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To Evolve Or Not To Evolve?

Five humans in poses that suggest the evolution of man, silhouetted against a dusky sky
Photo representing evolution

Photo by Johannes Plenio

Having finished the changes to the maps and enemies, I am now focusing on the player facing elements - the individual character decks and the communal deck.

For the next iteration, the hand of cards a player has will not be made up of some from their individual deck and some from a communal deck. Instead the player's hand will be made up of cards entirely from their character's individual deck. First off, I'm going to talk about the changes to the communal deck. Then I will talk about the individual decks which is where I am struggling (see title of the blog post).

The Communal Deck

Even though the communal deck won't be providing cards for the player's hand, it lives on. This time it will be a deck where three cards are drawn face up. Each card has a cost to play. Each player can earn points while carrying out actions which increase the communal points total. If a player wants to use one of the communal cards then they spend some or all of the communal points to do so and the card is then discarded after use. At the end of each scene, and whenever a player does something important to the plot of an episode, they have the chance to add a card to the communal deck.

While watching a play through of Shadowrift by the always excellent Rahdo, I suddenly realised that the communal deck is the rest of the away team that goes on the missions with the Heroes! This is such an obvious idea, that I am kicking myself that I didn't think of it earlier. Before this epiphany, I had already decided that the "Crimson Shirted Rookies", - which the Officer formerly had control of - would be put into the communal deck. Putting them in the communal deck made even more sense once I realised the communal deck are crew mates.


Crimson Shirted Rookies

These are nameless characters that you can use to block you from being hit by an attack or to automatically succeed at a skill check. However, when you use the card's power, it is discarded for the rest of the episode. Thankfully, Spaceship 47 has an endless stream of no name crewmates wearing Crimson uniforms so you start each episode with three of them.


Individual Decks

The individual decks will function in much the same way as they did before. Deck building with cards that attack and improve skill checks, etc to help players complete the mission they are on. The only difference is when using a card to make an attack or skill check. Instead of discarding X number of cards and increasing your die roll by X, you may only discard 1 card. Each card will contain a boost value and you add the boost value of the discarded card to the die roll. This should address most of the issues we had with the powering of dice rolls when we played the play test the other week.

The thing I am having a major issue with at the moment is this:

Should the individual deck reset at the beginning of each episode? i.e. the player starts with the same 10 cards for every episode (mission).


Should the deck evolve throughout the campaign? i.e. any changes to the deck the player has made during an episode are carried over to the next one.

This game is about a fictional 90s TV show. Generally, characters did not evolve much over their time on 90s TV shows, so if I want the game mechanisms to reflect the theme, then the individual character decks should reset at the beginning of every mission (episode). I feel like that would frustrate players though, You have just got an awesome combo that you feel smart about working out and then it is taken away from you. The other thing would be remembering the cards you now have in your deck. I've been playing a lot of Dream Quest and Slay the Spire as research for Spaceship 47 (both of which are great games by the way) and one thing that frustrates me about the deck resetting for each of your runs is that you've spent so long with a certain useful card in your deck and then you start without it, but you still think it is in there and so it stuffs up your strategy. (maybe this only happens to me?), So I feel like to increase player enjoyment, the deck should save its progress for the 12-episode campaign.

However, having the character evolve over the season (campaign) does not feel thematic to me. I also feel it ruins the strength of deck builders to help represent an episodic TV show - the arc of the deck builder (starting out with crap cards, upgrading them so you can overcome your challenge) equaling the arc of a TV show (start out not knowing what the hell is going on, before you acquire the tools - information/technology etc. - to be in a position to overcome the challenge).

So what do you guys think? Let me know whether you think that the individual character decks should reset at the beginning of every mission (episode)?

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