When I started making Treachery and Schemes I had some wild and bold ideas about how to market it uniquely. To preface, it's a strategy playing card game that uses any two 52 cards deck together. The retail version features Rat commanders of various factions of the Undercity fighting for control.
At the start there was only the traditional suits included in the game, Diamonds, Hearts, Spades and Clubs. To make it a four player experience and to keep with the theming of Spades being blockers and Clubs are attackers, I needed to create two more suits that would still feel in place along with the other suits.
I initially thought of Heads and Tails, though I dismissed this because I feel like a clan called “Heads” wasn’t on-theme with rats. Skulls was a great alternative that could still have rat theming!
(Sidebar: thinking about it now there totally could be a “Heads” clan. All the rats have slightly enlarged heads and have an average IQ score slightly above their peers. Their EQ score however, is often several degrees lower than their peers. Maybe in a 2nd edition I could rework it so it can be Heads vs. Tails.)
So together there is Diamonds then Skulls then Hearts then Tails then Spades then Clubs
I wanted to make sure that the new new clans were thematically coherent with the rest.
Diamonds being the top made the most sense. They can finance and cobble mercenary legions out of the best rats the Undercity has to offer, and abuse their power over their kin. They also always win ties, which from playtesting I’ve found paints a giant target on the Diamond’s backs. When their power fires they can have their choice of a card, and set up the card draw order for everyone else. I wanted them to be powerful, without relying on card value alone since they already beat ties.
After Diamonds is the Skulls, where a “diamond” crown would rest. They are also high on the pecking order, but can lose their footing if they don’t press their zeal themed advantage. I wanted them to be a risky faction, where their search becomes easier and more reliable as the game progresses. Their power doesn’t improve based on their current commander, so they play slightly different than the other factions.
Below the Skulls are the Hearts, the swarming masses and blood of the Undercity. What they might lack in quality, they make up for in quantity. I’ve alwasy loved horde factions and this is the de facto cards en mass faction.
At the tail-end of playable factions are the Tails. These were inspired by irl rat kings that are fused together at the tail. Their symbol stands out the most imo and features a rat ouroborus. They are the necromancer faction, and have to rely on cards already being played to truly be useful. If they aren’t careful with how they use their ability, they typically stay at the bottom of the battlefield hierarchy. But when they pop it is a sight to behold and quite devastating.
After the playable factions are the Spades and Clubs. I wanted there to be a reason why you can play with cards from these factions, but they themselves can’t be players. Making them exclusively mercenaries was a found solution, and one I found quite flavorful. The main mechanic to recruit these mercs to your side is by sending scouts from your clan out into the Undercity to find prospective help. Every Spade or Club found is a small battalion of rats willing to fight for your cause.
Spades must come before Clubs to give an advantage to blockers. Defense cards are typically thought of as the least-fun cards in games, so I wanted to make sure they had a slight edge to make them interesting. There is a drawback of all attacks and blocks are usually one-time use. Use it at the right time, least your attack fails!
You can’t win the game by blocking, but if you never block you will most likely die out rather quickly.
I find it funny that anytime a legion makes contact with the enemy, both sides lose a card. I’ve seen 10 of spades block a 4 of clubs out of necessity, it led to fun game decisions in the following turns.