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  • Writer's pictureRock

Let’s Talk About Limitations

Let’s talk about Limitations.

Gamewise, I mean, and specifically in Midnight Suns, I have no desire to discuss my own. More to the point, the limitations we know are going to be in the game and how we can both deal with them… and break past them.

We’ve discussed some of the resources in game here. It occurred to me that one I didn’t talk about is one of the most important resources in any such game: The Economics of Action. So, what do I mean by that? Simply put, it’s what you can accomplish when it’s your turn to play. While it can encompass a wide variety of elements, the specific topic of this article is going to deal with the cards you can play on your turn. Not the effects, but the number of actions you can take on your turn to win the current round, and thus the battle and successfully win the mission. Your limit is three card plays per turn, and this is something of a departure in mechanics from most of the card games that have become popularized in the last thirty years or so.

Most of the time, there is some sort of payment to use cards, and while that is true for Heroic cards, it’s not the main limit in Midnight Suns. There’s no land to tap, no resource to spend, no mana or gold cost or any such thing. Even Heroism is an additional cost to the basic limit of three cards. You don’t get a Heroic play for free, you have to have the card play available AND the Heroism to get that sweet super-move play, and that’s a new way of thinking about how to approach a card game. It’s going to require that you not only consider how much Heroism you can squeeze out of the cards you’ve got (possibly to then play a Heroic), but also to keep in mind the other such ‘intangible resources’ that Firaxis has included; Redraws and a Movement Action.

These aren’t ‘resources’ in the classic sense. You can’t ‘collect’ them, they renew every turn, but (and this is the important part) you also can’t ‘save’ them, nor increase them (with many exceptions, that part is coming up) by the rules we’ve been given. Three card plays, two redraws, one move action… That’s what we have to work with, and then you add in layers, like Heroism, on top to add more depth to the game. It’s a very unique way of placing a limit on what you can accomplish in your one turn, without adding more and more resources to keep track of as you play. It will require some adjustment (I can guarantee I’m going to play cards to get the Heroism to play that sweet super-move, then forget I needed to save a card play to pull that off and throw my keyboard across the room… just as an example).

In other games, you’d have a cooldown, or a limited number of times you could use a power before you had to rest, perhaps, like a Magic-User in D&D. Translating that into both a card mechanic and doing away with putting ‘costs on cards’ is a pretty neat way to change up what could have seemed like a stale mechanic. It also allows you to do away with being ‘resource starved’ in order to play cards, which makes sense for a super-hero game. Ironman won’t be just standing there because you drew a handful of resource generating cards and no attack/defense/what-have-you.

As to the second part, the breaking of those limits, well, we’ve already seen some of what they’ve come up with. ‘Quick’ refunds a card play so long as you K.O. an enemy, but even then, you’re not going to be able to ‘go infinite’ like you can with some other games. ‘Quick’ won’t work without an enemy to K.O., another limitation that will inform your decisions. Some cards don’t count against the card play counter, like Magiks’ Portal card, and are essentially ‘free’ plays.

It’s something that Skully and I have talked about a lot over the years, how games make rules, then allow you to break them. Getting that balance right though, in order to not completely break your game is a very tricky thing. You only need to look at how often popular games have ‘nerfed’ things that seemed either innocuous or cool at the time, only to discover that players are a devious and dangerous bunch. We’ll find ways to break games that no designer could ever think of, let alone plan for. THAT is part of what I’m really looking forward to with Midnight Suns. Because, no matter how careful they’re being in designing the cards and the themes for every hero… we’re out here, waiting. Thirteen heroes, each with their own card set? You’d need a super-computer and a few years to run through the combinations and I’d bet dollars to doughnuts that we players would STILL try something completely off-the-wall, out-of-the-blue, crazy combination that would find that crack in the game that would be completely overpowered and something that the designers never, ever, ever thought of.

Limits, like the rules they represent, are made to be broken, and I for one can’t wait to start!

- Rock

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