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A Private Little War

by Charlie Plaine, Director of First Edition

25th September 2020

Captain Kang

"Well, Commander, I guess that takes care of the war. Obviously, the Organians aren't going to let us fight."
"A shame, Captain. It would have been glorious."

- Captain Kirk and Governor Kor, "Errand of Mercy"

Beware Klingons, as they are arriving in force with A Private Little War. The Continuing Committee and the Department of First Edition are delighted to announce this new virtual expansion, featuring sixty-three (63) new cards. A Private Little war is the third and final expansion of the Original Series block. While it does focus heavily on the Klingons of the era, there's plenty of content for all decks to enjoy. This expansion will be releasing in three (3) weeks, on Friday, October 16th, and until then you'll be treated to daily spoilers right here on our website. You'll also be able to find additional spoilers on our social media channels. But before we jump into the details of this expansion, I'd like to introduce some of the volunteers that worked on bringing you A Private Little War.

Meet the Team
While the designers often get the lion's share of the credit, we could not have brought you A Private Little War with the hard work of dozens of volunteers. Over the past year of work, dozens and dozens of testers, rules experts, story-driven writers, artists, and proofreaders have touched on these cards to make them the best they can be. Design's work is meaningless without the people that bring the cards from concept to finished product Thank you, thank you, thank you, for all that you've done and that you'll continue to do. With those thanks given, please allow me to introduce to you the five (5) designers that worked on A Private Little War:

James Monsebroten [Orbin], Lead Designer
Designer Profile: James Monsebroten
James joined the design team by way of winning Make it So, the reality-show style design competition we last held in 2013. Since then, he's worked on five (5) projects including A Private Little War and lead three of them. James is a fantastic designer with great vision and a great eye for complex interactions. I'm really proud of his work since he's joined our team, and I hope to see much more of it as we move forward.


Daniel Matteson [OKCoyote], Assistant Designer
Designer Profile: Daniel Matteson
A Private Little War was going to be Daniel's first expansion credit as a designer, but unfortunately due to other obligations he had to step back after initial designs were complete. Enough of his work and influence remained that he's retained the credit, but we didn't get to see Daniel do all of the usual development one would normally do. I hope to see him take up the task again in the future. On the other hand, he did get married, so please send him some congratulations on that!

Michael Moskop [comicbookhero], Assistant Designer
Designer Profile: Michael Moskop
In what's going to be a recurring theme, Michael had to bow out of the A Private Little War design team due to real life commitments after the initial design phases. He retains his credit because several of his ideas made it through to print, and Michael's skill with story-based ideas is as good as anyone's. I again hope that Michael will return to a full time design project in the future.

Matthew Zinno [commdecker], Assistant Designer
Designer Profile: Matthew Zinno
Matthew made the decision to step back from 1E when he retired as the Errata Team Manager, and that unfortunately meant he chose to leave the design team for A Private Little War as well. But Matt was always fantastic at challenging others, questioning each decision made and each card included. Because of his involvement, this expansion is better. He will be missed on future design team projects.

Charlie Plaine [MidnightLich], Design Advisor
Designer Profile: Charlie Plaine
After three (3) members of his team had to step back or retire from working on A Private Little War, James came to me to ask for help. While I've been stepping back from design, the rest of our roster was pretty busy and I wasn't. Thus, I was happy to join the team as a sounding board for ideas and help the project through development. I did my best to keep to the visions set by the original team and just make the cards as great as they could be.

Organian Annexation

Cold Warriors
As you may know, Klingons were designed to be an ideological enemy of the Federation in Star Trek, an allegory for the Cold War in the 1960's of the original show. We wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the heavy-handedness of how this was written, and how it wouldn't work today. Add to this the fact that the original Klingon makeup was just this side of racist, and combined with the tension and conflict of today, we did discuss if we were being insensitive by tackling Klingons from Star Trek. In the end, we felt that we couldn't ignore such iconic characters and stories, and that our audience could appreciate these cards with modern insight. But we still wanted to do one of the oldest aliens in Star Trek lore justice, so the design team started out looking for ways to represent the Klingons, and the central conflict between the Klingon Empire and the UFP.

