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Symmetric Effect

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An effect that impacts every player in the same way. It can be mutually beneficial, mutually damaging, or some combination of the two. This may sound underwhelming, and poor use of them can indeed leave you no better off or even screw you over, but many symmetric effects are surprisingly powerful if you find a good use for them. They can even be Game-Breakers if they're strong or disruptive enough.

Conditional symmetric effects are the most straight-forward to take advantage of. "All Wind Spells do double damage" is great if you packed a ton of them while most players have few or none, while "All Water Spells do half damage" won't hinder you if you don't have any. Other symmetric effects can be exploited in subtler ways, but the basic logic is the same: play it when it helps you more than your opponent, or hurts your opponent more than you. For instance, giving all players extra resources helps you if you have better ways to spend them, limiting each player's number of actions benefits you if you only need a few actions anyway, and raining lots of fire upon everyone is nice when you're immune to it.

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For many symmetric effects, you have to not only find a set-up that lets you take advantage of them, but also time their use correctly — or even choose not to use them if they would just leave you worse off. For instance, a curse that drains both players' health will be more threatening to whoever has the least health left. Effects that slow down all players' development are good when you're already ahead and want to lock in the game, but if played when you're behind, they'll ruin any hope of you catching up. On the other hand, mass destruction effects can equalize the position when you're behind.

In some cases, the game itself imposes a symmetric condition on the players. Of course, these aren't as exploitable as those under your control, but most of the time you can at least do enough to gain an upper hand over those who didn't bother to prepare for it.

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Compare Mutual Disadvantage, where two people are fighting and neither can get an upper hand because they're both disadvantaged in some way. Also compare Power Copying. See also Exploited Immunity, which goes hand-in-hand with exploiting a Symmetric Effect. Alternatively, if you're desperate to take down someone and don't have an exploitable immunity, you can use a Symmetric Effect for Taking You with Me purposes. We Have Reserves is a dark side of using mass destruction effects, when the user doesn't care about the consequences because they're just minions.

Examples

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    Tabletop Games 
Board Games
  • 7 Wonders: In the Tower of Babel expansion, you can build Babel tiles that change the rules for all players until they're covered by another Babel tile.
  • Canopy:
    • If you have exactly two Fire cards at the end of a season, you have to discard two Plant cards. However, if you have three or more, the damage spreads, and both players discard one Plant card. The same goes for Disease cards and Wildlife cards.
    • The Lightning threat lets you choose between two symmetric effects: you can either have both players draw two cards from the deck, or have both players discard two cards.
    • Some of the extra cards used in the Shifting Seasons Variant add symmetric rules like "at the end of the season, score 1 point for each unique plant card in your forest".
  • Fluxx: The "New Rule" cards add new rules or replace existing rules that affect all players.
  • Res Arcana:
    • The Warrior's Hall has a power that gives every player one Elan essence. It's a fairly weak ability, but it can be worth using if you really want that essence and know your opponent(s) can't do much with it.
    • The Catherine Wheel has a unique attack that hurts every player including its user. Its main use is to set up the Wheel's second ability, which grants three wild resources whenever you use a protection ability to ignore an attack.
  • Seasons: When Amsug Longneck is summoned, each player — including the summoner — must return a magic item to their hand. Its impact can be made asymmetric by playing it when you have something you want to return to your hand (e.g. Olaf's Blessed Statue, which can be re-summoned to gain an additional 20 crystals) and your opponents don't.
  • Shadows over Camelot: One special card affects the next quest to be completed, win or lose, increasing the reward for victory and the penalty for defeat by one point.
  • Sushi Go!: Each edamame card is worth 1 point per opponent who has any edamame, though it's capped at 4 points.
  • Wingspan:
    • Some brown (activated) powers give every player a resource (e.g. the Wilson's Snipe letting everyone draw from the deck). Whenever you activate a habitat with such a bird, you can choose to activate the ability if you think you'll get more out of the resource than your opponent, or choose to leave it if you don't need it.
    • Some expansions experiment with brown powers that give each player an option to perform an action. These are easier to make asymmetrical in practice, as there's a greater chance your opponent won't be able to or willing to use the effect. For instance, the Brown Shrike's power lets every player cache an invertebrate on a bird in their Grasslands. This power is useless to an opponent who (1) doesn't have a Grasslands bird, (2) doesn't have an invertebrate in their supply, or (3) does have an invertebrate in their supply, but they need it and don't want to waste actions re-gaining it.note 
    • If you use the blue scoring method for end-of-round goals, the mechanic will turn into "at the end of a round, each player will score points according to their number of <targeted item>".
  • Many of the environment decks in Sentinels of the Multiverse function on this principle either by increasing/reducing the overall damage dealt by both heroes and villains, having enemies that can target either side based on the amount of health they have, or even altering the flow of play altogether as is the case with fixed point in time cataclysm which makes all cards in play indestructible including character cards and the Maze of Mirrors in Madame Mittermeier's Fantastic Festival of Conundrums and Curiosities which redirects the first instance of damage dealt by all targets back to the source of the damage.

