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Calm Sober Codex P/review
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Josh_Kablack
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Joined: 07 Mar 2008
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 01, 2016 8:11 pm    Post subject: Calm Sober Codex P/review Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Ranting and Raving about David Sirlin's Codex: Card-Time Strategy, a game on Kickstarter for like one more day, but you can pay real money for P&P sets right now.



reader, prepare thyself, this is lengthy


Elevator pitch number one: Codex: Card Time Strategy is a game that offers the strategic customization of CCGs through a finite card pool, allowing players the ability to compete at the top levels without having to continuously spend hundreds of dollars on new cards.

Elevator pitch number two: Codex: card Time Strategy is an RTS-themed s card game that's a hybrid between a CCG and a Deckbuilding game.

* How things work *: and what I think about them

You start with a Base that has 20 HP. You lose when your base is destroyed at 0 HP. You win when your opponent's Base is destroyed at 0 HP.


This would be a more honest name, if the Swedish Pop group hadn't taken it first


You start with one of seven different 10 card starter decks. The starter decks are sorted by color Brown (neutral), White, Green, Red, Blue, Purple, Black. That's an even more mockable set of colors than MtG, but it's merely a flavor concern, so it's not worth dwelling on. Each of the cards in a starter deck is either a "Tech 0 unit" or a "Spell".

You also start with (1 or) 3 Hero Cards which are in a zone that is not your deck. Each of the six "real" colors has Three heroes to choose from, while Neutral only has 2 - making for 20 total. In the game's learning mode, or playing with just the Starter Set, each player will only field one hero and use that's hero's color's associated starter deck. In the more standard game mode, you will field a team of 3 heroes and choose a starter deck associated with any one of their colors. You are allowed to mix and match heroes between different colors, although the game does have mild multicolor penalties such that you won't want to do so unless you are gaining some synergy. Current theorycrafting has a lot of argument over just how big such synergies need to be to make for competitive teams.

To play cards from your hand into play you need to spend Gold. Unlike MtG, the summoning resource is not partitioned by faction and all cards cost the same currency to play. This is good and allows for multicolor mix and match to be more straightforward than MtG. Gold is primarily acquired via workers. You start with either 4 (first player) or 5 workers (not first player) At the start of your turn, each worker produces one gold per turn. Unspent Gold is carried over from turn to turn I need to point out right here that this design decision adds turn-to-turn accounting to the usual CCG / Deckbuilder setup. You can gain up to one additional worker per turn by trashing a card from your hand and paying one gold. For the first three to five turns, you should always do this. This design decision means that the player decision is not whether to trash a card, but which card to trash.

You can summon your first hero from whereevertheheck they wait for a cost of two gold, at which point they enter your Command Zone, from which they will be able to attack, patrol (ie block) and use abilities. You can also summon units from your hand into your command zone for their printed gold cost. Units will also be able to Attack, Patrol and use Abilities. However, primarily for targeting reasons, there is a rule that "Heroes are not Units". I am unsure if the tactical depth such a rule adds is worth the complexity it adds. Much like MtG, Heroes and Units can neither attack nor do anything else that requires Exhausting (ie Tapping) their card on the turn they enter play unless, much like MtG, they have the specific ability which lets them do that. Unit and Heroes have Attack (Power in MtG terms) and Health (Toughness in MtG terms). Unlike MtG, Health does not reset each turn, and HP taken on a unit must be tracked turn to turn. This design decision is utter madness in a tabletop game. It is obviously supposed to reflect the attrition that units in RTS games suffer, and it allows weaker units to cumulatively chip away at tougher units - which are reasonable goals. However the amount of accounting it adds to the game is, to put it politely:



batshit insane.


Any unit with more than 1 starting health is likely to accumulate damage counters during most turns of most games.


Like MtG, there are a bunch of effects which grant units bonuses, penalties and additional abilities. So in addition to damage counters, you can have all the +1/+1 counters, or "has gained [ability]" markers on units.
Since that's all not enough accounting and tokens to pile up on cards, Heroes also have the ability to "level up". For each gold you spend, they gain a level. Hero cards have three bands of levels, each of which may have an ability. (although many Heroes have no abilities at their starting tier.) Heroes retain all abilities, so they retain their lower band abilities while also gaining the higher band abilities as the progress in level. This is thematic, but adds the accounting of putting level counters on your Heroes. Different Heroes have different abilities and different minimum levels needed to reach each band of abilities. Many (but not all) ability bands give their Hero increased Attack and Health stats when reached. In addition, each time a hero reaches a new band, all accumulated damage is healed away, thus making Heroes more durable than units (especially in the earlygame) and making the timing of leveling an important strategic consideration. I'm okay with all this, but it's still more accounting. Also I really dislike the phrasing and terminology. Instead of multiple levels at a cost of 1 gold per level being required to unlock the next band of abilities, I would much prefer if heroes all just had three levels. You could then preserve functionality by having varying costs in gold listed for each band of abilities. This is thematically cleaner. One more thing: when Heroes are killed, they don't die in the same way that units do.


A Codex hero

A slain hero loses all levels, damage, and accumulated tokens, has to sit out for a full turn, and may thereafter be resummoned at starting level. for 2 gold

Attacking and defending with Units/Heroes works quite a bit differently than MtG. The game is intentionally designed to allow for asynchronous play - you make all your choices on your turn, and cannot interrupt anything your opponent does on their turn. This is a laudable design goal, although it does lead to a few other difficulties, and current attempts at online play via webcam game boards or Steam's Tabletop Simulator have revealed that it was only 98% realized. The game includes a smattering of "opponent reveals their hand" abilities, which cannot be resolved asynchronously in online play without some type or rules-enforcing software., and there are a handful of other interactions such as "when this dies, sacrifice something else" which still require out-of-turn decision making. Normally this wouldn't be a big deal, but when Sirlin decides to charge 500% percent more than what with 80% similar component counts cost in order to support his design and playtesting costs ( Full Disclosure: I have playtest credits in two Sirlin games and received zilch for it ( not even free product nor discounts) - which isn't to say I'm sore, but is to say that his actual playtest costs are very likely zero. ) I feel compelled to point out even such small failures to hit stated design goals. If you are going to charge luxury premium prices for your design work, and claim ten years of playtesting as a cost when you stiff your playtesters, then I am not exactly big on forgiveness for missing the design goals you set yourself.

Anyways, attacks are one-on-one, in controller's choice of order. The attacker chooses a Unit or Hero, taps Exhausts it to make an attack ( unless it has the ability that lets it attack without tapping ) Exhausting, and the attacker also chooses an opposing Unit, Hero or Building for the attacker to attack. Then the attacker and the defender deal their ATK value in damage to each other's HP simultaneously (unless either has any abilities where things happen slightly differently). Note that buildings have no ATK, so an attacker can swing into buildings safely. Remember also that all HP damage is carried over turn to turn, even sacrificial Units/Heroes attacking or being attacked will usually inflict some attrition on the opposing Units/Heroes. The active player then repeats this process until they have made all the attacks they want, or all of their Units/Heroes eligible to make attacks have done so.

So Codex has not merely "chump blocking" to prevent damage at the cost of a card in play, but also adds the tactic of "chump attacking" to neutralize opposing cards in play at the cost of multiple cards.

So the bit here is that the active player has total control of attack order and attack targets - or rather they would if not for The Patrol Zone, which allows a defender to pre-emptively assign defenders. The way this works is that at the end of your turn, you may assign each of your untapped non-exhausted Units/Heroes to any empty slot in the Patrol Zone.



actual game component


Then, when your opponent attacks on their turn, they cannot choose to attack anything "behind" a Patroller (unless their attacker has one of several evasion-type abilities, (and the patrollers lack the appropriate negation ability for that type of evasion ability )). Furthermore, Patrollers "behind" another Patroller in the Squad Leader slot cannot be attacked (barring the aforementioned evasion delios). Thus when attacking, you must first eliminate your opponent's Squad Leader, then you get to choose which of your opponent's remaining Patrollers to eliminate, and only once you have eliminated all of your opponent's Patrollers do you get to freely choose targets to attack.

