Difference between revisions of "Drawing Stacks"

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=== Can Instantiate ===
=== Can Instantiate ===
[[Fixed Distributions]],  
[[Fixed Distributions]],  

Latest revision as of 08:11, 17 June 2022

A collection of cards or tiles that have a sequence in which they should be drawn to determine outcomes of certain gameplay actions.

Drawing Stacks are collections of cards or tiles that are drawn in sequence by the players. They are typically used in games that do not distribute all cards or tiles to the players at the beginning of the game.


The most common example of Drawing Stacks are probably their use in card games such as Solitaire, Poker, and Magic: The Gathering, but also for board games such as Ticket to Ride. Dominion starts with several face-up stacks each consisting of only one type but each player has a Drawing Stack of his or her own that is expanded throughout the gameplay. Carcassonne and Forbidden Island are examples of games using Drawing Stacks consisting of tiles (although the latter also used Drawing Stacks of cards). An expansion of Settlers of Catan provide a Drawing Stack to let players have randomized outcome but have them more closely fit to the statistical most likely distribution.

Some games use several types of Drawing Stacks. Space Alert uses one for randomizing which action cards are available to players, one for external threats, and a smaller one for internal threats. In Shadows over Camelot there are two Drawing Stacks, one for good events and one for bad. When one is depleted both are reshuffled which may entice players to draw from one stack just to empty it so the other stack is reshuffled. The board game Pandemic also has two stacks, one for player cards and infection cards; drawing an epidemic card from the player stack reshuffles drawn infection cards on top of those not yet drawn. Thunderstone has players building their own Drawing Stacks like Dominion but also has stacks for monsters. Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game has many different stacks, including but not limited to crisis stacks, various skill stacks, loyalty stacks, and destination stacks.

Several games allow players to manipulate the Drawing Stacks beyond simply taking a card. The Chancellor card in Dominion allows the action of putting the entire Drawing Stack in the discard pile, forcing a reshuffle. This can be advantageous if one knows that the cards one wants has already been played so one wants a reshuffle as soon as possible. In the Fluxx Reduxx and Family Fluxx variants of Fluxx the card Choose a New Rule let a player go through the Drawing Stack or the discard Pile and choose a card, after which one reshuffles the searches stack or pile.

Using the pattern

Primary choices when creating Drawing Stacks are what type of game elements the stacks should consist of, and what distributions of specific game elements they should consist of. The specific game elements used are typically part of Decks, so Drawing Stacks is one way of making use of Decks. Cards and Tiles are common options for game elements and are typically used for supporting the drawing (Collecting) of Resources but for Tiles this may also be to support Tile-Laying. Multiple Drawing Stacks can be used to support different resources or to allow players to perceive a chance of Luck as well as making it easier to judge the individual sizes of the stacks. If certain categories of the Cards or Tiles are specially marked, multiple stacks may also be used to distinguish these and let players choose within which subset of Cards or Tiles they draw.

Setting the amount of different types of game elements in Drawing Stacks is an easy way to set specific odds of those game elements to be drawn. Stack Seeding can be used for games that want to have specific distributions of how game elements are spread through the stacks, and this is done in both the player stack of Pandemic and the monster stack of Thunderstone. Instead of having the distributions of cards predetermines, games can put this into the hands of players by requiring them to build their own decks, and thereby Drawing Stacks, before gameplay starts. This can either be done during gameplay, e.g. Dominion and Thunderstone, or before gameplay through the use of Heterogeneous Game Element Ownership, e.g. Magic: The Gathering or the Star Trek Customizable Card Game.

Drawing Stacks are typically used to support Drafting but Drafting Spreads are a way of modifying Drawing Stacks so that a number of game elements that should be uppermost on the stacks instead are visible beside them. Examples of games that do include this are Ticket to Ride, where they allow players known cards to pick instead of drawing directly from the Drawing Stack, and Thunderstone, where they show the monsters that can be encountered. The drawing of game elements from the Drawing Stacks can be modified so that players may have a chance to discard the first draw to take a second - a version of this type of Extra Chances is present in Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game through the Character Sharon "Boomer" Valerii Privileged Ability to look at the crisis deck after her turn and place the topmost Card at the bottom of the Drawing Stack if wanted. While Drawing Stacks can affect Drafting in these ways, Drafting can in turn be used to let players create their own Drawing Stacks - a design feature found in certain variants of playing Magic: The Gathering and as a optional variant in Race for the Galaxy.

Handling the emptying of Drawing Stacks can be done in several different ways. One is to provide Limited Gameplay Time by ending the game, another is to reshuffle Discard Piles. The former of these options make the Cards in the Drawing Stacks into Non-Renewable Resources (although this can be modified by allowing a specific number of reshuffles first).


Drawing Stacks are a form of Containers for game elements most often used to support Drafting in one form or another. Through doing this they typically affect players' Hands. Drawing Stacks makes it possible to have Fixed Distributions while at the same time having Randomness and Uncertainty of Information. However, the order is set once the stack has been shuffled. Many card games use Drawing Stacks to postpone the distribution of cards to the players, in effect causing the players to have Imperfect Information and only Limited Foresight of the resources they will have, forcing them to plan for several possible distribution possibilities. Even if players may only see the Cards or Tiles they themselves draw, Drawing Stacks can support Memorizing and when this is possible these two patterns together encourage Stimulated Planning (especially when combined with Discard Piles). As for any pattern using Randomness, Drawing Stacks can allow players to feel Luck and especially so when they have several Drawing Stacks to select from.

Given that for any card not drawn at any given draw has an increased chance to be drawn the next time, Drawing Stacks have progression schemes close to that of a Geometric Progression. Limited Gameplay Time can achieved through Drawing Stacks when the end of the game is indicated through drawing specific cards end the game or the emptying of the Drawing Stacks - this is an example of how Drawing Stacks can be Game State Indicators through their size showing how far the gameplay in a game has progressed. In contrast, combined with Discard Piles that replenish them, Drawing Stacks can give games Closed Economies.

In games where players create their own Drawing Stacks through Deck Building, Cards can be used to create Cycle Deck Engines.


Can Instantiate

Containers, Collecting, Drafting, Fixed Distributions, Game State Indicators, Geometric Progression, Imperfect Information, Limited Foresight, Limited Gameplay Time, Luck, Memorizing, Randomness, Uncertainty of Information

with Cards and Deck Building

Cycle Deck Engines

with Discard Piles

Closed Economies

with Memorizing

Stimulated Planning

Can Modulate

Decks, Hands, Resources, Tile-Laying

Can Be Instantiated By

Cards, Tiles

Can Be Modulated By

Discard Piles, Drafting, Drafting Spreads, Extra Chances, Heterogeneous Game Element Ownership, Non-Renewable Resources, Stack Seeding

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With



An updated version of the pattern Drawing Stacks that was part of the original collection in the book Patterns in Game Design[1].


  1. Björk, S. & Holopainen, J. (2004) Patterns in Game Design. Charles River Media. ISBN1-58450-354-8.


Marcus Brissman, Guy Lima Jr., Stephan Meyers, Johan Toresson, Jose Zagal