Category Archives: Mastermind(Canceled)

Mastermind Design Sheet

Lately I’ve been reading Mark Rosewater’s Making Magic column. Not everything said in his column applies to Mastermind, because of the distribution model, but a lot of it can be applied. Specifically, his posts titled “Nuts and Bolts” has inspired me to make a design document for Mastermind.

First, I started with a white board. I decided the layout of general costs. While Pirates tends to focus on smaller creatures, Zombies came out with this split:

Small: 30%
Large: 10%

So most of Zombie’s cards will be in the 2-3 range, with a few 1-costs and very few 4-costs.

Next up I came up with the rarity split for all power sources. There are 72 cards in each power source, so I got approximate numbers:

Common: 50% (12 unique cards)
Uncommon: 35% (12 unique cards)
Rare: 15% (12 unique cards)

And then finally, I decided that Zombies should have approximately 60% creatures(M), and 40% support cards(S, Schemes, Modifications, or Instants)

Now that I had numbers and percentages, I could come up with my design skeleton. I’m going to list the commons, because listing all 36 cards would not be space effective. Talking more about my methodology here.

ZC01 M Sm
ZC02 M Sm
ZC03 M Me
ZC04 M Me
ZC05 M Me
ZC06 M Me
ZC07 M La
ZC08 s Sm
ZC09 s Sm
ZC10 S Me
ZC11 S Me
ZC12 S La

So we have Z(Zombie) C(Common) and the number of common. Next up, I have M(Minion) or S(Support). Then we have Sm(Small, 1 cost), Md(2-3 cost), and La(4-cost).

Next up, I listed my four Set 1 power-sources: Zombies, Pirates, Cogs, Spies. I jotted down around 4 things that I think that power-source’s theme is focused on, plus at least one minor theme. For Zombies, I had:

Power at all cost
Unit Hate
Keep Hate
Defense Hate(Minor theme)

There was some overlap between Harvest and Power at all Cost, but not all PaAC cards fit Harvest’s theme, and Harvest is the iconic power of the source.

This is the point I also decided each power source should have approximately 11 card in generators. Cogs focus on Hand-generators, Pirates on a mix of Denial and pure Generation, Spies on a mix of Denial and Hand generation, and Zombies focusing on pure Generation in the form of Skeleton tokens.

So using these themes and number of generators, I filled in the roles I wanted each of my commons to fill:

ZC01 M Sm Keep Hate
ZC02 M Sm Generator
ZC03 M Me Harvest
ZC04 M Me Unit Hate, PaAC
ZC05 M Me Unit Hate
ZC06 M Me Unit Hate
ZC07 M La Harvest
ZC08 S Sm
ZC09 S Sm Unit Hate
ZC10 S Me Generator
ZC11 S Me Harvest
ZC12 S La Defense Hate

In general, I tried to keep each of my Commons with only one aspect of the theme, while Uncommon and Rares I let cross over a lot more. Because Defense Hate was a minor theme, only one of the 12 cards has it, while you can see Unit Hate has 33% representation. 6 of my 11 generators in the common level, which is intentional. Keep hate is very powerful, since I’ve lowered the Keep HP to 10, so you can see that while it’s a major theme, it has smaller representation.

Next up I went through my previous documents to find cards that fit. Some cards fit perfectly (Brittle Bones fits a small minion generator), while others had to be changed. Likewise, I moved around different themes, making sure to keep them in the same rarity. It’s very important that I keep themes represented equally in each rarity. As Rosewater said, if a theme is not present in the commons, it is not a theme of your set. Now, once I cut out cards that did not fit in my theme(like a card that lowered a squad’s attack), I had holes that had to be filled.

One of these was ZC12. It is a support card that costs a lot, but removes Defense. Instants that lowered Defense usually felt bad, especially if not cheap.  So I realized this needed to be either a Modification or a Scheme. Paying 3-4 to remove a single squad’s defense was kinda meh. So I created the following:

4 Dirge of Decay (Common)


Creatures with Defense have their Defense lowered by one.