That's lets the defending player have up to 2 layers of defenses deployed to protect their Base and any other strategically critical infrastructure, but the game is kept from degenerating into impenetrable multi-tiered trench warfare by the fact that there is a 5-Patroller limit, and no hard limit on number of attackers. Also, carrying damage over turn-to-turn and giving the attacker the choice where to hit in the second line (non-Squad Leader Patrollers) serves to prevent turtling from ever becoming impenetrable. The cool part, is that each of the 5 Patrol Slots gives the defending unit a small bonus for being in that slot. The Squad Leader not only protects all other targets, but it also comes with a point of Armor (ie Temporary Hit Points), the next slot gives any defender in it +1 ATK, the following 2 slots give the defending player resource gains when a Patroller in those slots dies (adding materiel gains to chump blocking), while the final slot gives a Patroller Resist 1 (meaning an opponent must spend a gold to target it with Spells or abiltiies).

This is part is truly amazing game design. It allows for asynchronous play and yet allows the defender to make significant tactical decisions about whether and how to blocking and the attacker to make significant tactical decisions about whether and how to attack. It gives both attacker and defender advantages, but realizing those advantages is largely dependent upon other parts of the game state. If the rest of this game worked as well as this part, I would be every bit as effusive in begging people to shell out the crazy price tag of the Deluxe set as the Kool-Aid-Drinkers over on Fantasy Strike dot Com are. As it stands, I am merely uncomfortably paying that price myself and suggesting heavily that aspiring designers of other tactical combat type boardgames take a close look how this works.

But moving on, you may have noticed this game's first major terminology problem. I keep having to use the term Unit/Hero, because there are meaningful distinctions between them and it is an important rule that "Heroes are not Units."



There is no Game Term to refer to targets which can be either, so a bunch of cards have to say "Unit or Hero" on them, and with punctuation and conjunctions, that results in a fairly noticeable number of minor ambiguities -- which Sirlin characteristically insists are not in fact ambiguous. And which all could have been avoided by calling the set of "Heroes+Units" all "Creatures" or "Troops" or maybe replacing the current usage of "Units" with "Minions" and letting "Units" mean "Minion or Hero".

But that's not the biggest terminology issue here. The truly glaring problem is that Sirlin apparently inherited Gygax's thesaurus:
Click here to see the hidden message (It might contain spoilers)
You have Tech Buildings, units have a Tech Level, you Tech up your deck during the Tech Phase, and Texas Tech plays Texas A&M every year....and these things have about as much relationship to each other as Character Level, Class Level, Spell Level, Dungeon Level and the Level in my toolbox do for D&D.

Lemme 'splain: any Units in your Starter Deck are Tech 0 Units, meaning that you can build them from your hand for their cost at any point during the game. It also means that they are generally the weakest and least efficient units. Each higher Tech level unlocks better and more efficient units. Once you have 6 workers, you can spend 1 gold to build your Tech 1 Building, which lets you build Tech 1 Units in the same way. Once you have 8 workers, you can spend 4 gold to build your Tech 2 building, which lets you build Tech 2 Units in the same way - except wait, it's not in the same way, when you build your Tech 2 building you have to choose a Spec from among the Heroes you started the game with, and you can only build Tech 2 Units of the chosen Spec. Once you have 10 workers, you can spend 5 gold to build your Tech 3 building, and you can build the Tech 3 unit associated with the Spec you chose back at Tech 2. But remember that you don't start with anything but Spells and Tech 0 units in your chosen starter deck. At the end of your turn you get a Tech Phase, where you rifle through your Codex (MtG style trade-binder) of all the cards associated with your chosen Hero(es) and add two of those cards to your discard pile to be cycled into your draws Deckbuilder style. Once you have ten or more Workers you can, and often should, choose to add less than two. The idea is that you will start out drafting Teching a mix of Tech I units across all of your heroes's Specs, then move to Tech II units in a specific hero's spec, and eventually to Tech III, while also drafting Teching a few spells specific for each of your heroes as needed in the matchup.

On paper, this terminology might not look so bad, as it is intuitive that you need a Tech X building to play a Tech X unit, and you can see how you are adding higher Tech units to your deck during the Tech phase. In person, it is nowhere near that clear, as players will say things like "2 damage to your Tech II" and have to point to clarify that they mean the 'Tech II building" and not the single Tech II unit out; or will ask things like "did you Tech?" meaning "Have you completed your Tech Phase, is your turn all the way done?" and yet being interpreted as "Did you spend gold to build your next Tech Building". At least one set of players at a demo was completely baffled by the 'Tech Phase" as they saw it is the phase where they added new Spells to their deck and not as the Phase where they got higher Tech units into their deck. This is another case where a bunch of misunderstandings could have been preempted by using slightly different terminology.

Speaking of preempting, the deal with Tech buildings having HP and being vulnerable to attacks, spells and abilities is that they take a full turn to build. You cannot (generally) summon a Tech II unit unless you started your turn with your Tech II building in play. The idea here is that players can preemptively "counterspell" an opponent playing a given unit by destroying the relevant Tech building, which will take that opponent their next turn (but not additional gold) to rebuild, and so on. That is supposed to add a level of strategy to the tactical targeting choices in the game, and it does, but it seems to add a bigger amount of slippery slope and lockdown potential while making having solid defenses critically important. If an opponent can overwhelm your defenses enough to start taking out your Tech buildings, they are going to be able to play better and more efficient units than you, and you are unlikely to be able to catch up by playing the lower Tech units which are still legal for you. So to stay relevant in the game, you really have to either have set up solid Patrollers or do things to minimize your opponent's ATK strength. The more interesting strategic case is where an attacker cannot simply overwhelm a defender to cripple their future options, but instead has attackers with evasion abilities that lets them get some damage through, but at the risk of leaving their own defenses understrength (since units with no abilities general have higher raw stats than similar cost and Tech units without such abilities).

Moving on, the next thing to talk about is Spells. Minor spells just have a Color and come in one of the starter decks. More powerful or efficient spells have a Spec and are associated with a specific hero. Ultimate spells are a special subtype of spell. You need a Hero in play to cast any spell. Minor spells can be cast for their normal gold cost by any Hero associated with the relevant color (or by any Hero at all for Neutral Minor Spells), but incur an additional gold cost if cast by a Hero of a different color. Everything that's not a Minor Spell will have a specific Spec listed on it, and can only be cast by the Hero associated with that Spec (aside from the inevitable exceptions for specific cards). Each Hero has exactly one Ultimate Spell, and these are supposed to be game-changers when played. Ultimate Spells can only be cast if the relevant casting Hero started your turn at their maximum level (again with an inevitable card-specific exception). Thus if you are worried about your opponent casting a particular Necromancy spell on their next turn, you can try to kill their Necromancy Hero this turn - which would render him sitting out of play on the next turn and your opponent unable to cast any Necromancy spells until they had the chance to resummon their Necromancy Hero on their turn-after-next. Thus you have the tactical option to preemptively counter spells being played via the same mechanism that lets you preemptively counter given units being played. This is interesting, and the interplay between giving the attacking player choice of targets, the defending player advance choice of defensive bonuses, and the attacking player the choice between neutralizing threats already on the board or preventing the defended from playing specific types of new threats on the next turn does add quite a bit of tactical depth. However, it makes for a game that is fucking complex as all get out and you will probably never be able to explain to someone who wasn't previously exposed to MtG or Starcraft, and that's just at the tactical level.




