Adventure Cards: Dual Use, Multi-Purpose

Adventure Cards:  Dual Use, Multi-Purpose

As lead developer, I focus mostly on detailing mechanics.  Starting with this article, I’ll be writing about various topics, giving insight into how the Traveller Card Game evolved, pulling in comparisons with various other games at times, including card games I’ve worked on previously.  –  Ian Lee

From a role-playing game perspective, adventure cards are both the plots of RPG sessions and the challenges in those sessions.  The Adventure deck exists not only to give captains goals but to make those goals challenging.  Thus, dual use adventure cards that, in play, are either a contract or a complication.

This feature, which is not common among customizable card games, was built into Traveller from the beginning.  Having contracts with specific resource requirements that get more difficult as they remain unfulfilled felt right for how RPG adventures are not about the easy jobs but about the twists and turns that occur in trying to complete them.

The intent with Traveller was to give players two broad paths to victory.  Contracts are the intended basic mechanic for earning Victory Points (), while Piracy facilitates player elimination due to bankruptcy.  Adventure cards intersect with these goals in a variety of ways.


Contracts ()

If you peruse the , it’s clear that there’s a system of having variations on using capabilities and, to a lesser extent, skills to lead to  gains.  A single  results in a  any of the current ships can complete without any additional cards in play.  While a  that requires   represents a much greater challenge for some vessels, such as the Scout.

Multiple and varied requirements make for difficult Contracts


Complications ()

 often require capability or skill tokens, possibly stopping someone who has everything they need to complete the  from scoring  this round.  On the other hand, some  don’t really hinder the ability to complete a  but just make it more costly in , affecting the attrition rate akin to .

Cost-based requirements are appealing for an attrition strategy

Deciding where to place  may seem simple, but it has been our experience that there can be some waffling as to where to put one.  In particular, because a full  can have a complication replaced where one below its slot capacity can only gain , when to replace has added a lot to our adventure phase decisions.


Complication Slots

At some point, we changed how Complication Slots were calculated, as we were getting  with too many .  These overburdened  just became a waste of time to pursue and the contract field was made less interesting by it.  We considered mucking about with the formula of slots based on  but the current system has existed for quite a while.


Distance ()

Jump () had to be part of the game to make best use of the RPG source material.   almost underwent some major changes but ended up surviving intact.

One surprise for me when teaching the game is that  isn’t intuitively obvious to everyone.  You have a  of 5 and a  of 2, so you pay  to jump three times.  Maybe it’s other games I’ve played, such as BattleTech, that made this seem obvious – just match your movement rate against your movement requirement.

 did have a major change, not in how it worked but in how much it contributed to  value.  Originally,  were a formula based on number of tokens required with a modifier for , but it was producing  that were too easy to complete for large  amounts, so we moved the balancing factor of  to the  section of the card.  The total  that someone could gain from a  remained pretty much the same, but high  meant more of a burden was put on having additional skill tokens to spend to max out on .

 differences affect attrition rate rather than the difficulty of completing a .  This makes it more subtle, as bankruptcy is far harder to calculate than how many  you need to successfully resolve to hit 20 .


Subplots ()

Very early on, we were testing with  that had bonus  for having a skill in addition to the capability requirements.  This was a way to get decks to diversify and to produce some greater variance in  gains.

At first,  were always just +1  for a specific trained skill.  To make later decks different, we started adding that gain more  for multiple skills, then moved into the idea of having trained give one bonus and expert another, eventually moving into the world of  having multiple .  The sophistication level with this one feature of the game expanded immensely.

Another notable moment in development with  was when we were trying to fix the balance on one specific  and got into a discussion of moving  from  to .  While we decided we didn’t like removing  from  entirely, we did realize there was nothing keeping us from having some  with no  and having some  with .  We plan on publishing significantly more  with , possibly pretty soon.

Low VP Contract with high VP subplot



What are some considerations for which adventure cards to include in your adventure deck?


Contract or Complication

Do you care more about your ability to complete the  or do you care more about the impact of the  side?

Maybe both.  Including a bunch of contracts requiring   in a Beowulf deck is probably not going to move you toward victory and may make a Scout opponent’s game much easier.  However, the easy   based  may have  that will slow you down quite often.

If your plan is to focus on Piracy and bankrupting your opponent, the topic becomes even more interesting.   with high  and/or automatic  hit  are clear ways to increase the opponent’s attrition rate.  I may follow up on adventure cards for Piracy decks as there are some other interesting considerations, or it may be that you all discover them on your own …


Big or Fast

The more  you can get from a , the fewer rounds it may take you to win.  On the other hand, low requirement  may get you to the finish line faster because you can reliably complete one each round.

Sometimes, you get the right cards in play and you get a lot of  fairly easily, hitting the ideal of both big and fast.  One deck archetype that was popular in testing was the Scout// deck that could gain a lot of  from  with  and themed .

Boosts can make lower VP Contracts more appealing


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