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Author Topic: The Secret History of the Seaside Cards  (Read 12387 times)

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The Secret History of the Seaside Cards
« on: June 20, 2011, 03:40:01 pm »

At first there were just a bunch of cards. One day I decided, okay, these are the main set, these are the first expansion, these are the second expansion. I divided everything up based on mechanical themes.

Originally the 2nd expansion had two themes. Both themes had so much potential that I broke the set up into two sets, expanding the themes. Seaside got the "next turn" theme. It may be a couple years before you'll get to see the expansion I made out of the other theme.

For much of its pre-development life, the set was 20 cards. It briefly visited 16 cards, when I tried that out for everything, but mostly it was 20. But going into development it was of course 25; I knew that Intrigue had ended up 25, so naturally this set would be 25 too. My expectation was that cards would be used for the playmats and counters, which is how it worked during development. But at the end of development, it turned out we'd be using playmats and counters, and that left some empty space. So the set went up to 26 cards.

On to the cards!

Ambassador: Originally this had you pass cards directly to the other players (or they took them from the supply if you didn't have enough). It was simpler to have them go to the supply first. That version also let you get rid of one card per player, but that was too much in 4-player games, so now it only lets you get rid of two cards at once.

Ambassador is one of the oldest cards in the set. Five cards remain pretty recognizable from the earliest version of this expansion - Ambassador, Haven, Merchant Ship, Outpost, and Wharf. Cutpurse and Sea Hag have related cards but changed more significantly.

Bazaar: A vanilla card. It was in a later set, and I moved it here to have another Village. We accidentally got two illustrations for Market; this card has the one that isn't on Market.

Caravan: A card from pre-development but after Jay had picked up the game. For a long time you actually set a card aside when playing it, and then drew that card next turn. That way was a little more flavorful, but the published version is slightly simpler.

Cutpurse: This started out as "Cards cost $1 less this turn, then $1 more until your next turn." That doesn't have the same timing as the other duration cards - it goes away at the end of the previous player's turn, rather than at the end of your turn. The developers didn't like that. I replaced it with "+$2, name a treasure card, each other player discards it." That was quite strong. You don't have to discard Gold very many times before you're sick of it. I reined it in by having it only hit Copper. It's still quite annoying if multiples get played against you early on.

Embargo: This was originally "+1 Card, +1 Action, Choose an action or treasure pile, other players can't buy it until your next turn." This had the same non-standard timing deal that Cutpurse had. It also sometimes had a tracking issue. So I replaced it with a version that went on a pile and made you get Curses for buying that card. I like that it doesn't shut you out; you can still buy the card, you just have to decide if it's worth a Curse. And this way it can go on any pile. For a while the Embargo card itself went on the pile, but in the end we switched to tokens, which don't cover up the pile, and create fewer questions.

Explorer: At first this did nothing unless you revealed a Victory card. If it was a Province you got Gold, otherwise Silver. That version wasn't good enough, and eventually I dropped the requirement - you get Silver even if you don't reveal anything.

Fishing Village: This was temporarily in the 3rd expansion. When I decided I wasn't just going to put "next turn" stuff everywhere, it moved here. For most of its life it gave you +2 actions next turn (and was otherwise the same). This was a card the developers cited as too good, and I just nudged it down by dropping it to +1 action next turn. It makes it worse in the situations where it was at its best. It is still plenty popular as is.

Ghost Ship: This used to say "3 or fewer," but that confused people. There probably was never going to be anything to make that "or fewer" matter anyway. I was just automatically accounting for who knows what.

Haven: This left the set during development, as the developers didn't want there to be too many duration cards. They thought this was too close to Caravan, and I picked this to go as I thought Caravan contributed more. Late in development it turned out that we could fit 26 cards - I had thought that Native Village etc. would use cards for the playmats, but they have full-on playmats. This was the obvious choice to fill the last slot. It had been popular and had been tested and everything.

Island: I made this during development to replace another victory card that didn't work out. I had tried a couple other ways to get a victory card out of your deck in later sets, but this was the first version tested for Seaside.

Lighthouse: At the start of development, the set had no reactions. Dale wanted one and I produced a duration version of Moat. It had to have a "next turn" ability of some sort, in order to not have the timing problem of the original Cutpurse. I tried "now and next turn, +$1," but using up your action just hurt the card too much. The thing is, Moat doesn't use up your action when you just stop an attack with it. You can flash the Moat, and then on your turn Remodel it or play something else. Lighthouse you had to play or it did no Moating. So it really had to have +1 Action. When I added the +1 Action, I also tried "+$2 next turn" rather than +$1 each turn, but that was too good.

