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Prison Mike

Casual format rules (and preliminary observations after 20 games)

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Over the last few weeks I was pondering how this game's mechanics very not really fitted for me. I don't have 50 - 65 minutes for a game every day with the afterwards feeling very heavy and brain burning. Also found that 1 core environment is not really representative of the game and asking people to buy 3 cores was not met with enthusiasm.

Wanting to play this cool and beautiful game anyway I made some house rules and tested them last few days in Jigoku (playing with myself mostly in two browsers) and at the kitchen table. I made these rules to shorten the game time, add more action with "adrenaline spikes" and make it more newbie friendly. Here are the preliminary results which I will update as i continue to play the game this way as I find it very fun and satisfactory.

Obligatory disclaimer: Of course these results are from the house rules and only 20 games, they are not a really good representative, I am not a good player and playing against yourself seems stupid, but I invite you to try them and see how the game feels for yourselves. People of discord and BGG have been mentioning alternative formats and this is only my take on it.

General rationale

  • make game shorter and engaging compared to current brain heavy
  • make a format which is better representative of the game than 1 core set with easier entry point ("hey pal, we both buy this box and can have a blast playing different clans)
  • make bidding and honor mechanics more influential

Casual format rules

  • Honor is in 0 - 18 range
  • 2 provinces broken allows to go for stronghold
  • 30/30 decks with 2 copies of cards max
  • Everything else stays the same (starting honor, fate etc.) in order to keep it newbie friendly with no card errata

General observations:

  • every bidding can result in a blowout which makes it quite an intense affair and solves the bid 5 meta
  • the whole game feels much more intense and engaging, sort of a incremental build up for a very dramatic last battle on the enemy stronghold
  • honor victory is viable
  • dishonor victory seems less viable
  • games last 25 – 35 minutes, approx. 30, 9 minutes (from my sample of 20 games)
  • value of ring effects goes up, only water seems to slightly lose some value  
  • province rows are not nearly so devastating and game changing
  • approx. 50% od dynasty deck is drawn and approx. 36 - 40% of conflict deck is drawn, depending on clan and matchup

In depth analysis

 

  • value of fate seems unaffected, 7 fate allows to buy all you want and have bigger battles which feel more decisive
  • Most games feel like a buildup of advantage which lead to epic and big battle of opponents stronghold where everything is possible,  fast win or devastating battle after which few are left standing
  • big characters feel much more impactful, champions turn the tide of the game significantly and can snowball if turned on first flip. however, they are not invincible and dealing with them early balances the things. They feel like true champions, can help but cannot win the game on their own
  • towering seems to be favorable strategy but not an auto win
  • characters stay longer because of fewer turns and ways to deal with towers are very useful and can steal a victory
  • two let go’s + no always bid 5 meta = attachments stay in game longer and have way more impact. Attachment hate also is very valuable but due to less drawing and smaller number of copies in deck, must be used very carefully. I think this part of the game is quite balanced, attachments stay enough to make a difference and attachment hate feels very useful but not game breaking
  • breaking a single province seems more important as it significantly advances the victory condition
  • less cancels and counters enter the board which breeds more action to break province. Cancels are kept for breaking key combos, not to counter everything everywhere.
  • scouting provinces is very useful to avoid game breakers and go for 2 weaker provinces + stronghold to win
  • strongest province goes under stronghold and attempt of a break when opponent can swing at yours next conflict feels very epic and rewarding
  • attacks on stronghold happen faster and are very dramatic with the"all or nothing, here it goes!" feel to it
  • slower strategies do not play out fully due to less cards drawn and fewer turns
  • faster strategies feel very impactful from the go, eg. Hotaru or Toturi entering the board with air ring uncontested means changing the game plan momentarily, cuz they mean business. Same for Unicorn setting up for the Djinn/River/Cav reserves combo
  • card draw effects feel more valuable. Successful gamble of bidding high, spyglass or earth ring can significantly build incremental advantage for the last attack on the stronghold
  • unicorn is very fun to play and potent. Lands many characters but have problems if their combo doesn't fire properly
  • 2 provinces + 1 stronghold sometimes feels like a little too fast, but then again big upsets are possible which prolong the game
  • 35% (7) of all games went over 35 minutes, 28% (2) of those went over 40 minutes
  • games sometimes feel a bit swingy
  • dedicated honor crane with a little luck in draw might be a very potent honor victory strategy
  • first dynasty flip with a champ or tower can significantly advance your winning but feels very balanced when the character is void ringed early and blown out
  • bids against crane tend to be very low and not many cards are drawn
  • bids vs. others than crane are higher and more cards are drawn
  • going first seems to be a very slight advantage, but upsets are very possibl
  • Lion seems well suited for honoring out but not as good as Crane
  • Province rows are not nearly as devastating and game changing as in current meta, FoF, and RoB are avoidable
  • HMT Unicorn and Lion is powerful, but not overpowered (yet in my experience). If the conflict cards are not drawn properly or smaller characters are killed/voided, their strategy might fire too late
  • Scorpion and Crab seem to be very good at preventing fast honor victory. Very thematic.
  • Void ring and tower dealing techs are very important

