This is part two of a five-part series of articles on the design of the cards for The Shipwreck Arcana: Stars Below expansion.
Last time, we talked about The North Wind and how to make a card unique by caring about a new piece of game state. Today, we’ll talk about the second and far more interesting bit of uniqueness that underpinned the Stars Below card designs: mandatory effects, otherwise known as gold text.
This began with the following idea: could a card have a static, “always on” effect, warping the game state and the way you play while it’s out? Rather than providing information directly, when you play on it, it would provide information passively, at all times. This additional information would be mitigated by the fact that it eats up one of the four arcana card slots, giving you fewer places to play.
Some initial brainstorming lead us to what would ultimately become The Thief:
This card is surprisingly close to our initial ideas, but we learned a lot from it. For starts, “passive” cards need a way to fade, so that the game state continues to progress. That means they ideally want to siphon fates onto themselves somehow. In turn, this meant that we began exploring thresholds for “move a fate onto this card” that would convey information when you executed it.
We’re excited for everyone to try out these new “mandatory effect” cards, as they create some of the most unusual turns compared to how the base game plays. Intriguingly, we eventually found that they also give rise to the “fade cascade” which we’ll talk about in the next post.