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Arkham Horror LCG and Six-Week Schedules

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(X-post from Reddit)

There's no way to write a "Letter to the Editor" to FF, so I'll post it here. This is in response to the "State of the LCG" blog post on FF's website.

In particular, I read this in the L5R section of the post:

Q: Why did you choose to use the “six packs, six weeks” format for Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game and what are the benefits of this format?

Andrew: The six packs, six weeks idea was about turning the release of a new LCG cycle into an event. It’s exciting when a new cycle is announced, but it’s challenging, in the case of our competitive LCGs, to maintain that excitement eight or nine months down the road when you’re waiting for that sixth pack to be released. Changing the release of a cycle from a slow burn to a six-week extravaganza of unbridled enthusiasm seemed like something worth trying out.

As for the benefits of the pattern, one of the criticisms I’ve heard levied against monthly LCG packs for our competitive LCGs is that if you’re a player devoted to a single faction, there’s not a ton of content for you in a single LCG pack. We saw the potential for this to be exacerbated in Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game, given how strongly players identify with their favorite clan. Now, at the end of six weeks, you have an entire cycle of content to play with, as opposed to having to wait six months to build that deck you’ve been dreaming about.

Lastly, having the packs release closer together allows the themes of the cycle to flourish in the metagame right away. The developers do a great job of creating cohesive cycles that feel great thematically and mechanically, but with the six-month release model, it can feel like it takes too long for those themes and mechanics to really sing. Getting the cards into players’ hands quickly gives them more time to experiment with everything the cycle has to offer before the next cycle drops.

I play in L5R tournaments but I'm not good at the game and can't really call myself a competitive player so I'm neutral to the six-week release schedule's effect on L5R (for those games I honestly don't mind having something new to look forward to every month). That said, all of the concerns Andrew lists for the one-per-month schedule apply doubly so for Arkham. My understanding is that most people don't bother playing a new campaign until maybe a couple months before the end since weekly play would quickly overrun the release schedule and people will need to wait months until the next scenario is available. It's an awful shame for a brand new campaign to be sitting on the shelf like that, waiting for the rest of the scenarios to be released months away.

All the anticipation and speculation surrounding a new cycle and campaign would be hightened if Arkham would be on a six-week schedule. Everything the designers do would be better on that schedule. Spoilers and narrative work better on a weekly schedule. Unidentified cards (the most recent being Ancient Stone) are basically useless and not put in any decks because it could be months out until the identified version of the cards are released, and people often play (or want to play) more frequently than once a month. You can tell that the designers want people to be putting that card in decks without knowing where the card is going, but no one's going to do that when the campaign is ended before the card is released at an unknown date months in the future.

Even Matthew Newman's comparison of the speculation surrounding Arkham to popular television shows (see the blog post above for the quote) would make more sense if Arkham were on a weekly release schedule; after all, when Game of Thrones comes on HBO, a new episode of the season is released weekly, not monthly. This is the case for most shows on television.

Arkham's episodic style makes much more sense on a weekly rather than monthly release schedule. I for one would be willing to wait longer between cycles if a cycle's release were on the more rapid schedule. I hope the Arkham team talks to the L5R team and adopts their release schedule.

tl;dr: AH should be released weekly, not monthly, even if it means waiting longer between cycles. A weekly schedule fits AH better.

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Hmm.  That's not the direction I thought this post was headed at all.  I'm intrigued.

I think I'm on board with this.  I was able to sit down and play the Forgotten Age and knowing that it will be another half-year before I can finish it is (a little) disheartening.

I haven't played the Path to Carcosa yet, because I'm waiting to do a full campaign with a specific group and I don't want to know anything or have to take a back seat to the decision making in advance.  Due to people having to drive their kids to practice or what-have, I'd prefer to be able to delve through a cycle in a weekend.  This also allows me to deconstruct the decks and start new ones without having to worry about putting them back together later.

