The Duplicity of Hippocras

I thought I would quickly cover the reasons for why there have been two Hippocras cards in A Taste for the King for a large part of its development. At first glance this may seem a little weird as it’s the only card to be duplicated in the deck. There are several reasons for this. The first is that the game was designed around drawing three cards and as a result the game works best if the deck consists of a multiple of three cards. I initially also felt that keeping with a motif of threes would make the game feel most balanced with three action cards and three poisons, giving a 1 in 9 chance of drawing an action card or poison. However this causes a slight problem in that to get to a multiple of 3 for the deck and with 5 courses on the menu, one course needs to have an additional card.

You may ask why not just add an additional drink or perhaps an extra dessert or dish from another course. Well, regarding other courses I was struggling to find many more dishes from the period I had chosen that weren’t just yet another bowl of some material. It also felt wrong having multiple food courses with one card count and one on its own with an extra dish, with the liquid section returning to the original dish count of four. Given that alcohol was prevalent due to the lack of clean water available at the time, it felt most theme appropriate and least jarring to add an extra dish to the drinks course.

Okay but why double up a drink? Why not add a fifth distinct drink? There are, yet again, a couple of reasons for this. The first is making the drinks easily recognisable at a glance. There aren’t that many shapes of drinkwear available for the period, really the only additional one would be the drinking horn but I couldn’t find much evidence to show they were used during the time period I was targetting. I could have perhaps created a Perry which is a white wine but this would have just been a recolouring of the Hippocras, perhaps with a slightly bluer tone for the glass. Ultimately I liked Hippocras for two reasons: Given that the poison cards are distinctly identifiable as green I like that people sometimes get a little fright when they turn over a hippocras and for a split second are hit with a wave of worry or disappointment. Having two of them in the deck just adds extra sweetness to this.

Now with this said, with the changes to the menu in the current working version of the game (check previous posts for details) there isn’t really a need for two hippocras cards in the deck beyond legacy balancing. While it’s theoretically mathematically possible to get a randomised copy of the menu with two hippocras’ on it (such as if I release a digital scoring app that generated menus on the fly) the menu cards in the game have been carefully crafted so that only one hippocras can be present on any individual menu. This leaves me with a slight balancing conundrum. I can leave the second hippocras in the deck as the one card you know can be sacrificed to a poison or I can remove it and replace it with either an extra poison card (several of which have already been produced and discarded for potential expansions to the game) or an extra action card. As discussed before, this would change the balance in the game. An additional action card will likely make the game easier for the current player or harder for a future player and an extra poison makes the game quite a bit harder, almost 5% so.

Another point to consider is the personal response of players. Some players find it weird that there is a single dish duplicated or that it doesn’t really add anything to the game. Others like that it changes the value of that one dish. While it won’t be possible to please everyone, it will be up to further playtesting to see whether the second Hippocras remains.

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