Ambal Duels Devlog 1: Double-Blind System

Greetings duelers! I wanted to share more about Ambal’s gameplay, so I’m writing this dev post touching on what is the most important mechanic in the game. It is the true gameplay loop that everything else is built upon.

Ambal Duels is the first game developed with Formabble, our game engine and platform. Join our Discord to participate in the alpha.

As most of you know, Ambal is all about its strategic and dynamic combat, which happens simultaneously. The simultaneous combat is possible to a game mechanic called Double-Blind.

The double-blind system is a mechanic where both players make their decisions in secret, choosing their actions without knowledge of the opponent's choices. Once selections are made, they are revealed at the same time.

This creates a not so common dynamic where players can’t take advantage from seeing the opponent’s choice ahead of time (like in most turn-based games without simultaneous turns). Thanks to that, the elements of uncertainty, prediction and surprise become core experiences that define anything governed by the double-blind mechanic.

After the reveal, specific game mechanics determine the interaction and resolution of these choices, often involving complex strategies and supporting mechanics.

In games that utilize a double-blind system for combat (like Pokemon - the core series), there’s usually many other systems that are built to make the options and outcomes of the combat even more interesting. Character creation, deck construction, skill interactions, damage formulas, order that effects resolve, resource management and more add to the excitement and tension when the choice revelation happens.

During early stages of development I tried multiple ways to handle combat, but ended up adopting the double-blind mechanic, and it fits so well gameplay and theme wise. Since my main goal was to capture the tension and dynamics of real-time combat in RPGs, having players picking skills and the same time felt like the best choice to mimic that experience, where timing is everything. Activating a block skill at the right moment can determine if you live or die.

It took me a while to figure out how skill effects would interact with each other, and their order. There was a lot of back and forth while developing and testing the first set of 100 cards, making sure the skills matched the double-blind system and vice-versa, while also creating a combat structure that supports future effects and skill types.

In the end, skill effects are resolved in this order: Pay the energy cost > Interrupts > Blocks > Self targeting effects > Opponent targeting effects > Heal > Damage.

This can create very dramatic and surprising results. While blocking an incoming attack is an obvious decision with expected results, things get a lot more interesting when assumingly indirect interactions happen. For example, if you are burning and your opponent is using a skill that deals damage if you are burning and you are removing the burning at the same time, their skill fails (since you lost the condition for their effect to trigger).

Thanks to things like that there are a lot of “hidden” strategies and skill interactions that will keep players on their toes.

While all the Schools of Knowledge and their skills are interesting and scratch that theorycraft itch, everything comes alive during combat.

And actually having the tabletop version done, it made the development of the digital version so much easier!

With Formabble we are able to smoothly develop Ambal as a team, while also having a robust multiplayer infrastructure. We can’t wait to see what others will create with Formabble as well.

Thanks for reading! 😄