Trading Card Games

  • Duel Masters: The "Galaxy Breaker" ability lets a creature break all of your opponent's shields in one attack, at the cost of breaking all of yours after the attack.
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • Symmetry is a common trait of White cards, as characters of this color are very community-minded and devoted to treating everyone fairly (or at least have the appearance of fairness). This often leads to effects like setting restrictions that apply to everyone or equalizing players' resources. Additionally, mass destruction effects tend to be white (though other colors occasionally get to mass destroy stuff they can remove).
    • Black also gets some symmetric effects, most of which punish everyone to match the color's idea of winning at any cost. Notably, it's fond of making everyone discard cards or sacrifice creatures when it's the color that likes to bring stuff Back from the Dead.
    • Wrath of God is an iconic mass destruction spell that destroys all creatures. Similar spells are nicknamed "Wraths" by the community, and are useful for resetting the board if your opponent has played a bunch of creatures. They can also be combined with effects that make your creatures indestructible. There are also conditional Wrath-like cards, e.g. Fell the Mighty which only kills creatures with high enough power. Similarly, some Wrath-like effects deal damage or decrease the toughness of creatures — these are survivable for creatures that are big enough. These Wrath-like effects can be played to minimize the damage to your own board.
    • There are also mass destruction effects for artifacts, enchantments and planeswalkers. These are more situational, but also give you more freedom to build your strategy to be minimally affected by them.
    • Mass land destruction like Armageddon removes everyone's mana sources (except for any mana-producing creatures or artifacts they may have) and slows down the game. They can be used to lock in a game if you're ahead and want to keep your opponent from catching up. Sometimes they can be an answer to players who manage play a ton of lands. They're also useful if you make your own lands indestructible before using them.
    • "Wheel" effects like Timetwister make every player lose their hand and draw a new one. Very nice if you just played a bunch of cards while your opponent still has a full hand.
    • Prison decks rely on making the opponent unable to cast their spells and/or use their cards properly. This involves effects that hinder both players on paper, but the Prison player has built their deck to work around. For instance, they may run Chalice of the Void and cast it for X=1 to shut down their opponent's 1-cost spells, while not running any 1-cost spells themselves.
    • Some cards give a boon to all players. For instance, Show and Tell lets both players play an artifact, creature, enchantment, or land for free. If you pack some huge, expensive threats, you'll probably get much more value out of it than your opponent. Similarly, Dictate of Karametra doubles everyone's mana. You can get more out of it than your opponent by bringing more expensive spells.
    • The Shroud keyword ability means that a permanent can't be targeted by any spells or effects — including your spells and effects. So your opponent can't use targeted removal against your Mist Leopard, but you can't target it with your buffs either. Protection is a wider effect that works similarly. (Though note that one part of protection — "this can't be blocked by creatures with the specified quality" is asymmetric because you can't block your own creatures.)
  • Pokémon:
    • Stadium cards tend to affect both players. However, quite a few of them only do anything for certain decks, or only shut down specific cards.
    • N has both players shuffle their hands into their decks, then draw a card for each prize card they have yet to claim.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • The "Jar" archetype features Flip monsters with disruptive symmetric effects like "Both players discard their hand and draw five cards" or even "reset the game, keeping nothing but the life totals".
    • Dark Hole destroys all monsters on the field, including yours.
    • Many floodgates have effects that hinder both players equally on paper. They are best used in decks that can work around their effects. Examples include Imperial Order, which shuts down both players' Spell Cards, and Royal Decree, which shuts down both players' Trap Cards.
    • Early in the game, this was the purpose of Field Spells. They don't go in the normal Spell/Trap Card Zones, instead having a dedicated Zone shared between both players, and have effects along the lines of "FIRE monsters gain 500 ATK" which affect everything on the field. This became somewhat watered down as the game went on, with more Field Spells having effects specific to the user, and eventually the rules were changed to split the shared Field Spell Zone into one for each player.

    Video Games 

Action-Adventure

  • Toe Jam And Earl: All gifts are shared in a two player game when both aliens are on the scene. This is great when the present in question is a level up or free life, not so much when it's a "bummer." The exception to this is the Randomizer gift, which will affect both players' inventories no matter where they are.

