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Rules Update, May

by James Heaney, First Edition Rules Master

4th May 2020

Happy May! Today is the first Monday of the month, which is the scheduled day for rules updates.

Technically, there are no rule changes this month, just a lot of cleanup. But one rules question has gotten so tangled up over the years that the very act of cleaning it up is going to have some consequences for Official Tournament Format.

Did you know that, in OTF, Espionage cards allow you to "attempt" opponent's missions but not to "complete" them?

It's okay if you didn't. Until fairly recently, neither did we! So let's start with the Big News.

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice poster redone as Samaritan Snare & OTF & Espionage & The Golden Rule

I should be sorrier about this than I am.

Samaritan Snare & OTF & Espionage & The Golden Rule

Start with an unassuming question: how does Samaritan Snare work in OTF?

This seems like an easy one. The Golden Rule of CCGs is that a card's specific text overrides a general rule. The general rule in OTF is that you cannot "attempt, scout, or complete an opponent's mission" under ordinary circumstances. However, the opponent's end of Samaritan Snare specifically says that Federation present must attempt it. Specific overrides general. How does Samaritan Snare work in OTF? Just fine, thanks! Samaritan Snare forces Feds present to attempt the mission, even in OTF.

In August 2013, the Rules Committee issued a temporary "bluetext" ruling saying just that. As you can see, it has taken us seven years to resolve that "temporary" ruling. The reason was a simple follow-up question:

How does Espionage work in OTF?

Apply the same analysis we did for Samaritan Snare. OTF rules generally prevent mission theft, but Espionage cards specifically allow you to attempt missions, even opponent's missions. Golden Rule means the specific text wins. So... anyone with the right Espionage card can steal any mission, anywhere in OTF?

Well, THAT can't be right. That would turn one of the pillars of OTF play into an easily-avoided joke.

We explored and debated several options for dealing with this, but none was acceptable. We got stuck. Our "temporary" ruling about Samaritan Snare stayed in place because we couldn't figure out Espionage cards.

Years later, someone on Rules was doing unrelated research and discovered something very interesting: the framers of OTF had talked about this and drawn a conclusion that had never occurred to us. In fact, they wrote the Mission Stealing OTF rule the way they did specifically in order to make Espionage work a certain way.

Espionage cards specifically allow you to attempt a mission. They don't say anything about allowing you to complete that mission. The people who wrote OTF decided that's how Espionage works in OTF. You can play Espionage on an opponent's mission, and you can even attempt that mission -- but you can't complete it. As one of the OTF authors wrote in June 2010, "There are several reasons I can think of to attempt an opponent's mission, all of them nefarious. Perfect role for Espionage cards, I think."

We soon discovered that the Rules Committee of February 2011 had already ruled on this very question! Then-Rules Master Allen Gould ruled that Espionage cards in OTF allowed you to attempt an opponent's mission, but not to solve it... exactly what the OTF framers intended.

Espionage: Romulan on Vulcan

Allen's 2011 ruling, it turns out, is still "on the books." Nobody ever overturned it. So Allen's ruling stands. In OTF, it is legal to use Espionage cards to "attempt" an opponent's mission, but not to complete it. (Of course, you can still use Espionage to attempt and complete your own missions, since there's no general rule preventing you from completing them.)

That was the intention of the OTF designers. It's the current rule. It was, at one point, a fairly well-known rule. And it's the only solution we've found that preserves both the Golden Rule and the OTF Mission Stealing rule without a mass ban or mass errata of all Espionage cards. We even sent this to playtesting for nine months to see whether this would break something.

So that's our big news today: we are officially re-announcing and re-affirming the ruling of 2011. Espionage in OTF works the way OTF's designers intended. In OTF, Espionage cards allow you "attempt" an opponent's mission but not to "complete" it. You might use this to sneak over to an opponent's mission, play the appropriate Espionage card, and attempt in order to unleash an early Nexus, score points from a Worshiper, or trigger a Dal'Rok. But be careful you don't accidentally clear out your own dilemmas, because you'll leave a bare mission behind for your opponent to solve at his leisure!

We are releasing a number of Glossary and OTF updates to make this clear to everyone forever (see Espionage cards, Fair Play, Samaritan Snare), to prevent this clarification from causing other problems (see new wording in mission attempt and OTF Rule #4), and to correct the only ruling we could find that was out of alignment with this one (see Treaty: Federation/Romulan/Klingon).

Significantly, this involved revising the OTF Rules for the first time in several years. Not to worry, it's not an actual gameplay change: all we did was add the words "target for scouting" in OTF Rule #4 (the anti-mission theft rule). This addition clarifies that a card like Establish Gateway does not allow mission-stealing in OTF, even though the card provides permission to "scout" a mission.

