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How Do You Handle a Problem Like Chakotay?

by Charlie Plaine, Chairman

23rd June 2015

One of the strengths of Second Edition is the ease with which new personas can be created. Since the personnel template has a clear card title, it's easy to identify all of the versions of a character and the rule of three (3) makes it easy to build decks. However, one could argue that this same persona rule, taken to extremes, is one of the game's weakenesses. It's an interesting debate, both inside of design and amongst the player community. When should we make a new character versus a new persona? Are there strengths and weaknesses to each choice? I'd be eager to hear your thoughts on the matter in this forum discussion on this very topic.

But today's article is about a new card you'll see in Lower Decks; specifically, a new version of Chakotay. Chakotay is a particularly difficult character to design for because he has an existing persona that is very, very powerful. For those of you that might now know, the original [Voy] Chakotay, Bridge Between Two Crews, allows you to prevent your personnel from being stopped by dilemmas by destroying an event in your core. Since his debut, Voyager players have been stocking lots of low cost events in order to push extra personnel through dilemmas, giving Voyager a very powerful tool. This card is so good that you'll notice design has only created one new Chakotay since Captain's Log, and not for lack of trying - they just all end up being overshadowed.

When the Lower Decks design team sat down to work on Voyager, we knew that we would have to deal with Bridge Between Two Crews Chakotay. He is what we internally call a "noose" - an ominous card or mechanic that actively prevents Design from going down a specific path; or, at least, makes it a lot more dangerous to do so. For example, whenever we talk about or make a discard pile card, Dukat (Pah-wraith Puppet) comes up as a "noose;" likewise, Ruling Council was the same type of card for developing Terok Nor. Sometimes you accept a "noose" as necessary, like Dukat. Other times, you have to take steps to eliminate a "noose", like Ruling Council. We faced a similar decision when trying to develop Voyager, and in particular, a new Chakotay.

Ultimately, there are three (3) ways for design to deal with a powerful personal that has become a "noose:"

1. Accept the card and adjust expectations. This typically wouldn't matter for persona problems, but it's how you deal with cards that are technically a "noose" but performing a necessary function. I'd put Dukat (Pah-wraith Puppet) into this camp. The card is frustrating when it's in play against a discard pile strategy, but it's performing a necessary role in the game. It's something design must be aware of when making any cards or mechanics that interact with the discard pile.

2. Change the problem card. If the card is a "noose" and it's tied to a lead weight, it might need dealt with. Ruling Council was such a card because it made developing any other Terok Nor strategy a problem. If Design wanted to promote any [TN] cards or strategies other than two-mission win with Ruling Council, the card would need to be changed. We debated an errata for Chakotay (Bridge Between Two Crews) simply because of the long shadow that persona was casting. In the end, we decided not to go that route.

Chakotay

3. Make sure the new card and the old card fit in different decks. Sometimes you can be clever, and find a way for the "noose" and your new card to co-exist. For example, let's take a card like Prejudice and Politics. For years, this has been the go-to card for Romulans to generate bonus points to power their other cards. If future Romulan designers found this card to be a "noose," they might consider changing the card. But instead, what if they designed a different way to earn bonus points? In theory, if they promoted a new [Rom] deck type that could earn bonus points in a different way, they could allow Romulan players to use tricks that cost points without forcing them to use P&P. Of course, players could still use both, and that has to be accounted for as well.

When dealing with personas, this is the perferred solution. If you can have a version of Chakotay that fits in a standard Voyager solver, and a version of Chakotay that works really well in an all-space deck, then you give players a reason to use each version and a reason for both versions to exist. And that's what Chakotay (Steadfast Commander) from Lower Decks is looking to do - give players an option when they're playing the all-space deck.

Steadfast Commander costs four (4), which is more than the staple Bridge Between Two Crews, but he comes with three (3) more skills and the Commander: U.S.S. Voyager keyword. That's a lot of value on its own, but it's his game text that really makes him something special. First, and most importantly, you'll notice this Chakotay has the "if you do not command a planet mision" text, which means that you won't get any benefit from this persona if you aren't fully committee to the all-space deck. However, if you are willing to play that deck, then you get to make your missions progressivley easier. Reducing attributes by two (2) might not seem like much, but you can push a space mission down from Cunning>32 to Cunning>30, giving you more options for a four (4) or five (5) person solve. And remember, Insurrection looks at printed attributes, so using Chakotay (Steadfast Commander) won't make you vulnerable to that dilemma. If you can keep this version of Voyager's first officer in play, you can attempt Caretaker's Array as your fourth and final mission and only need Integrity>16 - that's pretty cool.

The new version of Chakotay in Lower Decks probably won't see play outside of the all-space deck. It's also possible that players will prefer the Bridge Between Two Crews version in their all-space decks. However, the testers and the design team worked hard to create a version that stands up tall next to the original and provides a truly useful alternative, albeit in a specific deck. We're eager to see how the all-space decks shape up over the next few months, and are optimisitc that Lower Decks' new Chakotay will find a place in those decks.

By the way... the really nice advantage of the title bar persona rule is that the new version of Chakotay has the same title as the old version of Chakotay. I wonder if there are any cards that could take advantage of that...


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