Preface: 

Thinking about how a Mulligan system for Ira Chartarum could look like, I decided to unravel the mysteries of different Mulligan “styles” in different games. By this I want to accomplish a deeper insight into this particular mechanic and how it is used in other games. Afterwards I will apply this insight to Ira Chartarum as I see fit.

The goals of a Mulligan:

The underlying goal of a Mulligan is to avoid or at least lower the number of games lost to “bad luck”. It should take out some randomness.

In a digital card game the number of interactions and the limitations of the user interface also need to be taken into consideration. For Ira Chartarum the length of a single match also needs to be considered. A game will most likely be much longer than the length of a typical card game due to the table top aspects included.

Existing Mulligan systems:

One example would be MtG’s “shuffle your hand into your library and draw N new cards”. Where N is the number of cards shuffled back minus 1. You are forced to discard your whole hand with each iteration.

There are some “partial” Mulligan systems, they allow you to reshuffle some cards of your hand and keep others, much like it is handled in different poker variants. In general these systems allow you to redraw one card less than the number of cards you put away.

Sometimes there are Mulligan rules that allow the player to get rid of some or all cards of her hand without reshuffling them to the deck. The player is allowed to draw a new hand first and put the set aside cards back into the deck afterwards.

Most Mulligan processes may be repeated as long as the player has cards to put away in her hand.

There are some other more “exotic” Mulligan systems. The UFS (Ultimate Fighting System) uses a partial Mulligan system. This game allows you to remove any number of cards from your hand in exchange for that many newly drawn cards, the removed cards are excluded from the deck for the remainder of the current game. You may only do that once per game.

Pokémon CCG forces the player to take a Mulligan if he has no “basic” Pokémon in her starting hand. Since one of the game’s winning conditions is to eleminate all your opponents Pokémon a rule like this is absolutely necessary. The player has to show her hand and then she shuffles it back into his deck. But rather than forcing the player to draw one card less, Pokémon let’s the opponent draw one card more for each Mulligan the other player had to make.

VS System let’s the player put his cards on bottom of her deck and then allows a one time redraw without prior shuffling.

Categorization of Mulligan systems:

There are some basic properties Mulligan systems share. They are either “full” or “partial” Mulligans, the player either discards his whole hand or only part of it.

A Mulligan can be “penalized” by forcing the player to pay for the Mulligan by, for example, discarding a card or by letting the opponent benefit in some way. It also could be “free”, allowing the player to just redraw without any further handicap. In theory there could also be a “rewarded” Mulligan giving the player a bonus for doing a Mulligan.

The player could be “forced” to take a Mulligan if certain conditions are met or it could be “optional” to take a Mulligan at all.

In addition the Mulligan could be “singular”, a one-time event or it could be “repeatable” allowing the player to do it multiple times.

Mulligans can be “inclusive” or “exclusive”. The difference between shuffling the cards back into the deck prior to the redraw or keeping them outside of the deck until the new hand has been drawn.

Furthermore an “exclusive” Mulligan could mean a “temporary” removal of the cards from the possible further draws and a reshuffling of those “temporary” removed cards after the Mulligan has been made. Or the discarded cards could be removed “permanently”, so that they will not be usable by the player for the current round.

All Mulligan systems could also be “open”, meaning that the player has to show the cards she is discarding prior to the Mulligan. Opposing to that the Mulligan could be “hidden” without forcing the player to show off.

You can see the categorization of Mulligans in the following graph.

Categorization of Mulligan systems

If you follow this scheme for naming MtG’s “Paris Mulligan” system, it would be a “Hidden, full, penalized, inclusive, optional and repeatable Mulligan system”.

An evaluation of the different properties:

“Partial or Full Mulligan?”

Both properties seem to be fine. A “partial” Mulligan allows the player to select the cards he wants to keep and giving the player a choice is potentially a really good thing. For newer players this could be overwhelming or even frustrating since a beginner often cannot clearly see, if she should keep a card. Giving away a card is always painful. Discarding the whole hand at once could potentially be easier and less painful, similar to the removal of a patch. Furthermore putting away all cards in your hand at once reduces the number of interface interactions needed in a digital card game. For an experienced player a partial Mulligan could be strategically more interesting since she can control a bit more what the next hand will possibly look like.

A digital game should, in my opinion, not be stingy with GUI interactions on such an important thing as which Mulligan system to choose. In general the player has to learn how to do the “right” Mulligan with both systems. Another reason for not using a “full” Mulligan system cleary seems to be that a player who wants to keep a certain card, let it be out of sentiment or out of strategical value, can do so.

“Should it be Inclusive or Exclusive?”

Using an “inclusive” system in combination with a “full” Mulligan solution would give the player a slight chance to redraw a certain card he had to drop, even though she doesn’t want to have that card in her starting hand. Similary to that an “exclusive” Mulligan would lower or completely remove the chance to draw a set aside card, depending on how often you have put it in your deck.

From a simplicity perspective I would say one should go with the “classic” “inclusive” system, since the alternative requires a visual feedback for the player which cards have been put away. On the other hand playing with your chances always seems to be a good way to give the player a “good feeling” since most people seem to love manipulating their faith. But since the effective change in chances seems to be very small this could most likely be ignored after all.

