In Arpeggio, trading cards featuring the characters and species found
in the game world are a special type of item, combining the functionality that they had in
Super Paper Mario (increasing damage dealt to the character on the card by the
holder of the card) with the "Spy Cards" minigame from Bug Fables. Spy
Cards was named after "Spying," the Bug Fables equivalent to
Tattling on enemies; since Arpeggio does typically
use the term "Tattling" instead, it's no longer preferable to call the game Spy Cards, although
"Tattle Cards" might similarly sound too Paper Mario-centric. It could be called "Character
Cards," but that's a bit bland. Frankly, I'm not too concerned about the name, so it can
vary between different Arpeggiated games, but in games where it has focus, it's probably fair to
conceptually have it be equivalent to real-life regular playing card games, with similar
potential for alternate games played using the same cards.
The original Spy Cards was basically (or so I gather) a simplified version of Yu-Gi-Oh, with appropriate parody NPCs. It also used a value called TP, or Teamwork Points, because this was Bug Fables' equivalent to FP, VP, or MP, and the card game just borrowed that name from the battle mechanic. But since Arpeggio uses VP and MP instead, and since there are two of them and it's unclear which to use, I'm instead calling the value for the card game CP, for, of course, Card Points.
Unlike many real-life trading card games, this one does not feature "mana" or "energy" cards, instead simply giving each player a set amount of CP per round, which helps to even the playing field and avoid the issue of "hitting a mana pocket" (drawing too many mana cards at a time for them to be useful). Like the small numbers used for the battle systems of Paper Mario and Bug Fables, this form of simplification proves ingenious rather than reductive, as a large part of the strategy of the card game is based around properly using the amount of CP that you have in a given round.
The generic entry for a card as a normal item in Arpeggio is here, and a Catch Card is effectively a blank one of these cards that can be used in battle to turn a targeted enemy into a copy of that enemy's card. Spell Cards, as opposed to Character Cards, do not feature in the card minigame, only having utility in battle.
Card Game Rules
A deck consists of 15 cards. These must include 1 Boss card and
2 different Miniboss cards, while the remaining 12 can be either
Attacker or Effect cards, and the same Attacker or Effect card can be
duplicated as many times as you want within a deck. It could be possible to experiment with
different deck sizes in Arpeggio, but 15 was the standard in Bug Fables.
After a card is played, it is reshuffled back into its deck. Therefore, cards are never "lost" or "used up," and can always be expected to reemerge later. Due to the small deck size of 15, it often won't be long before they do, although it's still possible to be waiting for a specific card all game and never get it.
In Arpeggio, a single character can normally only carry 10 items, and each individual card would take up one of those slots. The Strange Sack expands a character's item capacity to 19 slots, but a single deck would still take up most of these. Luckily, in addition to the Strange Sack, there's also the Card Pack, which, while taking up only a single item slot, can hold up to 52 cards inside. (52 being the typical number for a deck of normal real-life playing cards, in case you're wondering where that number came from.) With one or more Card Packs, a character can easily carry enough cards to mix and match between several decks.
In the first round, both players get 2 CP. This means that only cards with a CP
cost of either 1 or 2 can be played. Playing a card uses up that card's CP cost within
a given round, but CP is refilled for the next round, so there is little reason
not to use as much of your CP as possible in a round. For round two, both players will get 3 CP,
and CP will continue increasing by 1 per round until it reaches
10, at which point it will no longer increase. As a consequence of this, a
single card cannot have a CP cost higher than 10, as it would be unable to ever be played.
(Unused CP from previous rounds does not carry over to the next one, so in any given round both
players will always have the same amount of CP available.)
Building your deck of 15 cards has a lot to do with the chance that cards with a certain CP cost will be drawn. In early rounds, you'll want to draw low-cost cards so as to be able to play them, but in later rounds it would be detrimental to have only low-cost cards, because they may not allow you to use up all of your CP in a round, which will likely result in you losing that round.
In Arpeggio, it may be possible for cards to manipulate CP in ways that never happened in Bug Fables. These would generally be rarer cards and won't have too extreme of an effect, so as not to completely destroy game balance.
This has nothing to do with a character's actual HP value used for battle, but again borrows the
name from the battle mechanic in order to streamline understanding of the concept. In the card
game, both players have 5 HP. The first player to reduce the other's HP to
zero wins the game. This is accomplished by winning rounds: when one player
wins a round, the other player loses 1 HP.
