Dev Diary #22 – A Little Holiday Beatdown

December 21st, 2011 at 10:25 pm

In the weeks leading up the end of the year, we’ve been playing a little multi player tournament within the dev team. We’ve been pretty focussed on the single player game recently so we thought it would be a good idea to make sure we’re not totally losing sight of the competitive multi player game. So this week, I’ll give a short report from that tournament.

First things, first. The participants and the inside scoop on their chances:

Dorian, Ben, Jon & Farbs

  • Me – Jon. Hey I programmed the game logic, so I must be in with a good chance, right?
  • Farbs – avowed non-strategy gamer but has put quite a bit of time into contending with me and Dorian, so could be a dark horse.
  • Dorian – D&D and Magic aficionado. Has the background to be competitive but does he have the killer instinct?
  • Jay – Jay is always renowned for pushing the rules envelope. Also comes with a cut-throat mentality (hey, check out his other games which are all about back-stabbing). Has to be rated highly.
  • Ben – likes his turn-based games and strategy as well. However, has been known to build parties based on “I hate dwarves” and “I like the way they look” rather than raw power.
  • Skaff – has probably played more of the game than anyone else on the team recently, as he’s been re-costing the card set. Should stand him in good stead if he can get round his regular internet drop-outs.
  • Marc – newcomer to the project and not a heavy strategy gamer. Should be good for some easy points :-)

The tournament rules were simple: 1 point for a win, 0 for a loss, you can only play the same person twice each week. You alternate map choices when playing the same person. You can change your deck at will using any game item (two copies of each item per person). You can use any class and race you like. May the best card hunter win!

When I sat down to build my party, I decided to go with an old build that I’d used to great effect before. It’s based around laying down tons of acidic terrain (yes, there are terrain altering cards!) and then pushing other characters into the acid. I wanted to see how this build had stood up over time and whether it was still competitive. Actually, I was sort of hoping that it wouldn’t be too good, because it’s kind of an off-beat deck and not the kind of thing we’d want to be dominant in our multi-player (or single-player) environment.

The acid all comes from wizard items, so I decided to really focus on that theme. The deck can make use of a priest for healing and buffing or even a warrior to keep the enemy away from your wizards, but I decided to go pure and pick an all-wizard team. For races, I chose elves because I wanted to be able to move around a lot and elves have the best default movement cards. I knew my wizards would be pretty much dead if an enemy warrior closed with them, so I didn’t see the point in taking the hardier but slower dwarves. Humans are interesting because of their card drawing and filtering, but I decided an elf build would be the most annoying for my opponents as I, hopefully, danced and dashed around them while they wallowed in my pools of searing acid.

My first two games were against Jay and I discovered that he had built an all priest party, trying to exploit healing and buffing. It was a nice strategy and we split our two games evenly. I got a nastier surprise when I played Dorian and discovered that he had gone for the acid deck too. His deck was much like mine except that he’d chosen dwarves for their extra staying power – actually a pretty good choice for this “mirror match”. He also had added a few direct damage spells to his deck, unlike mine. Both of us had some cards that we hoped to exploit in regular match ups like “Magic in the Air” which allows all wizards to draw a card. That wasn’t much use in a six wizard battle. Again, we split the two games one each.

The nasty surprise of the first week was Farbs, who had refined his super-annoying Elf warrior deck. Elf warriors seem like an odd choice, but they exploit their superior movement to close in behind you where they can attack without you being able to defend. They can also exploit the “Cowardly Attack” which does extra damage from behind. This is a card that we’re likely going to yank from the current card set and keep for rogues, but for now it’s fair game.

Super annoying Elf warrior


Farb’s dancing elves are a particularly bad match-up for a terrain altering deck like mine since they have plenty of movement and it’s hard to keep them on the acid pools. I lost my single game to him in the first week.

I don’t recall a lot about Ben’s deck, other than it was an all human priest deck with a priest called Wang. I didn’t play him in the first week, so I’m not sure how that deck would have stood up to my acidic elves.

