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Rules Update, September

by James Heaney, First Edition Rules Master

7th September 2020

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

There's no big news this month -- yet.

I am pleased to announce that, when Project Londo (the Klingon-focused third expansion set of the Original Series block) is released, it will be accompanied by a supplementary rules update. This will be the first time in several years that an expansion has been accompanied by a rules update. (At this writing, the update is only half a sentence long, but it'll still get an article on or near release day.)

Project Londo is not coming out today, though, and my understanding is that we may have another monthly rules update before it arrives. So hang tight and get hype! Rules has finally approved the whole set, and there's a lot of all-new cards in it that I'm pretty darned excited about.

For now, let's dive into the monthly rulings!

Monthly Rulings

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


Assimilating People

Jason Robinette alerted us to an oddity in the assimilation rules: the way it was worded, it looked like a personnel who had no staffing icons (like Mardah) would get no subcommand icons after assimilation, while a personnel with multiple staffing icons (like Tahglio) would get two subcommands -- one for his regular icon and one for his special staffing icon (the [AU] icon, in Tahglio's case). This seemed wrong, and defied how everyone has always played Borg. Someone with neither a [Cmd] or [Stf] star (like Mardah) should get the [SCD] Red Defense subcommand; someone like Tahglio should only get a subcommand based on his staff star, not his AU icon.

We traced this back to a bug in the halcyon days of 2001. When The Borg expansion set came out, Decipher published a rules supplement that re-summarized the Borg rules for a new generation of players -- but in the process slightly fuzzed the assimilation rules. Not a problem at the time, since the actual assimilation rules were still in the Glossary. But, at some point, The Borg Rules Supplement was copied more or less verbatim into the Glossary, and stayed there ever since.

This appears to have been an error. This month, we corrected the error. Assimilation works the way you always thought it did: [Cmd] star personnel become Blue Communication subcommands, [Stf] star personnel become Green Navigation subcommands, and people with neither become Red Defense subcommands.

While we were there, we also restored something else that was lost from the Glossary's assimilation text when Decipher made these (apparently unintentional) edits: according to the First Contact Rules Supplement (and subsequent Borg-affiliation rules), an assimilated personnel's staffing icons are converted to subcommand icons... and all other icons become irrelevant. So does any restriction box. That's why the assimilation overlays released in EFC worked: they didn't care if you assimilated an Original Series personnel, because the assimilation of that personnel erased the icon anyway! This rule appears to have been removed inadvertently.

So we've now restored and confirmed this: Assimilated Borg lose their restriction boxes and all non-staffing icons. (However, they still do not gain a new quadrant icon, as the overlays imply.)

Establish Gateway - The Borg

Scouting Solved Missions (and Whatever You Call the Flip Side of That)

Until this month, the Rulebook has stated that, once a mission is solved, it can no longer be scouted. This was, quite simply, an error. I wrote that part of the Rulebook in draft in 2014, when I didn't know Borg rules very well, and somehow it got past all of us despite years and years of revisions and corrections. We've corrected the error. Here's the truth:

Attempting a mission (in hopes of accomplishing the goals stated in the mission lore) and scouting the mission (as preparation for assimilation or transwarp conduit expansion) are fundamentally different things. They don't care about each other. A Borg player is free to scout (and complete a Borg objective targeting) a mission that you have already solved. And you are free to solve a mission even after a Borg-Only Objective has already been placed on it -- that is, as long as the location hasn't been assimilated. (You can't attempt a mission that's been assimilated by Assimilate Planet or Assimilate Homeworld. But Establish Gateway, Consume: Resources, and most other Borg-Only Objectives don't assimilate the target location, so eat your heart out.)

Consume: Outpost

Goodness, this was quite a Rulesy month for the Borg, wasn't it?

We got some questions about how the outpost download works on Consume: Outpost. The answer is... the outpost has very little functional effect. Design asked for the outpost download for flavor reasons, not mechanical reasons.

The outpost download is mandatory. If you can't download the outpost, you can't play this objective.

Consume: Outpost

However, the outpost download will be protected from Computer Crash thanks to The Ultimate User, whose protection does extend to the outpost download.

Once downloaded, however, the objective no longer cares about the outpost. Your opponent can blow up the outpost, it can get discarded by a Sheliak, whatever -- you'll still be able to complete the objective. This was designer intent, and the card text reflects that.

General Cleanup

We added some more cross-references this month. Thanks to VioletBlaze, Takket, Maggie Gallagher, and others who suggested cross-references. This is probably the final month where I will explicitly call out each new cross-reference in the Recent Rulings Document, because it turns out to be enough work that it limits the number of cross-references I can actually do each month. But we'll keep at them, especially if you keep suggesting them. Thanks!

