
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