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The Long and Sordid History of [2E] Harry Mudd

by Charlie Plaine, Acting Lead Designer

17th May 2011

Hello, folks! As the acting Second Edition Lead Designer, I'm here to tell you the sad and sordid tale of Mr. Harcourt "Harry" Fenton Mudd. As I'm sure you're aware, Mr. Mudd was the creation of this year's Will of the Collective. He's been designed in both First Edition and Second Edition flavors, but this article is just talking about the 2E version. (The 1E version, I have on good authority, is going to be tested with Project Moody - parts of which are being tested now.)

Let me cut to the chase: Harry (and his ship, the Hard Bargain), have been cut from Project Rizzi and won't be releasing in our next Second Edition expansion. I'll get into why in a moment, but let me take a moment now to assure you that Harry isn't gone forever! We're going to return him to the community and you'll get a hand in figuring out what direction he's going to take before we give him back to the testers for an expansion later this year.

Snip, Snip
Now, I'm sure the million dollar question is: Why did you cut Harry? Well, to answer that question, we have to look at his evolution based on our testers' feedback. On March 8th that became a significantly easier task thanks to the hard work of Chris "Maelwys" Lobban. Chris is always a miracle worker, but on that particular day, he launched our new Research, Design and Development Database that he's nicknamed Utopia Planetia.

Utopia Planetia is a system that lets us do nearly all of our design and development work with a few mouse clicks. Not only does the system create our testing files (saving quite a bit of our Art Department's time), but it provides a comprehensive history of each and every change made to each and every card we create. The system came online mid-way through testing of Project Rizzi and has been used for every 1E, 2E, and Tribbles project since.

So that's the back story of why we know the evolution of Harry Mudd. Let's get into the details. On March 8th, Chris put all of our current versions of the cards into Utopia Planetia, and Harry looked like this:

[NA] 2 •Harcourt Fenton Mudd (subtitle)
[Stf] [Pa] Human
•Acquisition •Treachery
Commander: HarryShip. Thief. Smuggler. When any number of your Smuggler personnel or Thief personnel present are about to be stopped or killed by a dilemma, you may place this personnel on the bottom of his owner's deck to prevent that.
[INTEGRITY 4] [CUNNING 6] [STRENGTH 5]

I had asked our testers to pay special attention to Harry (and his ship) because we really wanted to get this Will of the Collective card "right." I think that All-Consuming Evil and Virtual Reality Headset were both good ideas, but I suspect that design, development, and the testers were "gun shy" about changing an idea from the community. I felt that we had an obligation to make Harry work, but not at the cost of releasing a "broken" card or deck.

And the testers did pay special attention to Harry, many of them building specific Thief/Smuggler decks to take best advantage of his ability. The results were not encouraging. "He's more powerful than Kirk," wrote one group. Another commented that he could be combined with Kirk/Reyga/Donatra to really ruin an opponent's day. Several of the groups said that he was too cheap, and that by using Deep Space Nine and Bustling with Activity, he could be used virtually every turn.

Design listed to the feedback, and made a few changes:

[NA] 3 •Harcourt Fenton Mudd (subtitle)
[Stf] [Pa] Human
•Acquisition •Anthropology •Treachery
Commander: HarryShip. Thief. Smuggler. When any number of your Smuggler personnel or Thief personnel present are about to be stopped or killed by a dilemma, you may place this personnel on the bottom of his owner's deck to prevent that.
[INTEGRITY 4] [CUNNING 6] [STRENGTH 5]

As you can see, he gained a skill but went up a little bit in cost. To the testers, it didn't make a difference. He was still "too good" in combination and too easy to fetch and replay with Bustling with Activity. At this point, design started looking for other options to limit his effect (or increase his cost). On March 14th and 15th, the designers had this exchange:

Designer A: Let's limit this to [NA] Smuggler and/or [NA] Thief personnel, so that the deck might be vulnerable to the anti- [NA] dilemmas.

Designer B: Vulnerable to which Anti-NA dilemmas?
Lawgivers? He can prevent them being stopped, so they won't go away.
Quarren Labour? He can prevent them being stopped.
Seen and Unseen? He can prevent them being stopped.
If you make an all-thief/smuggler deck, whether it's all NA or not, he'll get you by one of those every turn.

Designer A: Right, but once you use him, he's out for the turn. So I can use him against QLS, but then I get wrecked by AIOT. Or I can use him against AIOT, but then Seen and the Unseen hits. I know it's not an all or nothing, but it seems like it might be a trade-off.

