Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Out for Bloodborne: The Card Game

“Go out, kill monsters, and take their’s a family game.” -- Eric M. Lang, game designer

You want blood and the monsters are practically bursting at the seams with the stuff. Only problem is, you’re not the only one on the trail. Other players are trying to grab what’s rightfully yours and the only by successfully navigating their help/interference will you come out on top when it comes time to collect the spoils.

A week before now, the video game Bloodborne was barely in the realm of my awareness at a all. That all changed during the GAMA trade show, when I found out Eric M. Lang was developing a short, fast card game using the official license.

Lang spilling the beans

Racing for Blood

One of the first “deckbuilding” games to arise out of the bacterial soup left behind by the impossible success of Dominion was Thunderstone. After years of successful expansions and a new edition, Thunderstone is still at its heart adventurers awkwardly buying gear and fighting monsters.
The monsters don’t feel like monsters. And the gear doesn’t feel too much like gear in many cases.
The same basic play is available in a faster framework now with all the different versions of the DC Comics Deckbuilding Game. Players take turns buying smaller stuff until they have enough gear to make the jump into the big bad guy deck, earn the big-boy victory points, and move the game closer to its conclusion.
One of the problems I see with both of these games is plodding inevitability. Each player’s turn is completely separate, with little you can do to affect your opponents. Except for a couple of really crushing cards (I’m looking at you Power Drain), you can plan out your turn pretty nicely no matter what your opponent does. You lay your cards down, something happens, you go on to the next turn.
According to Lang, in Bloodborne all the turns are going to happen simultaneously. Actions will be resolved in a changing turn order, and everything you do will possibly have an unintended effect on both you and your opponents. And during the turn, you will have to play by the seat of your pants much like one of my other favorite games.

Pressing your Luck

The “Whammies” in Bloodborne look like they can come at any time. You won’t know what attacks your fellow players are using until they do it. You also won’t know how much damage the monster you are fighting will deal until it does it. Combined, players will be uncertain they will survive each round and the temptation to leave the encounter and save your remaining resources for the next encounter will be fierce.
The example Lang brings up in the video is the Blunderbuss. You can use both melee and ranged weapons in Bloodborne. But when you use the Blunderbuss, you also do damage to anyone trying to execute a melee attack that round. You might accidentally get caught in the crossfire, which is of immense benefit to the Blunderbuss firer if you don’t survive to collect your share of the blood.

The video game: monsters are tough!

Licensed to Die

An official license to use the intellectual property from some other media empire can be the kiss of death. Lang notes the card game is designed to appeal to the digital players of the video game first, and carries some simplification versus the type of game a board gamer would expect.
This can be good or bad, and no one will know until Bloodborne gets played.
If you need a current example of a official license cash grab, look no further than the Ghostbusters board game, already moving forward on a sequel that makes yet another iteration of a very derivative concept.
On the other hand, it might be awesome.
I appreciate "simpler" games as much as anybody. Often board game mechanisms find ways to be more elegant the smaller the surrounding apparatus becomes. And whenever the turn order in a game is all mushed together, with no safe time to plan strategy, I find I get extra excitement in the process.
So Bloodborne might make a good card game. But like the video game, you’ll have to keep vigilant and not rush into anything until you know exactly what you’re dealing with.
Because once you’ve plunked down your hard-earned blood to the shopkeep, there’s no do-overs.

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