I've been doing some thinking about trade-offs in generated card effects that I wanted to share with the community. This came out of some discussion I had with a few European players as to whether Sun in Your Eyes is "balanced" or not (I think it's fine). The general idea I'd like to contribute is two ways a card's generated effect can be saddled with a constraining parameter: Presence and State.
I will define this as roughly "Risk as a function of board location." Two really good examples of this are the original Fourth Ring home and the 108 dude Bay Yang Chen, both of which bestow powerful effects (card cycle, card advantage) but which require the player to put their dudes into "risk" (i.e., leave the safety of home).
I will define this as roughly "Advantage as a function of board state." Two really good examples of this are the action Point Blank and the goods Jael's Guile, both of which remove dudes from play (acing, discarding) but which require the player to first position themselves correctly (i.e., have an unbooted stud or an almost-all-booted opposing posse).
Those general ideas posited, I'd like to share some imagining around a few cards whose effects I feel are powerful enough to justify saddling them with such parameters as a way to preserve their essential mechanical contributions to the game while also making it so the generating of such effects are not "free" - that the player must either accept risk or earn position in order to benefit from them.
-Sight Beyond Sight
Even without his trait, Randall's cost to attribute ratio is top-tier, and then, he grants a powerful effect which doesn't require meaningful interaction - he can sit at home with two other dudes and continue to provide card advantage. So! What if his text instead read "While Randall is at a location with two or more opposing dudes, your maximum hand size is increased by one."
Sight Beyond Sight
This card that shares a powerful effect with the dude Nathan Shane and the action Burn 'Em Out, but without any of the drawbacks (being in or starting a shootout, having to boot or take on bounty, etc). You can sit at home to cast it without any interaction, and it's difficulty is reasonably easy. So! What if the text read "Noon Hex X, Boot: X is the value of an opposing booted dude at this location. Look at one or two random cards in that opponent's hand. You may ace this card to ace a non-unique card you looked at."
This home, now banned, had a powerful effect that allowed it to effectively win lowball on a near-constant basis, undermining the game's base economical assumptions, with only a token of a drawback which had little if anything to do to with interaction. So! What if the text read "Repeat React: After you draw a draw hand, if none of your dudes are at home, draw an additional card into your draw hand and then discard a card. You can only use this ability once per draw hand."
These three changes turn an essentially "free" powerful effect into one which must accompany a modicum of risk on behalf of the player (well, their dudes), creating opportunities for interaction to disable their effects. In short, they must now be "earned."
-Calling the Cavalry
Calling the Cavalry
This card, as well as hand rank manipulation in general, is proving to be perhaps stronger than originally anticipated. And this card specifically, although possessing the Headline drawback, still proves difficult to counter or play around. So! What if the text read "Shootout: During this round’s resolution, both players gain +1 hand rank for each unbooted Horse in their posse. One dude in your posse may immediately boot their attached horse to become a stud until the end of the shootout."
This card, though perhaps seeing less play in the last year due to the major overhaul to Paralysis Mark and the "Hex Control" archetype generally, still allows the player what amounts to almost "free" hand rank manipulation. So! What if the text read "Discard an unbooted Hex from your shooter to raise your draw hand rank by 2."
Arguably, the power of this card grows with each released set; as the number of "answers" to other strong shootout effects grow in number (like counters to Sun in Yer Eyes), the number of "answers" to this card remains narrowly static. So! What if the text read "Choose a dude. For each unbooted dude in your posse that exceeds the opposing posse's number of unbooted dudes, you may boot the chosen dude or one of their attached cards. Cards booted this way lose all traits, abilities, and bullet bonuses."
These three changes turn an essentially "free" powerful effect into one which must accompany an effort of resource and board management on behalf of the player, creating opportunities for interaction to disable their effects. In short, they must now be "earned."
Anyhow, that's my two-cents. Hoping this topic is viewed less as "errata 6 cards please" and more as just some food for thought when designing new cards in how "powerful" a card's effects are in relation to how "loosely" they are able to be played, and how that feeds into the underlying design axioms this great game sits upon. Cheers!