Reading Notes 2


Magic: The Gathering

Operational Rules: 

Draw a card.

Tap land to use mana.

Play instant, sorcery, creature, or enchantment cards during Main Phase 1.

Attack during the Attack Phase.

Play instant, sorcery, creature, or enchantment cards during Main Phase 2.

Resolve any unresolved items during the End Phase.

Constitutive Rules: 

Deplete opponents life from 20 to 0 to win the game.

When battling, subtract attacker’s power from opponent’s toughness to decide winner.

Implicit Rules:

Follow the instructions on a card to play it.

Keep track of your own life total.

Don’t show your cards to your opponent(s).

Pretty much any meta-game changes/strategy points in Magic act as implicit rules. Don’t be a dick with your combos could be another.

2. I very much like the competitive nature of randomness mentioned in the text. In an episode of ‘It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’, the characters play a game called ‘Chardee MacDennis’. The game consists of three rounds that involve all manner of mini-games including emotional battery that make the game very personal. While the team of Dee and Dennis has always won (through cheating) in the multi-year history of the game, they are found out in this episode and the game ends in a tie. The tie-breaker card reveals that a coin flip decides the winner in the event of a tie. This at first may seem like a shallow and uninteresting way of deciding a tie in such a personal, important game in the context of the show. However, leaving such a huge decision up to the randomness of a coin adds a phenomenally interesting element to the game. It is as if years of gameplay lead up to this single moment, and a coin flip exists outside of cheating and rules. It is simply random chance, and situations like that lead me to enjoy games with some random elements. All that being said – designers walk a fine line with randomness. Too much randomness may frustrate veteran players and mess with balance. Strategy should win over chance in any well designed game, but randomness has the capacity to shake things up in a way that deliberate choices cannot.

3. In games related to fantasy and strategy like Magic: The Gathering and Warhammer, positive and negative feedback loops are often key parts of any player’s strategy (especially when playing with zombie type armies). In the case of zombies, a player may have a strategy that involves a card/soldier that creates a new soldier when an enemy is killed. If a player uses one of the resurrected soldiers to kill another enemy, the player has created a positive feedback loop that will, in theory, create an infinite amount of new soldiers (assuming an infinite amount of enemies). However, these positive loops can be turned into negative loops with limitations set in place by game designers – if the original card/soldier that allows the resurrection has a limit of, say, 5 zombies, that loop is now a negative feedback. The limit acts as the rule that tells the original rule to stop making zombies when enemies are killed.

4. Saddle Point: A strategy in a game that involves using methods outside of the intended rule set that end in satisfying a game goal.

Prisoner’s Dilemma: A drawback of a game in which a simple mechanic ends in unnecessary complexity for players.

Zero Sum Game: A game in which the winner’s positive game tokens balance the loser’s negative game tokens.