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Refining Mechanic of Event Cards with Partial Information on the Back

3 replies [Last post]
Joined: 12/31/1969

I have been designing a space empire semi-cooperative game where at the start of every round all event cards in a row will be advanced one square down the event row with a new event card drawn from a face down deck and placed face down at the back of the row (see Upper Deck's Legendary series of games on how enemies enter the game to get a feel of what I am talking about). There is a limited amount of spaces on the event row, and if a card in the last row space is moved it "falls" off the event row and is discarded.

Now every event card which occupies a space can only influence the column of space systems directly under that card (a system usually contains planets which players work towards colonizing). Each column can be thought of a region of space.

Currently there are four regions or four columns of systems where the leftmost region (the home region) contains each player's home system. The rightmost region is the first region where any new event card will first enter and possibly influence. Think of the home region being the center of the galaxy and the last region being at the outskirts of the galaxy.

Hence, an event card will begin in the region furthest away from the home system and march its way down towards it.

All event cards, as mentioned, will enter the game face down (to keep suspense). Players can reveal face down event cards in a region (or adjacent region) in which they have built a star base. Hence the star base can act as a early warning outpost.

The problem is that even if a player in an outer region (non-home region) does not have a star base, I still want an event card to reveal itself without a player initiating it. For example, an event card could be a raiding pirate fleet which wants to attack the furthest flung colonies in an outer region instead of trying to raid the heavily defended home region.

Also, an event like a supernova should immediately be revealed (from the first sector it enters) as it is easily picked up on scanners (big light in darkness). There may also be event cards (like invading force of aliens) which only want to target the home region.

So I was thinking that the event cards which are placed faced down have some partial information on the back to describe the conditions on when it is revealed. For example, an event card of raiding pirates could have some text on the back of the card which says "2+" with a colonized planet icon indicating that the card should be revealed if there is a colonized system in region 2 ,3 or 4 (not the home region). A super nova event card could have an immediate reveal icon on it, so it is revealed immediately when it enters the first event column space.

The partial information on the back of the will tell the players when it will reveal itself, but no information as to what the card event is.

Right now I am thinking the partial information should be deterministic in the conditions on when it will be revealed. Perhaps making it somewhat random may make it more interesting. For example, a card will always reveal itself in region 2, but a die roll with a 5 or 6 (or a randomizer drawn card that matches a icon on the back of the card) in region 3 or 4. Maybe this is a little too much, what do you think?

Of course, all the above said mechanic can be avoided by simply placing all the event cards face up, but does not seem to be as interesting.

Does the basic overall idea seem ok?

Any thoughts or suggestions?



BHFuturist's picture
Joined: 11/01/2008
Two ideas

First having "some" information on the back of the card is a valid way to do this and if that works for you and the play testers, do it and move on. It sounds like that should work. Overall I like the way the event mechanic flows and it sounds like it will make some interesting gameplay combinations.

Here is my suggestion (off the top of my head)

Card "sleeves" or "pockets"
Have 6 or 8 "card sleeves" that are custom designed to have a clear "window" for only the top 20% of the cards. Or just cut some opaque card protector shorter so only the top part of the card sticks out.

Cards would be drawn from the deck "face down" and slid into the sleeve, then placed face up on the region slot. Once "revealed" just pull the card out and set the now empty sleeve next to the deck for later use.

I hope this helps,


P.S. How do I get my "join date" to be my birthday? LOL

Tbone's picture
Joined: 02/18/2013
Cool idea

I like it because of the variability; the different events will make each game different. I honestly like your approach. Rolling dice would bring a little randomness which is cool. I was even thinking have a separate timing deck that you would draw with the events to bring even more variability. Even a bag of chits with different timers on them would be cool.

Just some thoughts.

Daggaz's picture
Joined: 12/19/2016
You can definitely put

You can definitely put information on the back of the card, but it doesn't necessarily have to be words, which can cause visual clutter and make your game seem sluggish, ugly, or more complicated than it really is.

Changing the color of the back, adding a different color edge, putting on a few simple symbols which convey meaning in a universal manner and which share the overarching graphic design concepts in your game are all methods to quickly alert the players that a given card has a different mechanic attached to it, while keeping the card grouped with it's neighbors.

You can also do this on the face of the card. I have cards (well tokens) that all look like forest on the back, but when you flip them, some have a gold edge. These tokens are special, and this is done so the players can easily sort them out of the pile during setup, as I want to control the distribution of these special tokens separately, but once they are in play, the players should not be able to see they are special until they are flipped. When they are flipped, seeing a gold edge is a fast visual cue that they are being rewarded, more so than reading some text that they found a treasure or what not.

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