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Strategy Articles

Comfort Women

by James Heaney, Assistant Designer

25th December 2017

“Is that what you tell yourself? That you're doing it for the children? The clothes, the food, the easy living, that you're doing it all for them? Are you that deluded? It's not for them, it's for you! You're a collaborator.”

Admiral Valdore

From the very first day of work, Team Wisdom had a problem: the Romulans.

Introduced in Straight and Steady, the [22] Romulans were a small klatch of green-blooded meddlers who gathered at Drone Control Room and irritated opponents with Raptor One for fun and profit. They could be sprinkled into almost any deck, but, in practice, were ignored except for occasionally popping up as a distraction in a Romulan HQ deck. Given the huge role Romulans played in ENTERPRISE, especially the fourth season, Team Wisdom felt obliged to expand the [22] Romulans into a playable faction that could defeat the naïve Earth Starfleet and their pacifist Vulcan allies from a distant hidden base. We had some great ideas right away for cool cards and tasks we could give to this faction. I mean, we weren’t going to do a whole ENTERPRISE Block without addressing Raptor One’s tantalizing holographic skin, were we?

The problem is, the Romulans did a really good job of staying hidden in the show, too. Early on, we counted how many Romulans were shown on screen throughout the entire run of ENTERPRISE.

The answer was ten.

...and five of them had already been produced (Nijil, Gareb, Senator Vrax, V’Las, and Admiral Valdore). We had to build a playable faction with ten total personnel, with half of them already locked in. Even the Vidiians have more personnel than that, and most of theirs are universal, giving them a modicum of flexibility. This wasn’t going to work.

So we started talking about ways to increase the number of personnel available to [22] Romulans. Some ideas were obvious: maybe we could pull a Gorath/Kromm fast one and make two different personnel cards based on the same background character? But nobody liked that. Plus, there just aren’t enough clear shots of most of these personnel to support a distinctive second image. The Remans’ faces are on-screen for about three total seconds. Skill-cheating? Maybe, but we’d have to do give Romulans skill-cheating at an unheard-of scale, which would endanger game balance. Besides, it didn’t feel very thematic.

At one point, out of desperation, I pitched a card from “Minefield” named Commander McRomface (captain of the I.R.V. Rommy McRomface, at least according to our design file). He filled some crucial skill gaps and was a [Univ] matching commander for the faction. Except, of course, we never actually saw him on screen: he communicated with Enterprise via audio only. I pitched two potential images for him: the waveform of his voice shown on Hoshi’s console, and what we actually saw on screen when his cloaked ship hailed Enterprise. Needless to say, the rest of Team Wisdom very politely nixed this. If a character was never shown on screen, you can’t have a personnel card of him. (Though you can have a doorway of him, it turns out.)


Suffice to say that we worked on this for a while, and, eventually, we came up with some decent ideas, several of which made it into the set. The first one, and the subject of this article, is the simplest. We made a card that seeded on the table, and it made your [22] Orion women native to Drone Control Room, where they can then report like Romulans. This instantly increased the number of personnel in the Romulan faction by 50%, with room to grow! This version of the card was called, “…LADIES?”

Drone Control Room

Soon enough, though, we realized that there aren’t many Orion personnel left for us to make, either, so we expanded “…LADIES?” to allow all [22] [NA] women to report to Drone Control Room. The Orion slave girls are, of course, already slaves, and we know from people like Gareb and Tasha Yar – Alternate that the Romulans are happy to take slaves from anywhere in the quadrant, so we decided that slavery was the story tying this card together, and the title changed to “SLAVE GIRLS.” Once each turn, using Drone Control Room’s own text, you can report a [22] [Rom] there for free OR you can use this card to report a [22] [NA] woman for free there instead. As a cost, and as a crucial story link, you have to put Verex III (Free Orion Slaves) in your deck. We also made the ladies native to all 2154 Time Locations where they aren’t native already—Augment Research Facility and MACO Training Camp (I blame Terra Prime) can now have [22] [NA] females report there, although they won’t report for free because of the restrictions on those cards.

This core function never changed again. As we made more and more [22] [NA] women, SLAVE GIRLS eventually became the keystone of all [22] [Rom] decks that didn’t rely on help from other affiliations and/or the future. Lead Designer Dan Hamman even thought of the perfect image.

Then somebody said, “Hey, SLAVE GIRLS sounds a lot like COMFORT WOMEN, doesn’t it? And hasn’t that been a broken link for, like, four years?” And so we changed the title. But now that we were tying into DS9 story for this card, we needed a DS9 mechanic.

Kira Meru

At the time, we were hard at work at a dissident mechanic in Wisdom, complete with a generic dissident play engine and several dissident-themed verbs. We knew how Cardassian I Miss This Office decks struggled with both personnel availability and site availability, and we thought the concept of “Comfort Women” could tie into the dissidents. So we added a new function, similar but entirely separate: now you can also seed Comfort Women on Bajor. If seeded on Bajor, it turns all your Bajoran women into Cardassian-affiliation dissidents (they are not dual-affiliation) who can report for free through I Miss This Office or the dissident play engine. Plus, you can download a free site when Comfort Women is seeded on Bajor, so you can now effectively seed 7 sites instead of the usual 6.

Comfort Women

Unfortunately, in the end, almost all of the dissident cards were pushed off to a future set. The dissident Bajoran women don’t bring any toys with them, so this second function isn’t quite as effective as we intended it—at least, not yet. Consider it a down payment on the future of dissidents!

But we still weren’t done. We had a decent card, we thought, except for one thing: Comfort Women is only a broken link because it’s downloaded by Kira Meru. But the card we’d written could only seed! Kira Meru couldn’t even use it! So we had to write one more function that Mrs. Kira could use. But what?

Well, this is when Dan finally pointed out to me that Comfort Women is already a card in 2E. I’d never heard of it, but I’m sure some of you have. 2E Comfort Women allows a Cardassian Gul or Legate to gain a skill for the duration of a mission—a bit of good old-fashioned 2E skill-cheating. We stole this concept and tailored it a tiny bit, adding in Senators so Romulans could use it (and Ethan Novakovich, that cad). We also made it so it plays in your play phase rather than while facing a dilemma (it’s still free, though). It’s not the strongest skill-share card (that’d be IDIC: Wisdom of Surak) nor the weakest (Sucking Up To The Boss), so we won’t see it all the time… but, in the right deck, it feels really good when you run into Quantum Incursions, roll the Empathy x1 requirement, and use Kira Meru’s special download to give Dukat the necessary Empathy for an instant pass.

Comfort Women (2E)

Make no mistake: the most important function on this card is the last one. This card is first and foremost for the [22] Romulans, even if they’re not actually mentioned on the card anymore. But we were relieved to find a decent solution to the [22] Romulan personnel shortage, happy to give DS9 players a little something here in ENTERPRISE block (stay tuned for 48V!) while closing a broken link, and satisfied to find a way to connect two similar affiliations across centuries. The Romulans and the Cardassians both think very highly of themselves, with preening Guls and Senators strutting about using ten-dollar words, so it’s easy to forget that their brutal empires are built on institutionalized murder, theft, rape, and slavery. Comfort Women is proof of that.

“Your old lives have ended. Your pasts have been erased. You have one purpose and one purpose only. To provide comfort and care to the Cardassian officers stationed here. Do that well, and you'll want for nothing. Fail, and you and your family will be sent to a labour camp.”

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