Monday, July 17, 2023

Where I am mean to Draft Cider

I’ve been teaching myself some new games via Board Game Arena. I’ve been quite happy with some of what I’ve learned. But this won’t be about any of those games. 

Draft Cider.  I find downright it fascinating due to some of the innate problems in the design.

It’s a card drafting game that is played out over four rounds. You draft apple cards that have three traits: color, height and sweetness. (If you are working on collecting apples to make cider, I’m not sure what height has to do with it. But I don’t actually make cider so I have to plead ignorance.)  Depending on the number of players, you will draft eight or twelve cards over the course of the game. And, as you draft cards, you place them in eight different possible scoring areas.

And that’s the first core problem with the game. There are too many ways to score points and too few cards to explore or exploit them. Another serious problem is that the areas are wildly uneven.

The areas range from a maximum of twenty points to a hundred and forty four points. While it’s neigh impossible to get the latter, even the former takes luck to max out. More than that, there are enough placement restrictions that playing it without a computer enforcing the rules that I can’t see mistakes not happening. In general, the score in the areas are overly complex and kludgy, particularly for a game that is lighter than Sushi Go.

And you see such a small chunk of the deck, you are taking a blind bet on anything you do at the start of the game. You don’t have an effective way of assessing risk and knowing what is a good choice. And I enjoy lots of different luckfests and this is still too much for me. I don’t feel like I’m trying for box cars, I feel like I’m going over bad bookkeeping.

I’ve enjoyed a lot of drafting games and I think Draft Cider would benefit from half the scoring areas and a smaller deck. As it stands, it feels like the designer put complexity over meaningful decisions and fun.

All that said, it plays so quickly on BGA that I know I’ll play it occasionally, just to see if luck will let me shoot the moon. But, even that said, BGA also has Bandada which is just as short but actually rewards decision making.

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