So yeah, you've convinced me.  I'll be fine if it never happens, but I'd like the AH:LCG to be a seven-in-seven release schedule.:D

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I don't think a couple of your points are accurate at all. I certainly doubt most people leave an entire campaign up on a shelf until the full cycle has been released. I would suspect that's a small minority. If you want to play Arkham more frequently, then have multiple campaigns going through each cycle. That way, you can fill your month by playing 4 or 5 different sets of decks against the most recent release.

And including cards that you don't know how they upgrade is a bit of a gamble, sure, but by now we know that they're all more than likely going to be able to be taken by Seekers or anyone who can take the traits of that card. I think it's fun going for that campaign note and hoping it works out. But if you don't want to, it's hardly a poor release model if there's 1 card out of 10 that you "can't" play until next month. At least those untranslated Assets are useful on their own. Not in a great way, but you still get some benefit for completing the objective, even if it's minimal, at the reward of getting to upgrade to something cool eventually.

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I'm not 100% sure I agree, though I would love more content faster (who wouldn't?). I actually enjoy the speculation process, and you don't need the steady update to the card pool to make factions "viable" because the game is not competitive. 

I have someone in my FA campaign that is playing Ursula and taking the Ancient Stone regardless of what it does or if she can use it, and that sense of not knowing is so fitting for a game that revolves around researching things that are outside of available knowledge. It's enjoyable. Even if it turns into a card that Ursula can't use, there's something to be said about taking risks in a game where risks aren't necessarily of a competitive nature. Lovecraft has always been a bit of slowburn to some extent.

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I am one of those don't start a campaign until you can finish it without downtime people and I feel I am in the minority here.  I think I have encountered one other person here that does that.

I get what you are saying and I would like it if they switched to that release schedule or even to a release an entire cycle in one box model.

That being said, its not going to happen.  The core reason of the staggered release schedule is to keep the next batch of cards fresh in peoples minds after the prior one.  This keeps people engaged throughout the year instead of the 2-4 times something would be released otherwise.  Its a marketing gimic that I suspects keeps sales of latter cycles higher than they would otherwise be.  It also increases their revenue overall.

This is even more important for a collaborative game than a competitive one as competitive games have regular tournaments to keep interest high.

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2 hours ago, Soakman said:

I have someone in my FA campaign that is playing Ursula and taking the Ancient Stone regardless of what it does or if she can use it, and that sense of not knowing is so fitting for a game that revolves around researching things that are outside of available knowledge. It's enjoyable. Even if it turns into a card that Ursula can't use, there's something to be said about taking risks in a game where risks aren't necessarily of a competitive nature. Lovecraft has always been a bit of slowburn to some extent.

There has been nothing like when we first got that Strange Solution, and then the revelation, months later, of what it did.  It's sad that the Glyphs and Stones have, necessarily, had less intrigue about them.  I enjoy the wait and the anticipation.

Other than having to avoid spoilers, which I do get, I don't see a real difference between waiting for all of Forgotten Age to be available in November and having FFG release the entire thing in November.

Edited by CSerpent

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I think the most cogent and relevant point they talk about with the 5 rings is the fact that there are multiple factions and having one faction getting a significant increase in options well before another faction is fundamentally unfair to gameplay while splitting up each pack between all factions means each release is going to be insignificant for everyone as it will only include a few cards you can use. The accelerated release schedule solves those issues. This problem is absolutely crucial to competitive play and is not at all present in the Arkham Horror LCG where each pack, the star is the scenario itself which is a significant addition to gameplay.

The one per month release schedule ensures that people are always anticipating the next pack while not spacing it so far out that people have put away and forgotten the game by the time the next release goes out. As much as I agree with you that would be nice, from a marketing perspective it makes perfect sense and using the L5R release schedule could easily mean the death of the game from that marketing viewpoint as no news for a while means people lose interest in the game.

I actually appreciate the spaced out release schedule because, while my gamer brain is clamoring for the next scenario, it makes it much more affordable to purchase and set aside money to purchase the product. If I had to shell out for an entire campaign cycle inside of a single month or so, I might not bother to continue to follow the game.

