Greetings! I’m Ken Nagle, design lead for TransformersTCG. Today I have 1 character reveal for War for Cyberton: Siege II, which is Wave 4 of our releases.
My character is an old favorite with a new coat of paint in a new setting. Introducing Sergeant Springer!
Sergeant Springer is a Sergeant because this is his War for Cybertron version. This version of Springer illustrates some of the design challenges we face when creating triple-changer characters, and by extension the entire game.
I’ve designed cards for multiple trading card games, leading sets for 3 different ones. I’ve noticed the similarities that trading card games share because their basic component is a card.
One thing a card can do quite well is a “2-in-1” design, meaning one card asks you to choose between two choices. At Wizards of the Coast we call these “split cards” or “modal cards” or “choose one” cards, depending on the exact rules text they end up with (how we “template” them), but the result is the same. One card, a choice between two options, and you get one result but not the other.
The crazy part that I’ve realized is every card in Transformers TCG are 2-cards-in-1.
- Most character cards have 2 modes. During gameplay you have the choice of one mode or the other, and they are mutually exclusive.
- Battle cards have icons and rules text. When you flip the battle card in battle, its icons matter but not its rules text. When you play the battle card, its rules text matters but not its icons.
As far as a balance goes, it’s a little different:
- A battle card with very effective battle icons needs very tame rules text, and vice versa.
- We need both modes of the character card to be roughly equivalent in power. If a character has a very poor mode you will never flip to it, and that’s not very Transformers-y. We go so far as to bribe players with “When you flip to this mode” to keep you flipping all throughout the game. In general, we try to make Alt modes more defensive and Bot modes more offensive as an easy way to get players to care about both modes during gameplay, though it’s not necessarily a 50/50 split.
When 2 Becomes 3
Now let’s crank this up a notch. Springer and his triple-changer brethren have 3 modes, not 2. During design, we’ve found the easy offense/defense for modes no longer work when there’s 3 modes. There can be an offense mode, a defense mode, but then what’s the 3rd mode? We came up with some utilitarian 3rd mode flip triggers you’d sometimes want like:
- Scrap your hand, draw 2 cards.
- Do 1 damage to a [certain kind of] enemy character.
- Scrap a [certain kind of] upgrade from an enemy character.
- Do 1 damage to EACH character that has an odd number of damage counters on it.
- If your opponent has 3 or more cards in hand, they scrap one.
These triggers are all a little weird because we want them to sometimes be a good idea and sometimes not. We’ve found it not fun to fight against an enemy character that can easily do direct damage or scrap your upgrades or hand over and over. All in all, it’s difficult to design these kinds of triple-changers since you’re trying to get all 3 modes roughly equal in strength.
A different way we’ve discovered to make the 3rd mode of a triple-changer matter is what I’ll call “leveling” up. Springer demonstrates this leveling effect quite well.
Sergeant Springer’s Alt 1 and Alt 2 modes mirror each other. You can easily flip between them for lots of card flow while increasing your hand size. Springer’s third mode, his bot mode, is a big payoff for having a lot of cards in hand – you get to play an Action then an Upgrade which depletes cards from your hand. Then you can build back up again.
Sergeant Springer is not purely a leveling mechanic – you can jump between Alt 1 and Bot mode if you really want to. Note that Sergeant Springer’s stats don’t change between modes – he’s juggling the size and contents of your hand rather than asking you to choose the best stats for your battlefield. This is not our normal way to design characters, but in playtesting, he felt complex enough even without any numerical differences. He rewards getting to 7 cards because that requires effort but also happens about once per game during playtesting so it’s not impossible. Also, for a short time around this set’s design, we were contemplating a maximum hand size rule of 7 but decided not to – draw all the cards you want! Perhaps Sergeant Springer is attempting a Daring Escape.
Sergeant Springer is a new “level up”-style triple-changer that rewards extra card draw. His bot mode sports one of the best flip triggers in the game should you decide to go crazy with extra ways to flip him quickly.
Thanks for reading this preview. I hope you’re gearing up for Wave 4 – we worked hard on it and hope you enjoy War for Cybertron: Siege Part II.
Until next time, may the buildup be as fun as the payoff.