Pseudo-Card Sets

04 May
May 4, 2015

System Crash doesn’t have card sets in the same was as other CCGs.

The cards are not divided by colour, like Magic the Gathering:


Nor are there character classes with class-specific cards, like Hearthstone:


I wish I could say that choice was made for the sake of a clever design, but no; the real reason is a far more tawdry one – money. I tried to split cards according to faction, but that always left me with too few “common” cards. There were always gaps in deck-building options.

In the end the approach I decided on was to allow any card in any deck and to try and encourage the idea that certain cards go together through the use of synergies. In other words, certain card combinations work much more effectively than others. Canny players, once they learn these synergies, will gravitate toward building their decks around them. And since there are more cards than can fit into any one deck, that will mean they need to make trade-offs.

Which should help avoid the primary problem with allowing any deck to contain any card – that people could simply build a deck with the most effective cards for any situation. The best Agents, the best Direct Damage, the best Resources Boosters, the best Crowd Control. That’s not what we want, that isn’t fun.

So synergy sets form what might be considered “pseudo-card sets” in SC. And core to those synergies are the card subtypes.

Each card is one of the basic types: Agent, Event, Modifier or Support. The basic types are then further sub-divided into subtypes (although certain subtypes are represented across multiple basic types).

One Agent may have the Law subtype, indicating that it is part of one of the game world’s law enforcement agencies. Another Agent may be a Criminal, a member of the criminal underworld. I try to differentiate these subtypes through mechanics.

Law Agents, for example, get group synergies for having other Law agents in play, and have strong armor. They also synergize well with the Mech subtype.


Whereas Criminal cards involve a high-risk, high-reward strategy. Criminal agents are powerful for their Credit cost, but playing one often invokes an extra cost for the player, representing the “Devil’s Bargain” you need to enter into to call on those treacherous allies. They synergize well with the Deception subtype (an Event subtype), and have ways to debuff opponents.


The Anarch subtype are raiders, terrorists and street gangers. Their mechanics focus on speed and overwhelming an opponent with early aggression. They’re the Rush archetype. The Haste ability features in their set, and they have a number of powerful synergies for getting Anarch Agents on the board quickly and buffing their attack.

They don’t have the staying power of other Agents, long-term, but they can dominate the early game.


Subtypes can also be further specialized by additional subtypes. Yakuza cards, for example, are a subtype of the Criminal set.


Importantly, the more narrow/specialized a subtype, the more powerful the synergies between cards that focus on that subtype.

A card that affects Agents generally won’t be as powerful as a card that affects only Criminal Agents. And a card that affects Criminals won’t be as powerful as a card that affects only Yakuza Criminals.

For example:

Take Cover affects all Agents, and isn’t particularly powerful.

MetroSec Blockade affects only Law Agents. It’s the same cost as Take Cover, but the effect is twice as strong.

Little Tokyo affects only Yakuza Agents. It’s more specialized than Blockade and it’s also more powerful. It costs 33% more, but the effect is twice as strong.

For interest’s sake, I’ll end off with the full list of card subtypes in System Crash (so far):

Multi-Type Keywords
Program – all software cards
Deception – cards which aren’t direct attacks or buffs/debuffs, but which manipulate the player or enemies’ resources and agents. Tricksy tricks (support or event cards)
Connection – cards which represent an ally or resource the player can call on indirectly for support or resources (support or event cards).
Deck – a device for enhancing hacking abilities (support or modifier cards).

Support Subtypes
Security – security systems and devices. Cameras, turrets etc.
Tactic – battlefield manoeuvers granting buffs and debuffs to agents in combat.
ICE – long-term cyberspace defenses, firewalls etc.
Virus – code that infects an enemy system over time, to that enemies detriment.
AI – Intelligent programs.

Modifier Subtypes
Implant – a cybernetic upgrade for an Agent
Chem – any kind of chemical agent, whether a stim, poison etc.

Event Subtypes
Assault – Cards that destroy or directly damage other cards.
Exploit – Cards that exploit weaknesses in computer systems but which aren’t programs.
ICEBreaker – code that destroys or damages ICE.
Utility – a software tool.

Agent Subtypes
Criminal – Agents who corrupt or circumvent societies laws for profit. Syndicates, assassins, burglars
Anarch – Agents who spit on societies laws and conventions, living off-grid and making their own rules. Free spirits, street gangers, terrorists, raiders and reavers.
Corp – Agents of the megacorporations who run the world. Zaibatsu men and women, corporate security forces etc.
Law – Agents of law enforcement. MetroSec, detectives etc. Some upstanding, many corrupt, selling their services to the corps.
Runner – Grey and black-market mercs and soldiers of fortune, characters who make their living in the shadows cast by the glass and steel towers of the megacorps.
*Media – Agents of the media networks, celebrities, journalists.
Mech – Robots, androids.

Agent Sub-Subtypes
Yakuza – Members of the Japanese Yakuza crime syndicate.

*Media agents aren’t in the game yet, but are planned for future SC expansions.

6 replies
  1. Daniel says:

    Hey Gareth I was wondering. What repo service do you use (if any) like dropbox, google drive etc, or do you use an external harddrive?

  2. gareth says:

    I use github to store the SC project. I also have my important stuff backed up to Crashplan. And I use dropbox to share things, mostly.

  3. Daniel says:

    Thanks, I’ll check those out soon. Been storing my project on dropbox for now.

  4. gareth says:

    My pleasure. 🙂

    Proper source control is an absolute must, can totally save your ass. Look into it, there’s good (free) stuff. And cloud storage on something like github ain’t expensive. 🙂

  5. Maximillion Miles says:

    Sounds like more changes to the system. 😛 Curious to see how it turns out at the end. Good luck with the project.

  6. gareth says:

    Thanks Max! It’s not a huge change, it’s more like looking at what was there and tightening it up a bit. 🙂


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *