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Rule #4.06 § A ¶ 4

by Richard New, Design Member

12th November 2020

"You're out of here!"

"What?"

"No player shall at any time make contact with the umpire in any manner. The prescribed penalty for the violation is immediate ejection from the game."

– Odo and Benjamin Sisko, “Take Me Out to the Holosuite” Star Trek: Deep Space 9

Since being introduced in Peak Performance, Rituals have had an important place in Second Edition. They are meant to be silver bullets, or weapons against abusive strategies. And while I'd love to wax poetic about about the benefits and downsides of silver bullets across the card type spectrum, for now I'll just say that they tend to do their job well.

That is, after a shaky start. (I love the history of the game, so feel free to skip the next paragraph if not interested.)

Rituals were originally non-unique and had an unloaded keyword. The intention was clear: a card that didn't count against the user to hamper worrying play. They didn't cost anything, they replaced themselves in your hand with a free draw, extra copies didn't clog your hand, and you couldn't use them as fuel for other effects. They even had their own protection in the form of Ibboko (Kreetassan Chancellor) Still, the shield against damaging effects ended up getting lost in the shuffle. At first, Rituals found their main use as a quick method to spam multiple events, demonstrating that the best of intentions can sometimes have negative side effects. Eventually, they were revamped to be unique, the keyword became loaded (made all the easier by the repetitious text on the cards), and the extra card draw was saved for the first Ritual played. And, of course, to counter the need to have several dead cards in a deck to guarantee drawing a Ritual early (or having to choose between Rituals that could be situational), Kreetassa (Perform Intricate Ritual) was added to the roster.

Alvera Tree Ritual tamped down on dilemma pile manipulation or simply dilemma pile scanning. Klingon Tea Ceremony effectively added a counter cost to repeated downloading. Emanations called foul on recursion issues. And Code of the Ushaan punished overclocking the counter system. On the whole, I see a history of Rituals asking players to play by the rules. Some things, meant to be rare or at least uncommon in the game, were often combined by players and stacked to produce unfair results.

Playing by the Rules

And thus we come to today's entry: Playing by the Rules. And personally, I wish this card had come out years ago. We've all faced decks where you attempt a mission five times and maybe end up with two dilemmas beneath. Well, now there is a simple answer. "When a player is about to return a non-Damage dilemma that costs 1 or more to their dilemma pile, the opponent on their right may discard a non-[Bor] personnel from hand to place that dilemma beneath one of that opponent’s non-headquarters missions instead." Aside from Damage dilemmas (which make sense, as they are returned to their owner's dilemma pile when repaired), there are few dilemmas that fall under this card's exception. That means Polywater Intoxication can still punish you for microteaming, but the Pattern Loss/Underlying Influences's bread and butter Bread and Circuses (as well as Captain's Holiday/Vanishing Act) and old staples such as Healing Hand/Honorable Pursuit, Occupational Hazards, and The Dal'Rok all have slightly duller claws. All you have to do is eject one of your own players from the game and these dilemmas go where you want them instead.

I asked Michael Shea about the development of the card. He informed me that this card was originally pitched as an event for Far Beyond the Stars, the DS9-inspired anniversary set. Players had been concerned for awhile "about the power of the doubler pile, specifically the bouncing wall Bread and Circuses. But, more generally, we've noticed how over time we've seen the game evolve to the point where it's possible to build entire dilemma piles based on never getting a dilemma overcome beneath an opponent's mission - and those piles can work really well. We wanted to create something to balance this strategy. ... We also didn't want to nuke an entire dilemma strategy - bounce piles should be a legitimate option. We just wanted players to have a more accessible answer to that option." What became Playing by the Rules started as an interrupt and then morphed over time back into an event with the Ritual text for ease of use. The loaded keyword text, some alterations for 2E-speak, and the safety of not giving access to the Borg (per Michael, "because the Borg already have interrupt tech to deal with bounce piles, Adapt and especially Analyze, so we felt that their having access to this as well would simply be too much.") led to the unfortunate outcome of having no space for lore. Michael informed me that had there been space, the quote chosen would have been Odo's line, "Look it up, but do it in the stands. You're gone." So, if you're the sort that's bothered by that type of thing, you can always say that line yourself when playing the card.

I know I will.


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