The discard and draw phase is the final thing I have to talk about before I get to the strategic level. Much like Dominion et al, you discard your whole hand at the end of each turn, and then draw a new hand. You never end up with cards above your mana Gold curve clogging your hand for multiple turns in a row. However how many cards you draw for the new hand is not fixed, but is instead determined by how many cards you had to discard. You get to draw two more cards than you discarded, to a maximum of five (plus the inevitable potential exceptions for various drawing effects). Thus if you play a bunch of cards at once, you will suffer smaller hands and slower cycling in the future, while if you limit yourself to using no more than two cards per turn you will have hands with more options, faster cycling and a chance to drop more cards on a future turn.

So at the high-level strategic overview, this is a Deckbuilder wherein each player has one of seven different starting decks and drafts additional cards into their deck from up to three different pools of cards. Except unlike most Deckbuilders, there are no direct in-game costs to add better cards into your deck. Instead, most cards have both significant resource costs and game-state prerequisites to play from your hand onto the board. Alternately, I could describe it as a CCG where you modify your deck each turn instead of merely between games. Except unlike most CCGs, the card pool is finite and all players have the same access to it before the game starts.

Overall it's got absurdly phenomenal depth, but the rules complexity and amount of accounting needed combine to make it actually impossible to play correctly. By which I don't mean that correct play requires a lot of familiarity and skill (which it does), but rather that in each of the three demos I have done with the Starter Set P&P, there was always at least one major mistake resulting in a game state which was rules-illegal, but not noticed by any of the participants until later. And while those experiences all involved new players, the Starter Set is also the 1 hero training mode for this game, much simpler than the full 3 hero mode. So I rather mean that this is a great game, but it's going to be actually unplayable by the majority of people reading this. And yes, I am taking into account that this rant is posted on a site populated with obsessive gaming nerd types who like games with lots of math and fiddly bits. I still say that more than half of you will not even be able to completely follow the rules when playing this game.

I know that my knee-jerk review of every board game ever is "it could use streamlining to make it faster and more accessible", but that has never , and likely will never be truer than it is in the case of Codex : Card -Time Strategy: a game made for Sirlin superfans to replay thousands of times, while offers a baffling-at-best new player experience to everyone else.
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Last edited by Josh_Kablack on Wed Mar 02, 2016 7:19 am; edited 3 times in total
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Josh_Kablack
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 01, 2016 10:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Now let me talk briefly about redundant abilities.

But before I get to that, let me count some cards.

The Deluxe Set current lists as including

  • 8x 10 card starter decks (two of which are duplicates, for 70 unique cards)
  • 20 Hero cards (20 unique cards)
  • 72 Codex Cards for each of six colors (these are in pairs so only 36 x 6=216 unique cards)
  • 48 Codex Cards for the Neutral faction (again, pairs, so only 24 unique cards)
  • 12 "Map cards" as a KS exclusive. One of these can be randomly chosen at the start of each game, and changes part of the global rules for all players for that game, to provide some extra variety and alter strategic valuations. Neat idea, and likely fun, but as they are a KS exclusive, they aren't really part of the card pool.
  • Cards to represent token units in play, workers, specs specified and add-on buildings. (These are useful play aids, but they don't get to count as unique cards for my purposes here
  • playmats, chits, HP dials, etc. (Again, useful play aids, but not unique cards)


So the cardinality of the set for the total card pool of unique cards that players might be able to play during a game is 330. That's on the same order as MtG's Alpha (295), Beta and Unlimited (302). Okay, a bit larger since Codex doesn't take out multiple card art slots with different pictures of basic lands, but still close enough for comparison's sake.

Codex has 25 keyword abilities that can apply to Units, plus at least one more that applies only to Heroes and another 3-6 (depending how you want to count) which matter for specific creature and patrol slot abilities. That's a lot of different abilities, especially considering the size of the card pool. To continue the comparison, MtG Alpha/Beta Unlimited had 7 keyworded creature abilities, and 4 more abilities which retroactively received keywords. So Codex's ability density is roughly triple that of early MtG sets.

That's not necessarily bad, as early MtG had a lot to learn and keywording helps with consistency and can make learning games easier. The point there is that Codex offers a LOT of different abilities for Units/Heroes to have.

Where some editing and revision was probably warranted was in just how close many of the abilities are to each other:


  • Swift Strike and Long Range both allow Units/Heroes to deal their combat damage to enemies without that ability with the only real difference being that an enemy may survive Swift Strike and get to hit back, whereas an enemy who survives a Long Range attack cannot swing back without their own Long Range.
  • Flying and Long Range both allow Units/Heroes to attack enemies without suffering counterattacks from enemies without those abilities. Flyers also get to bypass patrollers, and risk damage from enemies with the Anti-Air ability
  • Units with Stealth can sneak past patrollers unless the opponent has a detector. Units with Invisibility can sneak past patrollers and are also untargetable and unattackable unless the opponent has a detector.
  • Flying and Stealth are both evasion abilities that allow an attacker to ignore patrollers, albeit with different limitations.
  • Ephemeral Units die at the end of the current turn. Fading units come into play with X time counters, you remove a time counter on each of your upkeep phases, and when you remove the last, you sacrifice the fading unit. Note that you could do a slight reworking of timing to have Ephemeral just be a low value of subset of Fading. Or heck, you could have them come be Fading: 1 units now and the only difference would be that they would now get a chance to block once (instead of only being useful if they have Haste) and there would be a few more interactions possible with the time faction cards.


There are differences, but the game has enough abilities that a few of those could easily have been merged for increased simplicity at the cost of losing only very minor distinctions.


Last edited by Josh_Kablack on Sun Oct 02, 2016 6:18 pm; edited 2 times in total
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...You Lost Me
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2016 1:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

As (probably) the only other person on this forum that's played Codex, I'll also gripe here about their sales & marketing strategies.

Selling your content

One of the sound bite advertisements for Codex is that there are 7000+ possible deck combinations, because there are 20 specs and "every combination [of specs] is viable". That's a very hard pill to swallow, because no game in the history of mankind has ever succeeded in balancing thousands of options to equal viability.

When pushed on the subject, supporters tend to change their tune: "Well some are better than others but all of them could possibly be played in a tournament setting PLS TRUST US THIS HAS 10 YEARS OF DEVELOPMENT". In the end, I would be surprised to see more than 100 tournament-worthy combinations. That would still be an amazing, don't get me wrong... but my gripe is with the sleight-of-hand in the Codex sales pitch.

In addition, the sales pitch about 7000+ deck combinations is based on the assumption that you have all 20 specs. The literal minimum you can start with is 6 specs, which leads to only 120 possible combinations (maybe 10 are viable?). This has led to a lot of people considering that the game is only "complete" if it contains 20 specs, and the cost of buying 20 specs is ridiculously high. Sirlin is adamant that 20 specs is the equivalent of 1 game + 5 expansions... yet he doesn't sell the game by talking about "over a hundred combinations". More sleight of hand, more annoying.

Pricing - seriously, why
Right now, you can order 3 different Codex products:

  • $20 starter set (2 pre-selected specs)
  • $45 core set (6 pre-selected specs)
  • $200 deluxe set (20 specs + extra crap)

You can either have 10%, 30%, 40% (from options 1 + 2) or 100% of the meaningful content. By it's nature, this system stops a lot of possible purchases. Do you only want 1/2 or 2/3 of the content? Fuck you, you either get 40% or 100%. Do you want a good price for all your Codex cards? Fuck you, the deluxe set costs more per card than the core set. I hope you wanted those mousepad-style game boards, map cards, 6 binders (???), and a pretty box! because it costs you about $50 extra.

This ties in with the point above, because the game is marketed as though it costs $45, but you won't get all of the content unless you pay more than triple that. Thank god there's a print-n-play where you can get everything for $30.