“Exclusive Mulligan: Temporary or Permanently?”

An “exclusive” Mulligan also allows a variant which removes the excluded cards permanently. Stripping the player of cards for the remainder of a game will produce pain which should be no goal of a game’s design. It could be used as a penalty for doing a Mulligan in combination with a “rewarded” or “singular” system. At some point the removed cards could be refered to, that way you could see it as design space.

“Will the system be Penalized, Free or Rewarded?”

In general a player should not be “penalized” for being unlucky due to variation, but every “repeatable” Mulligan process has to be controlled in some way. Stopping the player by penalty is the obvious and most used form here. Allowing to only draw one card less each time is a possible solution but also, as written earlier, one could use “permanent exclusion” as punishment. If a card game features a “singular” Mulligan per game a “free” Mulligan could be considered, which doesn’t generate additional negative feelings in addition to the discard of the player’s hand. For completion I also included a “rewarded” variant giving the player a bonus in some way for reconsidering her starting hand. Of course this should never be “repeatable”. How such a bonus should look like needs to be explored.

“Forced or Optional discard?”

A Mulligan could also be “forced” by the game if certain conditions are (or are not) met. An example could be to do a “free” re-draw if a player has no needed ressources in her starting hand. But often it is very hard to decide when a player would want to change his starting hand and a “forced” discard could be very painful and unwanted. The player wants to play. As soon as one is forced to do something it becomes an obligation. In the player’s experience it turns to “work”. Automatic Mulligans might, on the other hand, open up other deck building possibilites since you could play variations where you need a minimum of ressources and would be guaranteed to get them. “Optional” discard give the player the freedom of choice and choice is most of the time a good thing. If you are a beginner you might be, as written above, intimidated by such an important choice. Learning when to Mulligan would be a skill someone could achieve and be “proud” of.

“Repeatable or Singular fixing?”

If a Mulligan should be repeatable mostly depends on other properties. Do you want to allow “free” or even “rewarded” Mulligans? Then you should make it a “one-off”. On the other hand, if you consider a repeatable process, giving the player better chances, your system will most likely include some form of “penalty”. Repeatable processes, in my opinion, bear one problem you might want to consider: Every interaction one player makes forces the faster player to wait. This produces a game pause which, as everyone most likely had the chance to experience, can be extremely annoying. An annoyance that could be that bad on the long term, that a player stops playing all together.

“Last but not least: Hidden or open?”

Most of the times a Mulligan system features the “hidden” property. For most experienced players it is very easy to identify the whole deck his opponent plays by just looking at a really small amount of cards of their adversary. An “open” discard would most likely give away the whole tactic a player pursues and that would take a big bite off the strategy-cake. I’d only consider that one, if you seek a punishment other than “drawing less”.

Conclusion regarding Ira Chartarum:

After taking a look into the matter, I concluded on the use of a “Hidden, partial, free, inclusive, optional and singular Mulligan system”.

“Hidden”:

I don’t see anything possibly good in giving away such important information as what cards the player wants to keep and what cards she wants to get rid of in the beginning. For me “open” would just take away to much suprise and the “sneakyness” often used as a tactical tool in card games. We want to support tactics in Ira Chartarum (including “bluffing” and “surprise”) and not hinder it.

“Partial”:

In my opinion the ability to keep certain cards produces a huge amount of pleasure for the player, even though it requires more choices. But this seems to be bearable in this particular case since we already have a sharp eye on interactions in Ira Chartarum and how to reduce them. Furthermore a “partial” Mulligan allows better hands, similar to how it is used in 5-card-stud poker. If you really need a “full” Mulligan, keep in mind that you also could decide to put away all cards in a “partial” system.

“Free”:

As written before, a player never should be punished for bad luck and at least have a chance to do better. In addition a penalty is not needed for Ira Chartarum, since I decided to go for a “singular” process.

“Inclusive”:

Being able to have an impact on faith might be a really good feeling, but for the sake of simplicity I decided against “exclusive”. It would, especially in combination with the choices that have to be made with a “partial” Mulligan, generate a lot of waiting time which we want to reduce to a minimum in Ira Chartarum. The real impact on the next hand is somewhat small and in my opinion negligible.

“Optional”:

Forcing the player to do something that is not absolutely necessary is a bad idea, as stated earlier. “Optional” Mulligans allow the player to decide, giving him the freedom of choice. “Forced” would also complicate the design process and the player would need to learn a system that could often hinder her by discarding vital cards. For Ira Chartarum I wouldn’t even know what a possible and conclusive “force” condition could be, since we always have at least one resource on the board.

“Singular”:

For Ira Chartarum a one time Mulligan seems to be sufficient and supports our course in reducing waiting times. Even though it could still produce pain due to the chance of getting bad cards a second time, it is in my opinion fine in this situation. Remember: K.I.S.S.

Temporary or permanent removal of cards does not apply in this case, since we do not have an “exclusive” system.

Post-face

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In the hopes of having been able to help and enlighten you regarding this matter:

Thanks for reading, until next time.

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