I have been playing a lot of deckbuilding games recently. I 100%’d Slay the Spire, am deep into Ascension, and even had a blast playing Star Realms. I have also loved strategy games like Battle for Wesnoth, Civilization, and more. So Floppy Knights, a deckbuilding/strategy game, really caught my eye, and it looks like a really promising start.
Unfortunately, the game isn’t out yet. There is just an alpha version available on Steam that is meant to preview the mechanics, art style, and story. However, what is there does give me a good idea on what the game will look and feel like when it is finished.
First, let’s get the surface level stuff out of the way. The game combines a bouncey, cartoony style with some old-school computer aesthetics. You cards are stored in a folder, and you activate them by plugging floppy disks into your arm-mounted, artificially intelligent IBM computer. It is all kinds of nostalgic and warm, and I love it. The music is a bit bare, very chiptuney, but it serves its purpose. The only complaint is that the main UI could lean a bit more into the old-school era, but that might not work as well as I am envisioning it.
The story, as it is, is that you are a young girl with the aforementioned arm mounted AI, and you are tasked with doing odd jobs for money. The alpha only contains one scenario, chasing out vegetarian goblins from someone’s farm. The dialogue is pretty witty and can be quite humourous without being grating or childish.
The main thing I want to talk about is the gameplay. Basically, this game is like a mix of Slay the Spire and Fire Emblem. From Fire Emblem, it takes the grid-based movement, melee and ranged capabilities, as well as having a “leader” unit that must stay alive at all costs. From Slay the Spire, it takes the draw-5-cards-a-turn and a replenish-able supply of energy to power your cards. These cards allow you to do anything from move, attack, heal, upgrade, destroy cards, place more units, and are otherwise the main way you will be commanding your units. This combination is actually incredibly interesting, and I can see a lot of deck-building questions that arise. How many movement cards do you want? What about utility cards? Healing cards might end up as dead-draws, or they might save your bacon. When you play units, they will add cards to your deck, which raises the possibility of a really good unit providing junk cards to your deck.
There are a few nit-picks about the current card pool (why in the world is there a card that draws you a card and gives you a free energy? Have you learned nothing from Pot of Greed?), but there is a few things I want to touch on regarding the overall game philosophies.
First, what sort of deckbuilding restrictions will there be? There was talk about different factions, so will there be an ability to mix-and-match? Or will you only be able to add cards that match your leader’s faction or are neutral, in the same vein as Hearthstone. I am a big detractor of this type of deckbuilding, as I feel it is not interesting enough. Players should feel free to include whatever cards they want into their deck, but there should be a trade off.
Magic the Gathering, for example, is built on a resource system that inherently restricts what type of cards you can play. Each land can (usually) only produce one colour of mana. Red cards require at least some red mana, blue cards require at least some blue mana, and red/blue cards require both red and blue mana. Having only colour of card in your deck will limit what you can do, but paying the costs is much easier. I
Or, you can go the route of Yu-Gi-Oh, where each card often has very specific uses and synergies. A card like Black Hole has the same effects in all decks, while a card like Trickstar Light Stage is only useful if you are using a bunch of Trickstar monsters. Some cards are made for one archetype, but can be “splashed” into another because some aspect of them align. For example, Tindangle Angel allows you to summon Flip monsters, and Krawlers are all flip monsters. Manju of the Ten Thousand Hands is a monster that helps support any type of Ritual deck, but is basically useless elsewhere.
For Floppy Knights, I would really like to see a Yu-Gi-Oh style synergy based deckbuilding. Let’s look at some examples of cards, and how I would design other cards to compliment them.
Mulch (Plant Costs 1: Destroy any card in your hand.)
This is a rather simple one: make destroying a card a good idea. Make a bunch of cards that have an additional effect when they are destroyed. Maybe something like ( Cost 2: Recover 2 Health. If this card is destroyed, recover 1 Health to all Units.) This provides a slightly inefficient healing in your hand, or if you can destroy it, a very efficient mass-heal. Other decks may not want to include something like this, because they won’t get any benefit from destroying their cards. Conversely, you might add another faction that cares about having a small deck, allowing for them to add an off-faction card.
However, this requires a deft hand to be done properly. You want every card to be useful, but cards shouldn’t be universally useful. For example, the card Light Up (Costs 0: Discount any card in hand) could see play in virtually any deck. This permanently reduces the cost of a card in your hand, which essentially gives you an extra energy this turn and every turn you draw the discounted card. Virtually any deck that I can envision would love to run this card, and would likely run the maximum number of copies.
But what is all this talk about deckbuilding restrictions and all that stuff in a single player game? And that’s where I make my second, and perhaps most important, suggestion:
Add a multiplayer component.
This type of game is okay as a single player experience, but it can be taken to whole new levels as a multiplayer battle. Look at games like Street Fighter, Hearthstone, Smash Brothers, Pokemon, etc. All those games are okay as a single player experience, but are taken to new heights with the introduction of the other player. A good multiplayer experience can take a solid concept and give it an invested and dedicated audience. Do you think people spend hundreds of dollars a year on Magic the Gathering because the art is pretty? No, they buy cards to use against real people. Do people create hour long rants about Hearthstone just about the single player adventures? No, they are talking about how a Warrior Control is the most overpowered deck and needs to be nerfed. Do people spend hours in Street Fighter practicing comboes just to sail through the arcade mode? No, they do it so they can bring the hurt to their friends.
Turning this game into a competitive multiplayer game is a lot of work. There will be an unpleasable fanbase with contradictory demands. Trying to create an interesting, but balanced, game is practically impossible. However, I think with enough planning, something like this will have a very long life.
You can find the demo for Floppy Knights here https://gamesofawe.com/2020/06/20/floppy-knights-plants-vs-goblins/