In Bug Fables, there was no way to deal more than 1 damage to the other player in a single round. However, it was possible for players to heal some of their own HP with certain cards. In Arpeggio, there may be cards that can result in a player taking more than 1 damage, but they would be especially rare as it's a bit overpowered.
Attacker cards, and sometimes other card types, will have an Attack stat. This Attack
stat is generally equal to the card's CP cost, which means that when going for
straight Attack in a round, the highest amount that a player can achieve will usually be equal to
their amount of CP usable in that round. It is for this reason that cards that can achieve an
Attack higher than their CP cost are particularly rare and valuable, and that they don't need to
exceed it by more than 1 point to all but guarantee a win that round. However, card values must
add up properly in order to be used effectively; for example, if a player has 7 CP available in a
round, but only has two Attacker cards with CP costs and Attack stats of 4, then only one of the
two can be played that round, and so the player will only have 4 total Attack in that round, and
may be blitzed by the other player's cards that can add up to closer to 7.
If both players achieve the same total Attack value in a given round, then that round is a tie, and neither of them lose any HP. And regardless of just how much higher one player's Attack total is when they win around, their opponent still only loses 1 HP. Therefore, while maximizing Attack is the basic goal of a round, there is no particular benefit to winning by a greater number of points, and occasionally a player might intentionally use less than their total CP cost if they have reason to suspect that their opponent will be unable to match their Attack. Such suspicions would be based on observations of the opponent's previously played cards, but of course you can't see your opponent's hand, so it's always a bit of a risk.
Boss cards, Miniboss cards, or Effect cards sometimes have an Attack stat, but they may also (or
instead) have a Defense stat. Like Attack, the Defense of all cards played is
added together for that player, and naturally, one player's Defense total works
to defend against the opposing player's Attack total. So, barring any interfering effects from
Effect cards, Defense totals are subtracted from opposing Attack totals in a given round, and
only the remaining Attack values are then relevant. However, like with normal Arpeggio battle
mechanics, Defense subtraction cannot reduce one player's Attack total
The presence of a Defense stat on a card, even alone, is enough for it to count as an Effect card rather than an Attacker card, so Attacker cards will never have Defense, only Attack. Therefore, Defense is sort of considered a special effect, but it's probably the most basic kind.
Both players draw three cards to start with. Subsequently, they can both draw
up to three cards each round, but each player's hand cannot exceed
five cards in size, so they can only draw enough to achieve five at most. The
number of cards that can be played in a round is limited only by their CP
costs, so a hand may be completely used up in a given round. In Bug Fables, it was not
possible to intentionally draw fewer cards than allowed, and there would be no real reason to do
so, but if a Maestro does allow this, it should come with the caveat that a player must always
have a hand of at least one card, in other words must draw at least one card if
their hand was completely used up last round. In contrast, it is possible to not play any
cards in a round, even if you have enough CP to do so (and if all of the cards in your
hand have a higher CP cost than your current CP available, then you can't play any of
them). As noted, after a card is played, it is reshuffled into its deck,
regardless of the result of the round. Rounds continue until one player wins the game,
or until one forfeits.
Players can, of course, decide to play multiple games in a row in order to create a tournament. Additional rules, such as whether a given player is allowed to swap out decks between games, are up to those players. The card game is usually just for entertainment, but to further the Yu-Gi-Oh parody, the Maestro could hinge the fate of the world on its outcome. If you do this, be aware that even the most "unbeatable" deck is subject to the luck of the draw, and things may not turn out the way you expected.
Types of Cards
Attacker cards are the most basic type, and generally consist of
regular enemies that would be fought in a game of Arpeggio.
An attacker card has a CP cost, and it has an Attack, which are
usually the same exact value. Therefore, most of the time, the amount of CP that
you spend is the number of points of Attack you will get in that round. Other card types are the
ones that will throw this out of whack, but Attacker cards are very straightforward and a pretty
necessary part of most decks. Unlike Boss and Miniboss cards, a deck can contain
duplicates of the same Attacker card, and in fact it's perfectly normal and
sometimes vital to reuse the same card multiple times in a deck, for example in order for them
all to be Empowered by their related Boss card. That kind of thing is what the "Type"
field is for; when no type-related effects are at play, though, the type of an Attacker card does
nothing, so there won't be things like Elemental weaknesses or resistances based on type. It is
just a minigame, after all.
Traditionally, Attacker cards have a green background color.
