Card Art Influencing Mechanics

After posting the evolution of The Ancient Butcher, I was talking to Adam Factor on Twitter and got myself into trouble with the following tweet:

You can say that again! Two artists in particular contributed significantly. Agustín designed the Void guild and Emilio Rodríguez designed the Moon guild. Their early illustrations set the course for about half the game -- mechanics included.

Adam then replied with a natural question:

Art influencing mechanics! Now there's a topic I could hear more about. I'm sure others would as well.

The crosstalk between art and mechanics is often “soft”: an illustration evokes concepts or feelings which then become an effect down the line. Finding a tidy, self-contained story of such a connection proved to be trickier than I thought. Thankfully, a player favorite delivered just such a story.

You have to spend mythium to make mythium

The Worldbreakers economy revolves around several resources. Chief among them is mythium, the game’s currency. You gain and spend mythium during the game, and every card  (along with some abilities) has a mythium cost that you have to pay in order to play it.

Confident Suitor costs 4 mythium to play, as indicated in the top left.

During a game turn you can take one action. The most straightforward way to gain mythium is to spend your action, netting you 1 mythium. Many cards allow you to get a better deal.

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When you play Mythiun Fund, you pay 5 mythium to gain 9 mythium -- a net gain of 4 mythium (x4 more efficient than just spending an action).

Since I playtested Worldbreakers on Tabletop Simulator, it is trivial to travel back in time and examine older card designs. One such design was Unrefined Viridis:

Unrefined Viridis v0.53

Back then mythium was called “viridis” or “viri”. Unrefined Viridis let you spend 2 mythium right now in order to get 6 mythium at the end of the round. Similarly to Mythium Fund, it nets you 4 mythium. Unlike the Fund, it requires you to wait until the mythium gets to your bank. A few versions later, “Unstable Viridis” got its illustration.

Unrefined Viridis v0.70

(Historical anecdote: this is the second Worldbreakers illustration to be completed. The first was The Indigo Grotto.)

Necessity is the mother of design

Unfortunately, Mythium Cache proved to be problematic. Event cards are supposed to be one-and-done. You play the event, resolve the text, and then put it in your discard pile. The Worldbreakers rules don’t have a mechanism for events that “remember” to do something later. Jamie Perconti, the Worldbreakers rules manager, suggested several ideas to solve this issue. They all involved storing the event somewhere until the end of the round. Since this is the only card in the game with this effect, we decided that the rules burden is not worth it.

Instead, we decided to design a different card that somehow provides mythium at the end of the round. We faced the additional design restriction of using this particular illustration.

"Viridis Cache", by Emilio Rodríguez

Here is the original brief for the illustration:

An empty field under the night sky of the Mongolian steppe. We see an amateurishly dug hole from which the indigo light of Viridis can be seen. Two Mongol women, a child and an older one (her mother or perhaps grandmother), are holding shovels and working on expanding the hole. This is grueling work and they have been doing it for hours already — perhaps there is a broken shovel nearby or their hats thrown aside. The women are wearing old, battered caftans.

Two elements drew my attention in the brief and the art. One, the women are digging a hole, a time-consuming process. Two, this is extremely difficult work. It is physically taxing the women, and their equipment (shovel and clothing) is wearing down. Combining these two together, along with the requirement for an economy card, brought us Desperate Miners:

Desperate Miners have the potential to net you a whopping 6 mythium (2 mythium per round x 4 round, minus 2 mythium for their cost). However, since they are slowly digging a hole, it will take four rounds until you get that payout. During the process, the back-breaking work will wound them until they are put in your discard pile. Only then will they get to go home.

Card illustrations tell stories. In my opinion, they are one of the most powerful draws in customizable card games. Worldbreakers has many other stories to tell — such as how the game almost ended up in the same “cinematic universe” as The Big Lebowski.

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