• Design Highlight: Black Bolt Rare

    As a change of pace, today I'd like to talk about a card that I think is one of the best designed cards in Dice Masters. I'll be giving some background and making some comparisons to other games to get my meaning across. In short, whatever went right with this card, I sure hope we see more of it, at all rarities. I'm talking about the rare Black Bolt from the recently-released Deadpool set.

    Black Bolt: "King of the Inhumans," has the following text: "When fielded, target character die you control gets +2D. If that character die has Deadly, all opposing character dice must block that die, if able."

    And this is all he needs to be great.

    [top]Black Bolt's Place in Game Design


    Now, let's be clear - I'm not going to assert that this is the greatest card in all of Dice Masters - just that it is the greatest design. Let me explain.

    One element of Dice Masters that could use some growth is how the theme is expressed through game mechanisms. We have seen some limited success with this idea, but never anything consistent. In many cases, if you stripped away the card names, you could paste just about anything in there and it would still work. Theme needs to go beyond what you say the cards are called and into the mechanisms of the set. Several Dice Masters sets have introduced a new keyword that tries to add meaning to that but most set-specific mechanisms have made little impact on how the game is played or what it means for those characters.

    Fabricate, for example, is great not really because of anything found in Faerun Under Siege but rather due to the usefulness of sometimes KOing your own characters in Dice Masters in general. There was no reason to use UXM's Heroic, ether. In most cases, the element that is missing is that nothing encourages you to play into those keywords outside of the cards with the abilities themselves - especially difficult-to-utilize ones. There was no card that triggered off of Heroic other than the Heroic characters themselves. Most other abilities work the same way. We briefly mentioned on a recent episode of The Attack Zone that a lot of new players will try to make Heroic work when they first see it and it just doesn't. That's because there is nothing there to make it work.

    Occasionally something works. Teamwatch encouraged building for affiliation and was probably an upgraded version of the maligned "Heroic" keyword. It is an interesting ability that ought to be fleshed out more, though little in the set supported it other than characters having team affiliations. Where Teamwatch could have shined was in War of Light, with so many affiliations running wild. It would have added a mechanical reason to consider the lantern colors, and perhaps could have made lantern colors more relevant outside of in-set play.

    Other games take this weaving of theme and mechanics into account often. When Netrunner introduced "Cassia" cards, which were influenced by chess mechanisms, the designers also made sure to include synergistic cards, ones that worked with the keyword. This encouraged playing these unique cards even though they had some drawbacks or quirks to their use that would have otherwise made them less desirable.

    Magic, in the Odyssey block, had cards with abilities that worked only if you discarded cards from your hand. Discarding is, for the most part, a terrible decision. It sacrifices card advantage and leaves you open to two-for-one (or worse) trades. To encourage this, they also included mechanisms that made you want more cards in your discard piles - cards that offered discounts or could be played from discard. In essence, Odyssey was about the graveyard. The mechanisms emphasized the theme.

    [top]In-Game Synergies


    The "Deadly" keyword would have been exactly like previous Dice Masters examples. If not for rare Black Bolt. It makes sense to have Deadly in the set, and it is a fine keyword to introduce to the Dice Master lexicon. Still, on its own, it isn't particularly meaningful. Other than a brief spell where the pre-keyword version of the ability worked as a contingency piece on some teams (including the 2015 Worlds winner), it hasn't done a whole lot. This is because it isn't always a good idea to knock out your opponent's characters. So how can we encourage use of the ability? Black Bolt is a way.

    Field Black Bolt with a solid Deadly character on the board and you now have an intriguing way to avoid blockers entirely. Now, this isn't an outright win condition on its own - Black Bolt tops out at just 5A, after all - it's a way to make use of the keyword in an interesting way, especially in an attacking circumstance, where it is usually less desirable.

    I would love to see more abilities like this in Dice Masters. I also think that more of them should have been in the Deadpool set itself. As interesting as Deadly is, I've yet to play a game with the set where its inclusion had a meaningful impact on the game, outside of the Black Bolt circumstance.

    Let's hope that this is a hint at the further development of the game!
    Comments 3 Comments
    1. gkpon66's Avatar
      gkpon66 -
      Interesting. Lets hope this is not too little.
    1. Flexei's Avatar
      Flexei -
      We got a little bit of this in Civil War with Resistance and Enlistment. Cards like Mary Jane and Baron Zemo capitalized on you having characters with those abilities. I think the difference is Deadly on its own is a strong ability and several of the characters with it are worth including on your team even without Black Bolt, where with Civil War, the Resistance and Enlistment abilities just aren't quite up to snuff and it too often benefits your opponent if they can choose who gets knocked out.

      Like uncommon MJ from Civil War seems so close to playable....
      While Mary Jane is active, when you field a character die with Enlistment, Mary Jane deals target opponent 1 damage each time they KO one of their character dice this turn.
      if just there were better Enlistment effects and if several of them didn't only go off on your opponent's turn. Even if she went off when an Enlistment cost was paid rather than after an Enlistment character was fielded would have made her better...
      like half the time she wouldn't even go off from Superhero Registration Act... if i could get her out and my opponent always took damage and KOed a character or I got 3 dice. That would have been great.
    1. Jwannabe's Avatar
      Jwannabe -
      Quote Originally Posted by Flexei View Post
      We got a little bit of this in Civil War with Resistance and Enlistment. Cards like Mary Jane and Baron Zemo capitalized on you having characters with those abilities. I think the difference is Deadly on its own is a strong ability and several of the characters with it are worth including on your team even without Black Bolt, where with Civil War, the Resistance and Enlistment abilities just aren't quite up to snuff and it too often benefits your opponent if they can choose who gets knocked out.

      Like uncommon MJ from Civil War seems so close to playable....

      if just there were better Enlistment effects and if several of them didn't only go off on your opponent's turn. Even if she went off when an Enlistment cost was paid rather than after an Enlistment character was fielded would have made her better...
      like half the time she wouldn't even go off from Superhero Registration Act... if i could get her out and my opponent always took damage and KOed a character or I got 3 dice. That would have been great.
      It's also strange that there were so few of them, considering it was the focus of the set.