Today I am starting a new series of posts. This series is called The Game Mechanics. It will be a series of blog posts that will focus in on a specific game mechanic and use an example game to dive in a little deeper. Today's post will use 7 Wonders Duel as an example of the card drafting mechanic. A big shout out to my brother-in-law Ryan and My wife Mary for sitting down with me and playing through 7 Wonders Duel. An honorable mention goes to our daughter for napping long enough for us to get a game in.
Lets start with a working definition of card drafting. Card drafting is a game mechanism where the players of a game choose or purchase cards (tiles, pieces, etc) from a common pool of cards on the table. These cards give the player a long term or short term advantage in the game. In short there is a limited common pool of resources that the players can choose from. This mechanism is highlighted in a lot of popular games. For example ticket to ride uses a very simple version of this mechanic. In Ticket to Ride you are able to pick from a line up of 5 face up cards to add to you hand. Drafting really became popular when Dominion was released in 2008 and is still a very popular mechanic and used in some of today's most popular hobby games.
Card drafting in its most basic form is a very elegant and simple mechanic that adds an interesting decision matrix into a game. This will force the players of a game to choose what is best for them in the short or long term of the game. Simple drafting games like Ticket to Ride simply ask you to pick from a row of 5 face up cards. Dominion adds an element of paying for the cards you want but what is available is static per game. Games like Star Realms creates a dynamic row to purchase from and the row is constantly changing depending on what players purchase and some of the cards abilities themself.
In 7 Wonders Duel there is a structure of cards in the middle of the playing area and every other row is flipped face down. You you can see some of the cards that are available and some that are going to become available as they are uncovered and flipped over. This is a very interesting deployment of the card drafting mechanic as there is some information you don't know and some unknown information on the table that is guiding your choice. In 7 Wonders Duel you are not just picking up a card from a pool of cards your are working your way through a structure and revealing cards along the way.
Each turn a player take they must take a card from the structure. Some of the cards have costs to build and if you are unable to afford any that are available you may discard one and collect 2 coins. Coins in this game can pay directly for a building or they can pay for resources that you may not have. This means that the structure will be reduced every turn.
Another interesting layer that was added to the card drafting system was a 3 round draft. This means that when all the cards are taken there are 2 more structures of cards to go through. Each round of drafting has a different shape to it to keep the interest and it builds strategy as you progress. The first round has the most options starting out and the third round the least. I am really fond of how they developed this unique card drafting system.
Card drafting is a great mechanic to layer on other mechanics like deck/engine building. It add a fun bit of strategy to a game.
Also check out these other card drafting games.