Tag Archives: Board and Card Games

Card and Board Games.


In my spare time I’ve been working on a card game called Bastion where two players duke it out in a battle reminiscent of warfar in the 16th through 19th centuries. During this time period they had big solid fortresses, and an incredible variety of techniques for capturing those fortresses.

Here is a topic I started on GoodGamery to discuss the development of Bastion.

The core of the game has one player buying defenses while the other player tries to breach them. Most of the cards they use will be similar, except that the defender has access to a bunch of fortifications, while the attacker will use specialized units like miners, sappers, siege ladders, and so on.

Each of the units has a couple corresponding Combat cards, which represent maneuvers or tactics that the player’s troops use in battle. The more expensive units have access to more flexible or more powerful Combat cards, and specialized troops have specialized Combats. By moving all of the specialized rules for the units onto their combat cards, it keeps the units from having a bunch of special keywords, numbers, and abilities. Instead, they have only a cost and a health, and the rest gets to be artwork. All of the complicated stuff is on the combat cards, and since you only pick from a couple of those per turn, the combat plays out pretty simply.

Here is a spoiler of all the cards I’ve designed so far.

Basic Dominion Strategy

Here are some basic strategies for Dominion.

Big Money

Buy the best treasure you can afford each turn, or a Province. This is a basic strategy that will not win you many games, unless you’re playing against new players.

1-2: No buy
3-5: Buy silver
6-7: Buy gold
8+: Buy Province

Grand Smithy

Buy Smithy until you have 3 of them. Otherwise, buy the best treasure you can afford, or a Province. This will always beat Big Money, because Smithy is usually a much better buy at 4-5 coins than silver.

1-2: No buy
3: Buy Silver
4-5: Buy Smithy, limit 3
6-7: Buy Gold
8+: Buy Province

Chapel Strategy

For turns 1 and 2, buy Chapel and Silver. After that, chapel away all coppers and estates you draw, while buying silvers and easing into another strategy, usually buying treasures and +card draw.

Turbo Remodel

This strategy means forgoing most card buys other than Remodel. When you start out, getting a Silver and a Remodel are optimal buys. Then,make the following Remodels:

Estate -> Remodel
Remodel -> Gold
Gold -> Province (Once the game is close to ending, unless you can use the Gold to buy a Province that turn)

Good support cards include Cellar, Throne Room, Village, and Chapel, which all make your Remodels more reliable and more frequent.

Other Tips

Don’t buy too many actions that don’t themselves give +actions. Otherwise you’re at risk for drawing multiple actions when you can only play one of them.

When players start buying Provinces, carefully take note of how many each player has bought, and how many are left. Once there are about 1-2 provinces left per player, it’s time to stop buying cards that don’t give you +Victory, because there won’t be enough time to draw any new cards you buy.

Chess Tactics

The essense of chess tactics is to make a single move which threatens the opponent twice – unless they have some counter tactic to either deal with both threats, they will end up in a worse position, because you will be able to follow through on one of your threats with no trouble.

The simplest tactic is the fork – where one piece directly attacks two or more pieces. This is normally done by knights, because of their unique movement, but any piece may fork – including the king!

Other tactics include the following:

  • Pin – A bishop, rook, or queen gets in line with two of the opponent’s pieces, where the intermediary piece is less valuable than the one it is blocking. If the opponent moves the intermediary piece, the farther one can be captured. If the far piece is a King, it’s called an absolute pin, because the intermediary piece cannot be moved.
  • Skewer – Similar to a pin, but the intermediary piece is the more valuable one, and the opponent usually ends up having to move it, and loses the far piece.
  • Discovered attack – By moving one piece out of the way, exposing a piece behind it so that it can attack another. The attacking piece can be a bishop, rook, or queen – and if the moved piece also makes an attack, the defender has a difficult choice as to which threat to defend against.
  • Double check – This is a type of discovered attack where both attacking pieces check the opponent’s king, which forces the king to move, as it is impossible to block both checks in a single move.
  • Undermining -By capturing a piece which is defending another, the opponent has to chose between recapturing the attacking piece, or defending their newly undefended piece.
  • Overloading – By gicing a defending piece too many squares that it has to defend, it has to give up defending some of them. This can result in hung pieces and other bad situations for the defender.
  • Interference – By moving a piece in between two long-range pieces that are defending eachother, the opponent is forced to either defend against the new threat that the interfering piece makes, or to defend the pieces that are no longer defending eachother.
  • X-Ray Attack – A piece defends another through an opponent’s piece – if the opponent captures one of them, the other can recapture. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X-ray_(chess)
  • Zwischenzug – A counter-tactic where a player makes an intermediary move which poses a more dangerous threat than their opponent’s most recent attack. This is a way to get out of situations caused by tactics used against you. Usually the intermediary move has to create a check on the opponent’s king, since they are then compulsed to defend against it.
  • Zugzwang – A situation that comes up usually in endgames, where the opponent would rather pass their turn than move. Of course, you can’t pass your turn in chess, so they are compulsed to move to a position worse than the one they are in.

Tactics like these can be strung together to form combinations. An example of this is known as a windmill – a series of checks and discovered checks where the attacker can pick off defending pieces on every other move, and the place their pieces in a better position at the end. This usually happens where the opponent’s king becomes stuck in a place where it has only a couple squares to move to. A good example is in this game, starting on move 25 with a queen sacrifice to set up the windmill.

