Design Article #8: Goal Cards

by N.A. Larson

At last we come to the end of our survey of the TSSSF card types with a discussion of Goal cards. Goal cards represent Twilight’s narrative goals, that is, the things she wants to make happen in her fanfics. Like Ship cards, Goals portray characters in a situation, but whereas a Ship focuses on the situation, a Goal focuses on the characters involved. Mechanically, Goals give players points for meeting their requirements. In this article we will explore the considerations for developing Goal requirements and determining point-values.


When you design a Goal card, you need a requirement that makes sense with the title, artwork, and flavor text of the card, and also works well in the game. There’s some leeway for that second point, because a Goal that is harder to complete is worth more points to make up for its difficulty. At some point though, players will replace Goals that they perceive to be too difficult rather than attempt to complete them. In addition to these general guidelines, here are some specific points to consider when writing Goal requirements:


It is important to consider when Goal conditions are checked, because it is possible to make Goals that can’t be achieved. Firstly, when a Goal is revealed, if its requirement is already met, it is discarded and replaced. Thus, if it is a condition that is usually true, like OC shipped with non-OC or Pony_Name shipped with any Pony, the Goal will almost never see play. Secondly, a Goal is won as soon as its requirements are met. Requirements are checked before and after Ship and Pony powers activate, but not during. This can lead to problems with multi-point Goals. Take for example Met at Ciderfest (used with permission): as soon as you play either Pony, Goals are checked and you win that goal for two points, making it all but impossible to win this Goal for three points. (Side Note: There actually IS a way to do this, which we’ll explain when we do an article devoted to timing in TSSSF.)

Follow the Style Guide:

Section 4.3.4. of the Style Guide lists the standard wordings for the types of Goals found in Core Deck and the official expansions. If your requirement doesn’t fit one of these formats, it is recommended that you use similar wording to facilitate player understanding.


Goals that require Ponies of a certain gender, race, or timeline should actually use those symbols in the text. Also, the symbol itself is a complete description; you don’t need to say “{symbol} Ponies”. Note that {alicorn} does not count for {pegasus} or {unicorn}. Goals that can be satisfied by more than one symbol must show each symbol that counts.


When making Goals that require a specific Pony, you should use that Pony’s name keyword so that it can be satisfied by all versions of that Pony. If you want to make it count for only one version, you should use that Pony’s card title instead. (Note: The phrase “name keyword” should be avoided because not every Pony card has an explicit name keyword. Referring to cards that are based on the same character as different “versions” of the same Pony is preferred.)


For non-name keywords, Goal requirements should use the phrase “Pony with the ___ keyword” so that players know where to look on the card to see if it counts. Also, because every character is a Pony, non-pony characters should be collectively referred to as “Ponies with racial keywords”.

Don’t Reuse Requirements:

It may seem reasonable to do this since Pony and Ship powers are reused, but it doesn’t work that way with Goals. If they come up at the same time, players can win both of them at once, effectively doubling the point value of a Goal. This isn't a big deal for 1 point Goals, but consider that if there were two copies of Friendship is Benefits out at once, a player could gain 8 points without doing 8 points worth of work.

Make Sure Players Have The Cards They Need to Complete Your Goals:

If you’re selling someone a set of TSSSF cards, the only cards you know for sure they have is Core Deck. So, either your Goals need to be achievable with only your set and Core Deck, or you need to tell them what other cards they need.

Don’t Require Knowing Things That Aren’t Printed on a Card:

Making Goals that requires players to know in what season a character was introduced, where the character is from, or their relation to other characters is unfair to players who are not familiar with MLP:FiM or its fandom. One of the advantages of having points awarded by Goals instead of by a judge is that everyone has an equal chance of winning, whether or not they know the references and in-jokes.

Active vs Passive Requirements:

Goals that require you to play cards are harder than Goals that let you use cards already on the grid because for the former you need the required cards to be in your hand, or have the means to get them into you hand and then the means to play them. This is especially true for Goals that require Ship cards to meet their condition, such as Charity Auction.

Multiple Requirements:

Some Goals have multiple requirements which are worth different point values, such as Friendship is Benefits. It is easy to keep track of how many points this Goal was won for by turning it sideways to represent 4 points. Therefore, you should avoid making Goals with too many different possible values to keep track of.


It can be tricky to determine how many points a Goal is worth. If there is a similar Goal in Core Deck or one of the official expansions, then that should give you a pretty good idea. If not, it can be extremely difficult to calculate the odds of meeting the requirement. In these cases, the best way to figure how many points a Goal is worth is to playtest it.

Another reason it can be tricky to determine how many points a Goal is worth is that the difficulty of the Goal’s requirement changes as more cards are added. This is why TSSSF was designed as a modular game, meaning that Core Deck was intended to be played only one expansion at a time. However, most players tend to treat TSSSF like Cards Against Humanity, where you can keep adding cards, but more cards there are, the less likely you are to get the cards you need. One of the reasons we created our spreadsheet of TSSSF cards was to answer the question of which names, symbols, and keywords had become more or less common versus Core Deck. Surprisingly, the gender and race ratios remained about the same, but keywords, especially names, dropped (except for OC). Some keywords may seem like they have increased because they were not used in Core Deck, but if you consider the set in which they were introduced and Core Deck together, the ratio still goes down. So where does this leave you, the Goal designer? You can limit your requirements to the things that are just as easy to do in Core Deck as they are when playing with all the cards. However, this may not be thematic enough. If you have a keyword-based Goal, how many points is it worth if it only becomes more difficult the more cards there are? You must assign it a point value based on its difficulty with just your set and Core Deck, because these are the only cards you know for sure that players will have. Your Goals will then depreciate at a similar rate to other Goals, which allows for game-level fixes such as house rules or a specialized Start card. Fanfic Editor Starlight and Fanfic Detective Rarity are two excellent examples.

This article marks the end of our discussion of card types, but it is by no means the end of our design articles. Join us next time as we explain how to playtest, and if you have any questions in the meantime, you can reach us by email, Twitter, or Discord!