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4 hours ago, Network57 said:

I certainly doubt most people leave an entire campaign up on a shelf until the full cycle has been released. I would suspect that's a small minority.

I do exactly this, so I obviously think more people do it than you give credit for :)  But I do think it's really hard to judge.

In my perfect world, each big box release would be an entire campaign, and the monthly or bimonthly mythos packs would have player cards.  That would frontload the campaign so it was always available, and it would remove the need to buy the 4 spare sets of encounter cards my group ends up with.

Which, of course, is why they'll never do it :(  But it would be nice.

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I think the main issue, as other people have said, is that arkham is not a competitive game; we don't need every faction's cards to be available in a short time frame for the game to still be fun and fair (or unfair, in this case).  I mean, I would love to see an accelerated release schedule, but it's really not necessary.

Another thing to consider is that a mythos pack isn't just a pack of new payer cards, as with L5R or Netrunner, but a whole scenario to play as well.  I'm sure this adds a lot to the development process, and I don't think an accelerated release schedule would be worth sacrificing quality in the scenario.

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18 hours ago, mwmcintyre said:

I think the most cogent and relevant point they talk about with the 5 rings is the fact that there are multiple factions and having one faction getting a significant increase in options well before another faction is fundamentally unfair to gameplay while splitting up each pack between all factions means each release is going to be insignificant for everyone as it will only include a few cards you can use. The accelerated release schedule solves those issues. This problem is absolutely crucial to competitive play and is not at all present in the Arkham Horror LCG where each pack, the star is the scenario itself which is a significant addition to gameplay.

The one per month release schedule ensures that people are always anticipating the next pack while not spacing it so far out that people have put away and forgotten the game by the time the next release goes out. As much as I agree with you that would be nice, from a marketing perspective it makes perfect sense and using the L5R release schedule could easily mean the death of the game from that marketing viewpoint as no news for a while means people lose interest in the game.

I actually appreciate the spaced out release schedule because, while my gamer brain is clamoring for the next scenario, it makes it much more affordable to purchase and set aside money to purchase the product. If I had to shell out for an entire campaign cycle inside of a single month or so, I might not bother to continue to follow the game.

For L5R we're getting an average of 2 cards per faction per pack & maybe a neutral or two to add.  Which is what we get for player cards in AH scenario packs.

10 hours ago, SGPrometheus said:

Another thing to consider is that a mythos pack isn't just a pack of new payer cards, as with L5R or Netrunner, but a whole scenario to play as well.  I'm sure this adds a lot to the development process, and I don't think an accelerated release schedule would be worth sacrificing quality in the scenario.

I think the scenarios are tested individually - both as stand-alone and as a campaign - but I doubt that they are still working on the last pack when they go to production on the deluxe.

The development and quality would be the same for 6-in-6, they would just have it all done before going to print - it would just be 6-8 months further into the process.

What I'm more interested in than an accelerated release, are new types of products.  On the docket are Return to the Night of the Zealot & the 2-part Guardians of the Abyss (The Eternal Slumber for GenCon'18 and the invocation store events, & The Night's Usurper for Arkham Nights '18).  And this written as we've just received our Labyrinths of Lunacy.

These are the new product types we know about.  What I am hoping for are stand-alone character-specific story missions.  Stories for the core set characters that can only be played if that character is in your team.

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7 minutes ago, Duciris said:

These are the new product types we know about.  What I am hoping for are stand-alone character-specific story missions.  Stories for the core set characters that can only be played if that character is in your team.

I really don't see that happening. It'd be interesting but it's way too restrictive unless it's characters that are in the core set or potentially have a copy of that character in that pack along with the mission. And if they're limited to only the characters in the core set - that's just not enough potential to develop products on those lines. So far they've had different starting conditions if you choose to play a specific character, like Lola's starting location for the first Carcosa scenario or requiring the lead investigator to be one of several characters if they happen to be in the party for Forgotten Age. And I think that's as far as they'll go with that.

But if I'm wrong and they do, bonus.