The team very quickly locked onto the idea of having the Klingons "compete for territory." After all, as Chekov said in "The Trouble With Tribbles," "Under terms of the Organian Peace Treaty, one side or the other must prove it can develop the planet most efficiently." That felt like a fruitful area for designers to play, to give the Klingons a way to compete to develop territories. But, as you'll see, it turned out to be a very difficult thing to realize in game mechanically. This was a very early attempt:

[Inc] Organian Peace Treaty: Territory
Seeds or plays on table. At each disputed planet mission (a planet mission with both a [FED] and [KLI] icon OR [NON] icon OR that is attemptable by any away team), each player counts their SECURITY OR Diplomacy there; player with higher number is "winning" the planet. If you solve a planet you are "winning", draw two cards.

This was a good start, and let us make cards that specifically referred to Organian Peace Treaty: Territory - doubling the count, for example. But there was a desire to have a theme that could permeate more down into the affiliation's other cards. Being an "Organian Peace Treaty" card meant you could grab this with Sherman's Peak, but we didn't want to lock Klingon players into the time location. We also felt there was a lot of room in "competition for territory" in multiple decks (Kazon and Maquis came to mind), so wanted to try something more generic. Finally, we wanted to avoid "winning" as the term we used because that has a different meaning in the context of a game. This led the team to a new mechanic called "dominating:"


[Obj] Domination
Seeds on table. A player is "dominating" a non-homeworld planet when they have more total SECURITY personnel on that planet than any opponent. When you begin a mission attempt at a planet you are "dominating", you may replace any one skill in that mission's requirements with SECURITY x2. When an opponent solves a planet you are "dominating", mission is worth -5 points.

This change did several positive things for us and our desire to make competition for territory our [Kli] [OS] theme. First of all, it moved into the same "trope" space as Let Me Help, Obsession, and The Squire's Rules - giving guidance for deck building and some seed decisions. Secondly, it created a new "hook" that we could use on Klingon cards ("attributes all +2 while "dominating" here). And finally, it was generic enough so that lots of decks could use it - we could just make the Klingons the best at doing so.

But Domination had a lot of problems too - not the least of which was that a lot of volunteers didn't like adding a new game term. If you had a Klingon personnel which referenced "dominating" a planet mission, you would not know what that meant without looking it up. There's some precedent for that in 1E, but in an era where we want to reduce rules burden and not increase it, the mechanic would have to play really well to justify that overhead. And unfortunately, Domination wasn't quite there. We made a lot of adjustments to how it worked, giving the opponent a fighting chance to actually compete for territory, but it just never landed. The best deck with Domination was using Post Garrison to lock out missions, and that wasn't behavior we wanted to encourage. The team, reluctantly, put Domination on the shelf to dust off another day.

Unfortunately, this left us without much of a theme for our Klingon cards. We didn't want to make them just red-colored mission solvers, so we took some steps back to look at what Klingons were doing during the Original Series. They had a variety of schemes: they tried conquest ("Errand of Mercy,") arms dealing ("A Private Little War"), sabotage ("Elaan of Troyus"), and espionage ("The Trouble With Tribbles"). We needed something that could make [Kli] [OS] decks feel different than their [Fed] and [Rom] opponents.

At the same time we were exploring Domination, we'd been working on another card that would become Organian Annexation. At the time, this card let a Klingon [OS] player report free equipment if they played [Univ] personnel under the right circumstances. After all, equipment was a sub-theme of all of the [OS] factions, and this fed right into that without us continuing to offer escalating special downloads. What if we made equipment into a Klingon theme? We explored that idea with several new Klingon-related equipment, and found it to be a fun theme. And because the equipment played from hand (and not just downloaded), it made for a different kind of deck building challenge.


So that's how "competing for territory" evolved into a Klingon arms race. If you're playing just Klingons and Non-Aligned cards, you can report free Klingon-related equipment each time you play a [Univ] [Kli] [OS] personnel (either at the time location, with The Final Frontier, or via any other method of your choice). And if you can't play an equipment from hand, you can recover a valuable card from the discard pile instead. To support this theme, we're adding four (4) new equipment, all either [OS] or featuring "Klingon" or "[Kli]" in their game text - like the new Painstik. If you're looking for a fight, Painstik can give you up to a three (3) point swing between your STRENGTH and your opponent's STRENGTH. And by the way, A Private Little War is setting the record for new equipment in a virtual expansion, the most ever printed. If you're an equipment fan, there's a lot to love in this set.

