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Self-Control Unleashed

by James Heaney, Assistant Designer

6th May 2019

Assimilated Vessel

"Do you smell that? A sweet odor like honey. It was years ago, another planet. A thing with an odor like that..."

Six years ago, with The Sky's The Limit, the Continuing Committee released the brand-new Self-Controlling mechanic. It allows dilemmas to move around the spaceline on their own, attacking ships, stealing equipment, and generally making themselves a nuisance. (Technically, self-controlling cards can be any card type, including Events, but, so far, there have only been  Dilemmas.) The new mechanic was supported by a set of intuitive, largely self-explanatory, rules.

"You saw their colour. There wasn't a red corpuscle left in their bodies."

The self-controlling mechanic represents one of just a handful of significant new rules, loaded icons, and card templates enacted during the CC Era. The Continuing Committee's Department of First Edition has been much more cautious than Decipher ever was about recklessly adding rules and card types to the game. However, history has shown that adding  was a good change: all five self-controlling cards have gone on to modest (but not blockbuster) success in the meta, and continue to see occasional use today. One now-classic strategy is to combine a self-controlling dilemma with The Whale Probe and The Nexus to really make for a really exciting spaceline.

"There's an intelligence about it, Bones. A malevolence. It's evil. It must be destroyed."

However, the CC of 2013 wanted a safety valve on self-controlling cards.  cards represented a major innovation in the dilemma space, and it wasn't entirely clear what impact they would have on the game. And so the self-controlling cards came with an extra rule, one that wasn't intuitive at all: each player could only have one self-controlling card on the spaceline at once. While the caution is understandable, this rule has made using self-controlling cards more difficult: stocking even two of them runs the risk of having one of them prematurely discarded.

Hirogen Hunt: Coordinated Effort

"They never knew what was killing them. Their logic would not have permitted them to believe they were being killed."

Soon after I joined The Cage as the junior designer, we began to question whether the self-controlling limit fit into the world of Captain Kirk's twenty-third century. After all, in Kirk's day, the galaxy was swarming with spaceborne entities, most of them a menace to all life they encountered. (I'd list a few, but Charlie says my spoiler hints have to be subtler than that.) Self-controlling cards had this arbitrary limit to protect balance, but it seemed to be in the way of the TrekSense we were trying to bring to life in The Cage. Experience had shown that self-controlling cards weren't as powerful as 2013 Design and Testing had feared, so we wondered whether this "safety valve" was really necessary anymore. Finally, last year, in our Design Document, our team officially asked Playtesting to test The Cage alongside a rule change. We wanted to see what would happen if we got rid of the limit on self-controlling cards.

"It seems to be in a borderline state between matter and energy. Elements of both. It could possibly use gravitational fields for propulsion."

Although lots of things in The Cage needed significant adjustment after playtester feedback, this particular change never became an issue. With assistance from the Rules Committee, we proceeded with the rule change, which is being published in today's Current Rulings Document. Not having to worry about self-controlling cards accidentally nullifying each other opened a great deal of design space for our team to work in. What kind of design space? Well, you'll have to find out when The Cage begins spoilers in November 2018!

"Don't misunderstand my next question: Mister Spock... why aren't you dead?"
"It's that green blood of his!"

Wait, November 2018? Isn't that in the past? Weren't we releasing The Gift back then?

Well...  yes, we were. And that's precisely why the team from The Cage asked the team from The Gift to take one of our cards as a special pre-teaser. Hirogen Hunt: Coordinated Effort is a nifty little card to enable Hirogen-only decks, but, since its release last year (and thanks to James Monsebroten and The Gift team for letting us borrow that card slot!), Coordinated Effort has been very difficult to use for its second function, which depends on a  card being on the spaceline for most of the game. It's hard because Coordinated Effort was designed as part of The Cage, and it needs this rule change to reach full power, in a meta where 's are more numerous and less risky to seed in multiple. Coordinated Effort will also see its utility boosted by several new cards you'll be seeing soon, when a crowd of space monsters start to rattle The Cage.

"It's a radio wave, sir. We're passing through an old-style distress signal."

I'd say more, but I'm receiving an Urgent Warning on a priority-one channel. The readout, if you please, Mr. Tyler?

***

-MESSAGE BEGINS-

[P/S] Dikironium Cloud Creature

Gaseous predator which feeds on red blood cells. Killed 200 crewmen from the Starship Farragut in 2257.

End of every turn: Kills four of each player's personnel here (their choice, human if possible), then moves. Worth points if destroyed in battle. [10]

RANGE 6 | NO WEAPONS | SHIELDS 12

***

"That's it, sir. The message faded from that point."


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