How Slay the Spire Fixed Computer CCGs
So, it’s been a few months. Anything interesting happening in the world? I’ve been busy with some things, and one of them is marveling at Slay the Spire.
Trading card games and deck builders are a big part of my gaming history. I played and sold them in the 1990s, drifted away from them in the 2000s, then came back to them as a designer in 2008 when I joined the Warstorm team.
The ideas in card games are at the heart of my design work. Even when it’s not a full-fledged card game like Star Wars Assault Team, I’ve used their concepts to break complex interactions down into a series of simple effects.
Online card games pose problems, though. You can do a lot of neat things with card interactions and visible effects, but managing your card deck? That’s a bear. What’s effortless in real life — choosing cards, putting them in different physical piles, and shuffling up a new deck idea — is confusing and annoying on a small screen.
I wrestled with deck building / squad management / collection views for a over a decade, and never got it to work in a way that I liked. So imagine my surprise when I (finally) picked up Slay the Spire this spring and saw it had hit on the perfect solution?
How Slay the Spire Killed the Build
Slay the Spire removed the headaches of deck management by removing deck management. Taking inspiration from Dominion, the game starts you off with ten simple cards. You march through a series of battles and chance encounters, choosing a new card after every battle.
There’s no deck management system, because you only have one deck. You never need to move a bunch of cards around. You never need to curate your collection. Just add a card here, delete a card there, and get a whole new set of cards when you die.
Simple. Easy. Brilliant.
Slay the Spire has more going for it, of course. The card balance is excellent, with a bias towards letting you do awesome stuff. (Power creep isn’t a problem, because you reset after every run — another stroke of design genius.) Each of the four archetypes offers several different styles of play. The game world is minimal but flavorful.
I’ve put over a hundred hours into the game without getting tired of it. It’s even inspired me to work on a new project of my own, and we’ll see where that goes. It just goes to show how much you can do when you make the decision not to do something.