In terms of Klingons, you'll five five (5) new [Univ] [Kli] [OS] personnel in this set to report and power your Organian Annexation deck. Many of them, like Piabok, get much better if you're using them together. In any old Klingon deck, Piabok brings two skills - Stellar Cartography and Navigation; but, if you're playing enough [OS] personnel (of any color), he turns into a four skill monster, gaining Physics and Treachery. And of course, you'll be getting new (and famous) unique Klingons too, like Captain Kang. He gives [Kli] [OS] players a special download of an equipment - Classic Disruptor, in his case - but only if you're deep enough in [OS] to have two others with him. While that might be disappointing compared to some older equipment downloads, it's the way of the future. And Klingons do better together anyway.

And while we did have to move away from "domination" and direct competition for territory as Klingon themes, we left some cards in to honor that theme. Klingon Troop Deployment (check it out on Facebook) is a new dilemma in the same vein as Sleeper Trap, allowing your [Univ] [Kli] [OS] troops to show up on an enemy planet, uninvited and unannounced, and start throwing their weight around. During testing, this was a key combo in setting up a Domination strategy - but we're sure you'll still find uses for it even without that mechanic in the game.

Picking Up the Ball
Throughout the history of themed block design, third sets in blocks have had to serve multiple masters. Most of them (with The Sky's the Limit being the exception), have to introduce a faction or affiliation of their own. But they're also expected to develop the themes of the block and the previous two expansions too, which can leave them a bit crowded. Fortunately, A Private Little War had plenty of room to serve both the Klingons and several other themes in the block. Each expansion in the block has had a suite of [NA] [OS] personnel to go along with the main affiliation: it was "native" personnel in The Cage, Androids in The Neutral Zone, and it's the Excalbians here in A Private Little War. Last year, while early design for this expansion was ongoing, the community was making Yarnek and Examine Morality as part of Will of the Collective. The design team loved that idea, and decided to make the rest of Team Good and Team Evil, along with a support card to enable decks based on them. Check back on Monday for an article going into more detail about this sub-theme, but we hope you'll like it. After all, you guys inspired these designs with your choices in Will of the Collective!


Another major theme of the block has been missions with "23rd century" in lore, and the personnel who name those places in their lore. A Private Little War delivers on both, giving new 23rd century missions and personnel that name them. One of these missions even features a new region - Access Dilithium Cache. It's a nice mission on its own, but it also comes with two (2) personnel that name the mission's location - Troyius - in their lore. You'll find almost a dozen new missions in this expansion, and several of them will mix things up in new and exciting ways. And of course, the Klingons get in on the "named in lore" action too, with several of their personnel naming "23rd century" locations - including Captain Kang.

And that's not all - in A Private Little War, you'll see new cards for decks and themes established earlier in the block. We've got some new [Self] dilemmas to fit into your monster-hunting Obsession decks, like Redjac. This murderous entity, inspired by the killer from "Wolf in the Fold," will parade down the spaceline murdering innocent people. There's a new dilemma that downloads a very famous Gorn to go up against your isolated personnel. We're closing quite a few broken links for you too - although that doesn't mean we aren't adding some! And we've got a game-changing new "trope" card for you to play with - as long as you're willing to drastically mix up your mission selection.

Finally, we're using the fact this is the third and final set in the Original Series block to deliver on some famous faces and stories. You're getting not one, but two cards from one of the worst episodes of TOS! We're featuring three (3) cards that all feature the name of one of Trek's most infamous villains: Khan! Including his right-hand man of the [OS] era, Joaquin! He'll help out your [OS] decks (of whatever affiliation), plus it's a new face for a [CF] Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold deck - talk about double duty! And of course, Gary Seven and the characters of "Assignment: Earth" finally make their debut. There's a lot to see, and we're excited to share it all with you!

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more spoilers ahead of the expansion's release, as well as getting them on this website over the next three weeks. And don't forget to visit the Gameplay (1E) forum where the design team will be answering questions as you have them. All of this will be building up to the official release of A Private Little War on Friday, October 16th. And you'll be able to play with these new cards in all formats where virtual cards are legal one week later, on Friday, October 23rd. We hope you're as excited to see these cards and we are to show them to you!

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