Designer C: I wish he didn't work on theives and smugglers, just smugglers would have been much cooler. But it's not up to us I guess. I would agree with adding the NA theives part though.

After a bit more back and forth (and a few Skype conversations), the next version of Harry was updated and sent to the testers:

[NA] 3 •Harcourt Fenton Mudd (subtitle)
[Stf] [Pa] Human
•Acquisition •Anthropology •Treachery
Commander: HarryShip. Thief. Smuggler. When any number of your [NA] Smuggler personnel or [NA] Thief personnel present are about to be stopped or killed by a dilemma, you may place this personnel on the bottom of his owner's deck to prevent that.
[INTEGRITY 4] [CUNNING 6] [STRENGTH 5]

At this point in our development process (which has been revised and updated to feature Utopia Planetia access for Rules, Creative, and Design teams), there was a required Rules sign-off. This meant that our Rules Master and his team had to go through all the cards and give us notes on wordings and consistency issues, and then mark cards in one of several statuses, ranging from "A-OK" to "If you print this card the universe will implode." On the 25th of March, Harry was marked "Approved" meaning that we had no rules issues with our text - a major milestone, and a good sign for Harry.

Unfortunately, excluding affiliated Thieves and Smugglers didn't do nearly enough to limit Harry's power. As Designer B had pointed out, restricting him to only [NA] personnel meant that he made them immune to the anti- [NA] dilemmas in the game. This was a Very Bad Thing (TM). In addition, the testers still felt that Harry was - in all ways - better than James T. Kirk (Original Thinker). Nobody on the team wanted to see "another Kirk" so design was faced with trying to address his power level, once again.

For the next update, on the 30th of March, we increased his cost to 4. And then again to 5 a week later. Even at a cost of five (5), which is the same as James T. Kirk, the Thief deck was being reported as nigh-unstoppable. After some in-depth analysis, it seemed the source of his terrible power was the fact that he was infinitely retrievable with Bustling with Activity. The logical adjustment seemed to be to make him unable to be retrieved, and thus a new version of Harry appeared in the file:

[NA] 5 •Harcourt Fenton Mudd (subtitle)
[Stf] [Pa] Human
•Acquisition •Anthropology •Treachery
Commander: HarryShip. Thief. Smuggler. When any number of your [NA] Smuggler personnel or [NA] Thief personnel present are about to be stopped or killed by a dilemma, you may remove this personnel from the game to prevent that.
[INTEGRITY 4] [CUNNING 6] [STRENGTH 5]

Design felt pretty good about this revision, as his effect would be powerful but limited. The play testers, on the other hand, balked at having a five cost and being removed from the game. So, we lowered him back down to a cost of four (4), and suddenly he was too powerful again. It boiled down to the fact that the Non-Aligned affiliation in Second Edition should not be standing alone, and when they do, they're too good. Harry made Thieves and Smugglers (which can already be monsters with Pickpocket and Jean-Luc Picard (Galen)) nigh unstoppable, and that made for a bad game state.

In the interests of being thorough, and to have everyone look at him again with fresh eyes, we restored his "bottom of the deck" cost and returned his printed cost to five (5). But even with fresh eyes, it was clear the "mass unstop" had to go. However, this was pretty late in the game - we were wrapping up testing on Project Rizzi and rapidly heading towards a final decision. We tried to give Harry a different twist on his ability that felt more fair and more costly:

[NA] 4 •Harcourt Fenton Mudd (subtitle)
[Stf] [Pa] Human
•Acquisition •Anthropology •Treachery
Commander: Hard Bargain. Thief. Smuggler. When this personnel or your [NA] Smuggler or [NA] Thief is about to be killed or stopped by a dilemma, you may discard a Crime card or a [NA] card from hand to prevent that.
[INTEGRITY 4] [CUNNING 6] [STRENGTH 5]

I still think there is potential in this version (or a variant of it), but the truth is that we'd run out of time. Testers brought up some valid concerns about his power level and some card interactions, and we just didn't have time to get it right. So, on May the 2nd, after consulting with the design team and the play testers, we made the decision to move both Harcourt Fenton Mudd and the Hard Bargain to the Cut File. (After all, we wouldn't want to release one without the other!)

So, Harry and his ship sit in the cut file, awaiting their day in the sun. But we want your help to figure out where to take him before we send him back to play testers. Do you like the "Chakotay" variant seen above? Is there another idea that the community can come up with? Visit our Will of the Collective forum to discuss your ideas, and we'll work with you to find a version that's fun and has just the right amount of power.


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