Format – Drones, or “Are We Alone In The Universe?”

Transformers TCG has been a fantastic vehicle for bringing people together, bringing people to the trading card game world, for introducing people to Transformers who may have never picked up a toy before. In the “before times,” while it was difficult there were valient efforts to bring groups together in local game stores to play and support the game that were largely successful!

Alas, thanks to COVID-19 first and then the cancellation of the game second, this is becoming harder and harder. Online game play via OCTGN has some steam, but even there’s not always an opponent and sometimes you don’t want to hop online. So what’s a lonely Cybertronian to do?

Plenty of modern board games have acknowledged this problem and have worked hard to develop solutions which include single-player modes. And today, we’re going to take a stab at one for Transformers TCG!

Drones, The Single Player Format

The idea behind Drones is to develop an “Artificial Intelligence” to play against so that players can have a solo game mode that scratches the itch without fellow TF players to challenge. While you COULD simply build two decks and make all decisions for both builds, that’s not exactly a great experience, there’s not a ton of challenge when you know you opponent’s every move.

Thanks to the community and MSE template, and the ability to draft our own cards, we can take the idea to new realms and develop custom tools to aid this AI deck.

Included in this article is a tentative Drone deck, featuring one of (in my opinion) the greatest TF games, Devastation! In it, a small team of classic Autobots challenge Megatron and an army of Decepticons to shut down the ancient Cybertronian terraforming vessal the Proudstar! Prime and company are beset by waves of relatively faceless Decepticon soldiers in all manner of configurations.

Just how does this translate to the table? Lets take a look…

The Drone Deck

Our test Drone deck is x3 copies of each of the included cards. All of these cards are variations on existing cards, largely “simple” effects based on existing cards featured in the Wave 1 Starter deck. The power level may not be intense, but we’re trying something out; we can always ramp up! The point of the Drone deck is to provide relatively simple, though aggressive, tools. Little thought should go into the decisions of the deck building or even the deck’s active decision making; the cards used should simply hammer away at the opposition!

All cards in the deck are Actions, intended to reduce decision making and cycle cards in their deck through faster than a player with upgrades might see.

Drone Play Rules

  • Drone teams are still 25 star teams; they get no boost.
  • “Drones” have a subtitle including “Drone”; its not a trait or other keyword.
  • “Drones” are not unique; a team can have any number of characters with the same name as their point values allows. The recommended base team for this package is 3 Ground Soldiers and 1 Ground Sargent.
  • Drone effects apply to all Drones on the team, and cease at the beginning of the Drone player’s turn.

On the Drone player’s turn, flip the top two cards of the Drone AI deck and follow the instructions as the Drone’s player.

The Drone player has no hand; “drawn” cards are played immediately.

Any decision required occurs as randomly as possible.

When attacking, the same holds predominantly true; the Drones will attack the character with the most damage on it first, falling back in order for occasions where characters are untapped or have Stealth, Brave, etc. If two characters are tied for most damage or have other requirements, the target of the attack is randomly chosen between the tied, eligible, options. On an initial, untapped, board this would randomly target any character.

The game is of course over when all characters on a team have been KO’d.

Customizing Drone Play

The idea of “Drones” is to have an AI-playable deck. This particular deck came about in discussions with the OCTGN team about implementing an AI play form. From past experience, and programming limitations, the optimal choices for options are cards and abilities that are straight forward; direct damage, Bold, Tough, and the like. Few choices required, mostly combat-oriented, numerically based for incrementing and stacking without a lot of complexity.

If you want to mix things up a bit, you can look at some other options to customize the team. Vanilla characters are good Drone replacements since there’s no abilities that require decisions; the Wave 1 Starter team could be a functional Drone team with slight tweaks; this makes Optimus Prime a lot more interesting as his flip-to-vehicle effect becomes a free card play and a mini Battlefield Legend.

When it comes to customizing the deck, avoid cards which have heavy decision-making abilities. The AI deck should flip quickly and easily with few, if any, decisions. Treat any Upgrades you might want to include as “Actions” with the “until the beginning of [the Drone’s] next turn” line of text.

To reduce some potential boredom or repetition with this, consider adding goals or objectives to beat. The team modeled here is taken from the Devastation video game; perhaps they’re a delaying tactic for Megatron and in X turns, Megatron activates the MacGuffin and destroys the city! Clear the Drones before Megatron succeeds!

As well, a tentative variation is considered, giving the AI a Level and linking all of the numerical effects to that; as such, treat all Drones and Drone Effects as though it were “Level 1” and as each Drone is KO’d increase the AI Level by 1. All numerical values for Bold, Tough, Pierce, and Direct damage would increase by the Level – 1 (assuming the cards are written as “Tough equal to the AI Level).

Let Us Know What You Think!

For various reasons this has gotten some rough pass-throughs but not heavy play. If you get the chance, check this out and let us know what you think!

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