Effect cards are like Attacker cards in that a deck can contain multiple copies
of the same Effect card, but where Attacker cards simply provide an Attack stat when played,
Effect cards tend to have other, well, effects. These are still relatively simple effects in
order to avoid overcomplicating the minigame, but they can really throw things for a loop when
used right. There were a limited number of effects among the cards in Bug Fables, but naturally
I've added more in making all of the cards for the other games and things in Arpeggio; all
effects that I use are listed and explained at the bottom of this page.
Traditionally, Effect cards have an orange background color.
Boss cards are what they sound like: they feature bosses
fought in Arpeggio, or at least the video games that it takes inspiration from. Only one
Boss card is allowed per deck, so a deck is often built around a particular Boss card.
This is because Boss cards will often do things like Empower a certain type of enemy, so
obviously multiple Attacker cards of that type are needed in order to take advantage of that
Boss's power. Other Boss cards are more straightforward, basically just functioning like Attacker
cards, but occasionally having a higher Attack than their cost, due to being,
In Bug Fables, Boss cards had an orange background color like Effect cards, though a bit more of a yellowish orange. This made some sense given that most Boss cards had similar effects to Effect cards, but in order to go along with Arpeggio's typical purple-orange-green color scheme, I envision Boss cards as being purple in Arpeggio. Of course, it's actually non-visual, so it doesn't really matter.
Miniboss cards are similar to Boss cards, but typically less powerful. A deck must contain
two Miniboss cards along with its one Boss card, but a deck cannot contain two
copies of the exact same Miniboss card; it must have two different ones. This is
in contrast to Attacker and Effect cards, which can be duplicated as much as deck size allows. In
Bug Fables, many miniboss battles were against pairs of characters, and as a consequence those
characters' Miniboss cards tended to play off of each other, gaining extra effects when both are
played at once. As such, the limit of two Miniboss cards is largely about which pair to use,
although some of them don't work this way and just have their own solo effect, so it's fine to
use two unrelated ones as well. In addition, some Miniboss cards may play off of more than one
different card, including sometimes Boss cards, so picking one Miniboss card might leave you with
two or more notable options for the second.
Arpeggio does not strictly distinguish between bosses and minibosses in actual battles, and futhermore, sometimes a Miniboss card might feature a regular enemy if the card's effect is simply too powerful to be allowed on an Effect card. Since only one Boss card is allowed per deck, if a full-on boss battle involves more than one boss character, one of them might be made into a Boss card and the other(s) into (a) Miniboss(es) in order for them to be used together in a deck.
In Bug Fables, Miniboss cards had a gray background color. Given Arpeggio's purple-orange-green color pattern and my changing Boss cards to purple in order to match it, I'm not entirely sure what to do with Miniboss cards; they could be left gray, as it's pretty neutral, or they could be made lavender, indicating their role as similar to Bosses but lesser. Or they could just be the same shade of purple as Bosses, since they're rare enough in a deck that it won't exactly be confusing. Again, none of this actually matters, since Arpeggio is usually played with just text instead of images, but if you haven't noticed yet, I can be a bit obsessive.
- Defense: As noted, the mere presence of a Defense stat is enough for a card to count as an Effect instead of an Attacker, even if that card also has an Attack stat. This means that it can't be Numbed (see below).
- Pierce (#): A value will be indicated, and this will allow the player to pierce through that many points of their opponent's Defense. In other words, this is defense against Defense. The Pierce amount will be subtracted from the opponent's Defense total before that Defense total is subtracted from this player's Attack total. However, just like with Defense reducing Attack, Piercing cannot reduce Defense below zero. So, if the opponent has no Defense in a round, then Piercing effectively does nothing.
- Heal (#): A value will be indicated, and the player who played this card will heal that many points of their HP, regardless of whether or not they win that round. This healing occurs prior to the damage dealt by losing the round.
- Lifesteal (#): A value will be indicated, and if the player wins the round, the player will heal that many points of their HP. If they lose the round, Lifesteal does nothing.
- Numb: A number will be indicated, and that number of the opponent's Attacker cards will be "numbed," removing their Attack value from the opponent's Attack total for that round. (Turn the cards over to indicate this.) Only Attacker cards can be numbed, so if the opponent played no Attacker cards that round, then the Numbing has no effect. If written as "Numb (All)," then all of the opponent's Attackers are numbed. When numbing fewer than all Attackers, the first one to be numbed is the first one that the opponent had played, and so on in that order. Because of this, a little-known piece of strategy is to always play your weaker Attackers first so that they will be numbed before your stronger ones.
