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Rules Update, May 2021

by James Heaney, Rules Manager (1E)

3rd May 2021

The Third of May 1808 by Goya

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

The biggest change this month is an obscure technical change that makes no practical difference to your life. But first, a couple (totally unsurprising) monthly rulings and a few (long-expected) clarifying errata!

(In other words: No big changes this month. You can stop reading now if that's what you're here to check.)

Clarifying Errata

In cooperation with the First Edition Department and (as always) with especial thanks to Johnny Holeva and his Art team, we're pleased to note the release of three clarifying errata today.

First up, Seek Hidden Reliquary's clarification was announced a few months ago. When the Rules Committee hopelessly divided on the question of whether or not Seek Hidden Reliquary could download an artifact to a space location, we put out a temporary ruling saying that it couldn't, which was Design's intention. Today's erratum adds the word "planet" to the card, removing all doubt.

Second, The Genesis Effect nullifies a dilemma if you're attempting with the right number of personnel. Design intended, and the Rules Committee agreed, that this meant you had to start the attempt with the right number of personnel, but, if personnel were removed or added to the attempt during the attempt and you no longer have the right number of personnel, Genesis Effect still worked. But the card said nothing about the start of the attempt, so this intention wasn't clear from the card.

The Genesis Effect

We've fixed that now, which allows us to delete the associated Glossary entry.

(The image at right is either the old version of Genesis Effect, which I am showing you to point out the problem, or the new version of Genesis Effect, which I am showing you to explain the fix. The version that ends up showing up in the published article definitely has nothing to do with my own technical incompetence at figuring out how to link to newly-errata'd images.)

Third, Buried Alive ends the attempt when it goes on the mission. It has to; Planet/Space dual-icon missions require a ship in the attempt, and, by definition, there can be no ship involved in the attempt at the Planet-only mission before Buried Alive goes on it. However, this wasn't clear to playtesters, so, when we made the card, we added text making this clear and exceptionless: "Place on mission and mission attempt ends." Except, whoopsie, we forgot about Borg players, and Borg players started coming to us asking whether this card ended scouting attempts, too. It did. But, as of today, we've deleted "mission," so it now just says, "Place on mission and attempt ends." That covers mission attempts and scouting attempts alike, without needing to ask a rules expert.

Monthly Rulings

Meanwhile, here's what's covered in this month's Recent Rulings Document.

Obsession Scores Printed Value

Obsession scores you points when you blow up self-controlling cards, based on the target's RANGE + WEAPONS. Cool, right? But what if you destroy a Beta XII-A Entity (6 RANGE / 8 WEAPONS / 8 SHIELDS) by placing four Phase Cannons damage markers (-1 RANGE/-2 WEAPONS/-1 SHIELDS) on it? Do you score 6 + 8 = 14 points? Or do you count the damage and score only (6 - 4) + (8 - 8) = 2 points?


We rule this month that you score the printed value of the self-controlling card, because the score is toted up when the card hits your points area, by which time the damage markers are already gone. You score the full 14 points. However, I should note that this decision was far from unanimous, and Decipher typically used "printed" for this stuff when it meant printed (for example, No Way Out), so, in all likelihood, this ruling will be replaced by clarifying errata fairly soon.

Emergent Life-Form and U-Turns: Nay

A couple months ago, we ruled that Emergent Life-Form can only move once, in one direction, at the start of a turn. In the forum reaction thread, we were given a couple arguments for why the ruling was wrong.

First, it was argued that groups of normal ship movement actions, like mission attempts, were uninterruptible group actions; you could undock, move to a wormhole, move through the wormhole, move to another outpost, and redock all in one fluid group action -- without stopping or giving your opponent a turn to play an interrupt (except a direct response, like Docking Procedures or Hail). It has been said that a prominent judge ruled it this way at Worlds a few years ago during a pivotal game, although we've not been able to verify the details of that ruling.

Second, it was argued in the alternative that, even if each normal ship movement action were a discrete regular action, nothing in the rules prevented you from "pulling a U-turn" mid-flight as part of a single continuous ship-movement action.

