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Proposal: ELIMINATE Habitats

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1 Proposal: ELIMINATE Habitats on Wed Jun 09, 2010 9:30 pm

Having had a discussion with J, the other player in the playtest reports I've posted, we're both in agreement that eliminating the Habitat cards would probably improve the game a lot.

Right now they're a bit a third wheel. It's also rather counterintuitive because it seems like the habitat exists separate from the species. The habitat is made up of the things IN it.

Mechanically we could eliminate the Habitat cards easily right now and shift the Event cards to simply targetting matching Terrains/Climates with absolutely no loss.

Why do I think the Habitats don't work? It's not that they don't work, they just don't work significantly well to justify their existence. Since Photosynthesizing and Molecular Carbon consuming species can currently be played anywhere that's a valid Terrain/Climate match, they effectively do all the work of a Habitat card. The Habitat cards are superflous and don't add any value. They just add an unnecessary step.

One of the issues I've been finding here is that the Events are too powerful with the Habitat switching and that its very easy to be completely SCREWED by not drawing a Habitat. You either have to lard the deck with non-points scoring Habitats to protect yourself or risk being totally hosed. You can sometimes spend several turns doing nothing but discarding and drawing, just to find a Habitat.

The swings in scoring are REALLY large (see my playtest reports) and I'm suspecting would be REALLY frustrating for kids. It's really easy to wipe the entire board and force EVERYTHING to be discarded right now. That is just plain NOT FUN. It also very unbalanced as early in the game it may wipe the board or near end game, may wipe large chunks of the board.

It also would free up more space for species in the deck, which are, lets face it, the INTERESTING part. The Habitats also currently don't score points, so behave differently. Eliminating them would eliminate the confusion of having some cards that don't score.

The Events could then just have their wording switched to change the Terrain/Climate/etc of the species they're played on directly. (so Flood would change all the Terrain symbols on a species card to Freshwater and you'd then have the option to discard that species to fix the broken chains, or surrounding species) It works just as well for causing changes on the board but its way easier to counter or recover from if you don't have to draw a SPECIFIC card to start over again. As is, if you lose a Habitat card to an Event you could spend multiple turns just discarding and drawing, looking for another Habitat to start over with.

It would also eliminate some of the confusing we were having with the Range attribute and whether you can play Photsynthesizing species beyond the Range. Range currently adds complexity without adding value.

This would also fix the issue we're having with Movement as it would shrink the size of the board by not having those cards on the board.

The Habitats might still be useful as the "start" block, but in the deck they're just a distraction from the core of the game.

TLDNR version:
KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid. Everything Habitats currently do could be done better with minor tweaks to the wording of the Species cards themselves. Eliminating them will make things less confusing, more balanced, and more fun. It would require only minor wording to eliminate them entirely, which sort of indicates just how superfluous they are.

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2 Re: Proposal: ELIMINATE Habitats on Thu Jun 10, 2010 5:59 am

Interesting proposal. So my understanding of what you just wrote, we shift the game mechanic habitats hold to the first level species, eliminating a level of complexity while keeping the overall rule structure the same. Photosynthetic species are played directly on the "Home" cards, and basically function as species habitats. It also makes the "Pollinator" ability much more useful.

I'm trying to think of reasons why this would be a bad idea, but the only thing I can think of is the removal of an interesting card set, and maybe a grounding for the species cards. Playing all ocean species off a kelp forest would kind of imply that the home card is the City of Rapture in the middle of the Atlantic.

Perhaps this is a good idea, I suppose it's time for same playtesting to see how radical the changes actually make the game.

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3 Re: Proposal: ELIMINATE Habitats on Thu Jun 10, 2010 3:34 pm

Well right now you HAVE to play everything off of a photosynthetic base anyway, so you already have the City of Kelp, its just space out slightly more.

By current rules, photosynthetic species can be put anywhere. So you can in single row currently go |Kelp, Fish, Whale | | Kelp, Fish, Whale.| That works as two separate chains |Kelp, Fish, Whale| |Fish| doesn't work. So you can have multiple anchors.

For example you had |Kelp, Fish, Whale| | Kelp|. Something disconnects the Whale (we'll assume the Kelp is connected top and bottom to something). so it reads |Kelp, Fish Blank| |Kelp| If you drop a new species into that space it will let you either drop on into the first chain or respace the chain so it goes |Kelp, Fish| |Fish, Kelp| (the second chain just flows opposite direction)

It should produce something a lot more like a web than a chain.

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4 Re: Proposal: ELIMINATE Habitats on Thu Jun 17, 2010 11:53 pm

That's an interesting idea and at first glance I like it a lot. Still, as mentioned above, it would be a shame to lose the card set (there some educational value to keeping it there).

Here's an off the cuff idea. Any chance that the habitat cards can be tweaked to be a way of scoring? I.e. You score points by the number of "habitat" cards you earn (we can switch the name to ecosystem). Earning depends on the food chain you build?

I bring this up because maybe it can take the place of points? Anyway, just throwing the idea out there.

Game on!

(p.s. This dialogue and testing is all really awesome! Just wish I wasn't so busy right now!)

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5 Re: Proposal: ELIMINATE Habitats on Fri Jun 18, 2010 1:35 am

We could probably keep the cards themselves for use as the start card "spacers" where people can either opt for a neutral "this is my house with all terrain climate" or a specific start like the Desert habitat card.

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6 Re: Proposal: ELIMINATE Habitats on Fri Jun 18, 2010 4:57 pm

Hmmm... Still mulling over this. It's funny, but the dramatic effect of placing events on habitats and having these huge consequences is an interesting nuance. It does take the fun away from it, but ironically, it makes for a great learning point (i.e. these events do have huge consequences).