- Freeze: Seen only on the card of Leif, one of the main player characters in Bug Fables, but never fought as an enemy, so he didn't get a card until a physical one was produced outside of the game. He uses ice magic, so it's appropriate, but the effect would seem functionally identical to Numb, making it only a cosmetic difference. To avoid confusion, I've rendered Leif's card on Ostinato as using Numb instead, so this isn't even actually used here, but I figured I'd better acknowledge it. Cards for other creatures that might inflict immobilizing Status Problems of any kind will all just use the same Numb effect in my write-ups, which once again is to avoid overcomplicating what is supposed to be an optional minigame.
- Summon: The name of another card will be given, and that card will be "summoned," counting as being played that round. The player does not need to cover the CP cost of the summoned card, making it free to use, and the card does not need to be included in the player's deck; it effectively appears from nowhere for this round and disappears afterward, not being shuffled into the player's deck, so deck size remains the same. What this effectively means is that the card doing the summoning might as well itself have the effect of the card being summoned; the difference is in regard to other effects such as Numbing, where if the summoned card is Numbed, the card that summoned it is not, so any other effects of the summoning card are still valid for that round. If a single card summons multiple other cards, they are summoned (and therefore played) in the order listed on the summoning card, and therefore the first listed will be the first to be Numbed as described above.
- Empower: A value will be indicated, and a type of card will be indicated with varying specificity. For example, "Empower +2 (Fungi)" would empower all cards classified as Fungi, which would include the cordyceps zombies from Bug Fables, but also the Goombas and their relatives from the Mario series. If the Empower effect only indicates Goombas, then only Goombas will be empowered, not other types of fungi. Empowering grants the indicated value in Attack to every card of that type played in that round, potentially including the card doing the Empowering. If a card with an Empower effect falls under the type that it is Empowering, then it effectively has that Empower value as an Attack stat (or adds it to its Attack stat if it also has one). So, for every card of the empowered type that has been played in a round, the Empowerment value is added to the player's Attack total, as if each of those cards had that much more Attack.
- Empower DEF: This was never seen in Bug Fables, but it seems like a natural extension. The Empowered cards will be granted a specified amount of Defense rather than Attack, increasing the player's Defense total for that round.
- Unity (#): This gives a bonus for playing multiple copies of the exact same card. A value will be indicated, and that value is added to the player's Attack total for each copy. However, the bonus is not run again for each copy; copies are only counted once. This is in contrast to Empower, where if you were to play two cards that both Empower the same type, all of the relevant cards would receive both doses of Empowerment. Furthermore, Unity does nothing if only one copy of its card is played. For example, the Midge card has a base Attack of 1 and "Unity (1)." Playing one Midge won't activate Unity, so you'll just get the 1 Attack. Playing two, you'll start with the 2 Attack, then add 1 (the Unity value) for each Midge played, so 2, which with the other 2 is 4. If you play a full hand of five Midges, you'll similarly get 5 Attack and 5 Unity for 10.
- Unity (#, Type): This extends Unity to an entire type, counting any cards (played) of that type toward the Unity bonus, even if those other cards don't have the Unity effect themselves. In fact, if other cards do have Unity, then all differing types of Unity bonuses are run and added together (but again, if it's the exact same card, then that particular Unity bonus is only run once). For example, the Leafbug Archer has "Unity (1, Leafbugs)" and the Leafbug Ninja has "Unity (2, Leafbugs)." Playing two Archers would be similar to playing two Midges, except the Archers don't have base Attack, so they only get the Unity bonus, in this case a total of 2. Playing two Ninjas would get you 4, as the Unity value is 2. Playing two Archers and two Ninjas at the same time would get you an Attack total of 12, which is the Archer Unity of 1x4=4 plus the Ninja Unity of 2x4=8. Archers are counted in the Ninja Unity bonus and vice versa, but each type of Unity is only run once. (Both would still be run even if the Ninja only had a Unity of 1; the difference is the card, not the number.) Leafbug Clubbers, which don't have Unity themselves, would count toward either Archer or Ninja Unity.
- Unity (# DEF): Again, this was never done in Bug Fables, but once you understand regular Unity, it isn't too hard to add it up as Defense instead of Attack. You can extend defensive Unity to a wider type of cards, as well.
- Coin (#): A number will be indicated, and that number of hypothetical coins are flipped. For the number of coins that come up heads, the effect described will occur, while for tails nothing will happen. So when it's "Coin (1)," then whatever effect is described afterward only has a 50% chance of actually occurring. The effect described can be anything from a simple increase in the player's Attack or Defense total to things like Numbing or Summoning. If, after the number of coins, it's written as "(Effect A) or (Effect B)," then a coin landing on tails will trigger the second effect instead of doing nothing, but heads will still only trigger the first effect.