And, with that, the longest-standing "temporary" ruling in Rules Committee history is finally cleared from the books, the purpose of the OTF Mission Stealing rule is fully restored, and players have a "new" tool for some limited but intriguing interactions. Phew!

Monthly Rulings

Let's take a look at the other business covered in this month's Recent Rulings Document.

The Squire's Rules

The Squire's Rules (and its brethren)

The cards that usually come back to bite us are the ones we paid little attention during development. We focus on fixing some big cards that seem really problematic, then some no-account card like Dramatis Personae slips past us, only to blow up two weeks after release.

That's not what happened this time, though! The Squire's Rules has been a huge focus of Rules work since its first draft, and we spent weeks hammering it into shape for release. We thought we finally had clear and correct it on release day, but, whoops, there were a LOT of questions about how this card works! We issued temporary "bluetext" rulings for Squire earlier this month, and today we are integrating most of them into the Glossary.

Most of these rulings are self-explanatory, and I'll let you read the Glossary entry. But I want to take special note of two things.

First, we discovered that Decipher's rules for cards like that do things "before" a dilemma encounter (Mission Fatigue, Cyrus Redblock, and The Squire's Rules) were not actually consistent. We've therefore clarified this mechanic. Starting today, the "stop" from Mission Fatigue or The Squire's Rules (or "kill," for Cyrus Redblock) happens just after the dilemma is revealed. If no personnel remain to encounter the dilemma, it's reseeded. If the dilemma is nullified during the encounter (for example, by Dr. McCoy or Adapt: Negate Obstruction), the stop (or kill) from this step is NOT nullified.

Second, we are NOT issuing a final ruling today about how Squire interacts with Q cards seeded "like" or "as" dilemmas (such as Hide and Seek, Q dilemmas seeded with the first function of Beware of Q, and My Ship, My Crew). We did come up with the correct answer about what the rules currently say about this... but, in the words of one Rules Committee member, "it's a dumb answer." We're going to continue looking at this next month. In the meantime, the temporary ruling from earlier this month stands: The Squire does NOT cause Q cards legally seeded "like" or "as" dilemmas to become mis-seeds.

Stop First Contact

Stop First Contact

Every few months, a forum discussion starts about whether it is ever possible to probe for Stop First Contact on the same turn scouting for Assimilate Homeworld is complete. Today, we're definitively answering that: yes. It's tricky, because you have to have a ship at the time location and the ability to switch objectives after scouting for Assimilate Homeworld is complete. But, if you can pull it off, it's legal.

Empok Nor

In response to a PM'd question, we discovered some oddities in the Empok Nor rulings. Apparently, Decipher had ruled that flipping Computer Crash at any time during an Empok Nor commandeering will undo all downloads during the commandeering. That's simply not consistent with Decipher's own timing rules for flipped hidden agendas, and we have corrected it.

General cleanup

Last year, the rules changed so that you could no longer seed Objectives/Events/Incidents/etc. outside the Facility Phase without permission. It came to our unhappy attention this month that not all Glossary entries reflected that change. Since we can't keep the game going with directly contradictory rules, we brought everything into line with last year's rule. (Of course, we will continue to monitor any public discussion of the merits of that rule change, but the merits are a separate question.)

We also cleaned up the holographic personnel and equipment and Mobile Holo-Emitter entries (in both the Glossary and the Rulebook), tweaked the wording of infiltration icon so you no longer need to know the technical definition of "playing an affiliation (non-Borg)" in order to infiltrate, deleted the unnecessary Symbiont Diagnosis entry, updated the Balancing Act entry to match its errata from a few months ago, and converted two more redundant Glossary entries (seed deck and card titles) to Rulebook links.

The Force Is Strong With This One

Unresolved Temporary Rulings

We issued some temporary "bluetext" rulings last month about Trycyanite Poisoning. We still haven't worked out final official answers to those questions yet, so the bluetexts remain in force. They are listed at the beginning of the Glossary, just before the Icon Legend.


The Dilemma Resolution Guide, worked on furiously for the past couple of months by local heroes Jarrod Cafaro (Takket) and Tim Mirkes (tlmirkes) is in the final phases of redevelopment. The PDF document received its long-awaited "visual refresh" at my hands this month, pulling in gametext like the old Decipher DRG did (I hope you like it), and the dilemmas from The Neutral Zone were added. I think we on Rules still have two (?) questions we need to answer before we can call the DRG officially "done."

...at least until the next set comes out!

Thanks for reading! Be sure to tell us on the forums what you think of everything we've done this month. Hopefully you're happy, but, if you're not, we want to hear that, too. Until next month, we'll see you on the spaceline – and, in observance of today's holiday, may the force be with you!

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