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Puzzle Strike Upgrade Pack, Part 2

Last time I talked about the playmats and screens in the Puzzle Strike Upgrade Pack. Now for the new gameplay. There are 3 new chips, and 5 copies of each of those chips. There are also 15 blank chips, by the way.

The three new chips were pretty carefully chosen. First, the flagship chip, and the easiest one to explain:

Custom Combo is hilarious and awesome, and I hope it's self-explanatory. Do all the actions you want! You might recognize the name from the feature of Street Fighter Alpha 2 that lets you string a whole bunch of moves together really quickly.

In Puzzle Strike, you are usually action-constrained. That is, you usually have more actions available than you can actually play. It's much more true here than in Dominion becuase you start with three character chips in your deck in Puzzle Strike, so right off the bat you wish you could do it all. The hard decisions come from NOT being able to do it all, which means you have to choose which actions you'll play. But for the low, low cost of 7, you don't have to decide, you can just play it all! This chip is an orgasm of fun.

The other two chips can have a pretty big impact on how you play Puzzle Strike. The "purple chips" are the heart of the game, and you'll always be buying at least some of them (vaguely analgous to buying VP in Dominion, except more interactive). Anyway, with certain characters and certain banks, it can be a bit too hard to beat people who buy almost nothing but those purple chips. I'll talk more about that in my third post where we cover the character chips, but for now, two new chips open up the strategy space. Let's start with Combinatorics:

This is a pretty direct assault on the purple-only player, as his strategy will let you draw a ton of chips. Meanwhile, if you are building an engine (playing lots of brown chips per turn) or disruption (lots of red chips), then you'll be able to keep your Combinatorics on the table longer. So you're rewarded for playing some of the more interesting strategies while your opponent is punished for playing too one-dimensionally.

The third new chip is Dashing Strike:

Dashing Strike is sort of a magical thing with several subtle effects. In general, red chips (the attack chips) are good for disrupting your opponent, so that you pull ahead in the long run. Even when you use red chips, you still need to keep yourself from losing though. You still need a way to keep your pile height from getting critically high. Dashing Strike is a RED chip that helps you with that. Several other red chips chain into it because it has a red banner, and Dashing Strike itself chains into brown banner chips. This means having reds and browns in your deck helps, and having fewer purples than usual is ok, because Dashing Strike keeps your pile height down a bit.

There's more to it than that though. Dashing Strike increases an opponent's pile height in a way that isn't counter-crashable. This has a possibly counter-intuitive effect: it results in there being more counter-crashing. When opponents are filling up your pile in a way you can't react to with a counter-crash, it forces you to do regular crashes a bit more than you would. And those regular crashes are probably going to get counter-crashed. Note that Dashing Strike isn't adding any gems to the system (it removes one gem and adds one gem), and the counter-crashing is actually removing gems. It's also making it harder for people to build uncounterable 4-gems.

It's actually a very complicated system, so maybe it's best to just lay out the bottom line of the total effect of the last paragraph: the game goes a bit longer and it gives a wider variety of strategies a chance to materialize. You basically have more breathing room to try more things, while at the same time you can make decks with fewer purples and more reds/browns. Maybe you see why I said Dashing Strike is magical and has so many nuances. It's been a big hit with playtesters, so I hope you all enjoy it, too.

So that's it for the three new chips. Two chips that open up the strategy space and one that gives you what you always wanted. Next time, we'll talk about the changes to the character chips.

Reader Comments (13)

How is custom combo not completely broken?

September 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDave

Playing all the chips in your hand is fun, but getting all those chips into your hand in the first place may be difficult. You need a lot of chips like Roundhouse for you to have a big Custom Combo turn. You could use a bunch of Draw 3s to get all the chips you want, but then you are relying on getting a fork in your hand first, which'll usually only be Custom Combo. You also rarely ever need more than 3 or so actions a turn, since all the good chips already give you an arrow anyway, but for those chips that don't, Custom Combo and other forks in general are pretty nice.

September 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSteelCoil

I'm really glad to see Combinatorics. When my friends and I play there are quite a few games where everyone ends up going for the all-purple deck just because it's so strong and simple to plan. Well done.

September 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTim H

What happens if you Self-Improv or Bubble Shield against a Dashing Strike?

September 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterApolloAndy

If you use Self-Improv against dashing strike, you take the ante as normal, and then draw 3 chips as normal. The Bubble Shield Reaction makes you immune to the ante from Dashing Strike, however, it does not stop the player who used Dashing Strike from trashing the 1 gem. Bubble Shield as an Ongoing chip does not protect against Dashing Strike because Dashing Strike doesn't "send" any gems.

