Kickstarter Update: Why doesn’t Prismata have decks?

See the full update here.



This video marks the first in a series where we’ll profile the features that make Prismata so unique. In this episode, Elyot and I talk about why Prismata matches use randomized unit sets, and what impact that has on game mechanics and addictiveness.

When players enter a match, they each get access to the Base Set and a Random Set of units. Those units are the same for both players, unlike in deckbuilding games where the goal is to get rarer and stronger cards than your opponent. Because the units change from game to game, there is a fresh experience each time you play. You’ll never play with the exact same set twice.

Not only does this keep players on their toes, but it also adds a deeply strategic element. You can’t just memorize build orders (like in Starcraft), openings (like in Chess), or pay for the strongest units (like in Hearthstone). Prismata is more about how players adapt to one another on a symmetrical and even playing field.

Prismata wasn’t always designed with these randomized units sets. Originally we started out with a deckbuilding component, which allowed players to create rushy red decks, or defensive decks, but we found that this made the game much less fun for a variety of reasons:

  1. Players would start memorizing openings (which got repetitive)
  2. You might get matched against a deck that hard-countered yours
  3. Updating your deck or collection would be a constant worry for players

Not having decks is actually one of the key aspects that makes a game like Prismata possible, because otherwise it would be extremely difficult to balance. Players would end up having to spam the most powerful units, or they would try to solve the game to determine which was the best possible opening. As we discussed in the video, the reason why other game companies haven’t pursued an innovation like randomized sets is probably because it prevents you from selling packs to get the best cards (in a pay-to-win type model).

Having random unit sets is one of the best design decisions we’ve ever made, for a variety of reasons. Check out the full update video to find out more, and watch our Kickstarter video below:

Stay tuned for our next update: Why no RNG?


About Will Ma

Will Ma strives to try vastly different things in life. During the four years of his undergrad, he profited over a million dollars in online poker, appeared everywhere in school music ensembles, and ran a marathon...while being a housing don. He quit his PhD at MIT to found Lunarch Studios, and explore his childhood dream of deterministic Magic the Gathering. Nowadays Will dreams about beautiful game scenarios in Prismata that allow for endless strategic transitions.