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Signs of Life

by Charlie Plaine, Director of First Edition

27th May 2024


"It must be impossible for you to understand how any civilized people could come to this. Before the phage began, we were known as educators and explorers, a people whose greatest achievements were artistic. I myself am a sculptor of note on my world. All I can say is that when your entire existence is at stake..."
- Motura, "Phage"

After more than 4 years of hard work, the Department of First Edition is overjoyed to start showing off Lifesigns. This 20-card First Edition virtual expansion we've dubbed a "booster shot," where the entire focus of the expansion is based around one affiliation, faction, story, or mechanic. In the case of Lifesigns, it's all about the Vidiians. All this Vidiian goodness will be releasing next Friday, June 7th and be legal on week later, on Friday, June 14th.

As always, we must thank all of the hard-working volunteers that helped bring Lifesigns to fruition. Especially given we started designing this expansion at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been so many designers, playtesters, creative volunteers, rules team members, artists, proofreaders, and writers that have worked on these cards. And without our volunteers, there would never be any First Edition products for you to enjoy. Please make sure to share your appreciation as you discuss these cards, for they wouldn't exists without the hard work of dozens of volunteers.

Let me introduce the large team of designers that worked on the cards you'll soon be playing with:

Charlie Plaine [MidnightLich], Co-Lead Designer
Designer Profile: Charlie Plaine
Whenever we first try something new or different, I like to be involved. If I'm putting out changes in how we work, I feel I must be willing to put in the hard work to get them off the ground. Most of the time I work on design teams now, it's as a project manager and a refiner, where I work to make other people's work better.

James Monsebroten [Orbin], Co-Lead Designer
Designer Profile: James Monsebroten
James claims his 4th lead role on his 9th design team overall. James found himself incredibly busy in his work outside of Trek, so he didn't contribute as much to this project as a designer. But his insight always made these cards better; not to mention his hard work as a tester.

The Search for Spares

James Heaney [BCSWowbagger], Designer
Designer Profile: James Heaney
James earns his 3rd design credit, and his first since 2019. Remember, we started working on Lifesigns in 2020, just prior to James's appointment as the Rules Manager. He deliberately scaled back his participation in design-work after getting that job, but he was a major contributor to this expansion throughout its development.

Paddy Tye [KazonPADD], Designer
Designer Profile: Paddy Tye
Paddy is one of the most prolific and player-focused designers inside of all First Edition. In addition to his impressive design work, Paddy ensured that we kept focused on our goals and put in a significant amount of testing time.

Brian Sykes [Armus], Designer
Designer Profile: Brian Sykes
Brian earns his 2nd design credit with Lifesigns, though work started on this expansion before Nemesis, his other credit. Brian is a practical, realist designer and very in-tune with both high level play and casual play. Thanks to Brian, we have cards in this expansion than cater to both types of players.

Mathew McCalpin [Professor Scott], Designer
Designer Profile: Mathew McCalpin
Mathew makes his debut as a designer with this expansion. Mathew quickly carved out a niche for himself inside of 1E design by always considering how a card could be misinterpreted or abused. His keen and pointed questions helped us avoid a number of pitfalls and reduced the amount of time we had to spend testing against those combos. Welcome aboard, Mathew; we'll be seeing more of you!

Again, big thanks to all of our volunteers working in the Department of First Edition. Without you, we wouldn't be here at all.

Save a Life
Modern Medicine allows many of us to donate our organs to others and save lives. Across the globe, signing up as an organ donor is one of the most helpful things any of us can do. Along side our release of Lifesigns, we want to promote organ donation to highlight this essential lifesaving option. Please take a moment to read over Helping Save Lives With Organ Donation by Andreas Rheinländer and consider becoming an organ donor.

Superior Surgical Knowledge

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Vidiians?
Note: Huge shout out to James Heaney who wrote a truly impressive design document at the start of testing and development for this project. Much of this article draws from that document for accuracy.

Our work on Lifesigns, formerly known as Project Viking, began with a high-level premise: giving the Vidiians time and attention to make them playable in the modern game. We started by trying to identify what the problems were with playing Vidiians. The design team came up with a list of 3 categories of issues:

Vidiians lacked personnel. Their skill matrix needed work; they didn't have sufficient native females; they did not have recognizable faces; and there are very limited image options.

Vidiians lacked competitive advantage. They only had one native free play engine; they had no native draw engines; they had poor mission selection; they lacked competitive keywords; and they have no treaties or other cross-affiliation compatibility.

Vidiians did not have a clear identity. There was no guidance for players to know how to build a Vidiian deck and they were not fun to play.

