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How Do You Solve a Problem Like Fajo?

by Charlie Plaine & Chris Lobban, 20th Anniversary Collection Designers

15th November 2014

Decipher's Fajo Collection. Is there a more iconic product in the history of the game? Eighteen (18) cards, each with an unusual gimmick, template, or trick to make them feel unique and special. Many of these cards were so complex and unusual, they required a rules entry just to explain what they did. (I'm looking at you, Persistence of Memory.) Given that earlier this year I'd written an article in my Hindsight series arguing against cards like these, it was quite a risk to commit to making a Fajo-inspired card for The 20th Anniversary Collection.

In the end, though, we wanted to accept the challenge. We thought that it would be unforgivable to skip such a keystone product in First Edition's life, and set out to make a card worthy of the Fajo Collection. Our first idea - a personnel from "The Most Toys" that has yet to appear on a 1E template - was safe and easy, but completely failed to capture the essence of the Fajo Collection. In discussing the idea, designer Chris Lobban said, "I think if there's a "missing" Fajo card, it needs to FEEL like a Fajo card. Not just related to Fajo, but a card that does something cool and new, at least graphically if nothing else." The point was taken, and we brought in our Art Director for a consultation. What was on the table, and what was off the table? The end result was: no new templates, no breaking the frame. We were asked to come up with a few ideas and present them to art for opinions. Some suggestions were:

A card based on one of the many Shakespeare scenes, written in Shakespearean English. We liked this idea, but ultimately rejected it because it was just a variant on something that had already been done (on Qapla'! and Dixon Hill's Business Card).

A pair of cards that have interacting images/frames. There was a lot of potential here, with our thoughts going to something like Magic's B.F.M. (two physical cards that represent one thing). This was a fun idea, but felt too similar to what was done with the U.S.S. Pasteur and the I.K.C. Chang.

An "Archive Portrait" style card with an extended or full frame of art. We decided this would be a lot of work for Art, and it really just wasn't special enough. (Though I do think one day we'll do AP cards for 1E.)

A card that knew it was a virtual card (and referenced the card beneath it). This is an idea pitched several years ago (with associated mechanics) by former 1E Lead Designer Jason Robinette. Unfortunately, I think the time to embrace such a mechanic has passed.

As you can see, we had a lot of idea. We had more, too: A card with a shrunken template (from the episode where the universe was collapsing); two cards on a single frame; overlays that would modify the card beneath it. There was no shortage of ideas, but the one we finally settled on - a card that changed - was the most fun. So let me present to you the new and improved Quantum Incursions:

Quantum Incursions

So let's start at the top and work our way down. First, this is a doorway with the Star Trek: The Next Generation property logo - both fitting for the Fajo Collection so far. The image is spectacular, isn't it? All those Enterprises spilling out of the rift, with "our" Enterprise extending behind the text box - impressive. The card sports an [AU] icon, as one would expect. Here's some really good news: the original version of this 2E card is currently on the OTF Ban List; but, with its conversion here, the card will no longer be banned! Huzzah.

But let's talk about what really makes this card special, the changing nature of the card. There's been an idea around for a while, to make some cards with gametext that change every month or two, requiring users to constantly print off new copies of the card to keep up with the changes. But those were mostly aimed at a "Unglued" type set, and were based on the Fizbin story, neither of which was really going to fit with Fajo. But then we hit on another way to do it, in an even more "Star Trek" manner. Star Trek has long inspired technological designs and innovations in our world, including most modern Smart Phones and Tablet PCs. There are even contests right now to determine who can design the best Tricorder. But until we get a working Tricorder, why not use the technology that we have from Star Trek already, and emulate our own?

As a result, this doorway sports exactly one line of game text, allowing it to seed like a [S/P] dilemma beneath any mission. But other than that, the only thing on the card is this mysterious square: a QR code. Those codes are fairly common these days, and appear on brochures, in stores, and in advertisements. They allow people to scan the code and get more information, usually via a website, on whatever they are reading or looking at. QR codes were invented in 1994, so they technically existed during the time of the Fajo Collection... but wouldn't have been very practical. However, with the proliferation of smart phones in 2014, this felt like a fun and unique way to use technology to make a quirky card. And what better place to do that than on the Fajo-inspired card?

But what does the QR code actually do? When scanned, it will direct you to a website that will analyze the quantum incursion (complete with a date and timestamp, to ensure that you have the most updated reading) and then inform you how your crew or Away Team can resolve the impasse. In short, each time you scan the code, you'll get one of six (6) random sets of requirements to get past the card. If you have the requirements, you discard the doorway and proceed; if you do not, then you reseed the doorway to be encountered again in a future attempt. But keep in mind, you have to scan the code every time you encounter the doorway, so the odds are you won't get the same requirements twice!

But what if the website is down? What if I don't have a cell phone? Fear not, for the good men and women of the Rules Team have given us a glossary entry to cover these rare and unusual circumstances:

Quantum Incursions - You will need a smartphone or a six-sided die to seed this doorway. If you can't scan the QR code (or if the site is down), roll a die instead to determine the requirements needed to get past:

1: SECURITY and 2 [AU] personnel.
2: An [AU] personnel and 2 SCIENCE.
3: SCIENCE and 2 Empathy.
4: Empathy and 2 Physics.
5: Physics and 2 Navigation.
6: Navigation and 2 SECURITY.

So there you have it - a quirky card in The 20th Anniversary Collection, inspired by the quirky cards in the Fajo Collection. For those of you worried that this is setting a dangerous precedent, please don't be - we have no plans of regularly using QR codes or dice in First Edition. We wanted to create a card that felt like a Fajo card, and using technology in this manner feels like something Decipher would have done if they had had the means. Since we do in this day in age, we embraced it. Have fun with the card, and enjoy exploring the galaxy with a little bit of randomness to it.


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