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Matter of Time: It's all Relative

by Charlie Plaine, Matter of Time Lead Designer

6th February 2013

"The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen all at once."

A long time ago, we started working ahead on design, i.e. our team would be working on the next next expansion while the next expansion was still in testing. And this was before we added Tapestry to the schedule, which means that we were working on plans and ideas for Matter of Time while Lineage was still being tested. So over a year ago, Brad and I started a text conversation:

U.S.S. Relativity

Charlie: I have a design assignment for you, if you're up for it.
Brad: Time travel team? Dominion cards? Dual hq hate?
Charlie: Relativity and crew. If you're interested.
Brad: Yes! I wanna do Relativity and crew. I think I have a fun idea but it will need lots of testing.
Charlie: Okay, that's your assignment for COBALT.
Brad: Thank you for that team because it was the one I was thinking about.

My jaw hit the floor when I saw his first draft of the cards that would become "Relativity and crew, and not in a good way. His statements that "...it will need lots of testing" might have been the understatement of the year. At first, I thought Brad had gone insane - these cards would never work. There was one that was just completely off the wall powerful (and didn't make it to print) and the rest just would never, ever fit together. But I'm not one to make snap judgments, so I walked away for awhile and came back later to look at the cards with fresh eyes.

When I looked at them again, I was sure he was nuts. I grabbed my phone to text him that this was madness and ask him to take another crack when something gave me pause. I put the phone down and I looked at the cards again. I stared at them... and something clicked. It was a moment of clarity when I finally "got" the idea and got so excited I felt like dancing. Instead, I sent him this text message:

Charlie: Relativity is pimp. A few things to change I think but I love the concept. Amazing. Thank you.

I should have remembered this moment because just about everyone who subsequently saw the team had the same reaction. And it's good they did, because they found legitimate concerns with the cards that we were able to work to fix. Even so, there was pressure to cut the whole team but I resisted because I knew that this would be a fun and exciting deck type to add to the game. Brad saw it over a year ago; it just took most of the rest of us a lot longer to "get it." But eventually we did, and now the Relativity and crew are making their debut in Second Edition.

Temporal Transporters

And the team starts with their ship, the U.S.S. Relativity. Sporting the blue future icon (because they are from the future) and the Voyager icon (to protect it from A Few Minor Difficulties and to enable a few other tricks), this ship also bears the Temporal keyword - its first appearance on a noun. It carries the respectable attributes of 8-9-8 and a cost of 0. Is that right? Zero? Yup, this ship won't cost you a single counter to play; of course, you'll pay for that price with the staffing of six (6). But the real power and beauty of this ship is it's game text.

We'll get back to the first and last sentences of the Relativity, because it's the second sentence that's key to the team. This bit of game text allows you to play "native" future Federation cards aboard, which makes sense. After all, you'll need a crew to staff this ship and they have the ability to enter play aboard. But it is a timeship after all, and that means they should have the ability to go back in time for help. And that brings us to their second card, Temporal Transporters.

During the episode, the crew of the Relativity used their temporal transporter device to recruit Seven of Nine (and later Janeway) to help them with their investigations. Now, in Second Edition, you can use Temporal Transporters to recruit any Federation personnel in the game to help you solve a mission. Let me say that again: You can use Temporal Transporters to recruit any Federation personnel in the game aboard your U.S.S. Relativity. And since it's a Replicate event, you can keep the same copy of the card in your hand the entire game. But here's the best part: you have to discard two cards from hand to replicate the event, which means you can discard a [Fed] personnel from hand and then recruit them aboard your unique Temporal ship. So you can turn any [Fed] personnel in either your hand or your discard pile into a temporary ally.

Which brings me back to the first line of game text on the Relativity itself. The Federation Timeship does have the ability to recruit anyone from anywhere in the Federation's history, but at a price: things have to go back to normal and these time-shifted allies have to return to the past. That's the price you pay for the versatility of being able to use any Federation personnel. But that's the beauty of the cyclical nature of time, and the brilliance behind Brad's design. You can use Temporal Transporters to recruit an ally, perhaps a Remarkable Man, and take advantage of their skills and abilities for a turn before they return to their discard pile - where you can recruit them again! And the crew of the Relativity, like Marris, provide multiple opportunities to get the personnel you need into your discard pile.

Prevent Historical Disruption

But that just leaves one question; how do you get the Relativity into play? The ship itself doesn't come with a way to report. Which brings us to the third piece of gametext on the ship; Prevent Historical Disruption is how you bring the ship into play and how you kick start the temporal machinations of this deck. It's also reminiscent of the mechanics of the Second Edition implementation U.S.S. Voyager and Caretaker's Array. This mission allows you to discard four cards from your hand (and if they're [Fed] personnel, you can recruit them back later) in order to get a Temporal ship. Then you can play said ship (perhaps the U.S.S. Relativity) at the mission, and it's game text allows you to bring it right back if it's sent to the edge of the universe.

So that's it, the debut of the Relativity into Second Edition. It's a brilliant bit of design that brings a taste of the First Edition-style "mega Federation" deck into its successor. Who hasn't wanted to play Kirk, Picard, Sisko and Janeway in the same deck? Well, now you can. And if you can find a way to give them all a [Fut] icon, you can keep them in play indefinitely. We're excited to see what the "future" holds and can't wait to see how people play with this group of cards once Matter of Time releases on the 22nd.

Oh, you might be wondering how Brad feels about his team after months and months of development. After all, we did change some things during testing and Brad was off somewhere else being awesome during that process. Well, I asked him and this was his reply:

Brad: It looks very good.
Charlie: Thanks! I am really grateful you wrote Relativity. It was inspired.
Brad: Thank you for making them work.

Brad, if you're reading this, it was my pleasure. Everyone out there in Second Edition land, enjoy this team.

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