Card Battle Game

  • Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft:
    • As part of their Power at a Price design, many Warlock cards inflict a penalty on both players. For example, Hellfire damages everything in play, including both heroes, and Altar of Fire mills the top three cards of each deck.
    • In opposition to Warlocks, several Druid cards give positive effects to both players. Grove Tender has a "Choose One" effect that either grants both players 1 extra mana crystal or draws one card for both players, and Dew Process makes it so that both players draw an extra card at the start of their turn for the rest of the game. Duskfallen Aviana is an example of a symmetric effect primarily benefitting the user's opponent. She makes the first card on each player's turn free. Unfortunately, this means that your opponent gets to take advantage of it first, so they can get a free card and then kill Aviana before you get to use her effect.
    • Two of Paladin's major themes are having "fair" effects, and manipulating minion stats. They have multiple cards that change the stats of both friendly and enemy minions in play, including Equality (to 1 health), Sunkeeper Tarim (to 3/3), and Shrink Ray (to 1/1).
    • The "project" cycle (Biology Project, Demonic Project, Research Project, and Weapons Project) from The Boomsday Project are all cheap spells that give something to both players, related to their respective class's strengths. Likewise, the vendors from Madness at the Darkmoon Faire (Armor Vendor, Prize Vendor, Banana Vendor, and Knife Vendor) are neutral minions with symmetrical Battlecries.
  • MARVEL SNAP: There are a handful of characters with symmetrical effects, usually in the form of anti-meta tech cards.
    • Armor protects all characters at her location from being destroyed. This can be used to both disrupt an opponent that wants to destroy their own cards as well as defend key cards against your own self-destruction effects.
    • Storm floods the location she's played on, which will prevent either player from playing more characters there after next round. This can be used to lock in a winning spot or force your opponent to divert resources to holding that location.
    • Scarlet Witch transforms the location she's played at into another random location. This impacts both players equally, but you have the upper hand of knowing when it's coming. Similarly, Rhino removes the ability from the location he's played at.
    • Killmonger destroys all friendly and enemy 1-cost characters on reveal.
  • Plants vs. Zombies: Heroes:
    • While it's on the field, Pecanolith causes all plants and zombies to deal damage using their Health rather than their Strength.
    • Doom-Shroom destroys all plants and zombies with a Strength of 4 or higher.
    • When destroyed, Galacta-Cactus deals 1 damage to not only all plants and zombies on the field, but both heroes as well. This damage is also unblockable since Galacta-Cactus has Bullseye.

Party Games

  • Mario Party: One of the possible events that can happen upon landing on a Bowser Space is called "Bowser Revolution", in which Bowser takes everyone's coins, and splits them equally.

Roguelike

  • Dungeon Crawl: Torment (halves current HP) and the status effects known as Vulnerability (reduces willpower), and Silence (prevents spellcasting and certain other actions) all affect everyone within a certain radius, including the player or monster creating the effect. Immunity to these effects is very rare.

Role-Playing Game

  • Divinity: Original Sin II: The skill "Equalize" averages out the health and armor percentages of everyone in the Area of Effect. Because it works by percentage, characters with a higher Hit Point or Armor Point maximum are more heavily affected in absolute terms.
  • Final Fantasy VI: The spells “Tornado” and “Meltdown” and the Esper “Crusader” all target both the ally and enemy parties. Tornado reduces all targets to critical HP, and Meltdown and Crusader do fire-elemental and neutral-elemental magic damage, respectively.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • The Wary Fighter skill in Fire Emblem Fates prevents both the user and enemy from double-attacking. This is better than it sounds since it's learned by the Mighty Glacier General class, which would rarely double-attack anyway.
    • The Quixotic skill, also from Fates, adds 15% to both the user and enemy's skill activation rates. This also generally favors the player, as non-boss enemies rarely have activation skills, and the player's activation skills will usually kill the enemy before they can retaliate.
    • Chapter 24 of Fates' Conquest route features a Dragon Vein gimmick that raises the movement of foot units and halves that of fliers, or does the opposite. In both cases, it affects both sides, so your own fliers can take advantage of Hinoka's use of the Vein.
  • Mario & Luigi: Dream Team: Most of the combinations involving the Risk Badge affect both your characters and all enemies. When combined with the Bronze Badge, it's a Non-Damaging Status Infliction Attack that targets everyone, while the Silver Badge boosts everyone's attack power, the Gold Badge deals 256 damage to everyone, and the Expert Badge gives everyone a 50% chance of instantly dropping dead (which means a 25% chance for a Total Party Kill).
  • Pokémon:
    • Weather conditions and Terrains affect all Pokémon on the battlefield. However, their effects are conditional (for instance, Rain boosts Water-type attacks and weakens Fire-type attacks), so you can build your team to take advantage of the Weather/Terrain. In Player Versus Player settings, Weather/Terrain is always set by someone's Pokémon. For Player Versus Environment, these conditions can also occur due to overworld weather, forcing you to adapt (and often giving the opposing Pokémon an advantage to make things more challenging).
    • Trick Room, Wonder Room, and Magic Room impose special conditions on both parties (e.g. Trick Room making slower Pokémon move first and Magic Room suppressing all held items), but with careful timing and selection of the right Pokémon, they can give a big advantage to one side.
    • The move Perish Song gives each Pokémon on the field a perish count, which makes the afflicted mon faint in three turns unless it is switched out.
    • The move Pain Split averages the user's HP and the target's HP.
    • The ability No Guard gives all of a Pokémon's moves 100% accuracy. However, moves used against the Pokémon are also guaranteed to hit.
    • Invoked by bearers of the Synchronize ability, which makes the Pokémon's attacker receive the same status condition if the attacker inflicts a burn, poison, or paralysis to it. This makes certain status moves symmetric for the attacker.
    • The Shadow Half move in Pokémon XD halves the HP of all Pokémon in battle, on both sides, including the user.
  • Shin Megami Tensei NINE has several passive skills that affect the damage output of all combatants in battle:
    • "Time of Madness" and "Time of Merriment" increase physical and magic damage by 50%, respectively.
    • "Time of Rest" and "Time of Requiem" decrease physical and magic damage by 50%, respectively.
  • In the Persona series, the Revolution skill raises the critical hit rate of everyone on the field, both the party and enemies.
  • Tales Series: The All-Divide item halves all damage taken by everyone in battle, enemy or ally. While it can result in the battle becoming drawn out, it can also potentially allow otherwise fatal attacks to be survivable. Some games make certain bosses, particularly Bonus Bosses immune to All-Divides.

