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A Return to Grace

by Charlie Plaine, Return to Grace Lead Designer

21st February 2014

It's been a long time coming, but today we are proud to announce the imminent arrival of Return to Grace, the 30th Second Edition expansion! Return to Grace will be released online and free at trekcc.org on Friday, March 14th, 2014. This expansion is all about "rebirth" and aims to place the Bajorans and the Cardassians firmly on the scene this competitive season. In addition, Return to Grace is a launching point for a new era of design philosophies and principles we have been calling "Phase II." Orb of Prophecy and Change

Return to Grace is an expansion that is mechanically about the discard pile. You will find cards that care about the discard pile in new and different ways, and more cards that make the discard pile a resource for players in their games. But before we get into the specifics, I'd like to take a minute to introduce the design team for this expansion:

Charles Plaine [MidnightLich], Lead Designer
Designer Profile: Charles Plaine
Return to Grace was my eleventh Second Edition design, and my fourth as a lead. I took the role of Lead Designer for this expansion because, as the driving force behind "Phase II," I felt it was important to make sure this expansion was executed well. I did some design, but spent most of the time providing guidance to the team on the overall vision.

Kevin Jaeger [Hoss-Drone], Assistant Designer
Designer Profile: Kevin Jaeger
This expansion is Kevin's second as a member of our design team. Kevin has great eyes, ears, and instincts for the competitive scene and was able to create quite a few cards that provide gamesmanship on that level. In addition, Kevin is a prolific designer that will continue to do great things as Second Edition moves forward.

Keith Morris [Foreman], Assistant Designer
Designer Profile: Keith Morris
Keith, the winner of the original Make it So, returns for his third design with Return to Grace. Even though he moved to the other side of the world partway through this expansion's development, Keith has quite a few cards and concepts in the finished product. He has great instincts for fun, and that's essential to the future of Second Edition.

I would be negligent in failing to mention the hard work of dozens of volunteers that work on Second Edition. Kudos to all of our play testers, rules guys, creative team members and our Art team. Special thanks to our new Second Edition Brand Manager, Nick Yankovic (nickyank), as he's been learning a lot (and quickly) in order to help get this expansion out the door to you. All of our volunteers do so much work and all deserve significant recognition for making this game thrive.

Spiritual Exploration

If you appreciate the hard work of all of our volunteers and enjoy having this website available as a hub for our community, we encourage you to make a donation to our operating costs today. Without the support of our community, this site wouldn't exist! And, if you don't now, you'll get one of the new Return to Grace donor badges:

 

What is Phase II?
Return to Grace is the first expansion of what we've been calling "Phase II" of Second Edition design. From a design point of view, "Phase II" is a shift in philosophy that manifests in three key areas:

1. Create new and powerful cards. In the past, especially in the past few years, design has been reluctant to push the power level of new cards. Instead, we have just added new "teams", created new tools for existing strategies, or made weapons against powerful strategies. We will still do all of those things moving forward, but we are no longer going to be afraid to make good cards, especially for affiliations that aren't performing well at a competitive level (Accession). This philosophy applies to dilemma design as well, with dilemmas made to encourage deck strategies and innovative piles that are both fun and competitive, such as Chula: The Game.

2. Make affiliations matter. Over the past few expansions, there has been less and less affiliation definition. Likely due to the smaller virtual expansion size (at least in part), designers have made more "toolbox" cards like Tacking Into the Wind, i.e. cards that work in any deck. While these types of cards have a place in the game, each time one is made, it makes the affiliations and sub-affiliations a little less distinct. Phase II originated as part of a desire to return to the "old days," where each affiliation played and felt differently. We want all of the affiliations and sub-affiliations to have a distinct feel, with different implementations of mechanics. One of our mantras was that, even if you were playing a small, tight, solver deck, those decks would play and feel differently.

3. Dial back game speed. For the past several years, as we have made more and more cards to enable interaction decks, game length has increased. Specifically, the number of timed games has gone up, on average, as interactive decks became more and more viable. This isn't an inherently bad thing, as interaction is key and vital to the game, and it's something design wants to see. Imagine the game speed as a pendulum, with Second Edition-only speed decks on one end, and Maquis-disruption style chess match decks on the other. Right now, the pendulum is more on the side of the slower decks, and this point is simply to pull it a little bit closer to the middle. One of the ways we can enable this is with clean, simple cards that make solvers work, and you'll see several in Return to Grace.

Trap Is Sprung

Why the Discard?
As we were planning out the first few expansions of Phase II, we started by making a list of the affiliations and sub-affiliations that were performing poorly at a competitive level. Bajorans and Cardassians were near the top of the list, and seemed as if they would be a good place to start. Return to Grace started with the idea of making Bajoran and Cardassian decks better. However, while it's true that Bajoran and Cardassian cards make up a decent portion of this expansion, we wanted to offer tools for all players. When looking for themes and mechanics we could extend across multiple affiliations, the discard pile seemed an obvious choice. It was already important to the Bajorans (and has been since their debut in Second Edition, and would serve as a great way to start to lay the groundwork for Phase II. In fact, yours truly will have an entire article about Phase II and the discard pile next week.

But let me show you an example now: Spiritual Exploration. This card is a textbook example of Phase II design: it's a powerful card (getting you a "free" personnel), it rewards affiliation flavor (by encouraging Bajorans to do something they want to do), and it helps solver decks (more people). Suddenly, using Borum (Selfless Hero) to get both Bareil Antos (Esteemed Vedek) and Benjamin Sisko (The Emissary of the Prophets) becomes a powerful strategy.

But even if you're not a fan of any of the seven (7) affiliations and sub-affiliations that get a discard pile related card in Return to Grace, don't fret; there are dilemmas, events, interrupts, and missions that can be used in almost any deck. And if you hate the discard pile and want to ignore it, there are plenty of cards that don't care about the discard pile at all. So while this is a "discard pile matters" expansion, there are plenty of cards for players of all persuasions. We're excited to bring you this expansion, and hope that you will be excited to play with it, too.

Return to Grace is an ambitious expansion, simultaneously trying to reconnect with the roots of Second Edition and usher it into a new era. We are confident this expansion will inject new life into the game, not only with the new discard pile themed mechanics, but with a new philosophy. When Return to Grace releases, players of all types and experience levels will find ways to build fun and competitive decks. We know that all players will be able to find something they love among the fifty-four (54) cards in Return to Grace. Return to Grace releases on Friday, March 14, 2014 and will be legal one week later on March 21st!


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