I see you: Cards that are too powerful!

When we originally designed Mitropia, one of the elements we added where special move cards which can be added randomly. They are part of the randomness/luck factor to make the game more accessible. This initial set of cards was chosen as an experiment to see what each card would do. Over time and many games, the cards have proven to be a lot of fun – thwarting attacks and defenses, causing a lot of laughs.
The plan was always to experiment with the cards and make changes to improve the game. The original set of cards was:
  • No Move (x6): not useful for anything.
  • Extra Move (x16): take an extra move (i.e. 2 moves in a turn).
  • Reject (x4): reject another player’s move in the same round.
  • Reject and Replace (x2): reject another player’s move made in the same round and replace with one of your own stones.
  • Move Anywhere (x4): make a move anywhere on the board.
  • Pair Place (x4): instead of playing a single stone, play a pair of stones that are connected as a group.
  • Replace Any (x2): replace any stone on the board with one of your own.
  • Move Two (x2): instead of placing a new stone, move two of your own existing stones already on the board.
  • Move Three (x1): the same as move two stones, but for 3.
  • 3 Game Points (x3): add 3 additional points/prisoners at the end of the game.
  • 5 Game Points (x1): add 5 additional points/prisoners at the end of the game.
  • Trade Prisoners 1-2 (x4): trade 1 prisoner for 2 from any other player.
  • Trade Prisoners 2-5 (x2): trade 2 prisoners for 5 from any other player.
  • Trade Prisoners 3-8 (x1): trade 3 prisoners for 8 from any other players.
Playing the games though, there is one card which seems to be too powerful and disruptive. Given the game dynamics, it has a certain type of effect that makes it potentially more harmful than positive. This card is the “replace any” card:
 Replace any stone on the board with one of your own
Unlike all the other cards (some of which are also quite powerful!), this card has the unique ability to disrupt structures of stones already built by any of the players. This means it can also change some of the structures that are valuable in the game of the Go.
This effect on structures wouldn’t be a problem in most cases. However, it is a problem for Go structures called Eyes.
Eyes are surrounded areas of territory in a group and very important in determining the life and death of groups. One of the fundamental principles in Go is that once a group has two “eyes” it can never be destroyed unless the player who created the group plays a destructive move. The safety of these structures means that many of the dynamics of Go hinge on the need to make space for eyes and play out sequences which block or enable to creation of two eyes. A lot of the remainder of the play then depends upon estimates by all the players as to which groups are likely to be “alive” at the end of the game because they have at least two eyes.
“Replace Any” destroys much of this since in many cases, replacing even one stone in a structure could result in the destruction of the eyes which keep it alive.
The reject and “reject and replace” cards are also very powerful and can certainly disrupt eye formation during play as well. However, the point here is they can disrupt formation during play, but not after the fact in the way that “replace any” has the power to do.
Although there are only replace any cards in the deck, the effect is still so dramatic that it seems sensible to remove this particular card, so that the Go game dynamics can live on more completely.
As to what to replace the card with… that’s a trickier issue. Check in a few days for a new post covering new cards!

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