Lookout: A late replacement for a one-shot Chapel variant that didn't work out. It seems cute to have a Chapel that doesn't stay in your deck, but the card as it stood was both really unsexy and also too powerful. It had to get sexier while at the same time getting worse. That's not so easy. A better solution was to just replace it, which is what happened. Lookout started out putting one card into your hand rather than having you discard one. That was just insane, and it quickly got cut down to size.

Merchant Ship: An old card that never changed.

Native Village: Originally this had you unable to look at the set aside cards. Celebrity guest playtester Richard Garfield at first misplayed this to let you look at the cards, then suggested, hey, why not change it so you can. We tried it both ways and well it was close. In the end I felt like serious players might actually prefer not being able to peek. However being able to peek made the card a little more powerful (so serious players would play it more), and, I felt, a little more attractive to casual players, who don't want to be counting cards so much. As you can see we went with peeking.

Navigator: Originally this didn't let you reorder the cards, but I thought that would be something the developers would want changed, since they'd behaved similarly on similar stuff. You know, so you don't have to carefully keep the order the same. Anyway they didn't actually complain about this one but I changed it to let you reorder the cards anyway. It makes the card marginally more powerful.

Outpost: This underwent a bunch of changes to the text, while keeping the functionality fairly close. The issues were 1) it had to not be too confusing; 2) it couldn't let you get infinite turns; 3) in fact even 3-4 turns in a row is no good; 4) it had to have clear and fair interactions with Throne Room and Tactician. Throne Room was tricky. There was an evening where I spent a few hours discussing possible wordings with Chris West, and at one point it was like, man, this is work. Those of you who think game design is all good times: sometimes you have to spend hours rewording Outpost. Anyway the best possible wording was to have you take a normal turn, but discard 2 cards at the start of it. That was just too powerful though. I tried not having an anti-recursion clause once and immediately got infinite turns with it. I also tried having you draw 2 fewer cards for each extra turn. In the end it got a brutal "This can't cause you to take more than 2 consecutive turns." That just guarantees no shenanigans.

Pearl Diver: Borrowed from a later expansion to replace Haven. Nothing changed during testing but the name.

Pirate Ship: This started out as a victory card that was worth more points based on how much treasure you stole with it. It was an actual flavor-based design - what would pirates do? That version seemed cool but just wasn't played often enough. At the same time I was replacing Treasury, and one of the possibilities I was considering was "choose one - gain a counter, or +$1 per counter." I realized I could graft that onto the Thieving of Pirate Ship and that's what happened. Originally you used trashed treasures to track the value of the Pirate Ships, but near the end it switched to counters, which is slightly simpler, as you might have trashed some $2's and $3's, but they still just count as $1 here.

Salvager: A fairly old card which never changed functionally.

Sea Hag: Way back when there was a card like "trash the top card of each other player's deck; they each gain a Confusion card, putting it on their deck." Confusion was like Curse but without the -1 vp. Confusion left the main set due to not being different enough from Curse (and also because it required 30 more cards to handle it). So all of the Confusion-giving cards vanished or were changed. It may not even be correct to say that that card inspired this one. Anyway eventually I tried Curse-to-deck-top elsewhere, then moved it here as I wanted another attack and it fit the next turn theme. The discarding is just there so that multiple Sea Hags don't leave you with a stack of Curses on top of your deck.

Smugglers: This started life as "+$2. Cards the previous player bought cost $1 less this turn," in the 4th expansion. It was okay, but the bonus just didn't come up often enough to be exciting. So I replaced it with this better way to care about what the previous player bought. I tried it as "up to $5" but it really needed to go to $6. The best thing about the card is when the previous player buys a card you don't really want, but you can't pass up the opportunity to take one, and it ends up warping your deck.

Tactician: Once, this cost $3, and had no anti-Throne Room clause (the "if you discarded" part). In development it cost $4, and was singled out as one of the strongest cards. At $5 it still got plenty of play. The anti-Throne clause was added quite late. Tactician was looking strong but doable at that point, except for the Throne Room combo, which was ridiculous. It's sad to just nuke a combo like that, but that change didn't hurt the card much otherwise - okay, if you draw Tactican and four Festivals, you only play three of them - and this way we get to have the card at its best.