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1 hour ago, mwmcintyre said:

I really don't see that happening. It'd be interesting but it's way too restrictive unless it's characters that are in the core set or potentially have a copy of that character in that pack along with the mission. And if they're limited to only the characters in the core set - that's just not enough potential to develop products on those lines. So far they've had different starting conditions if you choose to play a specific character, like Lola's starting location for the first Carcosa scenario or requiring the lead investigator to be one of several characters if they happen to be in the party for Forgotten Age. And I think that's as far as they'll go with that.

But if I'm wrong and they do, bonus.

This is an excellent project for fan content though. I have actually thought about doing this myself, but I'm not 100% comfortable with retrieving stock art for the encounters and locations. I've put out investigators in the past and though I had some positive feedback, there were regular comments about some of the signature card art being 'too bad' to be usable. To me, the art is important, but I would have the option of using art without permission (which I try not to do) or using art that does not fit the style geared toward the game. 

If anyone has any info about where I can get themed art that would work, I'd be more than happy to put together investigator specific scenarios for one-offs during campaign, or as stand-alones. 

I don't see FF doing this though, it is too restrictive, as mentioned. There was a time when I considered doing this for the first edition of Mansions of Madness as well, but I only made one scenario (not investigator specific) and by the time I was willing to do another, they had announced MoM 2nd edition (which is app run, so I'm unlikely to do any scenario work there either).

Edited by Soakman

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3 hours ago, mwmcintyre said:

I really don't see that happening. It'd be interesting but it's way too restrictive unless it's characters that are in the core set or potentially have a copy of that character in that pack along with the mission. And if they're limited to only the characters in the core set - that's just not enough potential to develop products on those lines. So far they've had different starting conditions if you choose to play a specific character, like Lola's starting location for the first Carcosa scenario or requiring the lead investigator to be one of several characters if they happen to be in the party for Forgotten Age. And I think that's as far as they'll go with that.

But if I'm wrong and they do, bonus.

It would be an interesting model for replacement packs in addition to the novellas though. The problem is that the novellas do not take resources away from scenario testing and development, whereas individual scenarios packaged with replacement cards would. Part of the reason why they are able to even attempt releasing unreleased investigators with the novellas is because it likely does not take many resources away from the core scenario and game developers as there are only really usually 2 cards that need tested (assuming the investigators have already been tested as well, but you'd need to use them to test the signature cards anyway). Based on Carolyn's signature replacements alone, I'm willing to bet the replacement cards get a little less love from the testers. But maybe I'm just biased against her cards (they seem very unbalanced to me).

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On 6/8/2018 at 11:31 PM, mwmcintyre said:

I think the most cogent and relevant point they talk about with the 5 rings is the fact that there are multiple factions and having one faction getting a significant increase in options well before another faction is fundamentally unfair to gameplay while splitting up each pack between all factions means each release is going to be insignificant for everyone as it will only include a few cards you can use. The accelerated release schedule solves those issues.

They're still doing faction-specific products, which are very much spaced out (there's a pack for the Phoenix, and they've announced one for the Scorpion), so the issues are still there. And you can use not only the cards from your faction (if you're focused on one), but also the neutral cards and the conflict cards from other factions (so the packs are not that insignificant for each faction). Anyway, the biggest issue I have with the burst releases is that, since they can't increase the overall production speed, they make for long breaks without new cards, which are bad for the game, especially when there are serious balance issues.

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In addition to the point well made already about the competitive vs cooperative differences between the games, L5R also has more factions than AH, and with each player having multiple decks there are more cards needed in general.

While choices are limited with just a core set of AH, the game is fully playable with even just a single core. The need for fast release isn't as pressing.

Whereas my L5R friend has told me is that L5R isn't really a complete game until you get 2-3 cores and the first full cycle of packs. Even the weekly release schedule was far too slow, or so I've been told.

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Yep. Competative games Are very different beast...

we play in our Gaming croup about ones in two months so we Are getting behind in the releas shedule. We just don`t have time to this every week. We have other games and Also weeks without time to anykind of games. So slow release shedule has not been a problem. In game like l5r the game balance can be affected a lot by single release of pack in favor of one clan or another. So speeded up release is good. Even better would be to release all packs at the same day...

