Additional Rules from the Rulebook
If you have no cards left in your Deck when you play this card, the Silver you gain will become the only card in your Deck. Similarly, if another player has no cards in his Deck, the Victory card he puts on top will become the only card in his Deck.
The Secret History of Bureaucrat
In an article on Board Game Geek, Donald X. Vaccarino commented on the development of Bureaucrat (Note that this comment also applies to Militia):
- For a long time the main set had an attack that read "trash the top card of each other player's deck." As related in the BGN interview, it had 3 big problems: 1) adds way too much randomness, 2) can result in everyone stuck with a 5-card deck, 3) is otherwise weak. When it left during development, I tried replacing it with an expansion card called Militia: "Each other player reveals their top card. If no-one revealed Copper, trash those cards. Otherwise, gain a Silver card." This fixed the weird-game-state problem of the previous card, and was less random, but still could make for some really unfun moments. Also it had a weird interaction with Moat, the way Moat worked at the time. It made you need to resolve the attack in slo-mo. Anyway it was no good. We quickly playtested a bunch of variations on Militia and the previous card, before I realized we could go with a discard-based attack instead, and that would make Valerie a lot happier - she hated the Militia variants.
- The main set already had a discard-based attack. I had started with a 3rd expansion card, Bureaucracy: "+2 coins. Each other player puts a card from his hand on top of his deck." So it turns out there's a basic problem with discard-based attacks in Dominion. Consider "each other player discards a card." If that gets played once against you in a round, it tends to do nothing at all. Twice and it ranges from mildly annoying to annoying. Three times and it's devastating. It just nukes your turn. Now, you can get the effect three times by say having each opponent in a 4-player game play it once. You don't even need Villages and Throne Rooms. This effect naturally ranges from incredibly weak to incredibly broken.
- There are solutions of course. My first solution was to go with "each other player discards down to 3 cards." That card, with +2 coins, made it into the set with the name Bureaucracy.
- Now that I needed an attack to replace Militia, I took Bureaucracy a different direction. I kept the Silver-gaining of Militia, but had it go on top of your deck to make it more interesting, and went with a discard effect that only hit Victory cards, as another way to limit how devastating the discard can be. I used the "on top of your deck" part of the original Bureaucracy to make it more different from the card then called Bureaucracy. We already had art commissioned for a card called Militia, so this card was called Militia.
- The original Bureaucracy had a flavor justification - putting a card back is like, you know, red tape. Bureaucracy. Slowing you down. So at this point the titles of the two cards were reversed. So we swapped them. Then, the other attacks were all guys, so Bureaucracy became Bureaucrat.