I began the current cycle of Belle of the Ball prototyping with a real desire to experiment with wabi-sabi card game design. I still want to pursue that goal, but in more moderation. See, for design and economic reasons, I'm considering paring down the Guest deck from 96 to 72. This should still make a 4-player game feasible, but might just barely leave no cards in the draw or discard deck by the end of the game. That's fine.
Because of the smaller deck, I would need to reorganize all the guest attributes. That means diving back into the wild world of spreadsheets. Here is how the deck would break down in a 72-card guest deck.
The deck is divided into distinct combinations of County, Interest, and Mood.
There are 6 Counties, 12 guests of each.
There are 4 Interests, 18 guests of each.
There are 3 Moods, 24 guests of each.
Each County has 4 guests of each Mood.
Each County has 3 guests of each Interest.
Each County has 6 guests of each Gender, though that's not relevant to the mechanics of the game, just the art direction.
Each County has 1 guest with popularity -2.
Each County has 3 guest with popularity -1.
Each County has 4 guest with popularity 0.
Each County has 3 guests with popularity 1.
Each County has 1 guest popularity 2.
So, each county has a total popularity of zero. This is partly to keep the point scores easy to count at the end of the game.
The 49 guests with popularity -2 through 0 get a friendship bonus:
Any guest with popularity -2 have a friendship bonus of 6
Any guest with popularity -1 have a friendship bonus of 4
Any guest with popularity 0 have a friendship bonus of 2
The prerequisites for getting a friendship bonus are randomly distributed.
7 guests have Boarbottom friendship bonus prerequisite
7 guests have Crawhole friendship bonus prerequisite
7 guests have Dundifax friendship bonus prerequisite
7 guests have Lordhurtz friendship bonus prerequisite
7 guests have Richminster friendship bonus prerequisite
7 guests have Wineberry friendship bonus prerequisite
6 guests have Any County friendship bonus prerequisite
Ten different powers are randomly distributed amongst guests with popularity -2 through 1. Guests with popularity 2 do not get powers, as they are plenty useful on their own.
7 guests Backdoor
6 guests Breakup
7 guests Draw Two
6 guests Group
7 guests Invites
6 guests Mingle
7 guests Steal
6 guests Peek
7 guests Reject
7 guests Shove
The art direction calls for some guests to wear hats, sashes or eyewear.
24 guests wear hats.
18 guests wear eyewear.
12 guests wear sashes.
All attire is randomly distributed across the whole deck.
When constructing this spreadsheet, I started by splitting 72 rows into 6 subsets of 12 (Counties), then each of those into 4 sub-subsets (Interests) and 3 sub-subsets (Mood). I randomized the placement of moods within the Counties, so we still get organic randomness for perfect matches. Some counties have several perfect matches, others have few.
There are some more predictable elements in this construction. For example, you know there are such-and-such number of Chatting guests in each county. You also know that any guest with low popularity has a high friendship bonus. These predictable elements should satisfy the card-counters.
Meanwhile, the powers and friendship bonus prerequisites are randomized within their sub-groups. Still balanced, but organic. Chasing the friendship bonuses feels different depending on the current game state. The powers you have available are totally independent of the value of the clique as a whole.