Greetings! I’m Ken Nagle, design lead for Transformers TCG. Today I have a Battle Card reveal for War for Cybertron: Siege II, which is Wave 4 of our releases. In fact, it is my favorite battle card in the set, and not just because I designed it.
To keep our game from just being pretty pieces of cardboard being moved around the table for an hour, we go out of our way to instill some sort of narrative or story. Humans are wired from an early age to enjoy stories. A well-told story is something you can remember for a lifetime rather than say a textbook filled with equations you can forget in 5 minutes. That’s why there are fairy tales, nursery rhymes, and as you grow up stories take the form of books, movies, tv, and (my job) gaming.
We wanted to tell the story of War for Cybertron: Siege on a battle card. That’s very difficult in a trading card game. As a game designer, I have no control of what cards you already have, cards you might acquire, or even the cards you choose to play with or when you draw them during a game. But I try anyway.
We wanted to tell the story of the Autobots, in their desperation, abandoning Cybertron and flying away from the planet, giving it up to the Decepticons. With our current design and mechanics in Transformers TCG, that sounds like at least a new card type but might be a new game mode or format. How could we convey that kind of desperation? And what does “escaping a planet” even mean?
Here’s the short list for flavor for this battle card:
- Escape from the world
- At the last moment possible.
Introducing Daring Escape:
Daring Escape went through some iterations. Initially, our Global Brand Manager Drew Nolosco wanted to make sure the plot could be found inside the card set. Second, I conceived of some kind of alt win card specifically for the Autobots, but not a “we defeated you in battle” way. More of a “charge up the escape pods and get out of here!” way.
Daring Escape is the first alternate win card for the game. If you can empty both your scrap pile and deck when you play Daring Escape, you win the game regardless of your opponent’s team. Meaning, you don’t have to knock out all your opponent’s characters to win the game.
I settled on a particularly difficult route of needing to pick up your whole deck and scrap pile to win the game. I knew that it’s possible to do this during the game, though it’s difficult, and I’d only accomplished it a couple times while playing Cosmos back in Wave 1.
Lukas Litzsinger, one of the talented designers on Wave 4, took this card through its paces. At first, it was too difficult to win with Daring Escape because it didn’t help you at all. So, we added “KO the top 3 cards of your deck” to it. Later I added a green icon. Later I added a blue icon. Then KO 5 cards. I just kept buffing the card until a game was actually won by a Daring Escape.
Throughout testing, Lukas and I got better at playing the weird new archetype that Daring Escape creates. In fact, it was getting to be alarmingly better than the “normal” route of knocking out all the opponent’s characters. I pulled the card back a bit and also made it more for Autobots by only KO’ing a card for each of your Autobots, which helps with the telescoping effect of getting more desperate as you get to your final character left.
While all that’s great, the coolest part of this whole process was talking with Lukas about the deckbuilding and the games themselves.
“Who’s best at managing a Daring Escape?”
“I think Cosmos can do it. With some Extra Paddings.”
“I think Elita-1 can. She’s also a Leader.”
“No way. Even though Elita-1 is a Leader, Cosmos is better at leading the Daring Escape.”
“Maybe a 5-wide Autobot team like Aerialbots can be best? You’ll KO more cards each Daring Escape.”
“If there were more Autobot Tanks then that might work.”
This is what I’m aiming for as a game designer. If I can get you the player thinking of the best cast of characters to pull off the main plot point in the story, and then act that scenario out in gameplay, I call that a victory.
Daring Escape is also a new potentially lethal finisher for Specialist combo decks that mostly disappeared when Swap Parts was retired.
If all these plot points have you very worried about your opponent’s Autobots making a Daring Escape, remember that Wave 4 has Lord Megatron, Conqueror of Cybertron.
He can quite easily stop a Daring Escape because the opponent will be shuffling their deck very frequently. This is on purpose! It’s why he’s called the Conqueror of Cybertron and helms a new “mill” archetype where you want your opponent to deplete their deck as fast as possible.
The Decepticons won't sit idly by and allow the Autobots to get away with their plans. The Decepticons also have an epic scheme – introducing Overwhelming Advantage:
That’s a lotta damage! Overwhelming Advantage presents another new archetype for the game – assembling a “rainbow” attack with “rainbow” upgrades. I wanted the Decepticons to have their own story point here, and “building a giant weapon” is where we ended up.
Finally, I want to point out that Daring Escape does not explicitly require an Autobot to win the game. Overwhelming Advantage does not explicitly require a Decepticon to attack. Both are increasingly better the more of the faction is present, and they are mirrors of each other in many ways, but we’ve given you the maximum number of options for choosing your team composition. You will find more of this design philosophy in sets going forward – there are fewer “hard-stamped” cards, mostly to make Turbo and Sealed (and any other Limited formats) function better with their small “play-what-you-open" card pools.
Today we saw how flavor and story can (and should) be woven into gameplay. As my favorite battle cards in the set, I’m pleased with the stories created by attempting a Daring Escape, and I’ve currently done the most damage of anyone in the world with Overwhelming Advantage. I hope you’re excitedly planning your own escape from Cybertron or assembling the ultimate laser blast.
Thanks for reading this preview. I hope you enjoy War for Cybertron: Siege II, on sale November 8th.
Until next time, may your exit plan be as prudent as it is epic.