There was so much to be hyped about in today's livestream: New faction! Cross-faction cards! Release in 11 days!
I wanted to run through the streets of Novigrad and let the soothing moisture from these juicy tidbits stream rain down on my body. Instead, I spent the stream in a dank cell, huddled under a blanket, as a jailer from the Keyword Mafia taunted me with bizarre jargon.
I'm going to attempt to explain things here, as much for my own benefit as yours.
Okay, so first we have Crowns
. Not coins, not money, not gold. Crowns
. Some cards generate crowns, some cards use crowns to pay for abilities, and some do both. You retain half of your crowns between rounds, rounded down.
Crowns are basically Energy
from MtG. Energy was introduced with the Kaladesh expansion, and unfortunately ran afoul of some balancing issues. A core package of over-tuned Energy cards dominated constructed for a while, and left a bad taste in the mouths of some players. However, the mechanic has a great deal of potential, and I'm confident that CDPR can do it justice.
That brings us... to the keywords. Quotes are from the official announcement page
. Problem 1: Profit
is just Deploy
Embrace the new meta! Syndicate expansion brings a new battle resource — Crowns, which can be used to activate powerful abilities of cards with the Fee keyword. Look at Grand Inquisitor Helveed, for instance.
Grand Inquisitor Helveed
You might also notice another new keyword — Profit. When you play a card with this ability, like the aforementioned Grand Inquisitor Helveed or Pickpocket below, you will gain a specified number of Crowns.
Either this was a bad choice to lead the previews, or there's no reason for these keywords to exist when we already have Deploy. Which of these is easier to understand?
Fee 2: Spawn a Firesworn Zealot and Summon him to this row.
Deploy: Gain 4 Crowns.
Pay 2 Crowns: Spawn a Firesworn Zealot and Summon him to this row.
I'm lukewarm on Fee too. On the one hand, it looks a lot like Order + Charge. It's not obvious that the ability can be used the turn you play the unit, or that it can be used multiple times per turn. On the other hand, maybe there isn't a perfectly clear way to convey that in rules text. Regardless, it would be great if there were some clear connection between the Profit and Fee abilities, a shared word or symbol. Compare to this Energy card
from MTG, where it's immediately obvious that it's generating and spending a unique resource. Counterpoint: So what? You learn the keyword once, and you remember it forever.
True. But "learn it once" soon becomes "learn 100 different things once". It's an intimidating barrier for a game that wants to acquire new players. I'm a hardcore vet, I care about new cards and synergies more than the new player experience. If these keywords were just Deploy and Order with riders, then we couldn't have effects that care about Profit and Fee specifically. "Whenever you play a card with Profit, do X" or "Summon a unit with Fee from your deck", stuff like that.
How about "Whenever you gain Crowns, do X" or "Summon a [tribal tag shared by Fee units] from your deck"?
This fragmentation doesn't create synergies, it destroys them. We could have seen cross-faction NSyndicate cards with Order, Zeal, or Charge interaction, or NG/Syndicate with Deploy. But that isn't possible here. Problem 2: Intimidate
would look better when written out
Units with Intimidate are getting a boost each time you commit a Crime.
This is another variant on Harmony, Assimilate, and many un-keyworded mechanics. Those two keywords have an excuse: their full text is long
and not particularly sexy. Intimidate
is the exact opposite.
Whenever you play a Crime, boost self by 1.
I want to see the word "Crime" spelled out as often as possible in this crime-themed expansion. Intimidate
sounds like you're doing something to the enemy units, not boosting yourself. Problem 3: Tribute
, and Insanity
are bizarre meta-keywords
Units with Hoard ability require a certain amount of Crowns to be saved in order to get the maximum out of them. Some Tribute guy
Sometimes it makes sense to save some Crowns to use them later with a greater benefit. For instance, cards with Tribute ability are required additional payment to use a more powerful version of their ability.
Deploy: Boost adjacent units by 1.
Tribute 4: Boost all allies on this row by 1.
Deploy: Boost adjacent units by 1. If you pay 4 Crowns, also boost all allies on this row by 1.
Not obvious from the wording, but confirmed on stream: Tribute is optional, happens on Deploy/play, and by default is an addition, not a replacement.
Again, this could easily be written as a rider on the Deploy ability. There's barely any difference in the size of the text, and keywords that only modify other keywords are usually a net loss in clarity.
The existence of Fee only adds to the confusion. They both mean "something you pay", and they have the same format. Nothing on the face of the card suggests that one only works when activated on the board, and the other when played from hand.
Fee 2: Boost self by 2
Hoard 7: Boost by 3 instead.
Pay 2 Crowns: Boost self by 2. If you have at least 7 Crowns left, boost by an additional 1.
I hope we see some use of Hoard separate from Fee, because that would at least somewhat justify its existence. "Deal 4 damage, Hoard 5: Deal 6 instead." But attaching it to Fee while granting it a separate keyword is just confusing, because it's not immediately obvious when the Hoard count is checked.
Bloodthirst has the same problem. Did you know that you can play Svalblod Rager when your opponent has only 1 damaged unit, and still get the Bloodthirst ability? But that's at least a one-of, and not every single use of the ability.
Finally, some units are just not like the others… take the Casino Bouncers for example. Their Insanity allows you to spur them into action even if you don’t have enough coin to pay the required Fee. However, what can’t be paid in gold, will be paid in blood — the activated unit will lose a portion of it’s health equal to the number of missing coins. Casino Bouncers
Fee 2: Summon all copies of this unit from your deck to this row.
You can damage this unit to pay its Crown costs.
Pay 2 Crowns: Summon all copies of this unit from your deck to this row.
I'm not sure what the full text alternative is, because I'm still not sure what Insanity
actually does. It sounds
it's only a modifier to Fee
abilities, but maybe it works with Tribute
too? If you have Fee 2, 1 Health, and 0 coins, does it still work? Bounty
: No complaints here. The name fits, the mechanic makes sense. This one is a keeper. We've seen so many cool new things coming in the Novigrad expansion. A new faction is more than enough to fuel the hype train. On top of that, we've got the cross faction cards and the Crown resource mechanic. Yet all these new keywords are grabbing focus, diluting the themes, and inhibiting existing synergies. Bount is great, and maybe Fee is different enough from Order that it's worth supporting on its own, but the rest would work so much better as plain rules text.
The only explanation I can offer is that CDPR feels that the fans expect keywords, so they're going to keyword as many things as possible. I want to say this makes the previews more exciting, if at the cost of approachability and gameplay. But for a preview to be exciting, you need to be able to tell what the card actually does.
I want to focus on this decadent entree of previews. There's just all this jaron smeared across it like watery ketchup on a wagyu tenderloin, sabotaging the experience. CDPR, please, tone down the keywords and let all the awesome work you've done shine through. Thanks for reading.
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