- Setup: An effect will be described, and the player will get whatever this effect is during the next round, regardless of their CP or other cards played. During this round, however, the setup does nothing.
- If ATK (#): A value will be indicated, and then an effect will be described. The effect will only occur if the player's Attack total for this round reaches (or exceeds) the given value. It will occur even if the player's Attack total is lower than the opponent's.
- If DEF (#): Once again, this was never used in Bug Fables, but it's simple enough. A specified Defense total is required in order for the effect described to activate. The check is performed before the player's Defense total is reduced by the opponent's Piercing, if any, so the effect will still occur even if Piercing drops the Defense total back below the required amount.
- (Type) (#): A type of card will be indicated, such as with Empowering, and a number will be indicated, and then an effect will be described. The effect only occurs if the player played the given number of the given type of cards this round. For example, the Mender card says "Bots (4): Heal 1," meaning that if the player plays four or more cards classified as Bots in that round, then they'll heal 1 HP. The Mender itself is a Bot, so it does count toward this total. Since a hand can only consist of five cards at most, this will be the most ever required to trigger an effect. If the count isn't met, then nothing happens.
- VS (Type): A type of card will be indicated, such as "VS Bugs" or "VS Plants," and afterward an effect will be indicated. This means that as long as at least one of the cards that the opponent played this round counts as the specified type, then the player gets the indicated effect. So if it's "VS Bugs: ATK +3," and one of the opponent's cards is a type of bug, then the player gets +3 to their Attack total this round.
- If (Card): The name of a specific card will be given, and an effect will be described. The effect only occurs if the player plays the indicated card during this round. This is how Boss and Miniboss cards will specifically play off of each other, requiring the other's presence in order to get their full effects.
- CP +#: This was never done in Bug Fables, but I'm going for it. Where the Heal effect restores the player's HP, this effect grants additional CP in a round. However, because a card's CP cost must be spent in order for it to be played, a card that grants additional CP less than or equal to its own CP cost doesn't really help in a given round. Because of this, cards will either grant more CP than their own cost, effectively increasing the player's total available CP in that round, or else they will do things like use the Setup effect to grant additional CP next round. Either way, a single extra available CP can easily allow the player to blitz the opponent with a higher Attack total, so effective extra CP granted will rarely exceed 1, but the number granted will be indicated, and this will usually be higher than 1 in order to compensate for the card's own CP cost. (Alternately, the card may have a CP cost of 0, which will never happen on any other kind of card.) Keep in mind that along with CP, you're limited by the size of your hand, so only so many CP-increasing cards are useful before you run out of room for other cards to actually use the CP.
- Damage Boost (#): A value will be indicated, and if the player wins the round, the value will be added to the damage dealt to their opponent's HP. Since both players only have 5 HP, a single Damage Boost won't exceed 4, and realistically probably won't exceed 1. If the player loses the round, nothing happens.
- Revive (#): A value will be indicated, and if the player loses the round and is reduced to 0 HP, they will then be healed by the indicated amount of HP, saving them from losing the game. If they weren't reduced to 0 HP, however, then they aren't healed by this effect.
- Win This Round: This was used on the card for Bug Fables' final boss, the Everlasting King. As you would expect, when this card is played, the player wins the round regardless of any Attack or Defense totals, or anything else. The only exception is if the opponent also plays this card, which results in a tie. I've given this same effect to final bosses from some other games, so those cards would also tie. And, because these cards tend to (for some reason) have a cost of 9 CP, it's possible to play a single other card along with one if it only costs 1, so if the opponent plays one of these cards and you also play one of these plus a single Attacker with an Attack of 1, then you will break the tie and win the round.
- +# per: The card for Venus' Guardian, the second chapter boss of Bug Fables, writes its effect as "ATK +3 per Venus' Buds," a phrasing not seen on any other card. This would be functionally identical to saying "Empower +3 (Venus' Buds)," assuming that you don't count the Guardian itself as a Bud. I would guess that the phrasing was meant to emphasize that the Guardian rather than the Buds is the card doing the attacking, but since Attack stats are just lumped into a total, it's only a cosmetic difference. Perhaps fittingly for something so specific yet pointless, I've now also used this on the card for my own Grate Oracle Lewot character.