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Rules Update, May 2023

by James Heaney, Rules Manager (1E)

1st May 2023

Senators and Syrannites, Happy May! Today is the first Monday of the month, a day for a regularly scheduled rules update. This month's substantive changes are in bold blue text.

You will also have read by now in the announcement article that the game's marquee format, long called "OTF," is now called "Modern." We'll have a few things to say about that, too.

The Big News: Differential and Concession Changes

First Edition players will find two large changes to the Organized Play Guide this month. The OPG is not usually something I write about, since the Rules Committee is technically only responsible for the Rulebook and Glossary. Special rules for tournaments (like time limits) are not actual game rules and are determined by the Organized Play department. However, in this case, the Department of First Edition and the 1E Rules Committee worked closely with Director of Organized Play Kris Sonsteby to make these special First Edition changes happen, so I'll say a few words about them.

Points that "Do Not Count Toward Winning" Count Toward Differential

Intermix Ratio

In our game (unlike in Second Edition ), it is possible to score bonus points that don't "count" toward winning the game (but which do exist for other purposes). For example, if you fail an Altonian Brain Teaser, points scored at the same location from overcoming Chalnoth will still help you get past Dead End, but they don't count toward meeting the victory conditions.

Points that "do not count toward winning" most commonly happen today because of the Intermix Ratio rule: if you have more bonus points than mission points, the "excess" bonus points do not count toward winning. (Intermix Ratio is a card in Traditional and Open, but a rule in Modern.) For example, if you score 180 points from Colony or Council of Warriors, but you've only solved one 35-point mission, you have 215 total points, but only 70 points that count toward winning (35 mission + 35 bonus). You will need to solve another 15-point mission to win the game (50 mission + 50 bonus). This is not changing. The Intermix Ratio rule is very important to balancing the game.

However, in 1998, Decipher ruled that, in tournament scoring, points that "do not count toward winning" also do not count toward differential. This is a little odd, since differential doesn't actually matter for winning. (For people who don't play in tournaments, "differential" means the winner's margin of victory, entered on the scorecard. It is calculated only after the winner is determined.) Moreover, once Intermix Ratio became a rule, this ruling made a frustrating situation more common. When a defeated player gets shut out of missions by a strong opponent, their only accomplishment in the game might be scoring a handful of bonus points from Dabo or something. The Intermix Ratio rule worsened their defeat by erasing those points, too. The players who need the most encouragement to play this game -- especially novices -- were not only dealing with the ordinary frustration of defeat, but the extra frustration of being shut out by a quirk in a rule that was designed to hinder high-level cheese decks.

We are therefore reversing the 1998 ruling. "Points that do not count toward winning" still do not count toward winning... but they do count toward calculating differential. If you score 5 bonus points during a game that your opponent wins outright, the differential is now +95/-95, not +100/-100.

This will lead to more situations where the winning player has fewer points than the losing player. Just as in other situations where that happens, the winning player's minimum differential remains +1. For example, suppose Alice scores 475 bonus points from Obsession, but never completes a mission. She has 0 points that count toward winning, but 475 points that count toward differential. Her opponent, Bob, has 60 points (all from missions) when the time limit expires. Bob receives a Modified Win. Differential is entered as +1 for Bob, -1 for Alice.

Alternatively, suppose Alice scores 1 bonus point during the game, but Bob scores 10 bonus points. None of these points count toward winning, so their "victory conditions score" is 0 to 0. The result is a True Tie. A True Tie always has a differential of +0 for both players, regardless of score.

This change will never alter the result of any game. Wins remain wins, losses remain losses, ties remain ties. Bonus points that "do not count toward winning" still do not count toward winning and are still ignored when determining the result. They are only counted for differential. Because differential is only the third tiebreaker (after head-to-head and strength-of-schedule), the Department of First Edition expects this change to have a negligible impact on tournament results... but we hope it will be a small morale boost to novice players, not to mention the many valiant regular players with Elo ratings south of 1500, who can now walk away from certain defeats and proudly say, "Hey, I did something this game. I wasn't shut out."

Concession Does Not Forfeit Your Points


Decipher hated concessions, fearing they would be used strategically. Starting in 1998, a player who conceded a game was ejected from the tournament. Starting in 1999, that player also generally forfeited all points scored in the game, unless there was a compelling reason. In 2008, the Continuing Committee Department of Organized Play (under Matt Kirk) relaxed the rule: a player could innocently concede a game without being ejected from the tournament. Players who abused this privilege, especially players who offered an opponent any incentive to concede, could still be charged with collusion and disqualified.

