Cards: Quantity vs Quality

I’m sure this issue has been covered and maybe it’s too late in the game life to do anything to rectify it nor do the devs have the time but I also think it’s important to discuss these kinds of things.

A criticism I have of the card library for each civ is it relies too much on quantity instead of quality. Many cards are redundant or obsolete now. If each civ had like 50-65 cards to choose from I think it would help new players while still maintaining the essence of the deck system itself. Civs just have too many cards.

So many cards could be condensed by combining them with other cards. Some cards like Grenade Launcher should be a tech. Same with church cards. What is the point of including Advanced Mill/ Estate when Land Grab exists?

If you want to go all in on a livestock boom strategy with the British you need to send 4 upgrade cards just to take full advantage of it nevermind 7 cows and the infinite sheep+ livestock pen card. I don’t know about you folk but I lose interest real quick. This can be said for many strategies and mechanics that require heavy investment which can turn people off.

When DE first launched I was half expecting to see the overabundance of cards available to each civ issue solved. We all love cards but at the same time it can be overwhelming, and if I find it overwhelming after playing this game since 2005 I can only imagine how new players feel.

One of the many strengths that set AoE3 apart from other games in the RTS genre is the card system but I think it can be much better than it is.


creo que hize un hilo de eso de cartas nuevas en donde comentamos como fucionariamos cartas, pero no se donde quedo ese hilo, puedes buscarlo si quieres y comentarlo para que no muera

A lot of cards are designed to stack effects with one another to get more bonus. This same logic is kinda why all the different mill cards exists. Sometimes the stacked effect is not worth it but its there.

the advanced mill/land grab thing is also interesting cause land grab affects a wider set of buildings for more interesting effects.


Would it ne interesting to divide the cards into 3 Tiers A, B and C ? Then saying that a deck muclst have at least 5 cards of Tier C and at most 10 cards of Tier A ?

Then it may force people to consider “weaker”, “redundant” and “obsolete” cards. You might take the card “1 falc” instead of “2 falcs” to spare one Tier A slot, or take “Advanced Mill” instead of “Land Grab” to save one Tier B slot…

Obviously this will make many people unhappy because of not being ablevto use a “dream deck” or even “interesting deck”. And this is a nerf to Spanish and buff to Germans.

Just an idea there. May be intetesting.

I don’t think the number of cards is a problem. But I think several cards could be improved to make them viable. Eg I’ve never seen anyone use land grab.

My suggestion does not decrease the number of cards on the strict sense. It decreases the number of “good cards” and increase the number of “bad cards” in the decks.

The problem with improving cards (compared to my suggestion for example) is that it may take a while and a lot of patch fixes to balance them. And it may kind of break the game.

See land grab for example, that makes it easier to transit to farms ans estates. If it becomes a good card for pros, then it doesnt matter anymore who gets the middle and the hunts/mines because it is “very viable” to go land grab instead. This is a state if the game I and many others would never want to live in. So to make it viable but not OP, we need to figure out a short timing or a specific situation where it is good, and bad otherwise. This takes a lot of thinking, theorycrafting and fine tuning. Especially if you want to do that with over fifty cards.

By the way, I think land grab is a often used card at lower ELOs where people do not realize the impact of early resources (700w, 700g). The card is nice for low ELO players who love turtling, as they save 1600w with 4 Mills and 4 Estates. I know a player who puts the card in all his decks.

That is the leftover of the card progression system.
Though stacking appears, I don’t see a lot of people stacking (especially economic) upgrades, like would you include both the age 2 and 3 food gather rate card? The only case I’ve seen constantly is the 700w+600w boom.

Another thing is age 2 card slot is too precious. It is the most decisive stage to carry out yours and your opponent’s strategy and their counters. So you need to include a lot of cards, those that perform your strategy, those that defend rushes, and some unit improvements (a lot of them in age 2). In the meantime age 2 is usually pretty short, so most of them are included just for safety.

As a general rule, players like to feel like they are gaining power, not have power taken from them.

In a full-blown CCG where cards are the game’s main units, the first differentiator of cards is their costs. Cards of the same cost ideally have comparable strengths - at least hopefully in the same general “bracket”. Few mainstream CCG ever have hard restrictions on the distriction of cards by costs in a deck (“mana curve” in CCG nomenclature). In physical games, they sometimes might restrict the number of unexpectedly OP cards as an undesirable, emergency clutch.

It is hardly a fresh observation, but AoE3’s shipments have a huge problem at its heart:

  • The costs of cards lack differentiation. Or put another way, how the XP resource is spent lacks granularity.