Movement Rules

I was working on puting the movement rules of various pieces in a way that there won’t need to be many specialized rules. Here’s what I came up with.

Each piece has five different basic attributes:

  • Movement points
  • Rotation points
  • Choice points
  • Range
  • Direction

Movement points are used to move the piece in the direction it is facing. You have to complete all of your moves before you rotate, I’ll go over this more later on, but allow rotations at any time during the move pretty much negates the importance of Direction for the pieces.

Rotation points allow the piece to change its direction by increments. In a square grid there are 8 directions, and a Rotation of 4 would allow the piece to do an about-face. In a hex grid there are only 6 directions, and a rotation of 3 would allow an about-face.

Choice points can be used as either movement points or rotation points. These allow for a lot more complexity inmovement without complicating the rules.

Range is how far ahead of the piece it is able to attack.

Direction shows where the piece can move and attack without using any rotation.I got the idea for this from a chess variant where each piece had a number of directional tick marks on it, and the piece could move in those directions a number of spaces equal to the number of total tick marks on it. Here’s a diagram to explain:

Piece Diagram

In the chess variant (I should try to find out what it was called), theamount of movement points (going clockwise from the Pawn) would be 1, 2, 3, and 4. The chess variant didn’t actually have a piece as strong as this Rook, but instead had a 4-directional king that could move only a single space at a time.

Anyhow, using these five basic abilities, you can create a huge number of different pieces by picking the directions the piece can face and then generating all of the combinations of movement, rotation, and choice points that you desire. A good total for these abilities seems to be three, any more and the pieces end up covering too much range. This removes a lot of the tactical considerations and makes it behavetoo much like the FF Tactics gamesthan I am comfortable with. I’ll work on uploading some example piece movement/thread diagrams to show what I’m talking about.

One important aspect of the movement and rotation points is the order they are allowed to move in. Options include movement before rotation, rotation before movement, and rotation any time during a turn. Since rotation before movement kind of simulates having a piece with more directions, I decided that the onle scheme that keeps direction and rotation their own distinct abilities is movement before rotation.

Another decision I needed to make was when to allow attacks. I am going with attacks being part of the move, and costing a movement point to perform. While this prevents the creation of pieces that can attack but not move (without special rules), I think that such pieces aren’t really that interesting, and they’re unrealistic besides – even artillery pieces can move, albeit slowly. One side effect of allowing a free attack after moving is that the standoff distance where pieces can attack on their next turn is increased. You’d end up with a game where even the weakest piece threatens two squares out, and I’d rather keep things a bit closer together. Additionally, allowing an attack¬†after rotation greatly increases the power of even the weakest pawn-like units, since even with one rotation the pawn’s attack squares increase by 5 or more.

To illustrate how the power of a pawn (1 move, 1 rotation, 1 range, 1 direction) changes depending on the rules:

  • Free attack, can rotate before moving: Threatens 8 squares (at a range of 2)
  • Move attack, can rotate before moving: Threatens 3 squares
  • Free attack, rotates after move: Threatens 5 squares (at a range of 2)
  • Move attack, rotates after move: Threatens 1 square

The fully-powered pawn is almost as powerful as a rook in chess (which threatens up to 7 spaces horizontally and 7 vertically), and clearly this is too strong for what is supposed to be the most basic of pieces. I definitely tend to prefer the pawn to be as weak as possible – remember that once two pieces are toe to toe, they are all equal in combat. The danger of pawns is that they take some effort to put into place, and that moving them creates weaknesses in your line.

Considering all this, here is how moving a piece happens (in order):

  1. The piece may move 1 space in any of its directions.
  2. If there are any moves left, the player may repeat step 1.
  3. If there are still any moves left, the piece may attack in any of its directions. After this the piece cannot move or attack again this turn.
  4. The piece may then use its rotation points to reorient itself (even if it attacked).

Finally, here are some notes on designing pawn-like pieces with no more than 2 combined M, R, and C. As a shorthand notation, instead of saying that a piece has 1 movement, 1 rotation, and faces in one direction, I’ll write MRD^. The ‘^’ means straight up. All pieces have 1 range unless otherwise specified, ie. Ra2, Ra3, etc.

  • MRD^ is the most basic pawn piece. It threatens one square and has 5 move choices, so that after one turn it can threaten any of 6 different squares.
  • CD^ is a slower version of the basic pawn – I don’t think it’d be very useful as a combat piece though.
  • CRD^ would be better at rotation than a normal pawn.
  • MCD^ can optionally move two squares if it decides not to rotate.
  • CCD^ combines all the abilities of the above pawns. It threatens two squares, and has a variety of options when moving that allow it to react to threats easily.

Some more powerful units, without increasing the movement or rotation:

  • MRD\/ would be a much more powerful piece than MRD^, since it threatens twice as many squares, and has 8 move choices. After its turn it could threaten any of 12 different squares.
  • MRD^Ra2 threatens two squares, and has an additional 5 squares it can threaten after its move, for a total of 11 possible threats after a move. This makes it almost as powerful as MRD\/, though by being able to fire over a square, it can be quite a bit more useful when attacking.

That’s it for now.