Making new decks in Unmatched vs. Epic Duels

If you haven’t seen, I’ve got a draft up of a Paul Bunyan deck for Unmatched that I think came together really well.  Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t, but this one did in a tree-planting-and-chopping-to-power-up deck that is unique and hopefully interesting and fun.  I haven’t tested it yet and am still taking all feedback so have a look and let me know what you think!

Along with that, I created a simple PowerPoint for test decks.  I need this because making a full color printout is expensive — too expensive when you’re still in the testing process.  For Epic Duels, I do all my testing on Vassal and then print out after thorough testing.  For Unmatched, though, we don’t (yet at least) have Vassal and I’m forced to do live (often solo) play testing, so I need a physical deck that I can work with, that won’t run up my ink costs.

So where are the rest of my Unmatched decks besides this, The Mandalorian, and a couple of not-finished efforts for 2 other Star Wars characters?  I was chatting with Aaron (Darth Wolverine who has an awesome Comic Heroes Epic Duels) about making decks for Epic Duels vs. Unmatched.  This conversation was edited for clarity:

Roman: I expected to produce a bunch of unmatched SW decks but haven’t really felt inspired to do it

DW:  I’ll say this upfront: it’s far harder than making Duels decks. You’re basically making half a Magic: The Gathering deck from scratch every time.

Roman:  No doubt, plus you have to balance it. Just doing Mando hasn’t been easy.

DW:  Right! I think there’s a reason Unmatched has come out in 4 or 2 packs so far, hah.  Also the Boost mechanic adds a whole new dimension to consider! You have to weigh the values of that card as movement and also how they’ll be affected by AMBUSH and the like.

Overall, Unmatched is just more investment, investment in creating the deck, investment in testing the deck, investment in laying the deck out and ultimately more investment in playing the game itself. Consider that Unmatched is a moneymaker for Restoration Games and they have resources, they have one of the original Epic Duels designers and one of the most successful designers in the industry in Rob Daviau, and they’ve still only released 10 decks to date. Everyone knows I’m prolific, but I’m not prolific enough to just crank out 12 Star Wars decks while Rob & Justin themselves have only made 10.

I often talk about our decks as all being able to do something. Well, to the credit of Unmatched, all decks have to do something, and do something unique, and it has to be thought out and executed across a wider range of elements with more special cards, more varieties of basic cards, plus special abilities. Check out the Paul Bunyan deck as an example. He does very unique things that come together into a “game” that he plays to win.

Furthermore, well, Unmatched is simply a different game, as alluded to above when talking about Medusa. Epic Duels is simple enough that you stick to a single theme and make different fighters and decks within it. Unmatched is really all about mixing and matching themes, a bit more like Rob Daviau’s Heroscape in that way.

The Moff Gideon example above is where the rubber hits the road. I put together a Moff Gideon deck in Epic Duels because all we have to do is give Moff Gideon a couple of tricks like IMPERIAL MIGHT and E-WEB, drop in a quote like BURN THEM OUT, and then he breaks out the DARK SABER and when you only have to come up with 6 total unique cards, we’re just about there.  It takes some time to find images and put together a deck in Deck Designer, but probably less than an hour total.  Then I can take it for a spin in a some solo Vassal matches, make tweaks and be done.  If Gideon’s deck is a little stronger or weaker than I intended, so what?  He plays in Geektopia Epic Duels, where that doesn’t matter.  If I can pair him up with other imperial types like Vader or Maul and take on other characters in the Star Wars universe a few times, it will be worth the effort.

Contrast to Unmatched.  In Unmatched you can’t just come up with a few tricks, you need to come up with a whole deck concept that will be unique and interesting, and work out a special ability and set of card mechanics that give that deck an advantage.  Instead of 6 total unique cards, Mando & The Child have 10 plus the all-important special ability.  Instead of a Yellow Basic deck, we made up Mando’s basic set with sets of 4 unique cards, drawn from a larger pool of unique basic cards.

So there’s more work involved.  Next, we’re trying to balance Mando in Unmatched so that he wins about as often as he loses.  If he’s a little too strong or weak, that’s ok, but being too far off in either direction matters in Unmatched more than in Epic Duels in my opinion — look at how much fun we had with the base game despite the disparity between Obi-Wan and Jango (though we had more fun after we narrowed that gap).

Now it’s not that I’m not up for that challenge, but I am being more selective about it (plus a lot of my game-brain time goes to original projects these days like Fearsome Wilderness, Cage Match! (which is selling just fine thank you) and more to come).  I started to think about some mechanics for Moff Gideon where he sacrifices his troops to power up and thought, hey that might be interesting.  But if it’s so interesting, why am I giving it to Moff Gideon?  The crux is the part above about facing Medusa.  Do you really want to see how Moff Gideon does against Medusa or King Arthur or Big Foot?  The Mandalorian or Darth Vader — yes, for sure, though I struggle a bit with the idea that Vader is only as good as everyone else.  But how about Grand Moff Tarkin or Aayla Secura, let alone Moff Gideon?  I’d like to see them all face each other obviously, but we have Epic Duels for that already, and because it doesn’t require too much depth, it lends itself to fairly undeveloped characters like those.

So it’s like, if I could come up with as many as 12 interesting Unmatched decks that all work in unique and original ways that are firmly tested for balance and all that, and I’m going to want to mix them with Medusa and Sinbad and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, do I really want all 12 of those decks to be Star Wars characters?  I love Star Wars, but no.  Ditto LOTR.  Maybe I’d like to see Sauron or Gandalf or the Witch King, but I don’t really want to see Eowyn and Merry or Eomer with Horsemen — if I come up with a good horsemen deck, I’ll give it to a more famous horseman type.

Unmatched is about bringing together legendary and mythological characters and from a game design standpoint, it’s about coming up with interesting and unique sets of mechanics for every deck.  I think the Mandalorian is a good first effort.  Even the Restoration Games guys like that deck.  Paul Bunyan fits right in with Big Foot and other legendary characters, and we have standees for him and Babe and are even working on figures for Fearsome Wilderness.  Moff Gideon, so far, does not.  I do need to get to work on Obi-Wan and Vader though.

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