Strategy RPG

  • Final Fantasy Tactics Advance: The Law system restricts the use of certain actions on the battlefield, such as casting healing spells, using the Attack command, or very specific actions like stealing from other characters or casting ice spells. A repeat violation of the rule will result in a red card that removes that unit from combat for the rest of the stage. Corrupt judges will intentionally stack the rules against you while the enemy can get away with it, while others can change the rules mid-battle and catch you off guard.

Turn-Based Strategy

  • Heroes of Might and Magic III:
    • The spell Armageddon deals massive damage to all creatures on the battlefield. Although it has the highest damage for an Area of Effect spell, the cost is usually not worth it. However, you can break the symmetry using units that are immune to fire magic or immune to magic in general, letting you cast the spell with no downside.
    • The artifact Shackles of War prevents both players from surrendering or retreating from a fight. This can be hugely advantageous if you're certain to win the fight since you'll be able to steal the enemy's artifacts, but it's horrible if you get ambushed by a larger army.
    • Spirit of Oppression and Hourglass of the Evil Hour remove all positive morale or luck modifiers in combat respectively. The former is especially good for Necropolis and Conflux since their troops don't have morale to begin with.
  • Worms Armageddon: The titular "Armageddon" airstrike launches highly destructive asteroids randomly across the whole map, causing tremendous devastation that can potentially reduce the entire landmass to a few small islands. A worm very deep underground, or protected by electromagnets, may be able to withstand it; otherwise, it's just a way of quite literally leveling the playing field.

Wide-Open Sandbox

    Non-Game Examples 
Fanfiction
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: The dark god Azzathra, who favours brute strength and violence, likes to arrange public duels to the death — but he considers magic to be cowardly and unworthy, so the arena is under an effect that causes all spells to hit both targets. Ami is sentenced to fight a Horned Reaper, and quickly realises that he's immune to his own fireballs, letting him fire at will. On the other hand, equipment isn't duplicated, on the assumption that a skilled fighter will be able to take it and use it themselves, so Ami is able to build lightning-proof armour and zap him with impunity. Until he casts a spell to recreate his equipment — scythe, pauldrons, and loincloth — which erases and replaces her armour and sword, leaving her publicly topless and with a weapon unsuited to her skills and strengths.

Literature

  • Old Kingdom: The last and largest of the seven bells is Astarael, the Weeper, which sends all hearers deep into Death — including the one ringing it. It's generally used by Abhorsens only as a final Taking You with Me gambit. When used on Kerigor, it doesn't stick, since his Soul Jar lets him return, but it does delay him, and the ringer couldn't have survived anyway.

Western Animation

  • Demonstrated in the Adventure Time episode "Card Wars". During a match of the titular game between Finn and Jake, Finn's pig has been helping him gain an advantage over Jake's corn-based deck. Determined to destroy the pig but with no viable way to attack it, Jake resorts to "flooping" his Volcano card that destroys the entire playing field, both his and Finn's. Fortunately for him, he quickly manages to restore his own playing field with a Reconstitute Landscape card.

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