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Subject: Why is this deckbuilder different from all other deckbuilders? rss

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Jonathan Zev
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All knowledge is worth having
In other deckbuilders, the cards have different effects.
In most deckbuilders, the cards that you can buy are all different, and you build your deck by choosing the card with the effects that will most benefit you. In Promenade, each piece of art has a genre (color), and that's it. At the start of the game, the five genres are all identical. The only differences are in the museum endgame victory points and the museum available spaces, both of which are randomly determined for each game.

It's through player actions that the genres start to differentiate themselves. Buying cards of a specific genre raises its value (both in endgame victory points and purchasing power), and later on exhibiting a painting raises its genre even more.

By stripping away all the effects besides purchasing power and victory point value, Promenade makes itself extremely easy to learn and comprehend. There are no special combos to learn about, or specific cards to watch out for. The strategy focuses on the manipulation of genre values, and that's it.

But despite being easy to learn, Promenade is still difficult to master because of the constant fluctuation of the dynamic card values.

In other deckbuilders, the price is determined by the strength of the card.
In most deckbuilders, a card's price to acquire is affixed to the card itself. More powerful cards are more expensive, and less powerful cards are cheaper. Promenade doesn't do that. In theory, I suppose, Promenade could have chosen a system where card price is tied to the current value of the genre, but instead it decided to take a route that is infinitely more interesting.

The market is divided into several columns of two or three cards, each column having its own individual price for the cards within. Whenever a column is emptied the entire market refills, and the price of the emptied column increases. But the cards already in the market stay there instead of being wiped away. Since columns containing less desirable genres get emptied less frequently, they tend to remain cheaper, while the more desirable genres tend to appear in the newly emptied, extra expensive, column.

It adds another wrinkle in that the market only refills at the end of a turn, so there's some risk to emptying the market as it will give your opponents first choice at the new cards, and its possible for valuable genres to show up in the cheaper columns.

In other deckbuilders, you remove only the least effective cards from your deck.
In most deckbuilders, removing cards from your deck is done primarily to strengthen your deck by making your more powerful cards show up more frequently. But in Promenade the primary method of thinning you deck is 'exhibiting' paints by placing them in the museums. But doing so dramatically increases the value of that painting's genre. This means that it can be beneficial to exhibit your most valuable genre if you have a lot of paintings of that genre, as the benefit lost from that single painting removed is offset by the value gained by all of your remaining cards.

It also creates an interesting tension about when to exhibit your paintings. Exhibiting sooner nets you more victory points, but it can make your deck weaker - and it can make your opponents' decks stronger.

In other deckbuilders, you want opponents to pick different strategies than you.
In most deckbuilders, having a different strategy than your opponents is ideal, because it gives you less competition for the valuable cards of your particular strategy. But in Promenade, genre value is universal - the strength of a genre is determined by the collective purchasing and exhibition history of that genre. That means that a genre that is only chosen by one player is unlikely to reach the same values as a genre that two or more players have been selecting.

But at the same time, that means that furthering your own preferred genre will usually be aiding your opponents as well.

In Conclusion
Promenade is a deckbuilder that is mechanically the simplest deckbuilder I've ever seen, but extremely strategically deep. It turns several common aspects of deckbuilding on their heads and encourages you to regard them in a whole new light.

And it packages the entire thing with a solid theme (deckbuilding has always been difficult to justify thematically, and Promenade is no exception. But buying and exhibiting art, and watching the value increase each time you do is highly thematic) and utterly gorgeous art.

I enjoyed this game immensely when I tried the promotional version, and I can't wait to see it in print!
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