Tl;dr

Using 30/30 with 2 cards max, 0-18 honor and 2 province + stronghold to win, the games become shorter, much more engaging and honor bidding feels significantly more important because the honor victory is very viable. These rules are not without balance issues and only from preliminary testing in which you are invited to join. Format is newbie friendly as you get great experience with two cores (more easily shareable with 1 friend than 3 cores).

 

So there you have it, casual format rules and preliminary results which i will update as/is I continue to play the game, usually in two browsers as it offers a kinda solo variant inside a time frame i can dedicate every day. Try it for yourself and see how it goes, now I'm back to prison.

 

Decks used and to get you started (don't know if links work as I can't publish them)

Unicorn https://fiveringsdb.com/strains/4c61b079-d42f-11e8-85db-8e1ccf16fca4/view

Crane https://fiveringsdb.com/strains/36fc008d-d247-11e8-85db-8e1ccf16fca4/view

Scorpion https://fiveringsdb.com/strains/83ce1a50-7c1f-11e8-9ce5-8e1ccf16fca4/view

Lion https://fiveringsdb.com/strains/dedee149-d29b-11e8-85db-8e1ccf16fca4/view

Dragon https://fiveringsdb.com/strains/0ed66afc-d29c-11e8-85db-8e1ccf16fca4/view

Crab https://fiveringsdb.com/strains/2b2ba699-d29c-11e8-85db-8e1ccf16fca4/view

Phoenix https://fiveringsdb.com/strains/53fad5c8-d29c-11e8-85db-8e1ccf16fca4/view

 

Game results recap (just short notes I took after games)

  • Crane vs. Crab
  • crane honor victory = 33 mins
  • -crane won comfortably with winning political battles, honoring itself and abusing air/fire rings

 

  • Unicorn vs. Scorpion
  • unicorn break = 25 min
  • -very strong shono rush

 

  • Crane vs. Scorpion
  • crane break= 30 minutes
  • honor wise games were quite even, scorpion was some bad shinobi experimental deck which was run over by crane

 

  • Unicorn vs Scorpion
  • scorpion break = 35 min
  • owned by scorpion political battles

 

  • Scorpion vs. Crane
  • scorpion break = 25 minutes
  • very close and intense battles, scorpion grabbed the victory barely, better crane player would have taken it

 

  • Unicorn vs. Crane
  • Crane honor= 27 minutes
  • unicorn was very close to rush and kill crane, better player would have broken it, after which Hotaru honored out comfortably with double air ring and crushing a political battle

 

  • Dragon vs. Unicorn
  • Dragon break=28 minutes
  • yokuni and niten master wiped the floor with unicorn, lot of characters on unicorn side, avoided FoF and Restoration

 

  • Lion vs. Scorpion
  • Scorpion break= 31 minutes
  • scorpion won with Shoju and Kachiko in political battles who ran over provinces before lion could set up properly, lion was close tho

 

  • Unicorn vs. Crane
  • Unicorn break= 39 minutes
  • crane got really close to honor on turn 3, HMT saved the day. Better Crane or better Unicorn player would have ended the game in either way faster than me, many missplays

 

  • Dragon vs. Scorpion
  • Scorpion break=30 minutes
  • game was very close on both sides and scorpion managed to break the sh first with Hiroue and cunning magistrate negating the whole dragon defense. Dragon came to 15 honor but Scorpion sh and dishonor kept things in the line. Bids were significantly higher than against crane

 

  • Lion vs. Scorpion
  • Lion break= 37 minutes
  • very close game, Scorpion kept Toturi in line against honoring (at 14 honor) and Lion snatched victory on turn 4 because of better board state and going first that turn. Very dramatic attack of Scorpion on stronghold on turn 3, 1 skill was the difference.

