The concept of quasi-leads gives the feel of having leads to where something is and a reason to find it with no drastic change to the systems already in place or under consideration.
The system is based on three parts:
The first is a combination of theme cards and city designation. Each of the three city types is given a designation based on shape and region for a total of 6 city types. For example, the circle in the west is a museum and in the near east it is the site of ancient ruins.
The theme cards are then organized into three groups based on the city shapes. For example, the curator can be found in a circle city. Following the themeing of the cities, you get the result that a curator can always be found in either a museum or ancient ruins.
Players have a reference to show which theme cards can be found in what city types, though it is largely intuitive (an informant can be found in bars or markets, books of ancient knowledge can be found in libraries or temples, etc.).
The second is a combination of challenge cards and item cards. Challenges are divided into the 6 cities and regions, so that museums, libraries, ruins, et al would each have a pile of challenge cards. In the v7-8 hybrid, each pile would be divided into 2 known categories (so that players have some control over their route planning and optimizing their turns) that have a value of from 1–3. This value would be added to the enemy in the city to give the total challenge level of from 1–9.
In addition to the challenge cards, there are 12 item cards (or a combination of "No Challenge" and items) that show things like the grail diary or headpiece of the Staff of Ra. The items give a challenge category and value (v7-8) or an image to be decoded (v9-x). If the player passes the challenge, they take the item into their holdings.
The item cards are shuffled and dealt two each onto the 6 piles of challenge cards. Each pile is then shuffled and placed on the board.
A player entering a city (or using an action to face a challenge, giving an option to hunt for items) flips the top of the challenge pile for that city, possibly getting a regular challenge or rewarding him with an item.
The third part is the interplay between items and theme cards. Each item is only useful when taken to a theme card. Only Professor Jones can decipher the clues in the diary, and he has no information without it. Return the headpiece to Marion and digging costs no action while you are with them, etc.
This gives players an in-game reason to try and target specific theme cards over the basic need for information to drive the game forward. A player in possession of the grail diary can look at the reference and know that the professor can be found in a library or temple, so he can target his search in that way.
The benefit to this is that it works well within the current system (or can integrate into newer systems) and give the feel of having leads to follow without having to overburden the information system. Solo playtest have proven very positive so far and I'm interested to get your feedback to see if this is something that can be folded into the next playtest session to test out.