September 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSteelCoil

Self Improvement is an odd thing to ask about here, since it doesn't change what the red does? Did you mean to ask about Thinking Ahead instead, since it actually is the same as Bubble Shield there?

The way the interaction has been decided is that you only may play a blue shield if the red fist actually affects you. If you use TA or BS, it prevents only the parts that affect you.

So, say a 3-player game.

The person after you plays Dashing Strike. You're not affected by it, so you can't respond at all. This matters in the case of Self Improvement or Really Annoying, but not really with Thinking Ahead or Bubble Shield.

The person before you plays Dashing Strike. They get the brown arrow and trash a 1-gem from their pile. You can choose to respond with a blue at this point. If it's TA or BS, you don't ante. If it's SI or RA, you ante and then draw three or the player who played DS gains a wound, respectively.

September 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterc_wraith

I can see why this is being pitched as an update and not an expansion. Combinatorics looks like a necessary addition to the game, and after seeing Dashing Strike I can't believe there wasn't already something like that in the base set. Custom Combo seems fun too. It gives something for the combo player to look forward to -- reminiscent of combo decks in MTG that just sit back and relax, wait to get the right stuff, then boom you take 20 damage or get milled for your entire deck in one turn. Should be fun, looking forward to part 3.

September 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAuston

The only question I have is, was there any debate about making Custom Combo a ! chip? It's existence seems to hamstring the development space, preventing any sort of "play-a-chip-draw-a-chip" abilities.

September 13, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjeblucas

No, jeblucas. We already have another ! chip in the works along with Master Puzzler, so we don't exactly need another one. And, I'm kind of confused at how Custom Combo would hamstring the development space. Do you mean how the Arrows from Custom Combo make the arrows on One of Each and Roundhouse useless? If that's the case then yes, if you happen to draw Custom Combo first. Roundhouse and One of Each are still useful because they are reliable. If you don't have Custom Combo in hand, you can still use them to draw and then play something else, rather than have a Draw 3 in hand and not being able to do much with it. And there's still nothing wrong with playing Roundhouse and One of Each after Custom Combo either. Even those arrows are "wasted" you still get to draw more chips for you to play and that's the important thing.

September 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSteelCoil

As an example, I mean that you could not develop a character ability or "ongoing" chip that acts like Recycle in MtG, or Ashcan Pete in Mythos CCG.

Recycle was an enchantment (read: ongoing) that said:
Skip your draw step.
Whenever you play a card, draw a card.
Your maximum hand size is two.

What kept this sane in MtG was mana. It was hard to play an unbounded number of cards in a turn because they were costly. Puzzle Strike doesn't use mana as the natural limit on a turn, it uses arrows, and with this card, those don't matter. At 7 and not !, it's obtainable in a number of ways in the mid-game. Every new ability and chip from here on out needs to be viewed through the prism of someone having unbounded arrows on say, turn 5. That's a design constraint. You could just end around it with don't-play-this-with-that metagame rules, I suppose.

September 13, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjeblucas

I don't get all the comments over Custom Combo. It costs 7 and does nothing by itself - any way to abuse still runs the risk you just drawing all your action and draw cards in one hand and all your money/combines + Custom Combo in the other. It's inherently inconsistent and forces you to build an otherwise terrible deck if you want to make use of it. Yeah, sometimes someone will run like god and it'll look broken, but often I see it not even being much more useful than Roundhouse.

I think it does a good job of accomplishing what One-Two Punch wanted to. One-Two Punch is almost never a smart buy, but I can see situations where Custom Combo might be.

September 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAeka

The game works on the assumption that you'll play no more than, say, four chips a turn, barring Setsuki shenanigans. This chip breaks that assumption--mind you, this is a cool thing to explore, I am just wondering if it needs to be so easy to get to. This chip in hand with a Draw Three or a used-as-reaction-Self Improvement means a player will have a six or seven chip turn, potentially, and not with brown chips, either, but real legit ones.

September 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjeblucas

Actually, being able to play all the chips in your deck is not a problem in puzzle strike. With proper set up, you can do it without bothering to buy Custom Combo, and some upcoming expansion chips make it even easier. Playing all the chips in your deck looks cool, and it is effective if you happen to have a lot of chips with good effects. The problem is that it takes time for you to set up your deck to reach that point with consistency. If your opponent is playing Rook and only buys combines and crashes, suddenly you don't have enough time to do whatever you want with your deck. People always hate on purples, but it can be necessary to deal with the "draw everything, play everything" type of decks. There are other ways around it too, like good use of combo practice, sneak attacks, and playing Argagarg. So you don't really have to worry about Custom Combo breaking the metagame or limiting design space. :)

September 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSteelCoil
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