However, the current rule still leaves players who have clearly been vanquished stuck at the table. If they want to keep their points, they have to watch their opponents play solitaire, when they could be getting ready for the next round, using the bathroom, having a bite to eat, or literally anything else. For those of you who (like me) will happily fight on until the bitter end, no matter how much of a long shot your victory becomes, this is no problem. For others, though, it's frustrating. There are those days when you haven't eaten and you know you've lost and you just want the round to be over, but if you walk away you'll lose your hard-won 35 points.

Today, we relax the concession rule again. Starting today, in First Edition, you keep your points when you concede. Your opponent receives 100 points and full victory conditions, but whatever points you scored, you keep. Differential is calculated accordingly. For example, suppose you are beating your opponent 35-0 when your opponent destroys your only outpost, and you decide to concede the game. The final score of your game is 100-35, and you receive a Full Loss and a (-65) differential, instead of the (-100) differential you would have received under the old rule.

Again, because differential is only the third tiebreaker, the Department of First Edition expects this change to have a negligible effect on tournament outcomes. As in 1998, concession is NOT a strategic option. Players who concede strategically, who offer other players incentives to concede, or who attempt to coerce concessions from opponents, will still face the full wrath of the Tournament Code of Conduct. Collusion remains a Level 4 (Ejection) violation. The benefit of this change is that it clears a path for a player who has been soundly defeated to end the game without penalty once that fact has become clear, instead of dragging it out to the time limit.

This change applies in First Edition. A similar changeapplies to Tribbles ; read the OPG for details. This change does not apply in Second Edition . (The Department ofSecond Edition had reasonable concerns about how this could impact their meta, and decided to stick with the current rule.)

Monthly Rulings

Let's go over this month's Recent Rulings Document .

"OTF" Renamed to "Modern"

The Official Tournament Format rules have been renamed to the Modern rules. This has no effect on gameplay, but it required (or dovetailed nicely with) several modest changes to our rule documents. The entire RRD this month is occupied with those changes.

Director Charlie's article today explains the whys and hows, but I'll sum it up from a rules perspective:

The "Official Tournament Format" was not exclusively "Official." The CC has official support for many rulesets, including Open and Warp Speed.

The "Official Tournament Format" was not exclusively for "Tournaments." It had no tournament-specific rules, actively avoided stepping on Organized Play's toes, and has been ubiquitous in casual play for years.

And the "Official Tournament Format"was not a "Format." In our game, the "formats" are Constructed, Sealed, and Draft. OTF was, legally, a ruleset, like Revised, Traditional, and Open.

So every word in the name "Official Tournament Format" was not only oblique, but actively misleading. It is sensible to label the rules that almost all modern players play by with something a little more accurate, something that communicates to novices more clearly what the ruleset is like and how it differs from other popular rulesets (especially Traditional). "Modern" won the broadest consensus over several months of discussion.

Of course, us enfranchised players have all gotten in the habit of calling it "OTF." I'll probably continue to call it that by accident for the next decade, just like I call my daughters by the wrong names at least twice a day. But Rules documents, from now on, will call it Modern.

Rules Soapbox: Why Errata for Q's Tent?

In all the OPG hullaballoo, I almost forgot that, this month, we are finally pushing out some new versions of Q's Tent and Q's Tent: Civil War, in order to solve the Look In Your Tent problem.

Q's Tent

Since time immemorial, players have looked in their Q's Tents. This is very useful. The Tent is, for most players, a place where we store our weird situational tools to be pulled out as-needed, and sometimes we forget which particular situational tools we've included, or what specifically they actually say. It harms nobody to look in the Tent. The Tent is unordered, so, unlike with your draw deck, it doesn't matter whether you know which card is on top.

The only problem with it is that it's completely, flagrantly illegal to look in your Tent. The rules say you can't look at face-down decks or side-decks. (Both players may look at face-up cards, including face-up Referee cards in a Q's Tent: Civil War and the recycled cards beneath a Battle Bridge or Q-Continuum side deck. But ordinary Q's Tent cards are face-down, so that doesn't apply.) No card allows you to look inside your Q's Tent. You can use the old invalid download trick (deliberately initiate a special download of a card you know you didn't stock so you can search and shuffle your deck and side decks), but it's costly (your opponent gets to see all your cards when the download fails), and also it's a stupid, cheesy-feeling workaround. No one actually does this. They just look in their Tents.

Looking in your Tent at will is just something everyone started doing because it's too handy not to. Regardless of the clear rule, nearly every playgroup in the world, including nearly all high-level players, looked in the Q's Tent at will. When the Rules Committee initially discussed this, there was some support for preserving the rule and forcing everyone in the world to stop looking in their Q's Tents, on the theory that the rule was there for a reason and needed to be respected. However, in the end, the opposite view prevailed: the fact that almost nobody has been following the rule for Q's Tent for decades (and the game is still fun without it) (arguably more fun) shows that it's not good for Q's Tent to have to follow the rule. We decided to change Q's Tent to allow people to look inside it.

