The Shuffler – Eliminating Resource Screw

One thing that we hear a lot about other trading card games is “I don’t like losing to resource screw.” Because Nova Blitz is a digital game, we realized this is something we can fix! So we set out to find the best resource system we could, one that prevents the worst cases of resource screw and resource flood.

Picking the right resource system is a delicate balance. Too simple, and you lose a lot of strategy. Too complex, and players have to focus on it too much. The choice of resource system impacts all parts of the game, too – including deck building, card design space, the drafting system and card flow.

One of the first systems we tried was to simply give each player 1 more energy each turn. We playtested and realized that wasn’t the best idea for Nova Blitz – it removed too much variance. This made deck building less fun, games too predictable, and, surprisingly, it made draft a lot less fun. To keep the game interesting, we’d have to add in more RNG, and nobody wants that!

So we kept looking. We tried some really complex systems next. While they worked in practice, they were too complex, and couldn’t be understood at a glance. We shelved those too, and kept looking for something better. After a few more attempts (well, more like ten more attempts), we concluded that the best possible resource system is one with resource cards and non-resource cards. It’s the best for deck building, it’s the best for drafting, and it provides a good amount of tension in game play. So, we then looked to fix the problem at the source: the shuffler.

When you play a trading card game, you shuffle your deck. This shuffle adds variance to your game. Some variance is great, as it makes games more interesting – you’ll rarely play the same game twice. Too much variance is a really bad thing – it can ruin entire games. And the best example of variance ruining a game is drawing no resource cards and sitting there being unable to play any cards. It’s simply not fun.

Our answer to a shuffler that creates too much variance is simple: Change it. So we created a shuffler that prioritizes fun games over perfect randomness.

The Nova Blitz shuffler ensures that you’re unlikely to get a hand with far too few or too many resources. It does this in a simple way. First, it shuffles the deck using a purely random shuffle – the exact same shuffle that all major digital trading card games use. Then, it looks at the deck, and finds places where there are too many resources in a row, or too many non-resource cards in a row. These areas are what increase variance to un-fun levels – drawing 5 resources in a row is a terrible experience. The shuffler then swaps cards at random from one clump to another, until all the clumps are small enough. It doesn’t need to do this a lot; 4 or 5 swaps are often enough.

The result is a deck that’s very close to purely random, but with some of the un-fun variance smoothed out. You might draw slightly too many or too few resources over the course of the game. But with a deck with a normal amount of resources (20-25), the days of resource screw or resource flood are a thing of the past.

We’d love to know what you think – tell us what you think on the forums.