In a CCG, the cost is the most fundamental parameter that designers can tweak to balance a card’s power, and its range usually from 0 to 10+. In AoE3, there are only two controlling parameters: a card’s Age which has only 4 options, corresponding to 4 “value baselines” (and deck building “buckets”), and an additional resource cost that’s used sparingly to create cards that explicitly exceed the baselines.

Result: lack of granularity inevitably means there are cards well above and below the baselines, despite sharing the same cost. And restricted slots mean there are cards that don’t fit in decks, regardless of their on-paper value.

I think - admittedly this is gonna be a big enough change that it’s unlikely to become reality unless they make a gameplay successor to AoE3 - it would be worthwhile to experiment with methods that create finer granularity. For example, cards that cost 0.5 or 1.5 shipments.

My prefered idea is to designate particularly low-value or “not worth a slot” cards as another category, the “buy-together extras”.

The metaphor: whether you shop online or eat at a restaurant, you’ll be asked if you want to pay a little extra to add some snack to your main dish.

Imagine that in addition to the main deck, you also have a small “sideboard”, where you put in “extra” cards that may help you in small ways. When you have a shipment available, you can ship these cards alone if you want, but you’ll more likely order a high-value main card, then add in a sideboard card at an additional resource cost, and they ship simultaneously as a buy-together bundle, thus saving the precious time & opportunity of shipping.

Or in another perspective, they become upgrades you use the other cards’ shipping duration to research.

To designers, this opens up a whole new space of cards that are allowed to be below baseline value, or only occasionally useful, with a tweakable cost.

And it is honestly worse when you consider that they keep this trend by investing time and resources into overall quantity. Here is a list of the card changes to China when they were introduced.

Only Tea Export and maaaybe Koxinga/Fire D. Manual were useful, out of 9 new cards introduced/adjusted.

  • [NEW] Tea Export (I): “Ships 1 Consulate Rickshaw and 100 Export to spend. Also grants a steady trickle of Export permanently.”
  • [NEW] 1 Flying Crow (III): “Ships 1 Flying Crow.”
  • [NEW] Fire Dragon Manual (IV): “Ships 1 Flying Crow and 2 Honored Flamethrowers. Slightly improves their rate of fire.” (10%)
  • [NEW] Year of the Tiger (I): “For each 2 Disciples you have lost, a Pet White Tiger will be mustered to your homecity spawn point (up to a maximum of 12 units).”
  • [NEW] Year of the Dragon (III): “Each Town Center will muster 1 Flamethrower and each Village will muster 1 Monitor Lizard, to your homecity spawn point.”
  • [NEW] Koxinga (500c, IV): “Ships 11 Iron Troops and significantly improves their ranged rate of fire.”
  • [NEW] 1 Flamethrower + 1 Castle Rickshaw (II): “Ships 1 Flamethrower and 1 Castle Rickshaw.”
  • 2 Flamethrowers (III): Updated to 2 Flamethrowers and 1 Castle Rickshaw
  • 4 Flamethrowers (IV): Updated to 4 Flamethrowers and 1 Castle Rickshaw
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:laughing: Yeah that’s the part I didn’t mention in my “sideboard extra” post above: the reality of card usefulness.
Under the post’s sideboard extra/main deck staple divide, if the “extra” category includes not only cards with low on-paper value, but also generally unused cards, they will usually outnumber the “main” cards between 3-to-1 to 4-to-1, and unless they are priced aggressively (at the risk of upsetting the whole balance), most of them still won’t be put into the sideboard.

That’s one of the reasons I’ve also thought about a draft mode for AoE3, like Runeterra’s Expeditions or Hearthstone’s Arena, in which players use decks built from randomly given choices, and are forced to improvise on their feet and wring the most utility out of typically unused cards.

Pros: in the most ideal case, a draft mode can be everything - a good entry point for new players, an exciting & indispensable way for veterans to play.

Cons: for such a mode to be good, it will demand as much design work as making a new game.

Example draft mode flow:

  1. Players launch a draft game.
  2. Map is generated. Each player is shown a preview of crucial info that inform their draft decisions, e.g. items in their starting area, overall water distribution.
  3. A player chooses core cards (e.g. essential economic shipments, must-have cards, strong cards to build around).
  4. A player chooses additional cards from weighted options. Options may be predesigned groups of 2 to 3 cards like in Runeterra.
  5. After all players have finished deck building, game properly starts.