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Rules Update, October

by James Heaney, First Edition Rules Master

5th October 2020

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

Along with all of you, we're looking forward to the release of A Private Little War on Friday, October 16th. Just a reminder to keep your eyes peeled, because the expansion will be accompanied by a small rules supplement!

For now, we really only have two clarifications this month..

Monthly Rulings

Here's what's covered in this month's Recent Rulings Document.

Weapons Locker

"Your" and control

During development on the new set, we noticed something odd. Our understanding of the rules was that "your" card was a card you controlled, and you controlled all the cards you owned that had fully entered play (with a few exceptions). The Rulebook said just that.

But hold up. Look at Weapons Locker. "Your hand weapons may report there." If our understanding of "your" was correct, what could that gametext possibly mean? According to our understanding, a hand weapon couldn't be "yours" until the reporting action was fully resolved (and the card was fully in play)... making Weapons Locker completely useless! This wasn't a one-off: for a generation, staple cards like Holodeck Door, Attention All Hands, and Crew Reassignment have used "your" to refer to cards that haven't fully entered play yet.

Our first instinct was that the cards were wrong, and had been for 25 years. But, after some conversation and research, we came around to the view that perhaps it was actually the rules were wrong, or at least needed clarification.

In the end, we concluded that we were correct about a few things: "Your" cards are indeed the cards you control, and you do indeed control the cards you've played (not cards in your hand) -- but you don't have to wait until the card is fully reported for control (and related effects) to kick in.

Instead, you control a card as soon as you start to bring it into play. If you have Galathon in hand, he becomes "your" card the instant you pull him out of your hand and announce you are reporting him, even before he finishes reporting. This allows him to report to your outpost using Attention All Hands.

Mostly, this clarification just means cards now work the way you already thought they did. However, it also makes clear that you can do some things you maybe never considered before. For example, while D'Jarras is in play, your Bajoran OFFICERS can all report for free to First Minister Shakaar (once each turn). This clarification also means that the new card Assignment: Earth may be the last card ever to say "(even if not in play)," since that phrase appears to be redundant now -- but we'll research that more when the time comes."

Friendly Fire

Sphere Encounter

When is a mission "scouted"?

The word "scouted" appears on several cards (and on several rules). Unfortunately, those cards have been played in very different ways. When the word appeared on Friendly Fire, players treated it as if it referred to scouting attempts. When it appeared on A Real Game, players treated it as if it referred to scouting completions. The rules themselves seemed to contradict themselves at one point, with both senses appearing in the Glossary at various times.

We are today ruling that "scouted" refers to scouting attempts. You have "scouted" a mission if you have initiated a scouting attempt there, even if you have not completed scouting, and cards that prevent you from scouting prevent you from starting scouting attempts, not merely from completing scouting. You may trigger Sphere Encounter at a mission you have only just started to scout, even if scouting is not yet complete.

This makes A Real Game and The Big Picture a little weaker against Borg, but maintains the strength of Friendly Fire. OTF Victory Conditions, which now refer to "placing a [BO] objective on" instead of "scouting", are unaffected. If Open format starts to have problems because of this ruling, we'll revisit it with the Balance team.

General Cleanup

Thanks once again to all who suggested cross-references and little bits of cleanup this month. I've incorporated another chunk of VioletBlaze's helpful ideas from a forum thread, as well as several suggestions sent by PM -- but, this month, as previously announced, I didn't note them all in the RRD.

Unresolved Temporary Rulings

We're still talking about Seek Hidden Reliquary, so the temporary ruling that you have to seed the artifact at a planet still stands.

Meanwhile, a discrepancy between the Organized Play Guide and the Rulebook was noticed this past month. The Rulebook correct states that (in OTF play), if the game times out before victory conditions are fulfilled, the player with the higher score gets a Modified Win, but that bonus points in excess of mission points do not count toward winning. The Organized Play Guide agrees, but adds that, if neither player has completed a mission, the game is scored a True Tie. If you're only dealing with positive bonus points, these rules come to the same thing -- but, if the final score is -1 to -7, with no missions solved, the Rulebook scores that as a Mod Win for -1 and the OPG says the game is a True Tie.

We checked the Decipher precedents and talked to Organized Play. The Rulebook reflects the game's longstanding scoring rules. Nobody is quite sure where the OPG's alternate rule came from. If we ever decided to change scoring rules to discourage lockouts, we'd go through a proper process for doing so. Therefore, the Rulebook is correct. The OPG is scheduled for update in February 2021. Until then, we will have a temp ruling in the Glossary clarifying this.

Rules Soapbox: Wording Updates

Lore Returns

There's been a little bit of behind-the-scenes discussion lately (not just among the Rules Committee) about how to handle old cards that just got the wording wrong, or at least made the wording so messy that a Glossary entry is needed to explain what it means. I'm thinking of odd cards like Hyper-Aging, which have cure requirements but don't mention it, or Lore Returns, which is principally about control but in a really weirdly-worded way.

The Rules Committee has traditionally taken a Let Them Be position: cards with messed-up wordings that we're all used to aren't hurting anyone, so let's have the weird (often charming) old wording stand. On the other end of the spectrum, some on the staff have suggested that First Edition go the way of the Magic The Gathering Oracle system, where every single card in the game gets an "updated" wording that appears in the online card database, then that new wording gets used on any future reprints.

After discussion, we've settled on what seems (at least to me) like a comfortable middle ground -- one which Decipher seems to have agreed with, because it did pretty much the same thing in Voyager and Enhanced Premiere. Whenever a card comes up for a reprint, we are going to treat it like a brand-new card: we are going to put the best possible wording on it -- wording that will eliminate the need for a Glossary entry, if at all possible -- while keeping the original functionality. If that means we change the wording on a card that already exists, the reprint will be accompanied by errata to the original card as well.

So we aren't going to be doing anything drastic, like taking six months out of our schedule to errata every card in PAQ. But you will definitely be noticing, in coming months, that some of the new Virtual Promos will have new wording on them. In this way, we'll slowly and steadily clear out some of the Glossary dross that has built up over the decades, without actually changing the game at all.

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!

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