The wording is still in its first draft. But the idea is that it does take up your Scheme slot, but ruins your opponent’s defenses. For a four cost and a scheme, this essentially gives your units +1 attack if the unit has Defense. Of course, if your opponent is not running a lot of defense creatures, this scheme becomes useless. Keep in mind that some of the Zombie’s units have Defense(mostly ghosts), and this card does effect them. Likewise, if you run this card, you are not likely to run any adventurer cards with defense.

Overall, this design skeleton helped me refocus on theme for Zombies. I feel like now when you draw a new card, it’ll help reinforce the idea that you are a necromancer, who’s minions are merely power sources for your spreading plague across the continent.

Mastermind Design #20: Sunday Special: Modifications!

Today we are going to focus on two mods from Pirates, and two from Zombies. Weekend double feature!

3 Bomb-filled Gift (Common)
At the beginning of your turn, flip a coin. On heads, deal two damage to squad and remove Bomb-filled Gift.

This modification is basically D&D’s “Delay Blast Fireball.” It does big damage to a squad, but it takes at least one turn to explode, giving your opponent the ability to empty out a squad.
This delay is important. Without the delay, this card would fall fully into the damage department, but as it is it falls closer to control. You placing this on a squad tells the opponent they either have to move out of this squad(thus keeping them from attacking or defending an attack) or take the brunt of damage.
Fun gameplay with this card can come from the Adventurer card Jinx, who has an ability that is the opposite of Lucky (turns a heads into a tails).

2 Kreuzer (Uncommon)
Modification: HP3 Attack 1
Gives all creatures you play Ready(May be deployed in the attack squad)
Ship(This mod can attack, block, or be targeted as if it were a creature. If it reaches 0 HP, it is destroyed.)

This is another of the Pirates’s Ship modifications that we addressed in an earlier post. This one has the benefits/costs of a Ship(it’s a blocker/attacker, but can still be removed by playing a new Mod). It’s benefit is good, but since a lot of Pirate’s cards have Ready, this ship doesn’t give them a benefit. This is one of those cards that will be powerful when combined with creatures that do not have the mobility of Ready creatures, but will feel weak in a deck that utilizes a lot of Ready creatures.

2 Feasting Grounds (Common)
When a creature in this squad dies, heal two target creatures by 2.

This first zombie modification is a simple card. When your opponent’s creatures fall, your hordes of the undead are healed. This card has a few iterations on the heal, from “Heal target squad 1” to “Heal target minion by 3” to the current version.

This common modification is useful because it can remove powerful modifications from the opponent’s squad, as well as healing your units.

3 Nauseating Pustules (Uncommon)
Members of this squad with Defense, no longer have that ability.
Alacrity(Can be deployed at Instant Speed)

This modification is another debuff, but this one can be played as an “aha!” card, due to it’s Alacrity.
Festering Zombie is another Zombie card that can poison enemies as long as it deals damage. However, since it’s Attack is only 1, many of the Pirate’s creatures with Defense 1 can shut it down and keep it from spreading it’s disease. Using Nauseating Pustules after you opponent blocks Festering Zombie with one of these creatures can ruin a Pirate’s plans, as well as making all of your creatures hit one harder, as long as the creature it’s effecting has Defense.

Mastermind Design #19: Digital

Recently the news came out that the World of Warcraft-esque game Shadow Era is going to begin producing physical cards. Why this is news is because Shadow Era started out as a video game freemium game, but it has been popular enough to warrant real-world cards.
Would digital to physical work for Mastermind? I’m thinking not. I am unsure how Shadow Era got its start, but the cost of art assets is huge. A Freemium model of “Get Zombies for free but pay to unlock Pirates, Cogs, Etc” would simply not work upfront with the amount of assets required for Mastermind.
That being said, we do plan on making Mastermind into a video game, and even potentially use that freemium model! But after the physical game is released, and thus the assets paid for. Then the video game version is paying for the development of the video game, rather than the entire game.

