We do not use mandatory variables because of the problem you describe. We do use EPDM templates. To validate that certain information is included, we have conditions in the workflow transition to check if certain variables are filled out.
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We don't use mandatory variables. They are pretty useless for an existing vault. The major problem is that you can not set a variable to mandatory if you already have files or folders in your vault that use this variable and have an empty value for this variable.
Instead, we use these two ways to make a variable 'mandatory':
1. Set minimum length of value to 1 (Edit-box properties). Variable must have a value when card is edited.
2. Use dispatch to check if Length(%variable%) > 0. Variable must have a value on check in or state change.