Welcome to the Guardians CCG Page

This is a site dedicated to the Guardians collectible card game released by FPG in the mid '90s. This was a great game featuring beautiful artwork and a complex battle system. The game is now out of print and some cards are extremely difficult to find.

Here you will find alternate rules and game mods (including solo play), homebrew cards, and links to other Guardians sites.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Complexity of Guardians vs. the Novice Player, Part 1

In my previous post I talked about all the different factors that come into play in a game of Guardians. Let's revisit that list:

Guardians, Mortals, Elementals, Externals, Bribery, Off-color Bonuses, Terrain Bonuses, Command Cards, Shields, Movement, Flying, Strongholds, Vitality, Channelers, Channeling Receivers, CMP, Stronghold Upgrades, Stronghold Downgrades, Creature Magic Items, Accessories, Storage Depots, Storage Hands, Creature Pens, Text Boxes, Ranged Attacks, Secondary Attacks, Spells, Standard Bearers, Shield/Terrain, AOEs, Healing, Destruction, Immunity, Power Stones, Reinforcing, Retreating, Stronghold Bonuses, LDL, MDL, LUC, Upcards, Placing Terrain, Disputed Terrain, Winning the Space, Rubbling Strongholds, Draw and Organize Phase, Movement Phase, Combat Phase, Terrain Settlement Phase, Vitality Limits, Stacking Penalties, Unchallenged Cards, Creature Class, Creature Size, Play Deck, Discard Pile, Base Draw...

Whew! I didn't think that was ever going to end!

One of the things that makes Guardians so wonderful is all the different mechanics that can be utilized to achieve victory. However, those same mechanics hold Guardians back from widespread appeal. Trying to remember all the terms, rules, and exceptions is an exercise in frustration. I believe this is one of the reasons why Guardians was not accepted on a widespread level as other games like Magic, Warlord, Pokeman, and World of Warcraft. Those games are easy to pick up and play in a matter of minutes, while Guardians is far more complex. Described as a combination of "the card play of Magic with the strategy of Chess", that's not really a good analogy for Guardians. The original Magic the Gathering game contained far fewer rules, and a person could learn how to play in about 5 to 10 minutes. Chess consists of only 6 unique pieces per side, each with movement limits, on a 8 by 8 square board. Not to simplify Chess too much - it is a very strategic game - but rather I'm referring to the ease with which  the pieces and movements can be learned.

Guardians is a far different beast, and has so many features that it seems unnecessarily complex to learn. This has for certain limited the pool of players that would be interested in playing. Case in point is my roommate Kelly, during the time in which we first obtained the game. We didn't really understand the concept of secondary attacks at first. After I did some more reading, I tried to explain it to Kelly, but at that point he was done. There was too much to remember: movement mechanics, combat modifiers, and all the other rules simply overloaded his brain. It is, indeed, too much to remember for the casual gamer. This resulted in leaving me stuck with a bunch of cards and no one to play against.

So I present the following questions:

1.  Can Guardians be made simpler to teach the rules and entice more people to play?

2.  Is there an easier way to teach someone to play other than the tiny rulebook, the FAQ, and CJ's excellent rules supplement?

In this post, which is the first of 2 parts, I'm going to focus on the first question. I believe there is a way to simplify Guardians so that people can learn it in about 10 minutes. I present to you two lists: one of things to keep, and one of things to get rid of, in this simpler environment. My reasoning will appear afterwards.

Things to keep: Guardians, Strongholds, Shields, Creatures (Mortals, Externals, Elementals), Spells, Bribery, Off-color Bonuses, Movement, Vitality, Channeling Receivers, CMP, Text Boxes, Destruction, Immunity, Power Stones, Retreating, Stronghold Bonuses, LDL, MDL, LUC, Upcards, Winning the Space, Rubbling Strongholds, Draw and Organize Phase, Movement Phase, Combat Phase, Terrain Settlement Phase, Vitality Limits, Storage Hands, Play Decks, Discard Piles, placing Terrain, and Base Draw.

Things to get rid of: Command Cards, Channelers, Stronghold Upgrades, Stronghold Downgrades, Creature Magic Items, Hand Magic Items, Accessories, Storage Depots, Creature Pens, Secondary Attacks, AOEs, Terrain Bonuses, Flying, Ranged Attacks, Standard Bearers, Shield/Terrain, Healing, Reinforcing, Disputed Terrain, Stacking Penalties, Creature Class, Creature Size, and Unchallenged Cards.

Now, before you get the pitchforks out, let me clarify this. I'm not advocating changing the rules; I'm calling for removing some of the concepts for the sole purpose of teaching the game. As someone learned the game and became comfortable with it, you could introduce these removed concepts little by little back into the game environment. Here's why I chose what I did:

The two most complex parts of the game are combat and managing Shields. Combat in particular is problematic; while all the different factors that come into play make things interesting, it overloads a new player:

"Okay, play your command card. I'm playing mine too. Mine dispels yours, they contradict each other but mine has the higher upcard number. Now go ahead and play your first match up creature. Wow, that's a big creature, I'm going to bribe it. Your going to cast a spell? Okay I play Dispel Magic and dispel your Spell. Your creature goes back to your Creature Pen. My creature is now an unchallenged card. Okay, play your next attacker. You've got an AOE, I lose one of my creatures, it is not immune to fear. No bribery is occurring, so apply your off-color bonus, terrain bonus, and Standard Bearer bonus. I'm going to spend a stone and channel to my creature, which is enough to beat yours. Okay play your next attacker. No bribery again, apply your off-color bonus. No that creatures does not get a Terrain bonus. It does get your Standard Bearer bonus. Okay I'm going to use a range attack to defeat your creature. Did you want to bribe my range attacker? No, okay so your creature is beaten. You still have creatures left, so you can do secondary attacks. No, all your bonuses from the first creatures go away. Are you going to channel? Okay then you can apply your off-color bonus, Terrain bonus and Standard Bearer bonus. You add all that to the primary attacker's total..."

It sounds easy enough for those of us experienced in playing, but to the novice that is just ridiculous. By stripping away secondary attacks, AOEs, Terrain bonuses, ranged attacks, standard bearers, and unchallenged cards you simplify the environment greatly. As I stated above, this stuff isn't going away, it's just going on the back burner until the novice is ready to tackle it. Similarly, by stripping away flying, stacking penalties, reinforcing, healing, standard bearers, and Shield/Terrain, you greatly simplify Shield management.

I firmly believe that a simpler learning environment would draw in new players. As they learn the game and become hooked, the more advanced concepts become easier to for them to comprehend. Like anything learned, you need to establish a good foundation in order to build up to higher concepts and complexities.

In the next post (part 2), I'll tackle the second question: is there an easier way to teach someone to play other than the tiny rulebook, the FAQ, and CJ's excellent rules supplement?

1 comment:

Lorien Green said...

So great to come across someone talking about Guardians so recently! I was thinking this very thing, if there were ways to simplify the game. My Mom and I tried to play it back in the day, but yes, it's a steep learning curve. Please post more :)