//This Dev Blog was originally posted as an update on the Earth Rising Kickstarter on August 31, 2021//
Social Influence cards are the primary element all players will be interacting with while playing Earth Rising, so what are they, and how do they work?
Shortened during play to just ‘Influence cards’, these tarot sized masterpieces represent both a Sustainable Practice and an Unsustainable Practice - with the former being a direct and practical replacement of the latter.
The cards are bordered by the coloured outline of the sector they belong to, with the name of sector in the centre for those who have difficulties with the colours.
Either side we have the Sustainable Practice on the left, and the Unsustainable Practice on the right. This should be fairly clear to anyone who looks at the card, but did you know that the sides were chosen on purpose?
Designing More Than Just A Game
Due to western reading styles, the vast majority of the people of western nations scan images from left to right. Try it for yourself! Pick up a card or landscape picture and notice where your eye naturally jumps to “begin” taking in an image. The same principle is often applied in theatre, television and film composition!
Since our primary audiences will be from the western world, we decided to make use of this to make it so that when you glance at a card, the first thing you take in is the Sustainable Practice. This means you’re more likely to see them more often, and as such, take in the names of them a little more.
This is part of how Earth Rising creates a form of “learning by osmosis”, where you come away feeling like you’ve played a board game, and yet suddenly you can remember the names of all these sustainable options...
Speaking of names, the way their names are presented is also a purposeful decision, with the Sustainable Practice named on a white background, and the Unsustainable Practice named on a black background.
This reinforces the connection that Unsustainable Practices are linked to Strain (which are both black), and will add those counters to the board. Similarly, Sustainable Practices are a purifying force, taking Strain away, and directly oppose those Unsustainable Practices, hence making them white.
It’s our hope that, with this subconscious connection making, Strain calculations can be that little bit more intuitive, and so become that much easier.
The Duality of Cards & Tokens
Yet it’s not the cards you focus on when you calculate Strain! Every Influence card corresponds to a Practice counter.
In this way, your cards represent our collective social influence, and thereby our character's understanding, contacts and ability to implement something in the world, while the Practices themselves are the real world processes.
Once a Practice counter is on the board, you’re not just looking at a circle of card, but a constructive business, amenity or social mindset that is having an effect on your whole society.
As a result, your Influence card corresponds to both sides of the same Practice, allowing you to affect it with that card regardless of whether the Sustainable or Unsustainable side is on the board.
This allowed us, in a mechanical sense, to create many more scenarios and interactions between the board and players without needing to double our quantity of counters!
By utilising double sides, we could use just seven counters per sector, and allow for mechanics such as the Status Quo cards, where how they affect a counter on the board is determined by which side is upright.
The Many Faces of an Ever Changing Society
Seven counters for each of the six sectors with two sides for each counter creates a huge amount of variance, and we were thrilled to find just how much replayability it created without ever feeling stale.
Many testers and reviewers have played the game upwards of ten times over, reporting that even though they knew the game deeply and understood the ins and outs of mechanics, they never reached a point where they didn’t have to carefully consider their turns.
Turns which felt obvious due to having the right cards at the right time became quickly orchestrated chains of actions, but if you get over-excited about how many matching cards you have, you pay less attention to the slowly accumulating strain, only to notice the impending Ecological Collapse too late.
Earth Rising is a balancing act, and one that has many “spinning plates” as it’s been phrased, yet it’s also a slowly transitioning duality. Through your efforts you and your team of other specialists push back the tide of Strain and inequality that plagues our societies today, and whether you accomplish success within the 20 years set before you or not, you’ll always be able to look back and marvel at the progress you’ve made.
When you find an Unsustainable Practice in real life, try to remember: it’s just one side of one counter. We can change it, it just takes us working together.
Enjoying Earth Rising's Dev Blog? Leave a comment below, or read on in Dev Blog 4 - The Eco Investor; the Means to a Beginning!