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Rules Update, August

by James Heaney, First Edition Rules Master

3rd August 2020

Happy August! Today is the first Monday of the month, which is the scheduled day for rules updates. (Rules updates may also be issued on the release day of a new set.)

The Rules Committee was very occupied this month with reviewing Project Londo, the third set in TOS Block, but we still managed to make time for a few good fixes. As always, you can see the full list of changes in the Recent Rulings Document, but I'll go over the highlights with you now.

I'm on vacation this week (writing this from my cabin kitchen table), so, once again, there will be no pictures this month. Sorry! I know images make these articles easier to read.

"Like" and "As"

If you want to know the full story of "like" and "as", read the next five paragraphs! Otherwise, skip ahead and I'll tell you what the new rule is.

The Problem

"Like" and "as" are two common English words that mean pretty nearly the same thing. However, in the Star Trek CCG (First Edition), Decipher created a subtle but important distinction between them:

So, for example, if an Artifact said, "Use as Equipment," then it counted as both an Artifact and an Equipment and could be blown up by Disruptor Overload (which targets Equipment)... but, if an Artifact said, "Use like Equipment," then it was still just an Artifact and could not be targeted like an Equipment.

Most of you never had any reason to know about this distinction, except in very rare circumstances. The most famous example was Quantum Incursions (which is currently banned in OTF). Quantum Incursions seeds like a dilemma (not as a dilemma), which meant that it was invulnerable to Guinan, Adapt: Negate Obstruction, and other anti-dilemma tech, even though nothing on the card said anything of the sort. This confused a lot of players, especially players whose first language was not English -- and of course it did! It was confusing!

We finally had to confront this distinction when The Squire's Rules came out. The Squire nullifies all your cards seeded beneath missions except [S/P] dilemmas and artifacts. We were asked: how do Beware of Q (first function); My Ship, My Crew; and Hide And Seek interact with Squire? Are the seeded Q-icon cards mis-seeds or not? If you've followed the explanation so far, then you know the answer: Q-dilemmas seeded with Beware of Q's first function seed LIKE an [S/P] dilemma. That means they WERE NOT [S/P] dilemmas (under the rules at the time), thus were mis-seeds. But My Ship, My Crew seeded AS an [S/P] dilemma, which meant that it was NOT a mis-seed. Hide And Seek didn't specify either way in its gametext! (Its Glossary entry provided some hints, but geeze.)

We didn't love this incredibly narrow parsing of a couple words, especially not a couple words that most readers (even native English speakers) would consider synonyms. The more we thought about it, the less we liked it. How could we explain to the average player that My Ship, My Crew could seed with The Squire's Rules but Hide And Seek was a mis-seed? It was gross. Plus, if Quantum Incursions SEEDS like a dilemma, but otherwise doesn't count AS a dilemma, how is it even legally possible to encounter it? The dilemma resolution rules don't say ANYTHING about encountering seeded doorways! Has QI been broken the whole time? (Yes, we concluded.) A close reading of the relevant Glossary passages made some of us think that perhaps Decipher only created this distinction accidentally. So we decided to put a temporary ruling out for The Squire's Rules and the Q cards, and we've been discussing a long-term solution ever since.

Our Solution

From today, there is no longer any legal difference between the words "like" and "as." Instead, cards are treated differently based on how they function.

If a card is used like (or as) another card type for a specific, limited purpose (for instance, "moving" or "battling"), then it keeps its original card type only. You cannot play Hail on a Calamarain, because Calamarain is not a ship (it just moves like one). You cannot ever use Sniper against Satan's Robot, because Satan's Robot is not a personnel (it just fights like one in personnel battle).

On the other hand, if a card is used like (or as) another card type generally speaking (for example, it "plays as", "seeds like", or is "used as" another card type), then the card is treated as both card types for all purposes. Tox Utaht plays as an Event, so you can target it with Kevin Uxbridge. The Genesis Device is used as Equipment, so you can steal it with Vorgon Raiders (as an Artifact) OR with Procurement Drone (as an Equipment). My Ship, My Crew and a card seeded with Beware of Q's first function both seed like or as [S/P] dilemmas, so neither of them are mis-seeds for The Squire's Rules.

That's still a little subtle, but we think it's a lot easier to understand than having two near-synonyms do opposite things. The exact wordings for these updates are in the RRD, and we're now able to revoke our temp ruling about The Squire's Rules.

The one notable functional change we're aware of here is Quantum Incursions. QI seeds like a dilemma, which means you can now treat it as a doorway OR a dilemma for all purposes. Guinan can nullify it. Borg can Adapt past it. Of course, QI is currently on the ban list, so you're not playing with it right now anyway. QI will likely receive errata before returning to the game. The Balance team may decide to restore the original restrictions. They can do that; it'll just take more words.

Monthly Rulings

Hide and Seek

Related to the above: Hide And Seek never quite comes out and says, explicitly, that it seeds like an [S/P] dilemma. Some of us considered it implicit, since Hide And Seek uses the [S/P] icon; others thought that use of the icon more akin to a probe list. We decided to rule on it officially this month: yes, Hide and Seek seeds like an [S/P] dilemma. That means it CAN seed with The Squire's Rules (as a dilemma, not as an event).


