Like and before it, Nocturne introduced more unique card-shaped things than any previous set. It is the first set to introduce a new basic Kingdom card type (Night), the first to introduce a new turn phase, and the second to add cards that replace cards in your starting deck, after Shelters. Because so many of the cards rely on non-Supply cards or other additional elements (several of which require their own additional elements, such as the Boons requiring the Will-o'-Wisp pile), the set was perceived by some to be more fiddly than previous sets; this is more pronounced in the physical version (as opposed to online), where all the extra piles mean longer setup times and more space taken up on the table. Despite this, the actual gameplay of the set was still well-received, though some players criticized the high degree of randomness introduced by the Boons and Hexes.
Nocturne also added card effects and properties heretofore unseen: cards that are always gained to your hand, cards that start the game in the trash, a Duration that stays out for an arbitrary amount of turns (but not permanently), a full Kingdom pile of a card with four types, "attacks" that affect other players' Buy phases, and an "attack" that lowers a player's score without using . It is also the set with the highest proportion of non-Action Kingdom cards, and introduced a number of new types, and thus a number of new type combinations (but none with only previously seen types).
The addition of the Night phase (and Night cards) adds a new level of strategy to the game. It provides more ways to get around the "1 Action per turn" rule, as Night cards are, by their nature, non-terminal, and several Night cards require players to put more thought into their Buy phase, and what cards that want to have in play when their Night phase rolls around. It also alters the power level of several cards that call out specific types, as none of them were created with the eventual addition of Night cards in mind.
While Shelters generally have a relatively minor impact, Heirlooms can make a game wildly different. Players must think carefully about playing a or , and and greatly improve starting decks. and also give the player a little side quest to complete, the reward for which can be quite significant.
The random nature of the Boon and Hex piles means that Fate and Doom cards can often swing from being laughably weak to being quite powerful. While your might give you a crucial , your opponent might get when they have an empty discard pile. And while can be easy enough to shrug off, getting hit by or can cost you the game. This can make Fate and Doom cards frustrating to play with sometimes, though the randomness can be tempered somewhat by simply getting lots of them. When you're playing five a turn, the fact that the Hexes have a varying power level starts to not matter as much, as you're almost guaranteed to hand out at least one strong Hex.
While working on , I tried out Boons. They were in the set for a while, but there was only so much space in the set, and something had to go. Boons were a nice chunk to remove and out they went. In July 2015, I put them in a file for some hypothetical future expansion, referred to as Boonies. A couple other cards went with them.
In August 2015 I invited Bryan L. Doughty to help playtest Dominion: Empires and the 2nd editions. That all worked out.
In August 2016, Bryan had some time on his hands, and decided to get in some games with the cards in the Boons file. And he posted a report on those games and what he thought of the cards.
Well if someone was going to be playing them, maybe I could work on them a little, make sure the testing was accomplishing something. And I worked on them a little. I tweaked the Boons and the cards that used them. I thought about what else I could do and tried some of that out. Bryan showed up a week later and was surprised at how much had happened. And then he was gone; people sometimes find other things to do with their time besides playtest my stuff. His name is not even in the credits, and the prominent names in the rest of our story are Matt Engel and Billy Martin. But Bryan got the ball rolling and then the damage had been done; I was working on a Dominion expansion. It accumulated mechanics and cards and before I knew it I was writing a Secret History for it.
Dave Goldthorpe is another name not in the credits, so let's give him his moment. He did not playtest. He did suggest names for things though, including a few cards plus the name Nocturne. He will also show up in the story for Fool.
Gradually the set acquired two themes: "spooky" and Celtic mythology. It seemed okay to go for both at once; they overlap a little. Mechanically the set tries to be more for typical Dominion players, rather than experts; the previous set, Empires, is heavily aimed at experts, and well I like the sets to be different.
The intention was always to do a set with no tokens; a 500-card set with non-supply cards, like . It gradually got more and more of these, and the set was squeezed down to 33 kingdom cards to make room for them.
was here for a while, moving over from Empires with the Boons. Now it is a promo. Adam Horton suggested it. I tried one of Matt's cards that was a Throne Room that also the card. I liked it on paper but it couldn't compete with other 's. Destry suggested a card that didn't work out but which I may try to fix up someday, so it will remain a mystery, as will a few of my own outtakes.
One of the original Fate cards had other players either discard down to 3 or put a card from their hand on their deck, their choice. I'd tried that in and it hadn't made the cut, and it didn't here either. It was around for a while though, and got paired with "receive a Boon twice" so that it was constantly played. Another trashed a card and gave you the same Boon once per the card cost; that one died in Empires.
A bunch of cards tried to be a good Night . I tried ones that cared about other cards gained or trashed that turn - e.g., trash a card from your hand, then for each card you trashed this turn, gain a card costing up to more than it. If your guess is that Billy would gain 6 in one turn with that, you'd be right. Then I tried one that cared about the number of cards in your hand, and some more that just had you discard cards. For a long time the set had "trash a card from your hand, discard X cards, gain a card costing up to more than the trashed card." It looked innocent at , people liked it and it didn't make waves. Then it was , now it is gone. I also tried one that could Remodel cards in your discard pile.
The first Night trasher just trashed a card from your hand and a card from play, with a Scheme clause to handle Durations. There were more interesting things to do, so it did not last.