Mastermind Design #18: Playtest Notes

When we playtest, I usually have a sheet of paper and pen next to me. While we play, I take notes, and after the game (and sometimes during) I talk to my other playtester as to their impressions. Today I want to showcase some of my notes from a recent playtest with Five Clan’s artist, Joe Spicer.

Dreadnought: lower cost or increase power? Defense 1 perhaps? 2 attack 3HP, D1 for 3?

This was the first playtest with the ships. The Dreadnought is currently:

3 Dreadnought (Uncommon)

HP 3 Attack 2

Ship(This mod can attack, block, or be targeted as if it were a creature. If it reaches 0 HP, it is destroyed.)

At the beginning of your turn, flip a coin. On heads, target Keep takes one damage.

The reason for the above observation came from the realization that this particular ship doesn’t modify the squad in any way (like the Ironclad Warship does). So it shouldn’t cost more than a creature with the same abilities, especially since it can be removed with a modification.

For now, I just don’t know. I don’t want to increase it’s HP because logistically having Modification with more than 3 HP makes trouble fitting on the card, and I’m also leery of adding Defense, because the card already has a lot of text going on. Will play a few games with different versions until we find the one that feels right.

Another note:

Keep HP @ 12? 10? 15?

Currently, we’ve been playing with 20 Keep HP. Honestly, game-fatigue hits around the time that our HP reaches around 10 HP. Because of this, our next few playtests will be around the 10 mark. A few cards will have to be modified to fit this new scale, but overall this will help move the game faster.


Last note:

Clarify don’t have to attack with all Attack squad

Clarify can’t combine Harvest+resources

These are not notes on changes of gameplay. These actually just notes that I need to make sure I clarify the rules to avoid confusion.

Mastermind Design #17: Damage Scale

What is max damage? What scale should damage have?

In the Pokemon TCG(In the first sets that I played), most moves averaged around 20-30 damage, with very few reaching beyond 40. I vividly remember using Dewgong a lot because for a 2nd evolution(of 3) and 3 Energy(of usually mad 4) I could do 50 damage, which 1-2 shot most creatures. Most creatures had 30-70 health. Dewgong was one of my favorite cards because it was on the high end of the damage scale for relatively little cost.

So what is Mastermind’s damage scale? Almost every card has at least 2 HP, with the average being 3-4. The maximum HP is 5.

Attack scales somewhat similarly, with 2-3 being the average, and 4 being the unbuffed max. Many creatures will not survive more than two attacks.

So what about max damage? What is the highest attack I can give a creature before it should be able to one shot almost anything?
Both Pirates and Zombies have the ability to get 5 attack from some 4-cost cards. The ability to do so comes from a mixture of either luck(or Lucky) or Ally cards.
The reason I brought this up was because of a single Pirate card:

4 Fechtenmeister (Common)
HP 5 Attack 3
Defense 1

So if Max damage is 4-5, Fechtenmeister is surving two frontal assaults while  having 50% chance of doing max damage himself.

For our next playtest, we will be playing with 4HP for Fechtenmeisters.

Mastermind Design #16: Probability

Pirates are heavily focused on luck and probability. Today I’m going to be taking a close look at the Pirate Cove scheme, which has been a source of headaches in playtesting.


3 Pirate Cove (Uncommon)

At the beginning of your turn, flip a coin. On heads, flip again. Repeat until tails. Generate a number of resources equal to the heads flipped.

Probability tells us this should only net .5 resources. Seems legit, right?

You typically get five resources per turn, so if you get five extra resources, it’s as if gaining an extra turn, in a way. So what are the chances of doing so?

3% without any Lucky. Every time you add another point of Lucky, it doubles this percent. So if you manage to have all three Card Sharks out, you’re chance of getting a double-turn in regards to resources is 25%. This applies to all number of flips. So generating one resource goes from 50% to 100% with one Lucky.