Credit where it's due: these arguments (largely advanced by Kevin Jaeger, kudos) were novel, clever, and identified what, on examination, turned out to be genuine ambiguities in the rules documents. However, the Rules Committee was ultimately unpersuaded that these arguments were correct; the rules text seemed to point against them, players did not seem to play that way, and it was not the simplest or cleanest way for the rules to work.

So we've resolved the ambiguity by making it clear that each normal ship movement action is discrete and that "pulling a U-ie" means completing one movement action and then starting another. Our original ruling on Emergent Life-Form therefore stands. Thanks to all who participated in the public discussion.

Okay, that's rulings sorted. How about that weird technical thing I promised at the top?

Entering Play Means You're Sticking Around

Fajo's Gallery

I think the easiest way to illustrate the issue we've been working on is with one example: I self-seed DNA Metamorphosis, then seed Fajo's Gallery, and I attempt the mission with Elim Garak. According to the best reading of the rules (before today's revision), when I encounter DNA Metamorphosis, it enters play. I draw a card off Fajo's Gallery. Then Elim Garak evades DNA Metamorph's random selection. When he nopes out of the encounter, there's no one left in the encounter, so the dilemma gets reseeded and the mission attempt ends. Elim Garak is not stopped, so he attempts again. DNA Metamorph is revealed again, another draw, another evade, another reseed... rinse and repeat until you've drawn every card in your deck.

After looking at a couple similar examples where (for example) cards were played, nullified immediately, but still got to use special downloads because they technically "entered play" at initiation, we concluded that there was a problem with the way the game defined "entering play." Some serious conflicts between not just the Rulebook and the Glossary, but even between different sections of the Glossary, made everything even more confusing.

We cleaned it up. Here's how it is: you play a card when you initiate a card play. The card has no effect at this point, but it has been played. Think of it like a transporter beam that's just started to materialize someone on your platform: the person is really there, but not all there, and can't actually do anything yet. (The equivalent for dilemmas is revealing the dilemma and initiating the dilemma encounter.)

Either player may then respond to the initiation of the card play, whether by modifying it, changing the results, or cancelling it completely. This is where Kevin Uxbridge or Mirror Image get involved. Think of this like something happening to the transporter beam in the middle of transport -- maybe another beam interferes and the card you're materializing gets Tuvixed, maybe the transporter breaks down and your card ends up like poor Commander Sonak, disintegrated in transit.

Finally, your card play (or dilemma encounter) resolves -- that is, it has an effect. Think of this like your card finally materializing into the game. It may be an instantaneous effect, like a Near-Warp Transport depositing your personnel on a nearby planet. Once it's resolved, it's resolved, and immediately discards after having its effect. Or it may be a long-lasting effect, like Barclay's Transporter Phobia, and thus, at this point, it enters play. Entering play is something that happens at the end of the resolution step, if and only if the card remains in play and isn't discarded upon the resolution of its card play (or encounter, in the case of a dilemma).

What's this change for you? Absolutely nothing (unless you were planning to spring that Metamorph + Fajo + Garak trick at Regionals, in which case you're very smart but also you richly deserve this). This was one of those clarifications the Rules Committee had to hammer out in order to help itself understand the game's inner workings, and it will help us as we undertake our planned comprehensive review of the game's action-response rules this summer.

Unresolved Temporary Rulings

The only temporary ruling left on the books is the one that says Staging Ground keeps working if DS9 gets commandeered. We'll keep working on that whole tangle of targeting rules. The end!

Rules Soapbox: The Rulebook and the Glossary

I really tried to come up with an excuse for calling this section "The Hive Queen and the Hegemon," but nothing fit. Oh, well.

It seems that, since I put on the Rules Masters' hat, I have never written about the relationship between the Glossary and the Rulebook in this space. (This is an old semi-annual tradition of mine, so I just assumed I'd done it by now.)

medieval glosses, from Wikipedia

Many players are used to the idea that prevailed between 1999 and 2019: the Rulebook is for teaching newbs, and the Glossary is where all the actual rules are. However, this idea was the result of a degenerate game, and we are trying to move away from it.

