Design Diary

Design Diary: The birth of Spirit Strike’s Invoke mechanic

Diving into one of the new mechanics found in the Spirit Strike expansion!

After the successful launch of the original Untamed Feral Factions card game we knew we wanted to do expansions. The core mechanic of shuffling 3 different factions together to form a deck obviously lends itself very well to adding new factions. However, what would these new factions bring to the table? How could we expand and deepen the gameplay without adding too much new stuff that would overwhelm players? 

We started by taking another look at all the elements already present in the first 9 factions. One thing that jumped out to us was the Rally icon. The rally icon was an important icon as revealing it enabled comebacks when your stronghold got destroyed. Yet it was only really used 2 times per game. What if we could use that icon in different ways? What if we could also reveal it at other points in the game to get an effect?

A nice bonus (Power)

With this in mind we started experimenting. It felt good to receive some sort of bonus when you revealed a Rally icon from the top of your deck. But what would that bonus be? soon settled on the idea that we’d like to use another underused mechanic already present in the game: Bonus Power. In the base game Bonus power is a compensation given to the player going second, to balance out the first player advantage. Wouldn’t it be cool though to have access to Bonus Power in other ways as well? It made a lot of sense to combine the rally icon revealing mechanic with Bonus Power. 

We soon named the mechanic ‘Invoke’. Whenever a card told you to Invoke you’d reveal the top card of your deck. Then, if it would have a Rally Icon you’d receive a Bonus Power. This felt good but as each faction only has the Rally Icon on 2 of it’s 5 cards, Invoke needed something extra, otherwise the keyword would often just do nothing. Therefore, we made it so that you’d get something cool every time, but what you’d receive exactly would be based on if you revealed a Rally icon or not.

Invoking Tokens 

 So what could this other cool thing be? Even while working on the base 9 faction we’d had ideas for so-called Token Animals. These would be simple Animals that you’d summon through card effects. The Token Animals wouldn’t be in your deck but when you’d summon one you’d just take it from outside the game and place it into play under your control. These Token animals would be very simple, with no extra effects but they would still always be useful to a player. Furthermore, Token Animals would allow us designers to open up new design space for abilities. Most abilities have to do fairly simple things, otherwise the game gets unwieldy, complicated and unbalanced. That’s why most abilities refer to simple things that players want to do anyway: draw cards, buff their Animals (with Fury) or deal damage. Having extra Animals in play is also always useful, so summoning Token animals fit right in. 

We settled on the Token Animal being 1/1 Animals, and we called them Spirit Owls. Lore wise the Owls are mythical, spiritual beings. So we thought that Invoking the support of the Owl Spirits would fit in with the game very nicely, and the fact that they’d be spirits would still set them apart nicely from the regular animals. 

Sometimes summoning an Owl Spirit and sometimes gaining a Bonus Power proved to play very well. It’s a fun mechanic, you never exactly know what you’re going to get (though you could always use Foresee, one of the other new keywords in Spirit Strike), but you know it’s going to be good. In order to balance the keyword, Animals with the Invoke keyword tend to be a little weaker, more expensive or they have a Support cost attached to triggering the keyword. This will not hamper the fun and excitement however as Invoke will allow you to discover awesome, new strategies and combos the next time you play Untamed Feral Factions!  

To learn more about the new mechanics in the Spirit Strike expansion check out this video!

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