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Tides of Fate: Behind the Set



Tides of Fate is the latest major expansion of Gods Unchained, taking players across the Shimmering Atlant into a new world where the Draka battle the Sartonians in an all out war for control of the domain crystals.

This set includes 140+ new cards to collect, including 15 new Legendaries, and it boasts a new Manasurge mechanic, as well as the groundbreaking Choose Your Faction mechanic, where your decisions impact the story and cards forever.

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Gods Unchained is known for its rich lore and worldbuilding. So how does the team bring these storytelling elements to life while creating a compelling and competitive card game?

We sat down with GU's narrative lead Alex Saccardo, creative game designer Claudia Skinner, and lead game designer Bryn Welch for a deep dive into Tides of Fate.

Let’s start at the very beginning - what inspired Tides of Fate?

Alex: We were looking at where to go after Mortal Judgment and we wanted to go somewhere completely different for the next big set. We were looking into the Atlanteans, who they are and where they came from.

We also wanted to focus on storytelling and put overarching thematics at the forefront of new sets, so we experimented with that idea first with tighter, focused mini-sets like Light’s Verdict, Winter Wanderlands and Band of the Wolf. As we became better and better at storytelling, we took the focus those mini-sets had and wanted to bring that into a big set.

We felt that revisiting the Atlanteans idea and creating a theme around it would be a powerful way to kick off Season 2.

For Tides of Fate, the theme revolves around “mechs vs dragons” right? What was the inspiration there?

Alex: Pacific Rim is a big one. Neon Genesis Evangelion, Godzilla, Kong, and other epic mechs vs monster stories often found in our favorite sci-fi and anime. We instantly gravitated towards that compelling dynamic for the huge blockbuster appeal of these diametric opposites colliding, of technologically advanced mechs versus ancient, mystical, and powerful dragons. It’s a great theme and you can get a lot out of it.

Was game design as excited about this idea, Claudia?

Claudia: Absolutely, the concept of exploring this mechs vs dragons conflict lit an instant creative spark for us at game design.

So how do you work with Alex on bringing the idea to life?

Claudia: It’s a kind of chaotic, collaborative, creative design process, where Bryn, Alex and I will get together and have fun sessions where we throw around all these ideas, art and things we think are really cool. We had a lot of fun doing that, and it’s how we ended up with such a wild variety of themes.

It’d be like “Well, we have to do Atlanteans”, then “But I love dragons, so let’s do dragons”,  and “Pirates? “Why the hell not!”

Then we sit together and figure out how to make it all make sense, especially visually, because there’s so much going on.

Alex: Early on, we also had other current and ex-team members play a role in creating this story. The story itself has evolved and changed over time to suit where the game is now, but their work was invaluable in getting here. We immortalized a few of those in some of the cards: Digby and Thibbs are derived from a teammate who now works across multiple Immutable games – Digby is based on a real-life cheeky bird – and the King of the Atlanteans is a homage to a few of the legends who set sail for distant seas!

How did you develop the visual style of Tides of Fate?

Claudia: On the art side, we collaborated very closely with a number of extremely talented artists and studios. We had detailed style guides that defined the look and feel of the key factions, the Sartonians and Draka.

For example, the Sartonians have an arrogant edge and rely heavily on technology, while the Draka are fierce protectors of the natural world. This helped provide the artists and studios crucial inspiration to build out the world visually in a way that felt cohesive.

We gave the artists room to flex their creative muscles and inject their unique styles and takes on the source material. It was magical seeing each piece progress from early sketches to final polished renders.

What’s the process of moving from art and narrative to designing the cards themselves?

Alex: In this type of storytelling, genre and tropes are important. A lot of people only have a surface level engagement with the lore so providing something already recognisable helps. There are always those in the community who dive deep (and it’s so incredible to see them engage with things like those theorycrafting in #lore and #the-atlant-marauder Discord channels – we see you!), but you have to be able to communicate a lot with the cards themselves.

Claudia: And we wanted to be very intentional in making sure each card has meaning within this world. The mini-sets helped us get into the rhythm of thinking like this. Alex would have the high-level story plotted out from the start as we were writing all the art descriptions. Then we’d go domain by domain, thinking through the main legendary characters that would anchor the story arcs, and spells or creatures that would communicate story events.

Is there some tension at times bringing together lore, design and mechanics?