Treasure Map: This originally came from the ruins of the 7th expansion. I moved it just because of the name. How do you not do a Treasure Map in your Seaside expansion? The first version only gained you three Golds, and didn't put them on top. It looked cute but was not a real strategy. Putting the Golds on top helped tie it in with the next turn theme, and upping them to four made the card good enough to actually go for.

Treasury: This replaced a card that had rules problems. I eventually figured out a way to deal with the problems, but not in time for it to make the set. It will make it somewhere else eventually.

I considered various things for a replacement, eventually settling on a card that you can have every turn if you want, which had been something I'd been meaning to get into the set but hadn't. Instead of sitting in play, it replaces itself (+1 Card +1 Action) and goes back on top of your deck each turn. The "but not if you bought a Victory card" clause keeps it more interesting and fairer. I had a version that you trashed when you bought a Victory card, but it was fine to let you keep it.

Warehouse: I added this during development, replacing uh some other card that left. Several cards left, so there's not always a one-to-one correspondence there. It replaced something. We tried a few versions of this, all with +1 Action and then some different kind of Cellar-like effect. The first version had you discard any number of cards, then get your choice of two cards per card discarded. That was ridiculous and didn't seem doable on a card costing $3-$4, which is what I was looking for. Discard 2, draw 4, discard 2 came next. Then draw 4 discard 4, and finally the draw 3 discard 3 it ended up with.

Wharf: The original version didn't have the +1 Buy. It got that to compare more favorably to Merchant Ship.

Now some of the cards that didn't make it.

- There were the cards for that other theme the set once had. Those cards are still hoping to come out in that set, so so much for them. A few more cards started here but migrated to later sets that they fit better. None of them want to be spoiled here today.

- There was the attack I mentioned for Sea Hag, the card that turned into Smugglers, and the card that Treasury replaced.

- Black Market was originally from this set. Valerie thought it was too wacky, what with having to set up a deck of cards to buy for it, so it left. Then we needed a promo and Dale suggested Black Market for it and of course I jumped on that. Black Market had been very popular in the set, so it was great that it survived. It's true that it's cumbersome having to build the Black Market Deck for it though. Black Market tied in to the next turn theme by actually getting you cards from next game. Those of you who don't know about the promo, it was given away with an issue of Spielbox, and now BGG sells it somewhere. Just madly click on things and eventually it will show up.

- There was a now-and-later Throne Room variant. Play an Action, play it again next turn. It was both confusing and weak. What if you use it on a duration card? How long does it stay on the table? It could have said "non-duration," but that's pretty sad in a set with 8 duration cards. And did I mention it was weak? It left before development started.

- There was a "discard x cards, +$x" card that was in this set for a bit. I had a +1 buy version, then a now-and-later version. I ended up doing that on Secret Chamber in Intrigue, and dropped the versions that were here.

- The victory card that Island replaced was an Action-Victory with "Trash a card from the supply costing $6 or less / Worth 1 vp per 3 vp cards in the trash." I always thought it seemed cool and interesting, but in practice it wasn't much fun. If you went for it, other people would get in on it. It would do nothing some games, then dominate others, but never in a fun way. No-one was sad to see it go. There could still be a card someday that trashes supply cards, but in practice it's mostly a waste of time, with players sitting there trying to work out which card to trash in cases where it really doesn't matter (and so it's hard to decide).

- The one-shot that Lookout replaced was "trash this and your hand, gain a card costing up to $3." It had started stronger but I had to weaken it. That version just looked horrible but was still strong. It was great to finally get rid of it. There could still be a one-shot Chapel someday, but "trash your hand" is not the way to go. It limits the card to the early game, usually just one copy, and then either you draw it with your other early purchase, ugh, or you don't, yeeha.

- There was a now-and-later attack. It was you draw two, they discard one, this turn and next turn. I had still not quite learned that you can't do "each other player discards a card" - it will eventually get played in multiples and just massacre turns. I ended up replacing this with Ghost Ship.

- There was an attack like "look at the top card of each player's deck (including yours), you may trash it or discard it." This dates back to when I was doing "trash the top card of each other player's deck" stuff. Those kinds of attacks proved to have problems, which I've discussed in previous Secret Histories, and modern variants jump through lots of hoops to avoid them. This card just left automatically when I came to my senses there.

And that's the way it happened.
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