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I have to agree with the OP on all points.  And count me among those that wait for the entire campaign to come out before playing it.  At the very least, I want to be able to use all the character cards in the cycle they were released for.  What happens now, I wait 6 months, then say, "oh, a new big box expansion, I should go get all of that old campaign."  Only 5 more months before I can start the next campaign :)

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This is spot-on.

I found it hard to gather a party to play Dunwick and Carcosa caus the campaigns werent finished and when they finally were the groups that HAD started always just made a new team anyway.

 

 

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It’s interesting to see how different people ‘consume’ the game. Personally, myself and my playgroup really enjoy the episodic style of release. Waiting a month or so between scenarios makes each one feel like a treat, and doesn’t demand so much of my spare time that I can’t play other things in the meantime.

It reminds me of watching your favourite tv show back in the days before Netflix, dvd boxsets and binge watches! That being said, we’ve discussed doing a Carcosa ‘binge’ over a weekend sometime in the future, probably after Forgotten Age is finished.

In short, I like the current release schedule, always with something to look forward to. I’d much rather that, than 6 weeks of constant hype, then 6 months of nothing.

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i think the release for this lcg is fine.  i play with 3-4 groups that meet up once a month each, and so far waiting for a pack to come out isn't bad.  

 

in fact i rather like the pace at which arkham is being released; it usually requires longer waits between the last pack in the cycle and the next box.  if this pace can be kept for the same, i think it would be beneficial to all types of gamers that are into this one.

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On 6/9/2018 at 7:06 AM, SGPrometheus said:

I think the main issue, as other people have said, is that arkham is not a competitive game; we don't need every faction's cards to be available in a short time frame for the game to still be fun and fair (or unfair, in this case).  I mean, I would love to see an accelerated release schedule, but it's really not necessary.

Another thing to consider is that a mythos pack isn't just a pack of new payer cards, as with L5R or Netrunner, but a whole scenario to play as well.  I'm sure this adds a lot to the development process, and I don't think an accelerated release schedule would be worth sacrificing quality in the scenario.

All packs in a cycle are tested during the same testing window (this is general knowledge on LCGs, it was often stated by people at FFG. At some point, Chris Hosch also said that they print all the packs of the cycle at the same time so that the printer is set correctly and yaddayaddayadda, and that packs then come to warehouses and are input on the market according to a different schedule. So, yes, they could release the whole campaign in the same day, if they wished so. Problem is that at that point the game goes silent for 6 months or so, the hype falls and people move to different games.

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I also wait for an entireb cycle to release before buying it. I did that with LOTR and I also do that for Arkham. ? packs in 6 six weeks will be cool but they need to produce the product faster. 8 months of hiatus between campaign will kill the game. I am even surprise it did'nt kill L5R.

Edited by vilainn6

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1 minute ago, vilainn6 said:

I also wait for an entireb cycle to release before buying it. I did that with LOTR and I also do that for Arkham. 6 packs in 6 six weeks will be cool but they need to produce cycle faster. 8 months of hiatus between 2 campaigns will kill the game. I am even surprise it did'nt kill L5R.

 

Edited by vilainn6

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21 hours ago, vilainn6 said:

I also wait for an entireb cycle to release before buying it. I did that with LOTR and I also do that for Arkham. ? packs in 6 six weeks will be cool but they need to produce the product faster. 8 months of hiatus between campaign will kill the game. I am even surprise it did'nt kill L5R.

Competitive LCGs are a different kind of beast because of organized play and tournaments. Producing a new campaign faster than in 8 months would simply be impossible for tech reasons: quality requires time and dedication. There's a lot of elements that need to be properly balanced in a campaign, then we need a story that's worth playing, possibly with different ramifications and so on. And then after the main structure is assessed, there's need to perform the finer tuning, check the wording, and so on. It's a very long and difficult path, especially when the designer of everything is just one person, who has to cover the new cycle, while working on other projects, answer questions from the players, go to conventions and so on.

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