You're not allowed to choose
One of the biggest audiences this could have reached (and one that Sirlin was trying to reach) was a pool of competitive MtG players, disenchanted with the high cost of tournament-worthy decks. Sirlin loves to measure games in terms of "Jaces", a reference to the card Jace Beleren from MtG that was once worth $100.* Imagine that 2 cards in your MtG deck could sell for the same price as everything in another tournament-worthy game. Sounds awesome, so what went wrong?

Magic players don't try to buy every card ever released (Ex: you wouldn't want any copies of tarmogoyf in your R/W double strike deck). Instead they get whatever cards they need to build / test a deck. For a product to stand a chance at capturing this market, it would need to appeal to that desire. Letting players buy individual specs/colors, or at least letting them pick out options from a list, is a no-brainer.

But why be consumer-friendly? Here is the list of options buyers can choose from:

  • Brown (2 specs total)
  • Red & Green (6 specs total)
  • Brown, Red, Green, Black, Blue, Purple, & White (all 20 specs)


Do you want to try a rushdown & burn deck with black + red? Do you want to mix some lategame purple into your green stall? You can do that, but only if you buy the fucking mousepads. The only glimpse of sanity provided is in the print-n-play, which offers bundles of 2 colors for $10 each. Gah.

The community
The home forum for Codex is naturally populated by fans who don't like thinking bad thoughts about the game, as is normal for most small communities. But Sirlin embodies & encourages a knee-jerk passive-aggressive hostility that comes oozing out against any criticism voiced about the game. You see it on the Fantasy Strike forum, his blog forum, reddit, guest posts, and kickstarter comments. You can't escape. I am backing this despite the attitudes of the community & designer because I'm an idiot, but it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

There are so many more things that annoy me (like half of the kickstarter) but these are the big ones. You'd think that after having all sorts of issues with Yomi, Pandante, Puzzle Strike, and Flash Duel, Sirlin would try to figure out what's he's doing wrong. I wonder if he ever considers why he makes so many enemies.

* There are actually many different cards called "Jace Beleren", and many similar cards like "Jace, the Mind Sculptor". Their prices vary wildly between ten and multiple hundreds of dollars, so the forced meme inside joke has lost it's meaning since whenever Sirlin stopped playing Magic.
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Again, look at this fucking map you moron. Take your finger and trace each country's coast, then trace its claim line. Even you - and I say that as someone who could not think less of your intelligence - should be able to tell that one of these things is not like the other.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2016 3:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

YLM wrote:
I am backing this despite the attitudes of the community & designer because I'm an idiot


If it's not too late, pull out. If the game turns out not to be steaming shit, you will be able to buy it at retail, and you'll save yourself the heartbreak of sinking your money into, and getting regular(?) updates on, a project helmed by assholes.

I backed Mighty No. 9; I KNOW WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2016 3:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

...You Lost Me wrote:
As (probably) the only other person on this forum that's played Codex, I'll also gripe here about their sales & marketing strategies.


I was trying not to go there, but since you bring it up: This is the end of the Kickstarter for Codex. You can pledge now for a future product. Or, as I mentioned above you can pay real cash monies to get the P&P files (free for the Starter Set, not included as a bonus in any of the KS backer reward tiers). Previously, you could pledge to Sirlin's Patreon account at the $25/month level to get access to the prerelease P&P files. As Sirlin is an iterator, and these were test versions, there were frequent updates, and Patreon supporter suckers only got access to the most recent updates so long as they kept shelling out $25+ per month. Additionally Patreons got the chance to shell out cash for early-access limited run Print on Demand cards Linky to actual offer.

So, just for the record, that a subscription model that gave you access to prebuy test version content twice and two different means of presale payment for a game that's not even out yet. Which sort of refutes the claim that:
Quote:

You'd think that after having all sorts of issues with Yomi, Pandante, Puzzle Strike, and Flash Duel, Sirlin would try to figure out what's he's doing wrong. I wonder if he ever considers why he makes so many enemies.


He's not doing anything wrong. Sirlin's business model is largely "cultivating a cult of personality via recruiting superfans with tech jobs, and then bilking them to pay premium prices for games that he sells them multiple times.", and while that looks crazy on the surface, the numbers don't lie. Close to $300k on a board/card game Kickstarter is fucking astounding. It's not SotM OblivAeon nor Ogre Designer Edition levels of amazing, but compared to say Agility which I (should) have a minor playtest credit on, and which has a designer who makes nothing but friends, it's like Colombian Druglord sorts of money. And since he managed to presell additional versions of the game through his other channels, the Kickstarter loot is not the entire pile of money this venture has raised before it even ships to retail.

We should ask fellow Denizen Manxome how he'd feel about those sorts of numbers on the forthcoming Darkest Night 2e Kickstarter. I can't be sure, but I have a strong hunch his answer would be more positive than "Any less and I'm still taking a loss even making this game". Aside, that thread has a playtest feedback comment from Dec 2007, so we have proof that Darkest Night 2e has currently had over 8 years of playtesting, and can probably claim "10 years of playtesting" with more authenticity than Codex by the time its Kickstarter concludes and the product actually ships [/aside]


Quote:

One of the sound bite advertisements for Codex is that there are 7000+ possible deck combinations, because there are 20 specs and "every combination [of specs] is viable"..........SNIP>>>>>, I would be surprised to see more than 100 tournament-worthy combinations. That would still be an amazing, don't get me wrong... but my gripe is with the sleight-of-hand in the Codex sales pitch.


Even worse, in choosing Specs to combine, you (generally) don't get to consider combos of Tech II or Tech III units between specs. In any game you are going to pick a single one of your Specs to choose at Tech II and then you want there to be synergy between the chosen Spec's Tech II+ units and between the Spells and Tech I units of your other two Specs. Except that in most games, you are going to build your Tech II building on schedule, or maybe a turn late. So aside from matches where an opponent can lock you out of keeping your Tech II building up, you have at most five turns of caring what Tech I units you previously drafted. Except that's previously drafted, current strategic thinking about the game is that you want to have drafted some Tech II units prior to building your Tech II building. So in most games, you are going to Tech for significantly fewer than ten Tech I units from your Codex.

That and the choice of which Spec to take past Tech I still allows for significant variability between each individual game, but nowhere near the open customization implied by the sales pitch.


Quote:

In addition, the sales pitch about 7000+ deck combinations is based on the assumption that you have all 20 specs. The literal minimum you can start with is 6 specs, which leads to only 120 possible combinations (maybe 10 are viable?). This has led to a lot of people considering that the game is only "complete" if it contains 20 specs, and the cost of buying 20 specs is ridiculously high. Sirlin is adamant that 20 specs is the equivalent of 1 game + 5 expansions..


As near as I can figure, Sirlin lives inside a bubble of people who nearly all have some combination of Graduate Degrees, Tech Industry Jobs and the ability to afford Bay Area housing with disposable income left over. This sort of peer group leads him to price things at crazy levels for those of us who have to work (as in foot-pounds or newton-meters) for a living.


Quote:

Pricing - seriously, why


I keep coming back to Sentinels of the Multiverse as a price / cost / component comparison, since the base SotM game has close to as many cards as Codex Deluxe and close to as many unique full color illustrations included, and also ships with a bunch of HP and condition tracking tokens to place on cards, while retailing for about $30 (with the potential to ignore shipping costs). Codex deluxe does ship with something like 15%-20% more total cards (now that all the stretch goals for tokens have been met) plus a pair of fancy oversized mousepad material playmats and a half-dozen binders, which is a fair bit more material than SotM but costs $200 plus a *minimum* of $27 shipping, so that's literally seven times as much. That's insane, and a non-echo chamber advice group should have been able to convince Sirlin to find ways to make the game components more economical and get things down to the only double or triple the cost of the other game with close-to as much stuff and larger print runs.


