For the 30th anniversary, I’d like to see the Continuing Committee doing work that helps to ensure
will continue to attract new players and thrive for another 30 years and beyond.
In particular, the projects that I think would be important for building for the future are a sealed deck project (à la the Official Tournament Sealed Deck; OTSD) and a virtual starter deck project.
Below, I have described what I envision for these projects and detail at length why I think they are important. I also address feasibility. (I apologize for being so long winded.)
needs to attract new players and maintain causal players (in addition to dedicated players). In my experience, OTSD and virtual starter decks have been essential to achieving these goals. I think creating a new sealed deck experience and new virtual starter decks is doable and key to
thriving long term.
What Would These Projects Be About?
The sealed deck project would be about creating an online tool for generating a manageable set of some preset and random cards that could be used to create playable decks, similar to OTSD.
The virtual starter deck project would be about creating a process that produces one or more roughly equivalent, distinctive virtual starter decks as appropriate for each full expansion.
Why Are These Projects Important?
These projects are important for recruiting future players and retaining causal players.
I’ve been a causal, kitchen-table
player off and on since just before the Alternate Universe expansion was released. Since then, I’ve introduced scores of people to the game. Some of those people introduced others. At least some I know are still playing.
The one thing that I have found most helpful when recruiting new players and retaining causal players has been the OTSD.
Before OTSD, I built decks to give away to anyone who was curious. I’d play a learning game with them and let them keep their deck. Sometimes, prospective players kept playing, but only rarely did they start collecting their own cards and building their own decks.
Once OTSD was released, prospective players could learn the game by playing with a deck that they had built themselves. This resulted in some important consequences. Building a deck meant learning how to build a deck, which increased the likelihood new players would actually build decks in the future. Building decks also helped new players learn the rules more effectively. Moreover, building their own deck gave new players some more skin in the game, making for first games that were fun and engaging.
Three features of OTSD were key to its success.
First, each box contained the same 20 preset cards. I could teach new players the game by referring to specific examples of the components, such as Impose Order
), and so on, because all those cards were in every box.
Second, OTSD gave players everything needed to build a workable deck from a manageable set of cards. Building a deck from the starter decks and/or booster packs without the 20 predetermined OTSD cards would require a lot more cards, thereby increasing the time, complexity, and cost required. The small number of available cards also encouraged creativity (e.g., mis-seeding dilemmas as a bluff) and using and learning about cards that might be overlooked otherwise.
Third, the decks built from the cards in an OTSD box were frustrating and weak. This was a feature, not a bug. The solutions to the problems with your deck were usually pretty obvious, and the desire to get cards to improve your deck followed naturally from building and playing with a weak, frustrating deck.
Not only did I use OTSD to recruit players, I also used it anytime we didn’t have decks ready, which is common among causal players.
I also used OTSD to kick off what we referred to as “leagues.” (I don’t know whether this is a commonly understood meaning of the term.) A league was a group of players who played weekly games using decks built from a limited set of cards. For league play, each player started with an OTSD box. Each week, we played matches, opened new packs of cards, traded, and improved or rebuilt our decks. Leagues were a way to allow new players who did not already have a collection of cards to play on a more level field. Moreover, players could learn over time, with deck mechanics gradually becoming more sophisticated, and no one was overwhelmed by too many choices.
I’ve enjoyed countless OTSD games in diverse settings over the years. I might not be here today if it weren’t for OTSD, nor would some of the new players I’ve recruited.
If I had a magic wand that granted me one wish for the
30th anniversary, I would wish for a modern sealed deck successor to OTSD.
The second most helpful thing has been the virtual starter decks.
The game continued to evolve after OTSD, of course, and eventually the game changed so much that OTSD became an ineffective on-ramp for new players. Moreover, causal players lost interest because OTSD no longer reflected what the game had become. OTSD had become outdated.
About a decade ago, I started printing and playing with the virtual starter decks, and, in some ways, my experience of the game resembled that of my first few years with
. I used the virtual starter decks to teach new players and then gave them their deck.
Although I used virtual starter decks to recruit new players and have causal games with friends, they were limited in a few ways.
For example, the virtual starter decks were not very distinctive. Aside from one flavorful verb card in most decks, the virtual starter decks all played pretty much the same way. Playing the Coming of Age
virtual starter deck did not feel very different from playing the Broken Bow
virtual starter deck.
A second limitation was that I discovered some of decks seemed relatively weak in comparison with the other decks. Virtual starter decks drawn from the same expansion seemed pretty well matched, but there were imbalances across expansions.
Finally, in comparison to OTSD, another limitation was that no deck building was involved. As a result, only rarely have the virtual starter decks inspired new players to take up the game and begin building their own decks.
However, despite their limitations, the virtual starter decks did inspire some of my friends to keep playing. Whenever a virtual starter deck was released along with a new expansion, I’d print, cut, and sleeve the cards, and my friends would want to give the new deck a try, if only to see what the cards looked like.
Sadly, the virtual starter decks were discontinued in 2017, so even that gameplay has slowed down to a trickle for me. I’ve worked to create my own starter decks for Live Long and Prosper https://www.trekcc.org/1e/decklists/?mo ... 223caa46a
and other sets, but I’ve come to realize that, without a standard power level across the virtual starter decks, hitting the right power level for new unofficial starters is difficult.
So, if I had a second wish, it would be for distinctive, roughly equivalently powered virtual starter decks for current and future expansions that could be used to recruit new players, to play when no one has a deck built, and to generate excitement for new expansions.
Are These Projects Feasible?
Both projects would be challenging and would require resources that could instead be directed to other worthwhile efforts, but I believe neither project is impossible. I have experimented with different solutions to both projects using existing cards, with some success. It definitely takes a great deal of work.
That said, these projects (or something like them) could be vital to long-term future for
, and the 30th anniversary is an opportune occasion to consider the possibilities.
Cool Hand Locutus: What we have here is a failure to assimilate.