Imperial Robo Cards in the Shine Cycle

One somewhat common pastime in the world of the Shine Cycle is Imperial Robo Cards, a collectible card game that’s popular in the Empire and its allies. Today I’ll talk about the cards, the phenomenon, and their history in the Shine Cycle; the game itself is to be the subject of another post later this week.

IRCs (as the name is usually abbreviated) were invented in the first years of peace after the arrival of the Chosen—probably somewhere around the year 113 in the current revision of the timeline. The inventors used research, temporary-minimization techniques, developed by the Imperial government during the war—which is why they retain the adjective “Imperial” in the name, and pay a share of the revenue to the government, even long after they were privatized.

Each card represents a “robot”, a construct or artificial life-form. (For non-standard definitions of “life”.) There are several kinds: some designed to mimic real animals fairly closely, some designed to appear to be embodiments of natural forces, some appearing obviously artificial, and so on with great variety. But each is carefully selected to be something that’s actually possible within the bounds of “nature” and applied metaphysics, because:

Each card also contains—in stasis, greatly minimized in size, and adjusted in shape to fit—the “robot” it represents, so that with an obscure working a mage (or with a rare artifact an ordinary person) can bring it out at full size temporarily at need. This fact is little-known and not publicized, but not kept exactly secret.

To cover for that “easter egg”, which would otherwise be immediately obvious to nearly any mage, the cards also include a number of additional “flashy” features. The most notable is an animated, interactive visual representation (picture) of the “robot” that takes up most of the face of the card. Less obtrusively, each card also keeps track of its own state in a match, and of the between-match data that make up the larger game.

I said earlier that the game is popular in the Empire and the surrounding lands. But its precise popularity is somewhat hard to measure. Some mages carry a deck, and take part in the matches necessary to trade up to stronger cards (more on that later this week), as a matter of personal protection. But some enthusiasts, in contrast, collect enough cards to build dozens of decks. Participation in matches would be another way to measure the game’s popularity, but most enthusiasts treat the game as a hobby rather than a competition, so there’s usually only a couple of hundred participants in the annual Imperial Tournament, which is the only regular formal tournament, and the results of informal matches aren’t tracked on a national scale.

Any questions or comments?


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