Add on the set of four additional playmats to play 6-player Codex, that's another $80+$9 shipping, for a cost of $316. That's not-quite, but in the the same range as the $399+free shipping to pledge for the current SotM OblivAeon Kickstarter at the level where you get:

  • The base game (which plays 5, without needing extra playmats) (578 cards)
  • Rook city and Infernal Relics expansion (450 more cards)
  • Shattered Timelines expansion (220 more cards)
  • Vengence expansion (339+ more cards)
  • Wrath of the Cosmos expansion (250? more cards)
  • Villains of the Mutliverse (can't find online card count, but 14 decks)
  • OblivAeon Expansion (some redonkulous number of cards)
  • All the mini expansions (I don't even know)
  • An even snazzier than Codex collector's case
  • a bunch of extra KS swag including foil cards, a comic book, oversized cards, art prints and a freakin' dinosaur plushie


So while that is a close price comparison for a game plus six full and a pack of mini expansions coming in at $399 to Codex Deluxe + Playmats for a full group's $316 - the crazy level for SotM comes in at something around 2000 total full color cards to Codex Deluxe's 700, and SotM manages to include more swag too.

So if you're judging a game by "amount of stuff", which probably corresponds at least roughly to "unit production cost", SotM manages to look somewhere around triple the value at the high end. And while I am aware that economies of scale come online for larger print runs, you should be able to realize at least enough of those economies with $300k in advance gross revenue on a boardgame project such that a $2million boardgame project isn't getting stuff for a third of what you need to pay your manufacturers.

Quote:

One of the biggest audiences this could have reached (and one that Sirlin was trying to reach) was a pool of competitive MtG players, disenchanted with the high cost of tournament-worthy decks. Sirlin loves to measure games in terms of "Jaces", a reference to the card Jace Beleren from MtG that was once worth $100.* Imagine that 2 cards in your MtG deck could sell for the same price as everything in another tournament-worthy game. Sounds awesome, so what went wrong?



As I have said previously, trying to justify Codex pricing by pointing to MtG card costs only makes sense if Codex has something at least approaching MtG's market penetration. Codex is not a casual game, and to really appreciate its depth, you will need a playgroup that is willing to invest quite a bit of time into learning its nuances. Those only exist online and in like three cities (NY, LA, San Fran) right now. Yet you can likely find a group that plays MtG somewhat competitively at pretty much any US city which has a university.

So when comparing to MtG add the time and effort costs of convincing all your friends to learn this new and complicated game, to the monetary costs of Codex.

Quote:

The community
The home forum for Codex is naturally populated by fans who don't like thinking bad thoughts about the game, as is normal for most small communities. But Sirlin embodies & encourages a knee-jerk passive-aggressive hostility that comes oozing out against any criticism voiced about the game.


You missed what Sirlin's admitted fascination with Trolling as an art form does to his home forums....

Quote:
I am backing this despite the attitudes of the community & designer because I'm an idiot,


Aha, we have achieved common ground!!
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...You Lost Me
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2016 3:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I'm an idiot because my reasons for wanting a copy overrules my concerns about the bad marketing / communities. From a philosophical standpoint, I want the game to succeed.
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Again, look at this fucking map you moron. Take your finger and trace each country's coast, then trace its claim line. Even you - and I say that as someone who could not think less of your intelligence - should be able to tell that one of these things is not like the other.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2016 3:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

...You Lost Me wrote:
I'm an idiot because my reasons for wanting a copy overrules my concerns about the bad marketing / communities. From a philosophical standpoint, I want the game to succeed.


I'm right there with you. Parts of this game's design are smashing brilliant, and I really want to encourage the development of non-collectible CCG like games and use my dollars to vote for even-playfield competitive games in place of the standard CCG model of "your own personal arms race"
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2016 6:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

That makes a surprising amount of sense. I suppose the concept of converting MtG fans is naive, especially considering how little effort was taken to actually follow through on the idea.

I can fondly imagine how this game could grow if it were allowed. It reminds me of Zileas on the old LoL forums, trolling and insulting people. There's a reason Riot stopped letting him post, and now requires their employees to go through community management courses. Considering Sirlin respect Zileas quite a bit, I'm surprised I didn't make that connection sooner.
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Again, look at this fucking map you moron. Take your finger and trace each country's coast, then trace its claim line. Even you - and I say that as someone who could not think less of your intelligence - should be able to tell that one of these things is not like the other.
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Mask_De_H
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2016 7:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

...You Lost Me wrote:
That makes a surprising amount of sense. I suppose the concept of converting MtG fans is naive, especially considering how little effort was taken to actually follow through on the idea.

I can fondly imagine how this game could grow if it were allowed. It reminds me of Zileas on the old LoL forums, trolling and insulting people. There's a reason Riot stopped letting him post, and now requires their employees to go through community management courses. Considering Sirlin respect Zileas quite a bit, I'm surprised I didn't make that connection sooner.


Well, shittalking people and trolling was our MO until a couple of people got b7ed, and the insults are a proud tradition we carry to other places, so there might be some correlation between hardcore game optimization and being an argumentative asshole.

I just remember Sirlin having a guy who would stalk and troll him from way back when he was a part of the FGC (shoutouts to polarity yo ull). Maybe that rubbed off on him.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2016 10:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

You Lost Me wrote:
One of the sound bite advertisements for Codex is that there are 7000+ possible deck combinations, because there are 20 specs and "every combination [of specs] is viable". That's a very hard pill to swallow, because no game in the history of mankind has ever succeeded in balancing thousands of options to equal viability.

When pushed on the subject, supporters tend to change their tune: "Well some are better than others but all of them could possibly be played in a tournament setting PLS TRUST US THIS HAS 10 YEARS OF DEVELOPMENT". In the end, I would be surprised to see more than 100 tournament-worthy combinations. That would still be an amazing, don't get me wrong... but my gripe is with the sleight-of-hand in the Codex sales pitch.


I'm not sure why I'm supposed to be impressed with 7000 deck combinations, to be honest. Let's consider a single Magic tournament deck: Eldrazi Ramp. It's green and colorless and usually has a red or black subsuit. The deck is nearly half land and has a bunch of spells to grab land out of the deck. It carries various defensive cards that depend on which subsuits it's using and what decks it's afraid of. But the point of the deck is the top end cards, which it has about 10 of. A few of them are definitely going to be Ugin and a few of them are definitely going to be World Breakers, but the rest of them could be Oblivion Sowers, Chandras, Ulamogs, Kozileks, Dread Defilers, Atarkas, Deathbringer Regents, Void Winnowers, Desolation Twins, Mage Ring Responders, Birthing Hulks, or Gaia's Revenges. Even discounting the permutations of lands, ramp, and curve that the deck can plausibly be made with, the payload itself has millions or billions of tournament viable variations.

If someone came into a tournament with Eldrazi Ramp that was GB<> and had two Deathbringer Regents, two Dread Defilers, 4 World Breakers and 2 Ugins, I wouldn't say that was weird. If someone came into a tournament with Eldrazi Ramp that was GR<> and had 2 Atarkas, 2 Chandras, 2 World Breakers, 3 Ugins, and an Ulamog, I wouldn't think that was weird either. Importantly, I would recognize it as the same exact archetype even though only 4 of 10 of their respective top end cards were the same.

If someone tells me with a straight face that their deckbuilding card game allows you to make over nine thousand (or over eight thousand, or some smaller number) viable decks, that is not a serious contender against Magic: the Gathering. Individual archetypes have more variation than that in Magic. Even relatively simple archetypes like Green/White Hardened Scales that have lots of mandatory four-ofs (Hardened Scales, Managorger Hydra, Dromoka's Command, Hangarback Walker, Servant of the Scale) have lots of optional slots with a lot of reasonable choices. I mean, do you slot in an Abzan Falconer? How many Den Protectors? What about Dromoka (non-Dragonlord version)? How many Avatar of the Resolutes? And so on.

