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Focus on Your Objectives

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 04:59 AM

“My ally is the Force. And a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we…not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you. Here, between you…me…the tree…the rock…everywhere!”
–Yoda, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

Star Wars: The Card Game™ is coming. We’ve already plotted our course and made the jump to hyperspace, so while we await the upcoming release of the game’s Core Set, we’ll take a closer look in a series of preview articles.

Star Wars: The Card Game offers two players the opportunity to participate in dramatic and tactical battles between light and dark side forces in a head to head duel for the fate of the galaxy. You’ll control such iconic characters as Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Han Solo, and Leia Organa. You’ll fly starfighters, grow in the ways of the Force™, and trample your foes with massive AT-AT walkers. But if you hope to defeat your foes, you’ll need more than raw talent and powerful technology; you’ll need a plan.

Today, we’ll start our series of previews by looking at objective cards and the game’s innovative approach to deck-building.

Objective cards represent missions, ideologies, strategies, or important narratives that a player is pursuing or protecting. They provide resources and helpful game text, and, in order to win the game, players must devise plans to both protect their objectives and destroy their opponent’s.

Additionally, objectives establish the foundation of Star Wars: The Card Game in yet one more, crucial manner. Each objective is tied together with five other cards, which can include characters, vehicles, enhancements, events, or other card types. Together the objective and five associated cards are known as “objective sets.” In Star Wars, instead of selecting each card individually, players build their decks by choosing ten or more objective sets and dividing them into objective and command decks. This is a brand new model of deck-building, and Senior LCG Designer Nate French explores how the Force flows through it.

Nate French on Deck-Building in Star Wars

One of the most unique aspects of Star Wars: The Card Game is its original deck customization system, which was envisioned by renowned game designer, Eric M. Lang. This system revolves around the concept that, unlike most customizable card games in which players build their decks one card at a time, Star Wars decks are constructed out of predetermined groups of cards, called objective sets. Today we’re going to take a closer look at this innovative approach that gives a completely new feel to the classic task of building a deck.

Each card contains information about the objective set to which it belongs

At first glance, this system appears to be a simplification of the deck-building process, and on some levels this is true. It is definitely faster to build a deck (just select 10 objective sets that appeal to you and you’re ready to play!), and it is a far less daunting task for a beginner or newer player to put together a cohesive deck. So from the point of view of a player who is all about playing LCGs, but is turned off by the task of having to put a deck together card by card, Star Wars: The Card Game will enable you to “get to the good stuff” as quickly as possible.

But what of that other type of player, the card gaming veteran and deck-building connoisseur who really enjoys building decks? In other words, a player like myself, who has played dozens of customizable card games, and who loves the task of evaluating each card slot in a deck and finding that magical combination of cards that is greater than the sum of its parts? Well, as it turns out, the game has something rather special to offer on that front as well.

The first thing that I realized when I started building my own decks for this game was that by reducing the number of decision points, each of those decision points becomes more significant. As an avid participant in fantasy sports, it is similar to the difference between fantasy baseball and fantasy football. In a baseball season, there are 162 games and fantasy managers are able to set a new lineup every morning. So the decision of which outfielders to start is made over and over throughout the season, but each of those individual decisions, on any given day, has a relatively small impact on the final results. A football season, on the other hand, has only sixteen games, and fantasy managers set their lineup only once a week, so your choice of a running back for that week is going to have a much more profound impact on the results of a matchup. This same dynamic is evident in Star Wars deck-building: by reducing the quantity of customization choices, the game effectively increases the quality of impact each of those choices has on your experience. This isn’t to say there are bad objective choices that can ruin your deck – the game is not filled with traps to lead players astray – but rather that the cards in each objective set are designed synergistically around an important idea or strategy, such as “swarm,” “defense,” “resources,” “healing,” and so forth, and that by swapping one objective set for another a player can weave a new angle of strategic emphasis into his game experience.

Another novel aspect of building a Star Wars deck that I’ve experienced is the process of evaluation. Making a one-to-one comparison between any two cards in another game and choosing the card that is better and more suited for a given deck is an old task that’s been done tens of thousands of times. But comparing a linked group of six cards against a second linked group of six other cards…? Here is a new customization puzzle, one which, until now, I have not encountered in all my years of gaming.

Take, for example, the two objective sets, Mobilize the Squadrons and Mission Briefing. Mobilize the Squadrons is a fast, aggressive set that has cheap units; the Trench Run enhancement, which can place serious pressure on the dark side player by directly threatening the Death Star dial; and the powerful dual-purpose attack card, Rebel Assault.

Mobilize the Squadrons objective set: Mobilize the Squadrons, Rebel Assault, Rookie Pilot, Covering Fire, X-Wing, and Trench Run

Mission Briefing, on the other hand, is more of a strategic command objective set, providing some useful card draw, a resource providing unit in Mon Mothma, and a unit that can open up some interesting combinations with my enhancement cards.

Mission Briefing objective set: Mission Briefing, Heat of Battle, A-Wing, Mon Mothma, Heavy Blaster Emplacement, and Battlefield Engineers

If I had put together the skeleton of a Rebel Alliance deck, and was debating between these two objective sets for my final slot, choosing either in favor of the other would take my deck in a radically different direction, and there is no clear choice as to which set I would prefer. Do I want to play aggressively and go for broke, or am I looking to go more conservative, and accumulate small advantages over time? Do I have enough resources for the more expensive set? Are there enough enhancements in my deck to make good use of the Battlefield Engineers? If I draw Trench Run, is there enough firepower in my deck to take advantage of it?

Instead of answering each of these questions in a vacuum, I must group them together, prioritize, and establish a context of the pros and cons for each set. This type of evaluation and decision making – high impact choices with far reaching consequences – is the entire point of constructing a Star Wars deck, and it’s a refreshing and novel change from the common “one card at a time” experience.

And, if the deck you just put together doesn’t work as planned, you’re only ten objective sets away from a new deck!

    –Nate French, Senior LCG Designer

Thanks, Nate!

Star Wars: The Card Game is coming. In the following weeks, keep your eyes open for more announcements and previews, including a word from designer Eric Lang, and a closer look at the tremendous risks and rewards of the game’s edge battles!

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