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    jp's GameLog for Duel Masters: Sempai Legends (GBA)

    Friday 21 April, 2006

    So, in a sudden and almost unexpected turn of events, I finished this game. After winning the trophy from the last city on the map and defeating my "nemesis", I was proclaimed champion. However, I still had one more trophy left to go and a lot of rare cards missing from my collection.

    So, I was told to head out to the floating cruise ship and defeat all the sailors. They would have rare cards to add to my collection. So I did, and new and exciting rare cards they did indeed possess. (I played against some pretty nifty decks, I must say).

    I then headed back to my hometown to fight the "black-suited" folks. It turns out that I had to participate once again in my local tournament, defeat the black-suited fellows..and hey! I finished the game! (it was sudden because it was a 2-match opposed to the 5-match one I had played last). I thought I would have to win each towns tourney again, against black-suited fellows in order to get the last medal. I guess not. No problem, I'm not complaining.

    While the story, graphics, etc. of this game are clearly sub-par, the gameplay is not. It doesn't hurt that the game is based on what seems to be a very solid CCG design, but the interface for the actual card battles is pretty well done. Also, the it seems that the actual CCG's design is pretty well adapted to handheld gaming. Matches don't drag on, which is a real boon.

    Here's a list of the features of the CCG game design I thought were interesting:

    1. There are no "hit points". Basically, if you take a hit you lose. However you are initially protected by 5 shields. (so you can take 5 hits, one more and you lose).

    2. There is no (apparent?) way to recover shields, so games WILL spiral to and end.

    3. Shields are cards that have been randomly drawn from your deck. When you lose a shield, the card goes back into your hand. Sometimes I found myself "strategically" letting a hit through, just get to an extra card in my hand.

    4. Deck size is only 40 cards. This low number (standard CCG is 60?) is friendlier towards shorter games and handheld gaming since it is easier to organize/create decks. Surprisingly, I never had a game where myself or my opponent ran out of cards in our decks. (I have no idea what happens when that occurs either)

    5. There are no "land" cards. (ie, cards whose sole function is to provide energy/mana/resources required to summon/cast/use other cards). Every round you can pick up to one card from your deck and place it in your "mana" zone. This card can now only be used to generate mana. (ie, it doesn't matter what the card's text was originally, it is now considered a land card only) This avoids the typical "mulligan" problems in CCGs where you need to balance two general types of cards: fuel, and stuff that needs fuel.

    6. Blocking (or preventing enemy creatures from attacking your shields) is a special ability. So, combat tends to be more aggressive (ie, fast) since it is harder to set up a good defensive position.

    There are a few other characteristics that are interesting. Overall I have to say that this was an interesting game, and I'm glad I got to take a look at a "new" CCG I wasn't familiar with. (I've been out of that loop for a while...hehehe)


    Looks interesting. The CCG itself strikes me as being pitched at the too-cool-for-Pokemon early teen crowd, although the deliberately-OTT naming conventions might be a means of raising a chuckle from the older gamer. (See: most of the names for the booster sets.) I've never played it, though.

    (1) The shield mechanic is a great idea. I'd go one step further and suggest a modification: what if shields were pre-chosen from the deck instead of randomly drawn?

    (2) I guess the deck size is OK due to the lack of "lands", but I'm not 100% sure.

    (3) I'm conflicted about the no-land design. It looks good on paper, but I imagine it takes a lot of the richness out of the game - much of MtG, for instance, is about planning your mana flow, balancing the colours, and generally solidifying your resource base.

    Speaking of which, I'd kill for a good, comprehensive MtG game for the DS.

    I've currently got a CCG-ish design cooking in my head, and my intention is to make it landless - with the proviso that performing certain actions in game will increase your mana pool, and the spectrum of actions you can perform is wide enough to cover most situations. For example, having an active summoned creature in play will increase your mana pool (the game is focused more on damage from spells/enchantments than from summons), but if it is destroyed, the opponent gains a temporary bonus to their pool.

    Friday 21 April, 2006 by Sparrow

    I think that this game is a lot less rich than MtG. That's for sure! (the card set is smaller, for starters) However, in combination with handheld play, it works really well (which is what surprised me). It isn't the best CCG I've ever played by a long shot (in fact, it really does feel like a stripped down version of MtG), but it's not bad at all. I've actually wondered if the paper version is the same...or if it has a larger (more complicated?) ruleset.

    (1) The shield mechanic is really interesting. However your suggestion, for this game, would not work. There are some cards/spells whose effects are triggered automatically when they are "destroyed" as shields. In other words, when the shield is destroyed, if the card has this special power, you can cast it for free instead of placing it in your hand as usual.

    (2) The no-lands really works. Since you have to pick cards from your hand to use as lands (and commit to not being able to use them as whatever they were originally), you get a nice strategic element where each turn you have to agonize over which card you'll turn into a land, if any. Obviously, this agonizing decision changes from round to round... You can actually try the change out really easily in MtG. Just remove all lands, and every turn you can place a card in your land section. BTW, if you want to cast a "red" card, you have to tap at least one "red" land. (and so on for the other colors). This also makes it a little easier to get more cards into play. (again helping keep the game shorter)

    (3) Try it out! :-)

    I'd kill for a DS version of Netrunner...with Wi-Fi! Hehehe...

    Your CCG-ish idea sounds interesting. Would this be a paper version?

    Saturday 22 April, 2006 by jp

    (1) Frankly, I'm not sure I see what makes this so absolutely untenable. It has been my experience that many games lack a sufficient negative feedback loop, and having pre-chosen shields would certainly strengthen the -ve feedback caused by the shield system. The catch is to make sure that any activated "shield ability" doesn't end up being completely overpowering. (I'd imagine that the use of shield abilities with random shields only adds pointless randomness to the game outcomes.)

    (2) Good point!

    (3) Hmm, I'm currently cash-poor due to picking up Graffiti Kingdom and (finally!) Viewtiful Joe, both ostensibly for research. (Honest - the former didn't get great reviews, and in the latter case I'm not a big beat-em-up fan, which explains why I dragged my feet on that purchase so long.)

    As for the CCG-ish design I'm working on, it was originally intended to be paper, but is now on backburner status, and may actually find itself inserted into some other game design in simplified form. I'm juggling 4-5 different game designs in my head (including the one I'm actually doing for work), and I really need to tidy the inside of said head up. The problem is that I can't really (or shouldn't really, rather) work on the others during office hours, and by the time I get home I'm too drained to work on them. :P

    Tuesday 25 April, 2006 by Sparrow

    About (1), well.. I guess it could work. My impression was that for this particular game, it worked well.

    About your CCG design...if you ever need playtesters, let me know. :-)

    Wednesday 26 April, 2006 by jp
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