-Frank
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2016 4:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The 7000 is supposed to be 7000 distinctive strategies. So maybe 1 of those is equivalent to an Eldrazi Ramp, 1 other is a 4-color rally, another is a Hardened Scales.

Now I don't believe that. A bunch of those strategies will probably overlap, and between overlapping strategies there will almost always be winners.
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Again, look at this fucking map you moron. Take your finger and trace each country's coast, then trace its claim line. Even you - and I say that as someone who could not think less of your intelligence - should be able to tell that one of these things is not like the other.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2016 6:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Talking about number of possible decks makes very little sense for Magic, where you have some combinatorial formula involving factorials out of pool of something like 20,000 cards and end up with some incomprehensibly large number of possibilities. Yet it manages to make even less sense for Codex, where you draft cards into and remove cards from your deck as a core part of the gameplay, so each deck changes in composition almost every turn of every game. In a way, talking about the number of Codex decks is a bit like talking about the number of decks in Dominion.

Let me instead explain the number possible starting states in Codex, because the game terminology makes that needlessly opaque.

You will start the game with one out of exactly seven possible starter decks: Neutral, Red, Green, Blue, Black, White or Purple. So while it wouldn't be wholly wrong to say that Codex only has seven possible decks, it would be about as imprecise as counting MtG only having thirty one possible decks (all possibly combinations of 1 through 5 colors). In addition you start with a set of Heroes who are pre-selected before the game starts, but do not start out in your deck. In the non-training mode, this is a set of three Heroes, at least one of whom must match the color of your chosen starter deck. You are not allowed to select duplicates of the same hero. The neutral faction only has 2 Heroes, while all the color-aligned factions have 3 Heroes.

Leaving out a whole bunch of math I just did, and have questionable confidence in whether I set up correctly, I figure that to be a total of 5227 possible game legal combinations of starting hero teams and starter decks. (People with more recent stats courses, please feel free to correct me on that number). That is a tiny tiny fraction of the number of MtG decks which are legal at game start, but it is also more combinations than the number of times you are going to play Codex in your lifetime - at which point you have a lifetime of variety and shouldn't really care how much bigger the number is until you have succeeded in becoming a lich.

And while the claim that all 5227 possible combinations of starters deck+hero teams are balanced enough to be truly tournament competitive cannot possibly be true, I'm going to make a related, yet much milder version of that claim:

The nature of game Codex play is such that very nearly zero matchups will exist in Codex where you will start the game at an near-insurmountable disadvantage. Most other customizable cards games have metas that involve certain decks hard countering other common decks, and therefore matchups that are all-but-won or all-but-lost before the game has even been played. Since Codex gameplay involves continuous drafting and pruning of your own deck against an opponent who is doing the same, you do not actually get to make truly decisive nor ruinous strategic choices until the game has actually started.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 06, 2016 7:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

...You Lost Me wrote:
The 7000 is supposed to be 7000 distinctive strategies. So maybe 1 of those is equivalent to an Eldrazi Ramp, 1 other is a 4-color rally, another is a Hardened Scales.

Now I don't believe that. A bunch of those strategies will probably overlap, and between overlapping strategies there will almost always be winners.


I don't even begin to believe that. I don't think any individual person could know for certain that 7,000 deck strategies as distinct as 4-color rally and hardened scales even exist, let alone say with any confidence that they are remotely playable on the same tier. Frankly, I'm not convinced by Josh's description that two strategies as distinct as 4-color rally and hardened scales exist in this game. Those decks are extremely different.

-Frank
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 06, 2016 8:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

That seems a fair criticism. Here's an overview of current strategies that exist and seem to be viable from current Codex chatter:

Token spam + a hero or spell that buffs all your units. (Appears that this can use Finesse, Growth, or Necromancy, but really wants Balance for the Hero's ability)

Monopurple Rush seems to be leading the early meta. The deal here combo the early units that get big stats at the expense of having Fading (works the same as MtG Fading, but cumulative damage makes it far less of a drawback) with the units that bounce enemy units back into their controller's hands for pressure, until you can spam the Tech II hasted unit that lets you draw a card and set up the combo that lets you keep resummoning it. Then use Purple's partial-lock tricks - preventing opposing heros from leveling, limiting gold production or stealing opposing upgrades to turn board advantage into a sealed game.

Hope to get lucky and draw the "deny opponent's next turn" combo with Blue.

All-in-offense Red. So far, this is not actually looking good against people who know the game, but one of the Red Heroes has a couple very good early abiliteis and arguably the best spell in the game, so some multicolor variant of it will probably be viable.

Variants of MtG Tribal decks. One of Finesse's two options is all about playing cards of the "Virtouso" type, Ninjitsu has cards that boost all "Ninja" type units, a lot of Demonology units are strong but intentionally anti-synergistic with non"Demon" units, etc.

Various theorycrafting about how to build various strategy around various Heroes' Ultimate spells.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 06, 2016 9:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

This looks interesting and I will read deeper in a bit. First though, this sounds like it would work better as a video game than as a game where you have physical cards and tokens and such. In fact, don't the various online MtG derivatives have a highly similar universe of conceits?

More to the point - isn't the name Ace of Base a secret neo-nazi code? Yeah, it is! http://www.cracked.com/blog/how-90s-pop-band-secretly-sold-nazism-to-america/
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2016 1:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

...You Lost Me wrote:
That makes a surprising amount of sense. I suppose the concept of converting MtG fans is naive, especially considering how little effort was taken to actually follow through on the idea.

I can fondly imagine how this game could grow if it were allowed. It reminds me of Zileas on the old LoL forums, trolling and insulting people. There's a reason Riot stopped letting him post, and now requires their employees to go through community management courses. Considering Sirlin respect Zileas quite a bit, I'm surprised I didn't make that connection sooner.


The big problem with removing the collection component is that collecting is, in many ways, the driving force behind CCGs, more so than the game is.

In many ways, Magic is successful because opening packs is addictive.
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2016 1:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

For the record, that secret was unknown to me at the time of me above post, and I was in no way implying that anything about this game was neo-nazi. Although I reserve the right to do so in the future, especially as regards the White spec.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2016 5:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Moving on, I want to go on at great length about the various "problems" of MtG which Sirlin saw and attempted to fix with Codex, and the various ways his various fixes work and fail - because there is a lot of interesting game design here. Some good, some bad, some ugly, but all interesting.

Issue #1: Uneven Playfield:




In MtG, you can gain significant advantages by spending more on cards than your opponent has spent. This sort of setup is highly profitable (just ask MLB or the FIFA teams) , and yet deeply morally offensive to David Sirlin - who is obsessed with asymmetric, yet competitively balanced games.

In Codex, this is patched in three different ways.

Firstly it is sold in the Game + Expansions sales model, not the CCG nor LCG sales model. You buy a set of rules, cards and additional components, and you always know what exactly is included in each set. If you want to you can buy additional expansions. This is akin to how Dominion is sold and not at all like how MtG or Netrunner is sold.

Secondly, it's a lot cheaper to get a completionist set of all the cards in Codex. This is both because the Codex card pool is much smaller than the MtG Card pool (with the number of unique cards in Codex only roughly on par with the number of unique cards in MtGs original Alpha/Beta/Unlimited set) and because the Codex rules are set up so no deck needs more than two of any of those cards, whereas the MtG rules allow up to 4 of most cards.

Thirdly, the deckbuilding rules are set up so that the advantage of having a larger card pool are greatly reduced compared to MtG. In Codex you choose a team of three heroes (from a set of twenty possible heroes), and then you choose a starter deck of ten cards (from one of seven possible starter decks), and your chosen starter deck has to correspond to the color of at least one of your heroes. Furthermore, if your hero team includes heroes from two or more different non-neutral colors, then you face a slight increase to in-game costs. The six mono-color factions and the neutral pseudo-faction have been pretty well tested against each other and are reasonably well balanced (although Purple's place in the current meta is mildly disturbing). Since multicolor teams/decks suffer an in-game penalty, that helps to keep any combination from getting too much better than the monocolors. It's only worth it to mix and match if you get useful synergies.

