The Collectible Card Game Thread – Sourcing Resources

Welcome to the *CG thread, where we talk all manner of Card Games – Collectible, Trading, Living, and otherwise! Feel free to chat amongst yourselves about the card games you’re playing or anything card game-related that strikes your fancy.

Whether it’s called mana, credits, energy, or bling-blangs (I may have made one of those up), resources of one sort or another are core to most CCGs. When you need to do a thing, and that thing needs to cost different things, the only things to thing your thing are Resources.

For the purposes of this week’s column, I want to separate “pure” resources from “functional” resources. Speaking literally, every element of the game is a resource: cards in your hand, deck, or in-play, “actions” that you can take during a turn, and even your life total are all resources, but they serve a purpose in the game other than “currency”, so I classify them as “functional” resources. “Pure” resources are resources whose sole purpose is to be turned into something else – the aforementioned mana and so forth. This means that I’m calling Netrunner’s clicks, which are used to perform actions on your turn, are “functional” and credits, which are just used to pay costs are “pure.” It’s a subtle, arguable distinction, but it’s my column and I get to make the rules.

(aside: Part of this judgment is that credits accumulate over the course of the game, where you always have flat number of clicks per turn)

I have found three core aspects of resources:

Variability – How variable/consistent is the resource over the course of the game? How much control do you have over that variability?

Strategy – What tradeoffs are there to the resource? Is there an inherent opportunity cost? How many options do you have to gain the resource? Note – some games frontload this strategy by incorporating the resource in deckbuilding.

Factionality – How subdivided is the resource? Can resources of one type pay for/be converted to another? How feasible are multi-faction decks?

Note that the axes have no scale; they’re purely proportional for each individual game.

To go into a bit more detail:

Magic‘s mana is very variable – you have to put land that creates mana in your deck and draw it randomly. It’s also factional, with the five colors of Magic, but not overly factional – players can and do play five-color decks. Strategic play simply comes from deciding how to spend your mana each turn, so it’s most strategic aspects are more in the deckbuilding than in the playing.

Hearthstone‘s mana on the other hand is not variable at all – you just get another mana every turn. It’s also not factional – while there are different factions in the 9 classes, it’s not incorporated into the resource system. If you get a card from another class, you can just cast it for its mana cost. Similar to Magic, strategy comes from deciding what to spend it on each turn.

Netrunner‘s credits are similar to Hearthstone in that they don’t have variability or factionality, but they need to be earned by spending clicks, adding a strategic layer. In addition, unlike both of the discussed “mana” resources, credits don’t naturally replenish, making it more of a significant cost.

In Hecatomb, mana is generated by playing normal cards into your mana zone (Duel Masters/Kaijudo also uses this, but Hecatomb is funnier). Cards in your mana zone basically function like lands in Magic, creating mana of the color that they are. This makes gaining resources more strategic, as you have to decide to give up a card you could potentially play, and makes multi-faction decks more difficult than Magic, as it’s harder to play small numbers of a color, since you have to draw multiples to play any one of them.

Pokemon‘s energy, interestingly, is fairly balanced. You have to draw it, from your deck, but you then attach it to Pokemon instead of being able to use it universally, making it more of an investment. There are also way more factions, one for each Pokemon type (except Dragon for some reason).

This week’s prompt: What aspects do you like in your resource systems? Is there a particular game that you think does things right?

Or, as always, feel free to talk about anything going on with you in the world of *CGs.