Now, statistically the ability to get 7 resources(aka two and a half turns) is .75%. Three Lucky moves it to 6%, which is not a statistic abnormality.

Still, statistically it is fairly well balanced. However, the bonus each resource gives is huge. Sure, it takes four cards(one Card Sharks and Pirate Cove itself), and 5 resources, but when that 6% rears it’s head, you now can play twice as many cards as your opponent. When that 1.5% shows up, you are doing two and a half times as much(7 resources).

So in the end, to save a lot of headaches and “whelp, I quit” moments, we are capping Pirate Cove at 5 bonus resources. If someone gets double turn due to luck(or Lucky), they should be rewarded. But beyond that, seeing your opponent rack up astronomical amounts of resources is not fun. Luck should benefit the pirate, but not decide the game by itself.

Mastermind Design #15 : Blitz

Part of the Pirate’s kit is direct damage. Another is luck. From these two themes, Blitz(originally called Bully) came about. We will be looking at the two Common Blitz cards today.

1 Seehund (Common)
HP:3 Attack: 1
Blitz (When attacking, flip a coin. If heads, you may decide which creature blocks Seehund.)
When deployed, draw a card from the top of your deck.

This is a 1-cost(one card from hand plus one resource, minus the bonus card you get to draw) minion. His stats are unimpressive until you realize that with Blitz, he can easily attack all of your opponents utility creatures, who often have 0 attack.
Blitz allows your units to have a chance to do targeted damage. Normally a defender gets to decide who blocks. Now instead of a random skeleton token, you can take out the pesky necromancer who keeps making them!

2 Buccaneer (Common)
HP 4 Attack 2
Ready(May be deployed into the attack squad)

The second common Blitz creature is similar to the first. However, he deals twice as much damage, and lives twice as long. And as an added bonus, he saves you a turn moving him from defense squad to the attack squad because of Ready.

Blitz is a way to focus-fire those high profile targets, which is something Pirates are good at. Who needs big brutes when you can remove their defenses?

Mastermind Design #14 : Poison

Let’s get right into it. Poison counters are the first counters to go onto cards. At the beginning of each of your turns, creatures with Poison counters take one damage. They are a slow kill, but they work on creatures and minions alike.

3 Festering Corpse (Uncommon)

HP 4 Attack 1

Harvest, Undying

Poison(Any creature dealt damage by Festering Corpse has one Poison counter placed on it.)

For a Zombie, Festering corpse has a good amount of HP. It’s attack seems low for three resources, until you realize that he is a superb attacker and defender. Here is why:

If he is attacking, anything that defends is going to slowly die. Most creatures will die in 2-3 turns. So more than likely, you aren’t going to block him, meaning that every turn he does one damage to your Keep, much like Pale Lady.

If he is in your defense squad, your opponent will be pretty leery about attacking, since you get to choose which of his attackers gets to die in a few turns.

Now, what kind of other ways can we get Poison counters on those pesky Pirates?

1 Lingering Death (Common)


Put a Poison counter on target creature.

Compare that to their 2-cost Touch of Death:

2 Touch of Death (Common)


Destroy target Minion.

Lingering Death not only 33% cheaper(card+resource Vs card+2 resources), but it also targets Allies! So trading that instant-kill for versatility and resource discount. If you can only choose one, it would be a fairly hard choice! However, the joys of Customizable Card Games is the fact that you can run both if you want!

Tomorrow I will be covering one of Pirate’s iconic abilities: Blitz.


Mastermind Design #13: Cog Preview

Yesterday, we looked at common Integrate and Trap cards. Today we are going to look at the opposite end of the spectrum. Cards that are powerful enough that you can only have one in your deck!

4 Repair Module (Rare)

HP4 Attack 1

Defense 1(Lowers incoming combat damage by one)

At the beginning of your turn, heal target creature by four.