Categories #1 and #2 were straightforward to address. We introduced a variety of new personnel to address the skill matrix and keyword issues, along with some "star power." We added a swath of new Vidiian missions. Category #3 - identity - was the aspect that took us the most work. We did not want Vidiians to be played just to earn an achievement. The design team wanted Vidiians to have a role in the game. We wanted them to be able to do things other affiliations couldn't do. And we wanted to make sure whatever we gave Vidiians would be fun! But, we didn't want to discard what the Vidiians already had in First Edition. As we analyzed the metagame and studied existing Vidiian cards, we developed 3 phrases and overarching themes that would mechanically guide the shape of Vidiians now, and into the future:

1. A Looming Threat
2. Resource Siphoning
3. Defense-in-Depth

All 3 of these phrases would be designed, but development in testing showed us it would be best to focus on A Looming Threat and Resource Siphoning. Our cards designed to provide Defense-in-Depth were cut, but that is still very much a part of the Vidiian identity as we go forward. But in Lifesigns, the cards are focused on the first 2 categories.

A Looming Threat
This theme is represented when Vidiians are present, in force, from the earliest parts of the game. Starting from Turn 1, they should have the tools to threaten an opponent - including Organ Theft. However, they should not have an easy time locking an opponent down. The threat posed by the Vidiians should not be overwhelming such that a relatively unprepared opponent should be able to manage Vidiian interference. Aside from Organ Theft, Vidiian Harvester and Vidiian Boarding Claw are existing cards that support the "looming threat" theme. And in Lifesigns, one of the biggest signature cards is The Search for Spares. Here's what it says:

Seed one on an opponent's mission during the mission phase. Personnel you play must be [Vid]. At the start of your first turn, you may download Organ Bank here, with up to 3 [Univ] [Vid] personnel that do not have a [DL] and Vidiian Harvester aboard; if you do, draw no cards and play no other ships or personnel that turn. Opponent may initiate battle against Organ Bank.

Let's break this down and see how it fits against the Looming Threat criteria. It is an incident that seeds, so it's available from the start of the game. On the Vidiian player's 1st turn, they can grab a ship, her crew, and a Vidiian Harvester. It seeds on an opponent's mission - in any quadrant - so your threat can looming. All the restrictions are designed to keep the threat manageable, but still significant. After all, Organ Bank is a 10-10-10 ship (in most circumstances) with the ability to download Vidiian Boarding Claw at executing-orders speed. You can seed Organ Theft and this setup gives you the chance to use it as soon as the opponent ventures out.

The Looming Threat theme appears on a couple of other cards in Lifesigns. You'll have to wait to see most of them, but check out YouTube tomorrow for a preview of another.

Superior Surgical Techniques

Resource Siphoning
The core reality of Vidiian society during the phage is that they are scavengers. They need you - your organs, your medical research, your culture. The Vidiians believe they can make better use of your organs than you can! As such, the Vidiians are not in the business of denying resources to the opponent. With very rare exceptions, they aren't looking to nullify cards. Instead, the Vidiians should benefit from your supply of resources. In other words, the more you have - they more they can taken. In Lifesigns we focused on 2 of the game's most important resources: card draws and card plays.

Superior Surgical Knowledge is a hidden-agenda incident. Once it's active and in play, it prohibits the Vidiian player from drawing cards on their turns - except for the normal end-of-turn card draw. But, if you are playing only [Vid] cards, you get to mirror most of the card draws the opponent makes - again, except for their normal card draw. If your opponent plays Kivas Fajo - Collector, you also get to draw 3 cards. Are they using Duck Blind to draw an extra card each turn? You get to draw a card too! The more the opponent draws, the more the Vidiian player gets to draw.

Along the same lines is Superior Surgical Techniques, also a hidden-agenda incident. This card triggers on an opponent's turn when they play their 3rd personnel since the end of their last turn. When they do, then you get to play a [Vid] personnel from your hand. If they play a 4th personnel, you get to play any card in your hand. On any subsequent plays, you can play any card from hand OR download any [Vid] personnel. The more organs (a.k.a. personnel) the opponent brings, the stronger the Vidiians get. And that's before they start coming over to harvest organs!

There are so many different options for using these cards. And not only for the Vidiian player, but for the opponent as well. Most of the cards that allow extra card draws and card plays are optional. That means you can choose if you want to play your deck at full speed, which also benefits the Vidiian player, or if you want to slow down to minimize their benefits. A Vidiian player might flip these at different times, depending on the game state. And maybe the opponent decides to go all-out with free plays on the later turns of the game, hoping to win before the Vidiians can use the extra cards. In short: Vidiian players using these cards get what you give them, and very little more.

Something Old, Something New
Our favorite part of these new Vidiian cards in Lifesigns is that they don't take any Vidiian options off the table. You can choose to just use The Search for Spares and otherwise play an aggressive Vidiian deck. You could use one or both of the Superior "Resource Siphoning" cards. Or you can forgo all of these new cards and play a traditional deck with both Vidiian and Non-Aligned cards. There are so many choices for Vidiian players, and that's just with the handful of cards we're showing off today!

And that brings this re-introduction to Vidiians to a close. Lifesigns will be releasing next Friday, June 7th. Every day until then, you can find spoilers on this site, on our social media, and some of our partner's social media. We can't wait to see your discussions over the next 2 weeks. Thank you for reading!

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