In a public discussion last year, some community members expressed that they wanted to be able to look inside their Q's Tent, but they did not want to errata the card to do it. We took that feedback very seriously, and slowed down the change significantly in order to talk it through. As you can tell from the image at right, we did decide to errata Q's Tent, so I think I owe everyone an explanation for why we went that route anyway.

One option was to simply delete the rule that you can't look in your own side decks. That's the rule that keeps you from looking in your Tent, so delete the rule and all's well, right? Turns out, no. If you allow players to look in side decks, that covers ALL side decks, and it turns out that it's quite bad to give players advance knowledge of what the next cards are in their Battle Bridge or Q-Continuum or Tribbles side deck. We reluctantly ruled this out.

Another option was to create a special rule in the Rulebook that specifically exempted Q's Tent from the ordinary rule. The current rule (12.12 Looking At Cards) would be edited to say something like, "You may not see face down cards in your draw deck or side decks,except your Q's Tent, which you may examine at will." We rejected this approach because it is not how the Star Trek CCG (or any large card game, really) approaches exceptions. The rulebook should contain the generally applicable rules of the game. That's its job. Individual cards then empower players by carving out exceptions to the general rules. Players can then read the cards to understand how they modify the game, instead of memorizing a list of special "hardcoded" exceptions defined by arbitrary decrees in the rulebook. If we want a card to do something special, like allow players to look inside a side deck, it makes no sense whatsoever to bury that special power in the last paragraph of Rulebook Section 12.12 when we could print that special ability directly on the card. For this reason, the Rules Committee does not make card-specific rules. We are unified on this, and we were not going to build a card-specific exception into the rules for one of the most common cards in the game.

A third option was to revise the existing rule to say something like, "You can't look inside any face down pile of cards whose order is randomized which can be drawn from." The idea here was that you can't look in most side decks because their order matters, but in Q's Tent, it doesn't matter, so just make a rule that says you can look in piles where order doesn't matter. This was really clever (and I believe it was suggested by community member BoromirOfBorg, so kudos Boromir), but we couldn't find a way to make it clean and clear. Firstly, no matter how we phrased it, it just sounded convoluted and would probably require a lot of extra explanation to players about what itreally meant. Second, it's not always obvious whether a side deck can be drawn from. Q's Tent doesn't say anything about drawing cards out of it... but neither does Q-Flash! Trying to deal with this led to other problems and complications and it ultimately just didn't seem workable.

So we opted for errata, it was playtested and vetted, and the result is before you today. As always with clarifying errata, you don't have to throw all your existing copies of Q's Tent in the wastebin! You can continue playing your old copies. The new text works exactly the same as you've always played the card. Treat it like when those people over inMagic: The Gathering announce that Fireball has a new wording (members of the Rules Committee who also play Magic tell me that it's had several over the years); the new wording is what we'll use going forward, but the old wording is not banned from tournament appearances... which is good, because those foil Tents are too pretty to abandon!

I hope that makes some sense and helps relieve any ill feelings about our decision to errata these cards.

P.S. You may have noticed that I haven't mentioned Dyson Sphere Door, another side-deck card that people often illegally look inside. We are also giving it errata to allow players to look inside it, but that erratum was held up by an unrelated issue linked to Project G.I. Joe ("the immunity project"). We are expecting Dyson Sphere Door's updated wording and reprint this summer.

See You... Out There

In summary, we tweaked a bunch of things this month in order to modestly raise the quality of life for novices and below-average players, without significant effects on high-level players. It involved a ton of work, and I'd like to thank Kris Sonsteby, Charlie Plaine, Markus Eberlein, the Rules Committee, and the entire Department of First Edition for collaborating over the past ten months to talk these changes out, eventually commit to making them, and finally the heavy lift of actually implementing them.

Thanks for reading! As always, please let us know if you see any errors, typos, or obsolete text in the rules documents.

And be sure to tell us on the forums what you think of everything we've done this month. Hopefully you're happy, but, if not, we want to hear that, too. (This month in particular, please contact me immediately if you see "OTF" or "Official Tournament Format" anywhere it shouldn't be, or if the change breaks any of your webpages or, heaven forfend, your achievements.) Until next month, we'll see you on the spaceline!

Coming attractions: There was a lot going on this month, so I held it back, but, next month, expect a small update to the Warp Speed Constructed rules based on game data coming out of Chicago. Lately, I have been looking very closely at the possibilities for Warp Speed Constructed as a way of getting more people to play our wonderful game. I would be delighted to see more groups playing Warp Speed Constructed over the summer. More on this on June 5th, when I return with that update.

See You... Out There

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