Integrate 2: Prevent damage to target minion until end of turn.

This is one of the Cog’s healing cards. In general, Cogs tend to be high-HP, low Attack creatures often with Defense. Because of this, healing cards are very potent.

I would be terribly tempted to make sure Repair Module is always on the board when I get it, but at four cost, keeping it in your hand for that 2-cost “aha” might be worth it. In combats, those two resources could be the difference between you killing that high-attack creature, and you both dying.

4 Movable Walls (Rare)

HP 6 Attack 0

Trap(Traps may be played as an Instant into your defense squad. Traps cannot be moved from the Defense Squad.)

Defense 2(Lowers incoming combat damage by two)

When deployed, target defense squad’s creatures gains Defense 1 until end of turn. If it already has this ability, increase it by one. (Lowers incoming combat damage by Defense’s value)

So, let’s be honest. Saving four resources back to use this card on your opponent’s turn is a pretty big risk. But the payoff is virtually shutting down the attack(by lowering damage), as well as giving you a phenomenal blocker.

This and the other trap cards also have a psychological benefit. If your opponent sees you saving back resources, they will be much more hesitant to risk their attackers.

Remember, when your minions are sentient machines, it’s best to have a mental edge. Afterall, you are the smartest Mastermind in Europe, right?


Mastermind Design #12: Cog Preview

As our special Weekend edition, we are going to preview some of the Cog cards, which is the third power source of Set 1.

The Cogs are mechanical creatures of clockwork design. Each of them are designed so as to work in tandem to be stronger. Think Steampunk Voltron, I suppose. Being a Cog mastermind means that you are a cerebral person who wants to defeat their opponents with intellect and cunning, rather than brute force or numbers. Surprising your foes, while not missing a beat yourself is important.

Because the Cogs have not recieved the same level of playtesting as Zombies and Pirates at this point in time, all cards are considered in the early alpha stage.

Design-wise, Cogs strengths lie in their handsize. Their resource gathering is not only focused on drawing cards, but their cards often act as two!

2 Sword Cog (Common)

HP3 Attack 2

Integrate 1: Target Minion’s attack is raised by one until end of turn.

Integrate: You  may pay this card’s Integrate cost to reveal it and gain the listed benefit. This card is treated as an instant in this case, including discarding the card. If this card is deployed as a creature, it’s Integrate does not activate.


You will notice that Integrate’s details are not listed on the card. Due to it’s complexity, listing it on each card would simply not be cost effective.

The Sword Cog in general is a robotic sword that other cogs can wield temporarily to increase their attack. When you have this common card in your hand, you can decide if you need another creature on the board right now, or if you need an “aha!” to kill a creature that your opponent thought was safe.

Cogs have a great many “aha!” cards. Integrate allows creature cards to be used as if they were instant cards. Another of their cards fills the opposite role. Traps are creatures that give some sort of “aha!” instant-effect, but also leave a creature in your squad to help you defend.


2 Bomb Trap (Common)

HP1 Attack 2

Trap(Traps may be played as an Instant into your defense squad. Traps cannot be moved from the Defense Squad.)

When deployed, deal one damage to attacking squad.

As you can see, this 2 cost “aha!” not only lets you deal damage to squad (average 2-4 total damage), but acts as a 1-time 2 damage to whichever creature you want to block. The limitations on only being able to target attacking squads does limit it when compared to burn instant-spells.

As I said earlier, Cogs have not received as much playtest time as Pirates and Zombies, and this is one of those cards that will require it! It’s not clear if it should be a two or a three cost card. Three would help make it fall in line with other power sources instant spells, but cards are balanced around the entire kit. Bombardment and Bomb Trap don’t have to be equal in power, because they can’t possibly go into the same deck. However, if Cogs are stronger than Pirates, that is when we need to step in.

Tomorrow I will reveal another Integrate and another Trap card before we go back to Pirates and Zombies on Monday.