Triggered Effects, Part 3

The Story So Far…

Triggered card effects all fit under a general “when TRIGGER occurs, do EVENT” template. They can make a card situationally powerful.  They can give cardsets a mechanical theme.  They can create opportunities for counterplay.

We have identified eight categories of trigger so far–Entrance, Tap/Untap, Exit, Acquisition, Revelation, Damage to the Card, Damage by the Card, Critical Mass.  I also pointed out that any of these effects could use the opponent as the trigger rather than the card holder.

We have addressed five categories of effect so far–Victory Points, Currency, Endurance, Cards, and Additional Cardplay.

I also challenged readers to identify any triggers I missed and to predict what other effects I would list.


Another Awesome Reader

Reader Jayson took on my challenge to identify missing triggers, suggesting four AND a modifier.  Jayson’s triggers were

(a)  “Play immediately when this card is drawn…”

(b)  “When you are forced to discard this card…”

(c)  “If X on this card is greater than Y…”

(d)  “When randomizer is X…”

There are all interesting triggers and each certainly has its place in design.  I find (b) particularly interesting and have been mulling that one over quite a bit since reading Jayson’s comment.

Jayson went on to point out that many triggers could be modified in the negative case “If X does not…” which may be seen as a special case of the Critical Mass trigger discussed in the last column but is certainly worth keeping in mind nonetheless.


More Effects

Triggered card effects fit under the “when TRIGGER occurs, do EVENT” umbrella.  We have addressed five categories of effect so far.  Today’s blog expands our list to include game component effects and internal effects.


Game Component Effects

Obviously, card effects can be used heavily in card games.  But cardplay mechanisms can also be used as part of a larger game.  This opens up a world of card effect opportunities for the intrepid designer to explore.

Glittercats correctly anticipated this area with the comment “A lot of games use card effects to control non-card mechanics. So the card’s effect may be to move tokens on the board, or re-roll dice, or some other interaction with non-card components.”  Let’s take a closer look at the options this gives us.


Component Quantity

Card effects in a  board game could direct us to add components, remove components, move components, or swap component locations.  These effects will say things like

“…place a control marker in your weakest area.”

“…remove 2 voters from the most populated area.”

“…you may move all of your workers from the defeated area.”

“…swap the position of two adjacent racers.”



Component Condition

Card effects in a  board game could direct us to alter the components themselves.  These effects might say things like

“…advance the toxicity marker one level.”

“…you may immediately reroll one of your dice.”

“…refill an empty farm.”

“…flip a die over to its opposite face.”


Game State

Similar to component condition, our effects could change the overall state of the game.  We could achieve this by altering the topology of the game board, exhausting areas, refreshing areas, or even changing the odds.  These effects might look like

“…add +1 to all die rolls for the rest of your turn.”

“…add a map tile from the supply.”

“…remove a depleted mine from the board.”

“…open one gate.”


Internal Effects

BerzerkerUp to now, we’re focused entirely on outwardly-directed effects.  But what about triggered effects which target the card itself?  This ground has been well-trod by constructed deck games but what about applying these effects to other types of games?  These effects could have our players

“…give this card +1/+1.”

“…remove a timing stone from this card.”

“…untap this card.”

“…remove all enemies from this card.”

These were my other categories in the “when TRIGGER occurs, do EVENT” formula.  Next time, we begin combining triggers with events.  Which which games use which combinations best?  Come by Friday and find out!

What effects did I leave out?  If so, what were they?  What game trigger do you find most interesting?  What made you like it so much?  What game triggers do you dislike?  What keeps it from being more enjoyable?   Share with your fellow readers in the comments below.  And if you’re enjoying what you’re reading, create an account with WordPress and follow this blog.  You keep reading. I’ll keep writing.


8 thoughts on “Triggered Effects, Part 3

  1. As I have followed this series of posts I have been reminded of a book titled, “Think in Systems” by Donella Meadows. I often have my design students read selections from this book. This series of posts discussing triggered effects seems to evoke a very “systems thinking” approach to game design. And I believe that while it may seem somewhat specific to the use of cards in a game it actually has application to nearly every game mechanism imaginable. Meadows discusses the basics of systems thinking throughout her book but the real strength of the book lies in chapter six which discusses leverage points. Leverage points are places in a system where
    small changes can be made which have dramatic impact on how the system functions. These
    leverage points include numbers, buffers, stock-and-flow structures, delays, feedback loops,
    information flows, rules, self-organization, goals and paradigms. These points may be scaled,
    reversed, added or removed to great affect. It seems to me that the great strength of the use of cards to trigger effects is that this provides an easy means of inserts leverage points into the system. Sorry for rambling. I’ve been enjoying your blog.

    • I just ordered ‘Think in Systems’

      Lately, game design [and this series of posts] has really reminded me of computer programing. I think this book is going to resonate with me!

      Thanks for mentioning it.

      • @studio 22.8 — you are most welcome. Depending on the type of reading you are use to doing you might find this book difficult at first. But, persevere! I promise the rewards that lie in wrapping your head around it’s content are enormous!!

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