BUT

Firstly, some expansions are very probably better than others. The purple faction Stewardess + Hyperions + Chronofixer monopurple build order and the Balance / Necro / Truth multicolor are strong enough in the current meta to be downright disturbing given the playtesting the game supposedly had. This means that a player probably gets an advantage if they bought the Purple vs White expansion instead of just the Green vs Red base game, and definitely gets an advantage if they have access to Green and Black and Blue over just having Red and Green.

Secondly, it's still prohibitively expensive for most gamers to get a completionist set.

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The Kickstarter Deluxe set clocks in at $200 + Shipping. And if you are truly a completionist and want to be able to play games where more than one competitor includes a given hero in their team, you have to spend more. At the extreme end, that $200+ figure becomes per player, for a game that can theoretically support up to six players. And while $1200 is cheaper than all the MtG cards, or even some competitive decks in some formats, it's still insane even think about spending that on a boardgame. This means that in practice a lot of players are going to be borrowing cards from the one guy who shelled out for the Deluxe set on KS, and the real fans might pick up one of the expansions for the cards they really like. Thus in practice, players are going to have different card sets to work with. And since I noted above that some sets include factions that seem stronger than others, the playfield is still uneven.

Thirdly, the deckbuilding setup results in a very large amount of trap options.

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All the monocolors are (probably) viable (discounting the current top decks in the meta), most monocolors can safely swap out one (or two) of their heroes for a neutral hero (or two), and most multicolors which offer synergy are at least somewhat viable. But any multicolor that doesn't offer enough synergy is intentionally inferior to the baseline power level and is likely to lose. So here the problem isn't that the player who spent more money on cards has a large advantage at game start, it's that the player who has spent time and effort following the meta and reading online strategy is going to be able to start the game with a significant, if not insurmountable advantage over someone picking their hero team based on flavor, theme or art concerns. That's not horrible, as more preparation should increase the odds of winning, but it leads into my discussion of Sirlin's failure to address his second problem with MtG.

Issue #2: Preeminence of of Pre-game Preparation over in-game play

In MtG, many games are all-but decided during the deckbuilding phase, before the opponents have even sat down to play the game, and the actual play experience is little more than a formality. This is an issue because it turns gameplay from a social activity into a solo engineering challenge, and because it engenders feelings of frustration and hopelessness in the player on the losing side of such a lopsided matchup.

Codex should be praised for trying really hard to solve this one, but the nature of any customizable game with asymmetric starting conditions means that it is intractable and the situation is best summed up with the old line that "Trying really hard to put the round peg in the square hole is not something worth praising". There are some number of hundreds (or thousands - I'm now sure I screwed up the math above) of possible starting Hero (Spec) / Deck configurations. And any (non-neutral) multicolor that does not offer sufficient synergy to offset the multicolor penalty of additional costs hard-coded into the rules is intentionally inferior to monocolors. The big deal here is that "sufficient synergy" is not something I can define, and I've read a whole lot about this game. There are some people with P&P or Print-on-Demand sets who have a much better idea about it than I do.

But I'm reasonably sure that a Disease / Blood / Bashing Red Starter mashup doesn't have many answers for the Balance / Truth / Necromancy Green Starter or Monopurple decks doing disturbingly well in the current meta, leaving us right back to matchups decided by pre-game deckbuilding rather than in-game card drafting.



True for at least some subset of Codex matches


This could have been improved upon greatly by not tying each Hero to only their own Spec of 12 unique cards but tying each Hero only to their associated color, thereby allowing multicolor teams to draft from a much wider variety of cards and making it more likely that any given starting team could in the case of perfectly correct play draft an answer to what the opponent was doing.


Issue #3: Mana Screw / Mana Flood

Drawing the right ratio of things what provide mana to things what cost mana really important in MtG - yet is is also basically determined by the luck of random draw. This leads to a disturbingly high percentage of MtG games where one player does not get to play because they draw too little land and cannot afford to cast their spells,or they draw too much land and not enough spells to cast. It's also how MtG has something like a multicolor penalty - since you are less likely to draw a specific combination of colors of mana than you are to just draw a given amount of mana. These parameters make the solo engineering challenge part of MtG really interesting, but result in a more-than-fair number of nonompetitive, unfun gameplays.

Codex fixes this by having a gold system that is nothing like MtG's mana system. You start with 4 or 5 workers (depending on turn order), each of which produces 1 gold at the start of your turn., Each turn you can (and should) spend 1 gold and burn 1 card from you hand to hire an additional worker. All cards have costs enumerated in the same type of gold - Codex eschews MtG's idea of "colored mana". and instead enforces color-distinction and multicolor penalties via having a number of different prerequisites for different types of cards:


  • You can only cast spells if you have a hero in play.
  • If it's a minor spell (found in Starter Decks), then off-color heroes can cast it at +1 gold cost.
  • If it's a Spec spell, then only the specific hero of that Spec can cast it,
  • If it's a Ultimate spell for a Spec, then you need to have the specific hero in play and at their max level before you started your turn. (Aside from the inevitable exception based design where certain cards let you ignore the usual restrictions )
  • You can play Tech 0 units, building and upgrades on any of your turns.
  • To play a Tech I unit, building or upgrade you must have built your Tech I building previously (once you had enough workers in play to be eligible to do that), and given your opponent at least one turn to try to destroy it.
  • To play a Tech II unit, building or upgrade you must have built your Tech II building previously(once you had enough workers in play to be eligible to do that and kept your Tech I building in play) , and given your opponent at least one turn to try to destroy it, and the unit needs to be of the particular Spec you chose when you built your Tech II building.
  • To play a Tech III unit you must have built your Tech III building previously(once you had enough workers in play to be eligible to do that - which means that this game has gone long - and kept your Tech II building in play) , and given your opponent at least one turn to try to destroy it, and the unit needs to be of the particular Spec you chose when you built your Tech II building. (Aside from the inevitable exception based design where certain cards let you ignore the usual restrictions )


This is a really interesting system that neatly avoids the pitfalls of MtG's mana-screw and mana-flood. However it runs right into some new pitfalls. The marketing copy for this talks about how it allows players to "pre-counterspell" various options their opponent might have. If you are afraid of a Necromancy spell wrecking your plans, kill their Necromancy hero, if you are afraid of a Tech II unit, kill their Tech II building and so on - which sounds like really interesting strategic guessing of their hand is involved.

Except it doesn't work out that way.

I'll get into my issues with cardflow later, but for now: each Tech Level is such a big jump in card efficiency that you cannot keep up with an opponent dropping higher Tech units than yours. Unlike MtG you're not paying more mana/gold for units/creatures with bigger stats and better abilities, instead your getting better cards into play for (roughly) the same amount of gold so long as you can defend your Tech I / Tech II building. (Tech III is a different story, as each Spec only has a single type of Tech III unit, and most are intentionally win conditions). This means that unlike (at least some formats of) MtG, you do not have really have the option of playing a slower deck which plays bigger creatures hoping that being more card-efficient makes up for being less mana-efficient. In Codex, if you cannot keep your opponent from getting 5 damage through, then you cannot keep your Tech buildings in play and you will be stuck behind for the rest of the game. This makes for pretty drastic slippery-slope. Unlike say, Sirlin's other game Puzzle Strike, where having a "bad" board position increases your draw and lets you spend some time improving your deck composition, in Codex having a "bad" board position means that you are less likely to be able to improve your board position

Making the slope even slipperier, are Codex's paucity of global reset effects (the Disease Spec sort of has some, a couple of the Tech III units sort of do this as they are winning the game for you anyway, and like 3 Heroes have reset-type Ultimate spells) and strong tendency for most removal effects to themselves be unit abilities -- and you get a game where 80% of matches end in concession because comeback is actually impossible, but technically victory would require playing out two more turns.