What is a "Glossary," anyway? English etymology nerds may know that it comes from the word gloss, essentially a footnote. European scribes in the Late Ancient and Medieval period copied lots of old books, laboriously, by hand. Most frequently, they were transcribing the Holy Bible of Christianity. Often, while they worked, they would leave some commentary behind in the margins, explaining particular historical or spiritual details to the next generation of scribes. Scribes would typically copy forward all previous glosses, because erasing a gloss would mean that knowledge could be lost forever.

Over time, the number of glosses on a frequently-copied text would accumulate and become unwieldy. At the same time, some glosses becamse celebrated works in their own right. St. Thomas Aquinas, writing in the 13th century, frequently cited the 9th-century glosses of Walafrid Strabo as authoritative scriptural exegesis... as did many writers of that time. Great glosses were eventually compiled into standalone manuscripts, called -- you'll never guess -- glossaries. And this is where the modern concept of a glossary comes from.

The Star Trek CCG Glossary (capital G) had similar roots. It started out as a collection of sidebars and footnotes and FAQs, which simply served to explain what certain confusing cards meant and how they interacted. It then grew into an independent, coherent document by 1998.

But then something weird happened: Decipher stopped updating its Rulebook and instead started putting new rules directly into the Glossary. The explanatory commentary on the rules became intermingled with the rules themselves, causing confusion. The Glossary stopped being a glossary. It became a Rulebook... but still in the bizarre, alphabetical, footnote-y format of a glossary, and with tons of glosses thrown in with the actual rules. Except then Rules people became reluctant to put new glosses into the Glossary, because it seemed to crowd out the actual rules. So we ended up not explaining confusing interactions for a lot of years when we probably should have. And there were many other bad side effects. The moment the Glossary became a "comprehensive rulebook" was also, not coincidentally, when Star Trek CCG rules became unmanageable.

Our long-term goal is to restore the Glossary to its original mission. The Glossary should have no generally applicable rules in it. Instead, the Glossary should explain:

(1) weird interactions between cards,

(2) ambiguities and strange wordings on specific cards,

(3) vocabulary that is too specialized or obvious to include in the Rulebook but which some players (especially non-English speakers) may find confusing. (Good examples: "retaliate" on Kova Tholl, "alone," on Jamaharon, "In Orbit" on Magnetic North, and "exposed" on Risk Is Our Business. These all have pretty obvious, intuitive meanings in English, but the Glossary can resolve ambiguity.)

(4) where to find the relevant rules in the Rulebook, and

(5) nothing else

In other words, the Glossary should not contain any rules. It should contain footnotes to the rules. Commentary, explanation, ambiguity resolution, yes, all that should be in the Glossary. But actual general rules should be in the Rulebook, and the Glossary should mostly just do a really good job helping you find and understand them.

This will free the Rulebook to be the official "source of truth" for the game. It will free the Glossary to be an extremely helpful text, one that most players will use only rarely, but which can answer every single common rules question without making it too "crowded" for the "real" rules. And it will free us to easily target all the cards that need clarifying errata -- in the future world, anything confusing enough to earn a Glossary entry is probably confusing enough to get clarified by errata. (That's the approach we're taking this month with Obsession, for example.)

The first problem with this project is that we spent 20 years adding general rules to the Glossary, and we can't just take them all out in one day. The Rules Committee has been chomping away at rule-based Glossary entries for a year, and it will likely take several more years to get them all.

The other problem is that there is a little bit of a gray area where it's not altogether clear whether a concept should land in the Rulebook or the Glossary. A "loaded" term that is as broad and important as "matching commander" obviously belongs in the Rulebook. But what about a loaded term that only appears on one card, like the phrase "Timeline Disrupted in 2063"? Should that be treated as a general rule or as an idiosyncrasy of Stop First Contact? Those cases end up being a judgment call. (Rules has decided, for now, that "Timeline Disrupted in 2063" rules should stay in the Glossary, since those loaded rules affect only one card.)

So, for now, and for the next few years, the rules documents are in a transitional state. The Glossary should only contain glosses, but it is still clogged with a bunch of rules, too. The Complete Rulebook should have all the rules in the game, but a lot of its text is currently exactly copied from the relevant Glossary entry, and portions of it need to be vetted again as we make this migration happen. Please let us know if you see any conflicts between the Rulebook and the Glossary, because those are unintentional and should be cleaned up.

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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