David Sirlin is one of those names that sooner or later you’ll gain an understanding for in the gaming community. He’s famous for writing Play to Win, one part a gamer’s Art of War, one part apologia for the mindset of a Spike. We’re not here to talk about his book though, we’re here to talk about a game he’s made, Puzzle Strike, a deckbuilding game based off of Super Puzzle Fighter Turbo II. Lt’s dive into it, shall we?
First off, this isn’t a review. I don’t feel like I’ve played the game enough to develop a concrete opinion of it. instead I just want to talk about the game and what I find interesting about it.
Puzzle Strike has all the elements of a deck builder except for the part about having cards. Instead it uses chips*, which have two main advantages: 1. no shuffling 2. cheaper to produce. The fact that there’s no shuffling means there’s no basically no downtime, a common occurrence in deckbuilders is that the game is forced to stop as people shuffle their decks. Using chips eliminates that aspect and means the game plays out faster; combined with the central conflict should produce a pretty quick play time.**
There is a major downside to using chips though: you lose artwork and create a serious design constraint in space. Art is a quick visual shorthand of what a thing is. While a new player won’t know what a card does in either case, an experienced player can’t gain that advantage and speed up play. This is mitigated by Puzzle Strike using a fixed tableau of cards each game compared to a changing center row. The design space constraint is rather self explanatory, there’s a real upper limit on how complex you can do something.
The action economy is also interesting. Instead of a general action economy like Dominion or play everything like Ascension the game has multiple types of actions. On one hand, this creates interesting decisions as how to maximize your actions each turn. On the other hand it can also constrain the player and produce lots of terminal actions. This does mean that degeneracy is pretty hard to accomplish for more than a tun or two when you just win the game though. Which is one of the main reasons I tend to dislike tableau style deck builders. Anyone know of a good center row deck builder that has limited actions as a thing?
I can’t really comment on the characters. i think they’re all balanced? They’re probably a good starting point if you want to do characters in a deck builder?
All in all, Puzzle Strike is interesting. It does stuff that I haven’t seen before and is fun enough to play. It’s not something that i want to play a knock off though.
Next time, I”m not sure what I’m writing about, so think of it as a surprise.
*I’m aware that someone remade Dominion using chips before and Sirlin was accused of stealing the idea. That’s not really pertinent to this discussion.
**I’ve only played online against an AI.