It's downright mind boggling that Codex is so strongly tied to the RTS theme that it incorporates the very form of slippery-slope Sirlin has previously railed against. Wow Sirlin not only notes that this is a problem in Starcraft, but proposes a potential solution to it -- which he must have forgotten about while designing Codex.

I'm curious if and how Codex would work with some sort of the "resource refund" mechanic iSirlin suggests there n place, but while I'm spitballing design ideas:

Codex could could have actually delivered on that whole "pre-counterspell" thing without such drastic slippery slope by not making the Tech levels strictly numerically ascending and instead merely requiring a specific building in play for units of each given Spec. "To play Necromancy cards, you need a Necropolis in play, to play Ninjitsu cards, you need a Dojo in play, etc" and then placing a limit on how many can be destroyed at once but no limit on how many can be rebuilt in a turn.

Codex then could have kept the "units get better as the game goes on" power curve by doing what MtG does - having bigger units cost more mana gold, and not letting unspent gold carry over from turn-to-turn. That would also simplify bookkeeping and mean that cheaper units would have more relative value, since you could play them in the margins of your main gold expenditure -- well that won't actually work due to the missteps with Codex's card flow rules, which I'll analyze next time.


Last edited by Josh_Kablack on Tue Apr 12, 2016 3:02 pm; edited 2 times in total
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OgreBattle
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2016 6:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

"teching up" in MTG is basically having more lands, more mana production, and "higher tech" cards are just higher cost cards, but it sounds like in Codex that involves bringing out certain cards to go up in tech?

Quote:
There are so many more things that annoy me (like half of the kickstarter) but these are the big ones. You'd think that after having all sorts of issues with Yomi, Pandante, Puzzle Strike, and Flash Duel, Sirlin would try to figure out what's he's doing wrong. I wonder if he ever considers why he makes so many enemies.


What's that about? I did get the feeling from the way he writes that he might not be a pleasant person to interact with.
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Mask_De_H
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2016 10:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

OgreBattle wrote:
"teching up" in MTG is basically having more lands, more mana production, and "higher tech" cards are just higher cost cards, but it sounds like in Codex that involves bringing out certain cards to go up in tech?

Quote:
There are so many more things that annoy me (like half of the kickstarter) but these are the big ones. You'd think that after having all sorts of issues with Yomi, Pandante, Puzzle Strike, and Flash Duel, Sirlin would try to figure out what's he's doing wrong. I wonder if he ever considers why he makes so many enemies.


What's that about? I did get the feeling from the way he writes that he might not be a pleasant person to interact with.


Even though he actually does use logic, game theory and destructive testing in his design, Sirlin still manages to be a poster child for the Dunning-Kruger effect.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2016 3:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Force of Will has an ultimately simpler solution to the "problem" of MtG having manascrew. You start with five cards instead of 7, but you have a 40 card deck of spells and a 20 card deck of lands. Every turn that your commander is not in play, you may tap it to put the top card of your land deck in play. This means that if you have a mono-colored deck, your land curve is linear right up to the point you bring out your commander, at which point you draw only spells for the rest of the game. This is much easier to conceptualize and explain than the very similar setup in codex where you are discarding cards for workers (this is functionally equivalent to drawing a single land every turn until you decide to stop, but with cards moving into and out of your hand to make this happen).

It probably makes for a better tournament environment, at least in theory. With mana curves taken out of the equation, the number of "non-interactive" games goes down to near zero. Actually zero if people obligingly play low curve decks that can't get skunked before they have a chance to play things or the game isn't fast enough to end before people get at least one turn to play the most expensive card in their decks.

But by making the mana curve deterministic, the question of "tempo" becomes a solvable problem. Simply put, there is then a "right answer" to how a deck's cost curve should look and games become a distressingly deterministic length. It makes the game a lot less interesting on a bunch of axes. Mana Screw sucks, and so does Mana Flood, but purely linear mana curves aren't the answer either.

If I had my preference, I think I'd like to see a setup with "prize cards" like Pokemon - cards set aside at the beginning of the game that you could draw from when you wanted. I think Magic would be a better game if you could set aside two or three face down land cards and choose to draw from them instead of drawing a regular card. That would let people play much leaner decks that didn't get mana flooded much, and completely eliminate the worst offenders of the mana screw. And yet, it would preserve the distinction of ramp and rush.

-Frank
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Lord Mistborn
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2016 4:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

One way you could smooth out mana screw/flood would be to print cards that landcycle (i.e. you discard the card to get a land from your deck) for some non-mana cost

So you could have cards like

Forest Bear 1G

Creature-Bear

Forestcycling reveal a green card from your hand

2/2

or

Volcanic Uprising 2R

Instant

Volcanic Uprising deals 3 damage to target creature or player

Mountiancycling-pay 1 life
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Josh_Kablack
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2016 9:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

OgreBattle wrote:
"teching up" in MTG is basically having more lands, more mana production, and "higher tech" cards are just higher cost cards, but it sounds like in Codex that involves bringing out certain cards to go up in tech?


Close, but not quite.

In MtG, each card is either a land or has a mana cost to bring into play. In Codex cards have both a "gold cost" and a "tech (or hero) requirement". In Codex, Heros are not drawn from your deck, but wait in their own zone, and each tech buildings can be built by spending a chunk of gold once you have N workers in play (and the prior Tech building surviving).

This would be sort of like if you had an MtG creature which could only be played if you had N lands in play, but then gave all your future creatures both mana cost discounts and stat boosts. Sort of.

Quote:

This is much easier to conceptualize and explain than the very similar setup in codex where you are discarding cards for workers (this is functionally equivalent to drawing a single land every turn until you decide to stop, but with cards moving into and out of your hand to make this happen).


Close, but not quite.

What my prior post might not have made clear is that in Codex there is a 1gold cost to hire an additional worker and that you are not merely discarding the card from your hand, but you are trashing / burning / "exiling" it. A card used to hire a worker is gone from the game and you cannot draw it again that game. Thus, (at least in theory) there are strategic decisions about which cards to thin out of your deck as you play.

Now it's still pretty close to drawing one land and one non-land each turn, as
you generally get behind if you don't hire a worker every turn for the first 5-6 turns (with an average game length looking to be 7 turns per player). Due to the cardflow rules, you also generally get behind if you play more than one non-workered card from your hand.


Last edited by Josh_Kablack on Wed Mar 23, 2016 9:39 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Josh_Kablack
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 09, 2016 9:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

...You Lost Me wrote:

The community
The home forum for Codex is naturally populated by fans who don't like thinking bad thoughts about the game, as is normal for most small communities. But Sirlin embodies & encourages a knee-jerk passive-aggressive hostility that comes oozing out against any criticism voiced about the game. You see it on the Fantasy Strike forum....


Yeah, there was a thread on the official Codex forum where people were discussing a (very likely) underpowered card. The thread had a mix of assertions that said card was
* not underpowered,
* totally underpoweed,
* you shouldn't evaluate cards in a vacuum as you have to look at the whole Spec
* the entire suite of cards in that Spec at the relevant Tech level are weaker than the should be
* suggestions for potential changes to buff the card.

All of which are being made in reasonable, if sometimes snarky voice.

Sirlin butts in to lock the thread, giving the following reason:

Sirlin wrote:

Looks like a great thread to have made more than 6 months ago instead of after the game is already being manufactured.


I just cannot fathom how that sort of thing could possibly help your marketing, brand or image more than the alternative of doing nothing would.


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Kaelik
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 09, 2016 10:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Wow... that's so shit I've never even seen an RPG company do it.
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