This is where it might be interesting to see if perhaps we can keep habitats in, with the chose of one habitat card in the starting deck, tweak the majority of event cards so that they are species card specifics, but have a few that effect habitats (however, maybe playing these habitat cards have a cost associated with it?).

Anyway, thinking out loud again, but the idea of seeing someone playing the "oil spill" card and seeing an entire chain of destructive events has appeal!

As well, we have always have different rule sets (i.e. quick play, etc)

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7 Re: Proposal: ELIMINATE Habitats on Fri Jun 18, 2010 7:18 pm

Basically what we'd been doing in the playtest was that the current Event cards target a species with matching terrain.

For example, the Flood card currently changes a Habitat to Freshwater for two turns and only targets Forest, Urban, and Grass (what is shown on card bottom). We were playing it as it can target a SPECIES with those Terrain symbols on it and changes all its Terrain symbols to freshwater. (literally, change one word and it still works fine)

If the critter you played it on to start with wasn't Freshwater to start with, it can either move or die. (if it was, it's fine, it just breaks links with surrounding stuff) Everything around it also needs to either move or die if it can't connect to Freshwater.

So it still targets a single card and CAN cause the same chain reaction you had with the first tests, but its' less likely to because its easier to move species or to build multiple paths to support a species. so if it loses one link in the chain it doesn't automatically doom everything. It makes it a more fragile link, but its not absolutely devastating.

the issue with the Habitats was they could NEVER move and because they were the base of the chain, you often couldn't move anything else because it was blocked into its space by later in the game.

It also sets up a false impression that Habitats are SEPARATE from the species that inhabit them, not made up of them.

Keeping them as an advanced way to set up the start block would be fine (as it makes the initial build tougher), but they really just weren't working at all being part of the main deck. They made the game slow, made you feel as if there was no way to actually build a food chain, and made it borderline Not Fun.

Seriously, J and I often apologized for destroying Habitats just to test them because the effects were SO devastating it was Not Fun. We're hard core gamers and will happily beat the snot out of each other in most games, but because there was almost no way to counter or recover from loss, it made it seem like an exercise in futility to even finish the game in some instances. It was a foregone conclusion that you lost and it had nothing to do with skill and everything to do with when your opponent drew an Event.

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8 Re: Proposal: ELIMINATE Habitats on Mon Jun 21, 2010 4:32 pm

How about including habitat cards as another starter/home option (as suggested). The difference would be that they are obviously more limiting, but to offset that, we can assign points to them (low points as once they're played, you can't really remove them since event cards are now played on species).

A possible extension of this is the ability to play new habitat cards as the game progresses (as long as they still fit).

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9 Re: Proposal: ELIMINATE Habitats on Mon Jun 21, 2010 5:17 pm

This should work just fine. The Event do still need to be reworded then to reflect they don't wipe out ONLY the start card then, they'll work on anything with appropriate symbols.

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10 Re: Proposal: ELIMINATE Habitats on Fri Jul 09, 2010 12:18 pm

What if the habitat cards had a 'carrying capacity'?

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11 Re: Proposal: ELIMINATE Habitats on Fri Nov 05, 2010 6:27 am

Disclaimer: I admit to some tiny bias because I uploaded a bunch of habitat-card candidate photos to the Flickr pool before reading this, and would feel silly if they were utterly useless.

My vision of the "habitat" card is that it represents a chunk of healthy, undisturbed ecosystem within your broader game web, which is why it is fixed in place -- it's an actual geographic location. Just because you play a "Pond" card doesn't mean your entire ecosystem lives in a pond, just that you've got a pond somewhere which adds to the resources available to everything else around it. I'm not sure how much that lines up with the original idea for them.

One thing I keep noticing in the discussion is concern for game balance and difficulty. I think that works a little differently in a card game where card selection for deck-building is a big deal. In that sort of game you actually want there to be some cards that are harder to use than others, both so that there is some sort of strategic thinking you can do, and so that you can take voluntary challenges.

I think that's okay if:

- habitats aren't required at all
- some attention is paid to making their point value commensurate with any difficulty they add
- you make them interesting enough to be worth having

Some possible ways to make them interesting include:

- having them give a scoring bonus to certain adjacent cards, or based on linked cards of similar terrains
- some defense against invasives (e.g. your opponent's invasive plants could not spread onto adjacent cards)
- bonus to movement, like allowing a move 1 animal to go directly to the opposite side of the card
- habitat cards could have special abilities the same way species do
- if they have more than one terrain, they are still useful just for linking habitats together, if you don't have a better card handy -- right now that only applies to the "Savannah" and "Tree Line" cards (the Savanna currently links grassland and tundra; I think it would make more sense to have that link grassland and forest, unless the tundra terrain really represents a distinction between vegetation heights, so that it would also include short-grass prairie).
- you might conceivably want to block your opponent off, and a habitat card might be better at doing that (I haven't tried playing, so I'm hazy on this)
- you could set limits on the number and types of habitat cards that a player may or must have in their deck
- require that no card may be more than some number of steps from a habitat card
- use habitats to introduce weird, one-off terrains that are hard to use but worth lots of points (e.g. types of bare rock that can only be colonized by certain species, subterranean -- caves and aquifers, highly acidic boiling mudpots, deep ocean trenches, inside of hydrothermal vents). Worry about this one once there are several hundred cards. Smile

Okay, that's enough for now! You get the idea.

I realize I'm a little late to the discussion. Hopefully that's okay.

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12 Re: Proposal: ELIMINATE Habitats on Tue Nov 01, 2016 4:09 am

fenrislorsrai wrote:or a specific start like the Desert habitat card.

Hey, I like this one! It's like in Elements CCG where each player is assigned a mark for their deck. For example, I choose Mark of Water, so I will get a free Water quanta everytime my turn ends.

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