Unresolved Temporary Rulings

With today's errata for Enemies of the State, the temporary ruling about that card is rendered moot. We were SO CLOSE to having no temporary rulings on the books for the first time in more than five years.

But, alas, we issued a temporary ruling about Seek Hidden Reliquary this month. For now, it works the way the TrekSense suggests: you can't use it to download artifacts to space missions. We're not sure how this is going to get finally settled... but when it does, you'll read about it here!

Seek Hidden Reliquary

Rules Soapbox: Answering Community Questions

It's well-known that the Rules Committee doesn't answer every community rules question. But why don't we? And how do we decide which ones we will answer?

Every year, the United States Supreme Court receives about 10,000 petitions -- mostly appeals from rulings of the lower courts. It accepts about 80. Even then, some of those 80 cases are part of the Court's original jurisdiction -- cases involving important parties that the Court is required to hear. With nine justices, the Court simply does not have time to hear more than a small fraction of the petitions brought to them on appeal, and rulings of lower courts are allowed to stand, even to set precedent within their part of the world.

The Rules Committee is the Supreme Court of Star Trek Cards. (Apologies to our non-U.S. players for a U.S. analogy.) The lower courts are your friendly neighborhood tournament directors. They resolve the vast majority of rules questions, and their decisions often set precedent within their territories. We value the judgment and experience of Organized Play's tournament directors enormously, and they do a great job.

We have plenty of original jurisdiction cases, too: rules review for new sets, consultations with Design about new ideas they have, and our own work of revision, clarification, and streamlining. This leaves us with some bandwidth to answer community questions... but not as much as we'd like. We don't get 10,000 petitions per year, but we do get more questions than we can discuss and resolve in a month... and, if they were easy questions, they wouldn't get to us!

So how do we decide which ones to deal with? There's no set formula, and each member of the Rules Committee weighs things differently. That said, it usually comes down to a mixture of these factors:

  1. Has anyone actually asked us for an official ruling? We almost never look into an issue unless we're directly requested to do so.
  2. How many people seem to want to know the answer? We're more likely to consider frequently asked questions than obscure ones or particular hobbyhorses.
  3. Is it affecting actual games? The universe of theoretical problems in 1E is extremely large, and we keep our work manageable by focusing as much as we can on problems that have been proved to exist in the real game.
  4. How badly is it affecting games? The more dramatic the effect, the more likely we are to address it.
  5. How obvious is it how it's "supposed" to work? We like to get all wording perfect and correct, of course... but, if it's just obvious that a card is supposed to work a certain way, we tend to be a little more tolerant of technically imprecise or ambiguous wording.
  6. Are different T.D.'s answering this question differently? Are they likely to? We hate seeing "circuit splits," where different parts of the world play the same card differently. This doesn't happen often, but it does happen. In the past, both Edo Probe and Q's Tent: Civil War have been played differently in different parts of the world (even top-level tournaments). We're especially worried about this in 2020, since the pandemic has driven most play online and "squished" the entire worldwide meta together.
  7. What underlying rules conversations does this question interact with? Questions often expose weak points in the rules, often without realizing it. The question itself may be about a single interaction, seemingly with a simple answer, but may be just the tip of an iceberg... like the question about how Samaritan Snare works in OTF, which exposed very old and deep problems in the mission-solving rules. This factor can help a question or hurt it -- it really depends on how prepared we are to solve the underlying problem when the question comes in.
  8. How difficult is the question? The harder the question, the less likely we are to have time to answer it. That's a bummer, because the hardest questions are the most interesting, but they often take months to resolve, and that means we have to be really careful which tough questions we take on board

PICTURED: Your friendly neighborhood Tournament Director, issuing first-rate rulings in a fraction of the time.

One thing we've been trying to do a better job with lately is tracking community questions. If you've asked a rules question and are wondering what the status is on it, feel free to PM me on the forums, and I'll tell you (in very general terms) what is happening with it. So even though I can't promise the community that we will be answering every rules question anyone has, I can promise transparency about which questions are on our radar and whether we're making progress.

And I do mean any rules question you've asked. There's a question on our docket that was first raised five years ago, we lost track of it (hence the new tracking!), and now we're trying to resolve it. It's a toughie! But I'm hopeful we'll be able to finally crack the code on it. So you might ask about your question and my answer will be, "We forgot about it!" or "We decided to leave this one to T.D.'s for the time being," but I'll at least give you an answer.

In the meantime, continue to ask your friendly local tournament directors for their rulings. T.D. rulings are binding and final for their events. Even if the Rules Committee later considers a T.D. ruling and reverses it, the original game results stand. If the forums can't answer your question, your T.D. -- who is an excellent, friendly, and knowledgeable player, I've no doubt -- should always be your first recourse. The game's "Supreme Court" will keep puttering along, helping out as it can, but it's really the T.D.'s who keep things running day-to-day.

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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