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The Jack Pack Inside Track

by Charlie Plaine, Metamorphosis Designer

20th April 2018

As long as The Continuing Committee has been supporting First Edition, there's been a desire to finally bring the "Jack Pack" to the game. If you aren't familiar, the "Jack Pack" are the genetically enhanced characters introduced in the DS9 episode "Statistical Probabilities." They are a group of genetically enhanced humans with augmented intellect, but with side effects such as personality disorders; unlike Doctor Bashir, they can't function in normal society.

In other words, these guys:

Lauren Patrick Sarina

Jack himself is currently hiding out on our Facebook page, if you'd like to see his card. All four of the Jack Pack are designed with a similar pattern, with three "tiers" of abilities. They're okay personnel on their own, coming with 3-4 skills and respectable attributes. If you have two of Jack, Lauren, Patrick (but not Admiral Patrick), and Sarina together, you'll get access to a thematic special download. Finally, if you get all four of them together, they double their regular skills and become superstars. But they didn't start out this way, and it took most of the expansion's development to get to this point.

When the design team was initially discussing the Jack Pack, there was a desire to make them "weird;" after all, they weren't functional members of society. There was some discussion of making them events, but that was quickly set aside in favor of making them personnel with odd abilities and no skills. In fact, the first draft of this intriguing quartet made a machine-style deck in which different cards create a cool combo of abilities when used together. As an example:

Patrick: Stop to look at bottom card of draw deck.
Sarina: Stop to put bottom card of draw deck on top of draw deck.
Jack: Stop to select a card type then probe, if same as selected, gain 10 points or draw 3 cards.
Lauren: Once per turn, may "unstop" all "Genetically Enhanced" personnel present.

While a cool concept, having to play four personnel that don't help solve missions and can't be put at risk was a bitter pill to swallow. The team realized that they had to have at least some skills and attributes or they would just never see play, especially in an environment where the game is low on numbers of turns. But we all liked the idea of the Jack Pack powering each other up, so we ended up with this as the initial version:

[DL] Telepathic Alien Kidnappers (if with Lauren)
[SD] Computer Skill (if with Patrick)
[SD] Leadership (if with Sarina) [SD] Treachery

They are blank alone, but get better and better with each member of the pack you play. This was a step in the right direction, but it required getting all four personnel out to make them feel "worth it;" at the time, they weren't free play cards so this was a tall order. Again, the idea was cool but the implementation was off. So we tried a slightly revised version next:

[SD] Astrophysics [SD] Computer Skill
[DL] Anthropology, Physics (if with Patrick, Sarina, or Lauren)
[DL] Telepathic Alien Kidnappers (if with Patrick, Sarina, and Lauren)

As you can see here, we moved the download to the "final form" ability, gave Jack some guaranteed regular skills, and layered even more skills onto him if he was present with any of the other Jack Pack members. This was better, but we still had problems. Patrick, for example, had a special download of Surprise Party, which is a great card if you get it early. But since you had to get all four of the Jack Packers out before you could use it, it rarely mattered.

Unfortunately, they still weren't good enough. Our testers were working hard to make them useful, but they were still too hard to get into play and didn't pack enough punch. We took two approaches to the former complaint: first, we gave them all "DS9" or "Deep Space 9" in their lore so they could be free plays in a Here By Invitation deck. Secondly, we added in a new support card for them - but more on that later. To give the personnel more of a punch and address the download issue, we changed things up again:

[SD] Astrophysics [SD] Computer Skill [SD] Anthropology [SD] Physics
[DL] Telepathic Alien Kidnappers (if with Patrick, Sarina, or Lauren)
[SD] Doubles his regular skills (if with Patrick, Sarina, and Lauren.)

As you can see from the finished versions above, this is pretty much the final structure of the Jack Pack members. There were some skill swaps and some wording changes, but this pattern of skills by default, download with a friend, and doubling with the team was what finally stuck. If you're wondering why it took so long to just give them skills, it hearkens back to our original concept for the cards: they were intelligent, but weird and didn't work well with others. We eventually realized that was an incorrect approach, since they have skills and knowledge and that needed to be represented. Plus, by giving them skills no matter what, they would be useful even by themselves. It was a case of function over form.

Group Therapy

The last card I'd like to talk about today is the support card I alluded to earlier: Group Therapy. This incident was born partly out of a desire to make it easier to get the Jack Pack into play, and party to capture these characters' story. In "Statistical Probabilities", Karen Loews brings Jack, Patrick, Lauren, and Sarina to Deep Space 9 to work with Julian Bashir. Her hope was that working with Dr. Bashir, a fellow genetically enhanced human, would enable them to open up and learn to work with others. If you've seen the episode, you'll know her plan had limited success. But it was still a cool story, and we wanted to capture it on card. Making that card work to address the access issue was just icing on the cake at Patrick's party.

And that's the story of the Jack Pack. You'll get to see Lauren's special download, Life's Simple Pleasures, tomorrow. And I'll be back on Monday to talk about some Delta Quadrant FAKE NEWS. In the mean time, I hope you enjoyed this look at the evolution of the Jack Pack and are excited to see more of Metamorphosis over the next two weeks!

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