 

  • Unicorn vs. Crab
  • Crab break= 30 minutes
  • Kisada stayed for three turns and handled Unicorn before they could set up to swarm  with HMT and cavalry reserves. Unicorn just coulnd't get the momentrum going with military conflicts and Crab had a superior board state. Drew 2 Shono but was not enough. Maybe a better player would have done it more effectively. Feels thematic that Unicorn can't break the wall on horses. Unicorn was bidding 2-4 and got to 5 honor, while Crab was at 12-13 but honor/dishonor victory were not probable.

 

  • Crab vs. Dragon
  • Dragon break=28 minutes
  • Close game, dragon won because of covert on turn 3 to break crab stronghold. Agasha Sumiko was very strong, attachments were drawn and all over the place. Felt very balanced the whole time because both had readying effect. Void ring was very valuable to get rid of the towers. Ways to deal with towers are very useful. Bids were 2-4 an dh/honor victories were not probable.

 

  • Unicorn vs. Crane
  • Crane break/honored out=37 minutes
  • On turn 4 Hotaru  flipped with going first and ran over ancient lands with air ring over Unicorn which did not have a board state after last turn when they failed to take stronghold. Unicorn just didn't get the HMT and their tech going and Crane was winning political battles, honoring its characters everywhere. Bidding was 2-3 by unicorn and Crane punished that. Probably if Unicorn went for lower bids there would not be honor victory but Crane would've won through breaking due to board state. Got a real hang of two browser play and am really enjoying playing this way

 

  • Lion vs. Dragon
  • Lion break= 41 minutes
  • Had many missplays on Lion side with Toturi and spiritcaller. Better player would have run over Dragon in three turns with this set up, this went well into 4th. Missplays with Toturi on the beginning influenced the game in Dragons favor who did not have good dynasty flops. Did not get the HMT to work again. Seems first dynasty flip and towers can be very decisive. Lion was somewhat close to honor. Bids were 1-3 but on last turn both were comfortably away from honor blowout and went for bid 5. Last battles and attacks on stronghold feel very dramatic and epic.

 

  • Crab vs. Scorpion
  • Crab break = 29 minutes
  • Scorpion drew only political characters (2 hiroue, 2 bayushi liar etc.) while Crab drew Satoshi turn 3 and going second managed to defend,water ring ready Satoshi after good military win to seal the deal. Rare game where going second felt like an advantage. Bids were 2-3 and dh/honor victories were not probable.

 

  • Unicorn vs. Dragon
  • Unicorn break= 36 minutes
  • Lot of thinking to make HMT work and made few missplays which favored Dragon. Close game, interesting twists and very dramatic last battle where i managed to combo Unicorn cards into a swarm. Very satisfying game, due to some missplays could have gotten the either way and finished earlier. Rare game where going first on turn 3 backfired. dragon towers stayed in game while turn 1 shahai was voided. Void ring feels very important in the beginning. Bids were 1-5, 5 on last turn by Unicorn, honor/dh victories were not probable.

 

  • Scorpion vs. Unicorn
  • Unicorn break=23 minutes
  • Unicorn got a perfect draw and after getting a hang of Unicorn comboing vs. scorpion who didn't draw any military guys and few missplays, Unicorn executed the combos with HMT and everything was done on turn 2. Bids were 2-3.

