Terrene Encounters: Core Mechanics

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This article is a preview of Terrene Encounters, an upcoming project developed by studio CGC Games and published by Level 99 Games. Look out for it in the next few months on Kickstarter!

Terrene Encounters is a drafting game where you will take sides in a duel between two time travelers. Open portals, rewind time, and bargain with Lovox, the God of Time, to remove the other traveler from existence. I’m Chris Solis, founder of CGC Games, and I have been working on this game for a very long time. It’s an honor to be published by Level 99 Games and I am very excited to share the game with you!

Terrene Encounters was created one evening during the GAMA Trade Show when we drafted my first game, Terrene Odyssey. Terrene Odyssey is a card game about preparing team compositions to outmatch opponents in a deeply tactical battle, much like a Champion Draft before a professional League of Legends game. Although we did not design Terrene Odyssey with drafting in mind, once we had tried it, this quickly became the favorite way to play.

I wanted to continue exploring the idea of team compositions in Terrene Encounters and simplify it as much as possible. How can we bring similar decisions to a tabletop space? The two concepts that answer this question have become the core of Terrene Encounters: drafting and grouping.

Core Mechanic 1: Drafting

There is no constructed play in Terrene Encounters, only drafting. At the end of your turn, you can open a portal to the past, present, or future. Draft by picking up the top three cards. Add one to your hand, banish one from the game, and put one face-up back on top of the deck. This isn’t a traditional “pass the pack” drafting method, but the choices are very similar. You can make one choice that benefits you and another to deny your opponent something they may want.

Core Mechanic 2: Grouping and Ability Share

At the end of your turn, you may arrange any card on your board into groups comprised of one leader and one support. On your opponent’s turn, they can only attack leaders. Use this to protect critical targets. Also, some characters share their abilities with the other character in their group, making them prime support characters.

Innovations in Design

Over the past year of designing Terrene Encounters, I've made a number of discoveries and innovations that I'll share here in this blog. Some were discovered by accident as we transitioned from the old Terrene Odyssey system to the new draft format. Some were made necessary by the new mechanics we implemented. Still others were suggestions by friends and playtesters. 

Innovation #1: Drafting Prevents Degenerate Team Comps

In a team composition game, focusing on a single class will give you both crippling weaknesses and overwhelming strength. Depending on the opponent's team, the outcome can be decided before the game begins.

Imagine playing Overwatch, where you face off against a team of six Torbjorns. The players have an answer but it’s very narrow and difficult to execute. The result? Overwatch removed the choice of dual heroes even from casual play.

Terrene Odyssey had a similar problem, which is solved by drafting in Terrene Encounters. Since I need to adapt to my own draft picks (and yours), a monotone team build can be foreseen and prevented, or telegraphed and countered as part of the gameplay itself.

Innovation #2: Out of Turn Counter-Play Replaced with Grouping and Ability Share

In Terrene Encounters, a card you attack does not hit you back (at least, not by default). You deal damage to whatever you attack exactly as you expect, and the opponent can't interfere with surprises and traps. This makes for quick and clean gameplay where your tactics can play out just as you envision. But that doesn't mean your opponent is defenseless. Grouping and ability sharing move decisions like “I block with this guy” and “I use this spell in response” to your regroup phase. The better you are at grouping, the better you can mitigate and punish your opponent’s attacks.

For example, you can regroup your Paladin that shares Armor +10 to protect key targets from dying when your opponent is on the offensive. If your opponent REALLY wants to destroy a specific card, they probably can, but the cost of time, life, and other resources may be too high. With a constant stream of reinforcements coming through the time portal, managing your resources and party to gain the upper hand is far more important than securing opportunistic kills.

Instead of watching your opponent and countering their moves actively, Terrene Encounters lets a player use their opponent's turn to consider the reinforcements they will draft from the time portal, keeping downtime to a minimum.

Drafting and grouping are the heart of Terrene Encounters. They make the game dynamic, smooth, and they put the key decisions you make onto team composition and tactics.

Until next time,

- Chris

Join me next Monday to hear about the design of each Time Portal deck!