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Design Diary: Ardant Predator

by Keith Morris, Tapestry Assistant Designer

20th September 2012

Tapestry was very interesting second expansion for an assistant designer. Most of the sets goals were Top-Down design. This means that cards would start with a thematic idea, and then convert it into game play. Most of the ideas in the first expansion I worked on (Tacking Into the Wind) were based off of game play ideas first, and then story was added.

One of the design goals in Tapestry was to pick some iconic moments in TNG and capture them on a card. During brainstorming, I made the comment. "A devolved Worf would make a cool dilemma." So when we started designing dilemmas for the expansion, I gave this one a shot. This being a top-down expansion, I thought about how to represent this threat to Picard and Data in game play terms.

Obviously it should be a dilemma that killed people. I'm pretty sure if Gigantic Angry Worf had caught them, that he wouldn't have just 'stopped' them. Two people were all alone against him on the show, so it would make sense for the dilemma to randomly select two people to face the it, and if they don't meet the requirements, they die. The next step, obviously, was to add some requirements. I thought about how Data and Picard got past this particular obstacle on the show. I realised they were smart enough to figure out the pheromone trick, but that would have been no use if Data didn't have knowledge of Klingon biology. Thus exobiology + cunning would be one requirement; but dilemmas usually need two requirements. The next requirement was a result of me thinking about what would have happened if some other affiliation ran into this problem. I figured if the Dominion or Klingons ran into Jurassic Worf that two of them might be able to kill him, so the second requirement became strength.

Then came the hard part. What amount of cunning or strength to require? If the attributes were too low, it would become instant binder fodder, but if they were too high it would be an extremely deadly dilemma. This is where the amazing play testers came in. I have a great amount of respect for the amount of work that play testers do, and I thought I would give you an example. While narrowing down the right attributes for this dilemma, we gave the play testers this special assignment.

"Every time you attempt a mission, or pass a dilemma, randomly select two people from the away team. Take note of their skills (do they have Exobiology?) and their total attributes. Don't actually stop them, just make those notes, then shuffle them back in and proceed to the next dilemma."

Wow, that sounds like a lot of extra work. And it was. One team alone tracked the stats on 159 different attempts that weekend, across 6 different decks. We had a plethora of data to work with, to make sure that we set the numbers exactly where they needed to be.

This leads to another interesting point in the design of this card. It got cut. Now why, you might ask, did it get cut instead of just adjusting the numbers? Well, we realised from all the play testing data, that the Borg and the Klingons were passing the dilemma a lot more than the other affiliations. An important thing to note is that this was early in design, and Borg and Klingons were still at the top of the meta, so it didn't make sense to release a dilemma that the 'top' affiliations would breeze through.

So, Sex-crazed Proto-Klingon (our playtesting title) was thrown into the cut pile, never to be heard from again. Until, near the end of the expansion, one of our other cards was just not working out right, and needed to be cut. This left a card slot that needed to be filled. One of the first things you do when you need to fill a slot quickly is to look through the cut file for ideas. At this point, we noticed that Lineage had done some interesting things to the Meta. Borg and Klingons were noticeably absent from some major tournaments. Suddenly Ferengi and Maquis were placing high in the standings. Suddenly this dilemma would made sense to unleash on the Meta. The great thing was that we had a ton of play test data on it so we knew it would be an effective dilemma against these new alpha dogs.

It won't be a dilemma for everyone since it does have the chance to completely whiff and do nothing. Some players just don't want to risk wasting dilemma counters. But, there are some players that like the high risk/high reward dilemmas. And if it does work, two kills for only 2 counters is a great deal. Or you could always just make the attributes a little bit harder to get. So, don't be surprised if your next space mission finds a couple of your personnel being chased by an Ardent Predator.

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