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Q is Dead! Long Live Q!

by Charlie Plaine, Director of First Edition

25th October 2021

"What is a Q?"
"It's a letter of the alphabet, as far as I know."
- Tasha Yar and Worf

Bonjour, mes amis! I hope you are prepared for the glorious - nay, triumphant! - return of the original antagonist of Star Trek: The Next Generation. No, not the Borg! Not even the Ferengi! I speak of the omnipotent, immortal, irascible Q! Today, we're happy to announce the imminent release of The Trial Never Ended! This 9 card boutique will revitalize and modernize the Q-Flash mechanic and the Q Continuum side deck. Q's never really been gone from First Edition, but he has been tragically underused - many players go years without seeing a Q-Flash at a local event! With the new cards and errata we'll be featuring over the next week, we aim to change that!

Meet the Team
There are 4 designers that worked hard to bring you these small tastes of new First Edition cards, but they're hardly the only ones to work on an expansion. Any new card, from the humble 9 you'll find in The Trial Never Ended to those in a larger release, comes to you because of the hard work of dozens of different volunteers. Since mid-2020, dozens of testers, rules experts, story-driven writers, artists, and proofreaders have touched on these cards to make them the best they can be. In particular, I want to highlight the massive investment of time and attention made by our Rules Team. Working with, and often reworking, Q's mechanics was a tall order, and James Heaney (BCSWowbagger) and his team delivered. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for all that you've done and that you'll continue to do. We all owe you a great debt.

That being said, as is our tradition here, I'd like to introduce the design team for The Trial Never Ended:

Dan Hamman [SirDan], Lead Designer
Designer Profile: Dan Hamman
The Trial Never Ended is Dan's 17th expansion for First Edition, and his 8th as lead designer. Though Dan hadn't had time to lead an expansion since 2018's Cold Front, he's kept up on current events and was more than ready to guide this project from a pandemic proposal to a released reality. Dan's perspective is as unique and valuable as his experience, and it shows here.

Thomas Vineberg [Exon], Assistant Designer
Designer Profile: Thomas Vineberg
Thomas is one of the smartest, most capable designers I've ever had the privilege to work with. The ideas behind this expansion started with Thomas and Dan looking for something to do during the pandemic. And though Thomas wasn't able to keep with the project for its entirety, he contributed much to the initial project and his influence will still be felt in the finished project. I hope we'll see more from Thomas again in the future.

James Monsebroten [Orbin], Assistant Designer
Designer Profile: James Monsebroten
James was called in to help Dan once Thomas had to focus his attention elsewhere. As one of our most prolific designers, James asked pointed questions and helped make significant improvements to the raw ideas found early in what would become The Trial Never Ended. While working on this, his 7th expansion, James would also become Playtest Manager, helping to ensure that Q's new toys got put through their paces.

Charles Plaine [MidnightLich], Assistant Designer
Designer Profile: Charles Plaine
My role on this team was more of a facilitator or coordinator than as a designer. I'm sure I helped brainstorm ideas and refine cards, but I spent most of my time talking to Rules, and Creative, and Art, to make sure the scope of the project stayed manageable. After all, you don't mess with Q lightly - you want all hands on deck.

One Q Becomes Three Qs
One of the biggest goals of The Trial Never Ended was to do more that just give Q cards and the Q-Continuum side deck a "new coat of paint." With the help of the Rules Team, the design team worked hard to do more than just spackle over the issues with Q and give the mechanic a real chance at life. In the Official Tournament Format (OTF), Q-Flash has always been hurt by the "Rule of Two" that only allows two copies of Q-Flash to be seeded beneath missions. But in all formats, including Open, Q-Flash was a complex mechanic that relied far too much on the rules instead of being explained by the cards. For example, here's the original Q-Flash:

Just looking at the card, can you answer these questions?

I'd wager that while most of you know the answers, you don't know them because the answers are on the cards. They aren't! The glossary entry for the Q-Continuum side deck is 417 words long, and it's just 1 of 4 glossary entries dealing with the side deck. Again, if you're a veteran player, you know most of this - but can you remember it all every time? Can you explain it to a beginner? Although most of us in the Department of First Edition are very experienced players who use Q-Flashes with great confidence, we had to conclude that our answer to both questions was "no." And that was problem. So, after a year of work, months and months of testing, and some extra outside vetting by a bevy of volunteers from the STCCG Facebook group, The Trial Never Ended is bringing you some brand new Q. Over the next week, we'll be showing off new cards as well as updated wording on old cards, to make all this work. But today I'm going to show you how the original Q-Flash has been "translated" into one updated card and two brand-new ones.

The old Q-Flash works three different ways:

1. it seeds on table to open the Q-Continuum side deck;
2. it seeds under missions to trigger Q-Flashes; and
3. it stocks in deck to nullify [Q] cards.

Each of these functions now lives on its own card. Don't worry! You won't have to stock any extra cards in your seed or draw decks. For example, lets say that you used to seed 1 Q-Flash to open the side deck, 2 Q-Flashes under opponent's missions, and stock one Q-Flash in your deck as a counter - a total of 4 copies of the original Q-Flash. After The Trial Never End comes out, you'll use the same number of cards - they just won't be all the same. Let's walk through it.

Seeds on Table
Q-Flash will receive errata, pictured below:

Q-Flash remains the card that opens the Q-Continuum side deck and sits face up on the table. But it now uses all seven lines to explain how the Q-Continuum side deck, and Q-Flash experiences, work.