Claudia: <laughs> There are definitely some arguments that go on between narrative, art, and game design. Everyone has different needs. Generally game design wins those arguments though, or else the game won’t be good.

Alex: That’s true, gameplay is king. The theme shouldn’t make the game less fun. When the game design team has great ideas I work closely with Claudia and Bryn to make their ideas happen. Fun, balanced gameplay ultimately has to take precedence in a competitive card game, even if it means adjusting the narrative to make it fit.

Bryn, how does balancing the set fit into the design process?

Bryn: So it's been a long time since our last major expansion. GU players have got years of experience telling them to play a certain way, like waiting until late game to grind their opponent out. We saw that in the early playtesting of this set.

We didn’t want to completely reinvent the game and erase four years of GU history in one set, so this strategy should still be viable. But this set is the new direction that we're going in, where there are decks that can take these more explosive turns in the late game and bring the game to a close if you allow them to do so, rather than grinding out at the end.

Are you talking about the new Manasurge mechanic here?

Bryn: Yes, exactly.

What’s the thinking behind Manasurge?

Bryn: Manasurge was born out of a desire to address a core game design issue we saw – the nonlinear nature of GU's mana system. Unlike other card games, GU’s mana system goes from 1-5 over 5 turns, but then takes two turns to 6 mana, three turns to 7 mana, and four turns to 8 and 9 mana.This creates a scenario where for example a 6 mana card is not the same as two 3-mana cards.

What this led to is a kind of caveman chess, where players just bang the same pieces against each other, a 7 drop against and 7 drop, an 8 against and 8 drop, etc, until someone loses. It’s not a very skill intensive way to play the game.

Manasurge is an answer to this by supporting cards that are better and more dynamic in the late game, that you can combine together to take more explosive turns to open up more combos and play space. You need to plan your turns in advance, possibly even taking suboptimal turns now to activate Manasurge later.

Visit the Tides of Fate Website

Buy Tides of Fate packs

Alex: And manasurge also ties into the larger story, as the whole central conflict of this set is based on the domain mana crystals in this region. Manasurge is about utilizing these crystals to give you more power.

Let’s talk more about that central conflict, the Draka versus the Sartonians. With this set you introduced a type of player versus player metagame, how did that idea develop?

Alex: In Band of the Wolf we pooled the community together against an outside threat, now we wanted to try and get a PvP game in there. So this time around we have a classic red vs blue faction metagame, with the Sartonians being blue, and the Draka being red. We thought about how to make this meaningful, and that’s where the impact on the story and cards comes in.

Bryn: Yes, this feature is built around two cards, Glinn and Zaskia, being impacted by the results of the Draka versus Sartonian skirmishes. What happens to them depends on which side wins.

Claudia: We designed this whole set around this factional conflict, with certain domains aligning with the Draka and others with the Sartonians, though you can play with all cards whichever side you choose. It's very exciting to see how this all will play out!

Alex: We’re very, very excited to see where this goes, as the very final skirmish will change those two cards and the story forever. We have live storylines that we’re thinking of, and future plans after this set, so these results will feed into that. This is a very distinct fork in the grand narrative we’ve given over to the community. The Gods Unchained story can go a few different ways from here.

So which side did you choose?

Alex: I’m team Sartonia, purely because I’d want to jump in a giant mech and fly it. <laughs> But I also really love all the pirates, who feature on both sides. I’m a big deception player, so the pirates are a real fun time for me.

How about you, Bryn & Claudia?

Bryn: Oh I’m team Draka all the way!

Claudia: Definitely Sartonians.

Bryn: Yeah I was shocked that Claudia just betrayed team Dragon after advocating for the Draka for months for this expansion.

Claudia: <laughs> Yeah, I betrayed the Dragons, I’m sorry… I vibe aesthetically more with the Sartonians and I had a lot of fun envisioning that society and worldbuilding it.

Do we have any last tips and tricks for players on playing Tides of Fate?

Bryn: Control nature is better than you think. It does struggle against aggro. But if you’re playing in Mythic where there’s a lot less aggro players, you can really grind out some good games with control nature. If they let you get Xansiddion down you are definitely going to win that game.

The other thing I’ll say is this: have fun. Just try and have fun. The game is fun again. We’ve been having a lot of fun playing the game and we’re sure you will too.

How about you, Claudia?

Claudia: Play all the theme decks! Put all the pretty characters in! F*ck being competitive, f*ck the rules!


Visit the Tides of Fate Website

Buy Tides of Fate packs