Theory: Story Time

When I was a kid, I saw these two Star Wars cards:

8-13-14 - Obi-Wan Kenobi8-13-14 - Bionic HandTake a look at the numbers in the upper-right corners. They’re used to generate random numbers in-game. Higher is usually better. Mostly they scale from 1-6.

Now, Bionic Hand is pretty useless. IF your opponent is playing the Disarmed card, and IF the situation came up in which that card can be played, and IF your opponent had the card in hand and played it, THEN you can play your Bionic Hand.

But it’s tempting to put it in your deck anyway, because Bionic Hand is a 7.

Obi-Wan Kenobi, on the other hand (no pun intended), is pretty great. Explaining all the ways that he’s great requires some knowledge of the game’s mechanics, so suffice it to say that he’s as awesome as it seems like Obi-Wan Kenobi should be. Obi-Wan is so great that it’s tempting to play multiple copies of him.

But he’s a 1.

These two cards taught me the first game design lesson I ever learned: very powerful things should have some drawback associated with them. Obi-Wan is great once he’s on the table, but he’s terrible if you flip him while generating a random number. Having that weakness prevents Obi-Wan from completely overshadowing cards like Bionic Hand.

Yet, there are more lessons to be found here. Weak things can be interesting if they’re narrowly powerful. Random values can be generated in many ways. The promise of a rare lucky moment is attractive.

I know I’ve been talking about the Star Wars CCG a lot recently. Part of that is because it’s fun to walk down memory lane, but part of it is because the game did a lot right. When looked at critically, it has a lot to teach.

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