Seeds on (opens) Q-Continuum side deck (any number of [Q] cards). When opponent's crew or Away Team has a Q-Flash, draw cards from here, one at a time, discarding duplicates. Dilemmas drawn are encountered (while personnel present only). Opponent plays other cards drawn (if possible). When [Q] cards leave play, place them face up here only (even if closed); when side deck empty, shuffle to replenish it.

You don't have to go to the glossary to figure out what goes in this side deck and how it works: it's all on this card. It tells you what goes in this side deck, how you use it, what happens when you "run out," and where the cards go when they leave play. The card even defines what "has a Q-Flash" means, which is a phrase that will appear on the cards that go under the mission. However, there is a change: a Q-Flash keeps going once the crew or Away Team runs out of people.

Why this change? Well, in the days before The Trial Never Ended, the only way to experience a Q-Flash was with that doorway being seeded beneath a mission. They were all the same: you experience X [Q] cards, where X was equal to the number of personnel in the crew or Away Team. As most [Q] cards would remove at most one personnel, there was very, very few circumstances in which you'd run out of personnel before you ran out of Q cards. Now - or at least in a week, when TTNE comes out - there are multiple ways to experience a Q-Flash; and, not all of them trigger with the same value of X. This increases the odds of running out of people before Q is done with them, so there was a need to make a decision. Option #1 was to keep the old functionality, where Q-Flashes stopped once the crew or Away Team was gone. Option #2 proved intriguing, where Q keeps going. After a lot of testing and research, Option #2 is what we went with, and it's all spelled out on the card. If there are no personnel left but still [Q] cards to go, you keep going. Q Dilemmas get discarded (because dilemmas require personnel), but all the other Q types get played. This will be fun.

Q: A Dazzling Flash

Seeds Under Missions
Okay, so with the Q Continuum open and Q-Flashes explained, how do you get an opponent's crew or Away Team to experience one? It's simple, and it's the same way you do most things to their mission or scouting attempts - with a dilemma. Specifically, with Q: A Dazzling Flash:

[S/P] Q: A Dazzling Flash {ST: VOY}
One of many Q conflicts encountered during their voyage home, a furious chase between Q and Quinn threw the U.S.S. Voyager from the birth of the universe to a Christmas tree.
Crew or Away Team has a Q-Flash with X cards from opponent's Q-Continuum, where X = number of personnel present. Discard dilemma. (Immune to Q2.)

Functionally, this works just like the old Q-Flash doorway did when seeded under a mission. An opponent's crew or Away Team hits it (because it can go under either mission type), you count the number of personnel that have hit the dilemma, and then you have a Q-Flash. What does that mean? Well, if you don't have Q-Flash seeded on the table, it doesn't mean anything. It's like if you play Kasidy Yates without Cargo Bay in play - her special skill is simply non-functional because "cargo run" is undefined. Result: the dilemma just discards. But, assuming the opponent did bring their Q-Continuum to bear, you'll face X [Q] cards from that side deck.

Now, there are a few differences. First of all, the card type has changed from a doorway to a dilemma. Fun design fact: this card was a doorway for most of design and playtesting. But it ended up with a lot of extra words to explain how it worked, since doorways don't typically seed under missions. Plus, there was a lot of pressure to include even more text on the card so it could be stocked in deck and do something. Eventually, everyone working on the card realized it would be a lot cleaner if it was just a dilemma, with the extra benefit of getting lore. Of course, as a dilemma, this new card risks nullification where the old doorway would not. However, it does make itself immune to Q2, so you do have to work harder to nullify it than normal. Secondly, it has a new name: Q! Well, Q: A Dazzling Flash, but because of the colon rule, any card that affects one Q dilemma affects them all.

Q-uality Time (Errata)

And since the cards that start Q-Flashes aren't named Q-Flash any more, a few other housekeeping changes needed to happen. For example, consider Q-uality Time, a dilemma from 2016's Through the Looking Glass. It used to let you download and seed a Q-Flash, but now, it lets you go and grab "Q" - any of them. So you can get Q: A Dazzling Flash, the original Q, or any other card that starts with "Q:" that might come out in the near or far futures.

That's two of the three functions of the old Q-Flash, back with new mechanics and new coats of paint. But what about the third function? Well, we created a new Interrupt to stock in your deck and deal with Q cards. But you'll have to wait until tomorrow to see her...

The Trial Never Ended Release Plan
I wanted to take a few moments to explain our plan for releasing this expansion, because it's pretty unusual. Normally, we release expansions on Fridays and keep them out of the card pool until the next Friday. This carries on from Decipher tradition, giving players a week to learn the new cards (and to go out and buy their physical product) before they show up in events. However, because these new Q cards and associated errata are so fundamentally changing the mechanic, the traditional model wouldn't work.

Instead, we're announcing this expansion on a Monday (today) and releasing it one week later, also on a Monday: November 1st, to be precise. This is also the first Monday of the month, and the normal release date for errata. Therefore, for The Trial Never Ended only, we will be waiving the usual "holding period" and these cards will be legal immediately upon release. This ensures that the new cards will become legal at the same time as the associated errata.

Finally, we encourage players that might be playing a tournament the weekend of November 5th (or any time that week) to be careful if considering using a Q-Continuum side deck or any of the associated cards. While it's going to be pretty easy to map the new cards to the old ones, it's potentially a fair bit of work (not to mention printing and cutting). Maybe hold onto your copy of James Heaney's world championship deck until the next weekend, if only to spare yourself the mental energy required to make it work with the new cards.

Anyway, that's your overview of the new Q-Flash - very similar to the old Q-Flash. We hope that you'll enjoy all of the spoilers - errata and new cards both - we have for you over the next week. And don't forget to come back Monday, November 1st to see the whole package of new cards, errata, and rules updates to breath new life in to Q.

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