An old old card had you discard a card to draw a card per , drew the uniques from your top 5. That also did not magically turn out to have been fine all along. Another old idea was a card that gave you card selection based on how many cards you had in play.
it cost. Apprentice without the trashing. It continued to not work out here. Another old card, from
One of the combo cards for Boons was +1 Card +1 Action, receive a Boon, name a type, reveal the top card of your deck, get it if it matches. It's poor to put the naming after the Boon; you forget about it, the Boon is too exciting. What killed it though was just being a cantrip that gave out Boons; even at
, it slowed down games too much. I switched the type-naming to just hitting Treasure and Night cards, no choice, but that wasn't enough.
I tried a Night card that let you buy a card for half price. It looks pretty but is dull. I tried a few variations on it, including a Treasure that gave you half as much . That looked pretty too.
as you had - half a
An early Night attack gained you a copy of a card/Action you had in play, and discarded Actions from their top 3 cards. It was interesting as a card you didn't want right away. Once I had Changeling they felt like they were in competition. Changeling was sleek and perfect, so it won. Then I grafted another ability onto Changeling to make it more exciting and less sleek and perfect.
There was a card worth 2Victory card. I needed the space, something had to go. The concept is vaguely preserved on Tormentor.
that was also +1 Card +1 Action + if you had no cards in play other than copies of it. There were a few variations; it stopped being an anti-combo with Duration cards, it gave you a little something instead of nothing. Player interest varied but it was not a star and also ate up 2 extra cards due to being a
I tried a terminal that got another copy of itself from your discard pile to your hand. But wait, you say. Yes well. It had no value without a village, and with a village you still didn't just get the combo all the time. It seemed cute for a bit. Then there was a version that gave you something for getting a copy back, so it was a combo without a village.
There was an attack that tried to cash in on the joy of . If their card cost more than yours, they discarded it and gained a . Then it just cared about their card to speed it up, and then I had better attacks.
In an interactive slot, I tried a card that cared about the number of empty piles, like , but that just changed instead of getting better. It didn't change often enough and just wasn't very interesting. You didn't have incentive to empty the piles for it. Then it was a Workshop too to get those piles empty, and then it died.
There was a Night card that had you look at the top 6 cards, discard one per card you had in play, and set the rest aside for next turn. It's a relative of . It always seemed different enough from Tactician to me, and like an interesting option. But it's a narrow card, and they face a harder journey to making it into a set. There were people who thought it was a dud, and eventually I took it out. Billy kept trying to get me to bring it back, and well here it is in the outtakes section.
For a long time there was a Night attack that Cursed the other players if you had exactly 3 of anything in play. Early on it would probably be 3 , but it could be something else. There were different resources on it, but the longest running version was an - gain a card onto your deck costing up to . It seemed cool and for a while seemed reasonable. After some game where it seemed strong, I realized that we were endlessly seeing it in games with Heirlooms, and thus not 7 Coppers. We played some more games with no Heirlooms and it seemed obviously too strong. I tried a bunch of variations on it quickly and then killed it.
A couple cards tried to draw cards at Night. It's fun if there's another Night card, not too exciting if there isn't. I don't have the market research to tell me, but suspect that for a lot of players there would be a lot of games with no other Night card (due to mixing expansions together rather than playing them alone or in pairs).
Before Changeling, some other cards tried out for that name. One was a choose-one that could turn into a cheaper card in your hand; one revealed your top card and could turn into it and be played. It was never quite there, and the tangentially related Night version was way better.
The card that left for Cursed Village was draw up to 7, may discard 2 for +2 Actions. It was fine? Cursed Village was just similar and better.
After I had Hexes I thought, can I make a card that combos with them. I made a village that had other players put gains/discards on their decks - it turned into , into . It didn't actually attack by itself though. It wasn't actually much of a combo with the hexes, and in regular games seemed to just so rarely mean anything.
There was a that could gain a copy of a card in the trash costing up to , and put a card costing up to into the trash when you gained it. So at first it would be a Workshop for just that one thing, but if you got another copy, or someone else did, or something got trashed somehow, then it would upgrade. We had some fun with it. Maybe there is more to this concept; I can think about it again if and when. What happened was, it was strong, then I put Cobbler's ability onto it to spice it up (while cutting + ), then cut the rest to simplify it.
Relatively late, I had room for a village, and tried a bunch of villages. Most of them scaled in some way. You drew a card when you trashed a card; you drew a card for next turn when you gained a card. There were some fun games seeing those cards go nuts. One village didn't fit this mold; it was trying to be good with Night cards, and gave +
per treasure in your next two plays, then just + if either was a treasure. So, essentially if you didn't get village value from it, it gave you instead. It just wasn't very interesting.
There are only two Heirloom outtakes of note. Bribe could be given to another player to stop an attack. We had fun doing it, but I can't have both an attack with a choice and a with a cost, or you will have the situation where the choice gets made while someone's shuffling and now it informs their decision about the cost. Or to avoid that you do things in slow-mo which is no good either. Attacks with a choice already exist - e.g. Minion - so I can't do a Moat with a cost. So Bribe did not survive.
The other one turned into Faithful Hound. At first if you discarded it you set it aside for next turn, and this even worked if you discarded it in clean-up. I didn't like that most players wouldn't get that from reading the card. Then there were versions that didn't work in clean-up, and then I had Haunted Mirror competing for that slot. And the ability ended up on Faithful Hound instead.