 

  • Scorpion vs. Unicorn
  • Unicorn break= 39 minutes
  • very exciting game with a lot of swings and close till the very end. Scorpion was doing okay but was lacking on military conflicts and that scorpion deck needs change. In a epic and climatic battle on turn 3 talisman transferring from stronghold would have given scorpion another turn to live but HMT tipped the scales and Unicorn just had too many characters and force of the river/djinn/ cavalry reserves in hand all at once, again almost perfect draw. Very close, very dramatic. I've found that games feel like building up to a climatic battle on turn three, where everything is possible. It seemed that going first on turn 3 was an advantage, but now i see that upsets are possible. Very intense and engaging. Bids were 2-4 and Unicorn was at one point very close to honor out, but was kept in line , probably possible only by Scorpion

 

  • Crab vs. Crane
  • Crab break = 43 minutes
  • The game dragged for long because Crab was too strong defensively and Crane could not go for fast honor victory. Probably if I was better player on either of those Clans the game would've gone differently. Crane didn't win enough political battles against fully packed Kudaka/talisman/provinces and Crab denied air ring so there was no chance for an honor victory. Also not many cards were drawn and bids were low to prevent blowout. One of rare games which felt like slugfest instead of intense buildup for epic showdown. There was leftover fate in both pools due to not many cards drawn on either side and kinda too many holdings showing up.
Edited by Prison Mike
formatting

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Intersting... I have Also been thinking same kind of changes.

I personally prefer a Little bit shorter games, the problem may be if there will be new honor running cards. That may make honor victory too easy. The easy solution would be redusing starting honor. Starting honor (-4) so something between 6-8 depending on faction. But that depends on how the meta change. Also givin a Little bit higher hand size can help. Maybe starting with 2 extra cards? To balance that you can not easily bid 5 in the first round.

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5 minutes ago, Hannibal_pjv said:

Intersting... I have Also been thinking same kind of changes.

I personally prefer a Little bit shorter games, the problem may be if there will be new honor running cards. That may make honor victory too easy. The easy solution would be redusing starting honor. Starting honor (-4) so something between 6-8 depending on faction. But that depends on how the meta change. Also givin a Little bit higher hand size can help. Maybe starting with 2 extra cards? To balance that you can not easily bid 5 in the first round.

That would be bad as you are only making dishonor strategies that much stronger (not to mention letting the New Scorpion box start turned on rather than needing to work to get there).  Maybe if you eliminated several of the incremental honor loses (undefended conflicts, dishonored characters leaving play) but as is that is way to low an honor threshold to play with safely as a starting honor.

 

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Because the game is shorter (much less rounds), so there is less time for dishonor victory. But I think that is the game time is shortened, also the startin honor has to be lovered or dishonor victory becomes impossible. There is a balance in there. Just where it is, is harder to determinate! Maybe the staring honor has to be 3, 2 or one smaller than in normal version, but it can not be the same.

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I agree, just crunching the numbers of everything for 30% may not be the answer. The balance is somewhere, but it might not be in proportion to everything else.

Wherever it may be, on the whole, this format is bunch of fun in the 25-35 minutes period.

Edited by Prison Mike

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A side note to this topic; PM, I saw you on Jigoku and I was confused as to what you were attempting to accomplish given the title of your matches. While I now get what you are after, I’m not keen on shortening the game as it would wildly benefit some Clans more than others. Mere speculation here. 

Anyways, I’m interested as to what results you get after your testing. Seems like a worthy cause, imo. ?

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18 honor victory... That means that a charged toturi for air conflict nets you 4 honor, plus Ikoma prodigy, plus an honoured blade lion wins in 1 conflict... If the opponent actually bids 3 and lion bids 1 there is not even any need for other cards, only toturi. I think you should raise the honor cap to 20 at the very least.

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Thats 4 if's, a perfect hand of 4 cards and without considering the opponent making the same conjecture. But it seems a good, dedicated lion or crane honor deck played by a capable player would provide balance issues, yes. Will test more.

 

7 hours ago, LordBlunt said:

A side note to this topic; PM, I saw you on Jigoku and I was confused as to what you were attempting to accomplish given the title of your matches. While I now get what you are after, I’m not keen on shortening the game as it would wildly benefit some Clans more than others. Mere speculation here. 

Anyways, I’m interested as to what results you get after your testing. Seems like a worthy cause, imo. ?

Thank you for your support. I understand this might not be for everyone, just like the current format is not for me. This is only a take on making the game more accessible to new players while playing a "solo mode" which i oddly find very fun and satisfying.

Edited by Prison Mike

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