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Meromorph Games is a game company, creators of the card games The Shipwreck Arcana and Norsaga.

Meromorph Games Blog

Art and gameplay design diary as well as current news and updates.

Stars Below card deep-dive: The Fall

Meromorph Games

This is part three of a five-part series of articles on the design of the cards for The Shipwreck Arcana: Stars Below expansion.

The Thief was attempt at creating the simplest mandatory effect we could think of. Once we understood its potential, the floodgates opened. Well, not really. It’s still pretty difficult to come up with effects that meet all of our card requirements, as spelled out in the first post of this series. #4 (Reliability) becomes a particular problem; wind up with too many mandatory effects in play at the same time, and the game may suddenly grind to a halt.

So, filling the board with cards that can’t be played on directly is a bad idea. Okay, we’ve tried mandatory effects that siphon fates onto the card, which will ultimately cause it to fade. What if we bypass the fates altogether, and let the mandatory effect dictate when the card fades? Suddenly, we can care about something other than the “pips” on each fate in front of the card.

This unlocked a whole new set of ideas, culminating with The Fall:

This is what we normally call a “trash can” card. You can dump any fate here, but you don’t convey much information by doing so… which usually conveys some information, indicating that this was your “best” worst option and implying a lot about the other cards in play. Compound that with the fact that this card has no moons. Instead, it introduces the “comet” indicator, which means that you have to read the card to determine when it fades. The actual fade criteria becomes dependent on your hidden fate, allowing you to convey information simply through acknowledging whether or not it will fade this turn.

There’s a lot going on with this effect. The “at least twice” bit is to let it pile up more fates than normal, something that often makes other cards (like The Prophet) more interesting. Also, keep in mind that even if you don’t play on this card, it could still fade, so the more times you throw trash in it, the more you risk someone being stuck with a 1 or 2 and watching it fade helplessly.

Finally, this combined with The Thief shone a light on something I’ve dubbed the “fade cascade,” where the mandatory effects mean that you have an increased likelihood of seeing multiple cards fade in the same turn (previously encountered when playing with The Feast). Sometimes a cascade is bad, creating tons of doom at once. Often, though, it’s a blessing in disguise: a single correct guess can avoid multiple fade penalties, and one way or another you wind up with a lot of powers at your disposal.

This increased prevalence of fading ultimately lead us to tweak our approach to the new cards’ faded powers, which we’ll spotlight later.