All in all, our tournament was looking pretty balanced at the first week with no one’s deck really standing out. That changed a bit in week two though…

Skaff had been having trouble with the game with a few bugs preventing him from getting into the tournament. In week two, he made a brief appearance with the tournament’s first balanced class deck (i.e. one warrior, one wizard and one priest). This was a powerful deck that combined terrain modification, pushing opponents and quick movement. It performed very well in a limited outing, beating both me and Farbs. I was glad to see this deck doing well, as I’d like for balanced parties to be a strong strategy. There seems to be real value in the synergy between different classes: the warrior to dish out the damage, the wizard to control things and the priest to buff and heal. As it should be.

In week two, I decided to jump on the band wagon and try out an all priest deck. My build was a bit different though – I really tried to exploit buffs and de-buffs. I think you could call it a combo deck as it relies on certain card pairings to build up massively damaging attacks and chain card draws. It performed moderately well but, like all combo decks, was vulnerable to bad draws. Martyr Blessing (draw a card when damaged) was the deck engine and it sputtered when it could draw it.

In week three, Dorian also built another new deck – an all human warrior party based around armor and blocks. It’s goal was to tank it’s way to victory, standing on the victory squares and outlasting the opponent. I’m not sure if it’s a super strong build, but it beat my priest buff/de-buff deck quite handily.

Farbs built an all wizard deck. I’m not quite sure what’s it’s about yet, but here’s a picture of my priests facing off against it in the Dungeon board:

Farbs' all wizard deck against my holy buff deck


Although the tournament isn’t over yet, here are some quick stats and observations that we found interesting:

  • The average game length was 28 minutes.
  • The longest game was 60 minutes and the shortest 13 (that must have been quite the beat-down).
  • The average number of rounds was 5.

These numbers are pretty reasonable we think. I’d like to get the game duration down a bit, if possible, but it’s within range.

No deck is clearly dominant, which is good. That doesn’t mean there aren’t broken strategies out there, since this is still a very small amount of testing to have done. We’ll really find out what’s good and bad when we open the floodgates to beta-testing (soon, I promise!).

Another thing we found very clear is that board choice is super-important. For example, Farbs’ mobile elf warrior deck gets stomped in a very restrictive corridor map because it just doesn’t have the space to manoeuvre. So, one of my action items is to prune back our multi-player map set to something we think is “canonical”.

And… the results! Well, it’s not over yet, but here are the standings as of today:

Wins Percentage
Farbs 10 67%
Jon 6 50%
Dorian 5 50%
Jay 2 20%
Skaff 2 100%
Ben 1 33%
Marc 0 0%


Unless someone makes a mighty last-minute effort, it looks like Farbs will be the winner! Not bad for a non-strategy gamer.

11 Responses to “Dev Diary #22 – A Little Holiday Beatdown”

  1. Wait… Victory squares?

  2. Just checking, character models reflect the gear and armor you’re character is wearing and using right? Or is it just off of presets?

  3. I hope, for beta testing, you implement an easy-to-use bug reporting interface – i prefer that over posts in a forum! That would encourage users to report bugs.

  4. @Cross2501: we’ve been using victory squares in multi-player to stop players from hanging back and camping.

  5. @John: the models don’t reflect your gear, they’re just determined by your class and race (and there are a number of variants you can pick from).

  6. @BigSmurf: yep, we’ll be using a bug tracking tool. At the moment we’re using Bugzilla, which is OK but not great.

  7. It sounds like the decks are well-balanced, and cards that alter terrain sound really cool.

    Also really cool: “when we open the floodgates to beta-testing (soon, I promise!).” Love it!

  8. I cannot wait for those gates to be opened! Been monitoring this since October or early November waiting eagerly to hear the Beta’s up.

  9. @phantom: i think you’re in good company, i’m guessing about a match to do since September and waiting for the beta “from the day that was” (do not use Google Translate from italian to engRish)

  10. Can’t wait to play this. Hoping to play beta:) By the way I love Elves:)

  11. It’s Been a while :) Something Big incomming?

Leave a Reply