Lumba

A couple months ago, we clarified the longstanding "disguise question": do disguises "count" for a characteristic or not? Can Vedek Dax report to the Chamber of Ministers for free? We answered yes, she can. This led someone to ask us about Lumba, the version of Quark from "Profit and Lace." What gender is Lumba, legally speaking?

Decipher ruled long ago that Lumba is male. We can't agree. We discussed the card at some length, several of us rewatched the episode, and we re-reviewed the characteristics rule for the umpteenth time in the last four months. Our conclusion is that, based on the card's lore, Lumba is legally female. We seriously considered the possibility that she is a male disguised as a female (which would make her, legally, both genders)... but the card never references maleness at all. Of course, we want to avoid offending TrekSense wherever possible, but the episode itself seems to consider her a female as well. Therefore, Lumba is female.

We know the lore on this card is not clear-cut, so Lumba may receive clarifying errata at some future date, eliminating the need for this ruling.


Planet surfaces

If you are on a planet but NOT in a ship or facility... where exactly are you? The rules refer to this vicinity as the "planet surface." You have to be on the surface to attempt a mission, use a Duck Blind, or fight other Away Teams on the surface. However, "surface" has never been officially defined. The Glossary just talks about "the surface" and assumes you know what it's talking about.

We are always very reluctant to add new terms to the game's already-thick lexicon, but the game has already had this one for a long time. More importantly, it seems to need this term; it's really hard to describe basic game operations like "beaming down to a planet surface" or "attempting a planet mission," without using the word "surface" or something like it. So we bit the bullet and officially put the definition in the Glossary: you're on a planet surface if you're on a planet but not in a ship or facility.


General cleanup

We had quite a lot of general cleanup this month, including...

...a complete repackaging of the Rulebook's rules on Borg objectives. It's all the same rules, but we pulled together four different sidebars plus some bits that used to only be in the Glossary and put them in their own section of the Rulebook.

...a revision to the mis-seed rules. Since the earliest days of the game, Decipher's rules have said that mis-seeds are illegal, but recommended that you do them anyway sometimes. We do not ordinarily allow players to do illegal things, much less suggest they try it! We've revised the relevant rules to make clear that mis-seedsĀ are legal, they just have negative consequences for the player who does them.

...a new Appendix in the Glossary, for Lists. There are several places in the Glossary where we've long maintained entries that are literally just lists -- a list of legal special equipment, a list of homeworlds, a list of regular skills, and so forth. Those lists will now be moved to the new appendix. Charlie asked us last month to create a way for color-blind players to understand what all the different Nemesis icons are and who has them, and this emerged out of that.


Unresolved Temporary Rulings

Our temp ruling about Enemies of the State (stating that you pass if opponent has no personnel present) remains on the books, but Enemies is still banned, so no worries.

Rules Soapbox: Communicating Old Rules Changes

This is a living card game. Just like a living card game is always changed by new cards, so too will a living card game inevitably be changed by updated rules... sometimes quite boldly. Who can forget the radical innovations of the First Contact expansion, from abolishing the 60-card limit to inventing downloads? The CC era has been much more modest than Decipher, nipping and tucking here and there with the aim of incremental improvement, and I think that's been much healthier than Decipher's rules recklessness... but, even in the CC era, the rules do still change. I won't promise to end rule changes, and I'd be a bad Rules Manager if I did. Heck, the like/as rule change we're announcing this very month is a rule change (albeit a small one).

The problem is that rule changes are a bit harder to grok than new cards. A player comes back to the game after five years away, and it's easy to catch up on new cards: just look at all the new expansions! It'll take a little while, but, in an hour or two, you'll know everything that's new since the last time you played. But how would a returning player find out a rule change?

I recall an event several years ago where my opponent was psyched to seed Comfort Women on Mirror Bajor to fuel his Enemies of the State lockout... and was disappointed to learn that the rule had changed nine months before, so that Comfort Women could not actually seed on Mirror Bajor. (I still lost!) This was anĀ active player, and he just missed the announcement. I've been trying to help active players with rule changes by including comments in the RRD and by writing these long explainers every month.

But what if my opponent wasn't active, and this was his first tournament back? How on Earth would he have known? Would we tell him to dig through the Article archives and just READ all the Rules Committee articles from the past ten years? That doesn't seem very reasonable. And what about the rule changes announced only on forum threads? What about rule changes that happened in Decipher times? If the player hasn't played in long enough, he might still be sliding his outposts under missions! (That didn't change until The Dominion.) So there currently seems to be no way for players to learn about rule changes, ESPECIALLY small rule changes, without just whoopsie stumbling into them and getting corrected. That's bad.

This is a hard problem, and the Rules Committee is trying to figure out some solutions to it. We haven't solved it yet. Do you have any suggestions? Please tell us in the forum thread, or PM or email me.


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!

NOTE: If you happen to be reading this article right at the stroke of server midnight: first, congratulations! You're the kind of rules nerd I appreciate! Second, though, I'm having a couple minor file upload issues here in my isolated cabin so the actual Glossary and Rulebook updates won't be posted for about another hour. Until that's sorted out, you can read through this month's RRD!

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