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The Art of Suspense

by Jeremy Benedict, Dead Stop Co-Designer

29th October 2017

As Charlie mentioned in his introductory article for Dead Stop, when we discussed our thoughts on bringing to life Trek's most spooky, creepy, frightening episodes, he mentioned the idea of suspenseful effects. When I asked what would set these kinds of cards apart from cards that just show up with really nasty, unexpected effects, and he replied with a quote from Alfred Hitchcock - often called the master of suspense:


"Let's suppose that there is a bomb underneath this table between us. Nothing happens, and then all of a sudden, 'Boom!' There is an explosion. The public is surprised, but prior to this surprise, it has seen an absolutely ordinary scene, of no special consequence. Now, let us take a suspense situation. The bomb is underneath the table and the public knows it, probably because they have seen the anarchist place it there. The public is aware the bomb is going to explode at one o'clock and there is a clock in the decor. The public can see that it is a quarter to one. In these conditions, the same innocuous conversation becomes fascinating because the public is participating in the scene."

"In the first case we have given the public fifteen seconds of surprise at the moment of the explosion. In the second we have provided them with fifteen minutes of suspense."

In shorter terms, there's a notable difference between surprising you with something nasty, and letting you know it's coming but hasn't happened yet. So, what can we do to create suspense rather than just surprise you, besides just knowing a card exists and might or might not come into play? A delayed effect. A Damage effect! This isn't unprecedented in Second Edition, as cards like Quantum Filament have effects that trigger later based on gameplay conditions. This example cares about facing further dilemmas which you can see coming at you each attempt. What about looking at things you can't usually see coming?

Our first suspenseful Damage effect comes by way of a very creepy episode of Voyager: Macrocosm.  The usual dilemma business comes first. Someone gets infected (stopped) and the crew does its best to deal with the situation (2 Exobiology and 2 Science, or Medical, Security, and a Hand Weapon), with possible fatal results for the initial victim. The lasting consequences of that failure are a different tale entirely when the dilemma is placed on your ship. The Damage effect doesn't trigger immediately, but each time that an opponent plays an interrupt during their own turn.

Does your opponent have interrupts to play? Are they going to play them right away? Later? Never? Do you get people off your ship to avoid the effects, or send the ship home for repairs? Does getting people off the ship play into the plans of a Borg collective looking for new drones, or a sneak attack by an assault team?

What do you do?

Even more frightening is that Macrovirus is the first ever dual planet/space Damage dilemma! Usually you know that you're in for certain kinds of trouble attempting planet or space missions, namely the 21 previously released dilemmas with Damage effects, but nowhere is safe from this outbreak. Decks that rely on interrupts for handling their opponent's dilemmas are going to love this card. While it won't trigger from interrupts your opponent plays during your own turn (I'm looking at you, Crippling Strike, Parting Shot, and Cascade Virus), cards that support some of those deck strategies will still cause havoc.

If you're not a little spooked yet, wait until you have to worry what other cards your opponent might be playing next turn.


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