Greetings! I’m Ken Nagle, Design Lead for Transformers TCG. Today I have a character and battle card reveal for War for Cyberton: Siege II, which is Wave 4 of our releases.
Chopping at the Bit
My preview character card today is Raider Chop Shop:
My preview battle card today is Reprocess:
Both of these cards feature Chop Shop the Insecticon because they both have to do with green and repairing. We wanted them to feel like “eating scrap metal for parts.” At least in our game, that’s what Chop Shop does – he’s a metal-hungry tarantula.
However, another thing both these cards have in common is that they are both common, not uncommon or rare. I haven’t spoken about rarity yet in my Nagle’s Notes series so I want to use these two cards to illustrate what’s going on with commons in Transformers TCG as Design Lead and as the person that chooses all the rarities for cards.
Things in Common
Transformers TCG is a trading card game, meaning the cards are the main component for gameplay. However, booster packs are randomized so you don’t exactly know what you’re getting. This adds intrinsic gameplay allowing Limited formats (where you are limited to the cards you open at that event) like Turbo (2-pack vs 2-pack, no deckbuilding) or Sealed (build a team and battle deck from opening 5 boosters, or 6 boosters if playing with Siege I and/or II packs). Limited formats like these, especially Turbo, have the lowest barrier of entry to start playing the game.
The random nature of a booster packs means Limited will be different every time, but as a game designer it makes it impossible for me to know which cards you’ll encounter first, second, or ever. The only thing I know is you’re most likely to see/open/play with the common cards first. In lieu of anything close to a scripted tutorial for introducing complexity to the game, I can only rely on the rarity of the cards to deliver information to players in a semi-structured way.
I understand we live in a globally connected world and information is in your pocket, but the game still needs an organic way to onramp players. Turbo -> Sealed -> Constructed is how we’ve set things up, and rarities of Common, Uncommon, Rare, and Super Rare are designed towards one format or the other, with common towards Limited and rare towards Constructed.
The common cards are a tool we game designers use since they are what our players should see/open/play most often. But how or why should a card be common or not? This has evolved over time, but I’ll explain Wave 4 onward.
- The first reason for a common to exist is to introduce a new mechanic to the game. For example, Safeguard and Revenge get their own dedicated commons where the main point of the card is to introduce the mechanic, with reminder text.
- Another reason for a common is it’s on the lower end of complexity. In previous Waves, we would make characters and battle cards with just stats and no rules text to have the least complexity but also to establish baselines. We have more or less relaxed the complexity requirement for common characters. Since you get just one character per booster pack, it’s the highlight of the booster pack, and complexity should be spent there. Instead, we try to make the common characters capable of operating between 50-100% in Limited and not requesting an impossible requirement (like attacking with 3 Helicopters) for a reward.
- We feel Turbo is a strong selling point for our game that we’re starting to build sets towards it. If we can make the Turbo format more varied and fun without sacrificing the Constructed format (I think we can), it gives Transformers TCG an advantage over its competitors on the market. The common slot impacts Turbo the most so any innovations for that format go there.
- Another reason for a common is to perform a “job”. Each set needs large and small common characters to make lots of team combinations. Each set needs common Weapons, Armors, and Utilities. Sets also need common characters that ‘guide’ you toward building a full team, like the “lord” Micro Masters in Siege II teaming with Siege I or teaming Raider Chop Shop with your other Insecticons. There are lots of jobs for cards, and I’ll discuss more about them for my preview cards today and in the future.
You Had One Job!
As an example of a job for a common character, Wave 4 has a cycle of common characters that make some battle cards better than others, by color. Raider Chop Shop the green character in this cycle. For comparison, Sergeant Barricade is the “no battle icons” character in this cycle (and my favorite – he “arrests” a card and carries it in his trunk to be released later):
Here is my design outline for this cycle:
- There are 6 in total – orange, blue, white, green, black, and blank. (Blank is not really a color, but we’re trying to make it so!)
- They are all common so that they appear the most frequently of any other character cards.
- There are 3 Autobots and 3 Decepticons.
- They are all 7 stars. We choose this because you also get a 4 or 5-star small character in the booster pack. That means in two booster packs you most likely to open a 7, 4, 7, 5 team which is 23 stars which is a serviceable team with the fewest possible booster packs. We are not kidding about trying to lower the barrier to entry, getting you to playing games quickly after purchasing. Also, if you combine all the members of a Micro Master team that likes a color, you get 5 + 5 + 4 +4 = 18 which means there’s also a member of this cycle to fill the final 7 stars.
- None of the characters offer scaling rewards for the color. Just one of the colored icon feels rewarding. This is almost necessary because Limited battle cards are usually full of rainbow colors of battle cards. Also, this cycle helps point out that many common battle cards have multiple colors, which are creating more and more now that we have a firmer grasp of the game design and 5 colors to work with instead of the 3 we started with.
- Mechanically each character is different from each other, not all the same gimmick. Chop Shop and Barricade are very different in their mechanics. If this whole cycle worked like Chop Shop or worked like Barricade then games, particularly Limited games, would often feel the same.
- Commons can get very repetitive and we already have the Micro Masters with a similar structure for colors and tap abilities. However, the game is much more sensitive to unbalanced 4-and 5-star characters than it is to 7-star characters, so that’s why the 4 and 5-star cycles have more structure and similarities than the 7-star characters.
Common battle cards also have jobs. Case in point, Reprocess is a common battle card in Siege II. Each wave we want a way to scrap Upgrades – it’s important player interaction and “gotcha!” moments and disruption. It’s even more important in Wave 3 and 4 – there are Battle Master characters running around that become super strong Upgrades about halfway through the game. We previously made multiple commons each set to handle this.
The problem is making 3 cards for Upgrade removal does a good job of making the different Upgrade types matter, but it takes up lots of common slots. Reprocess with its green icon is attempting to do the same job with just one common card slot. We think it’s quite generous for a green icon to scrap any upgrade so we gave it a funky repair effect that’s great for your own character but could be actively bad for you to aim at an enemy upgrade. Plus, it feels like the character is eating its own yummy upgrade.
Today we saw the new preview of Raider Chop Shop and Reprocess and how there are jobs for common slot in War for Cybertron: Siege II. I hope you’ll enjoy the full 6-character card cycle that Raider Chop Shop belongs to and the two other cool common Battle cards in the set that Reprocess makes room for.
Thanks for reading this preview. I hope you enjoy War for Cybertron: Siege Part II on sale November 8th!
Until next time, may you perform your job at the best of your abilities.