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Rules Update, October 2021

by James Heaney, Rules Manager (1E)

4th October 2021


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

 There are no functional changes this month.

 Temporary "Bluetext" Rulings Update

 With Worlds just around the corner, the Rules Committee issued temporary "bluetext" rulings on some recently-contested questions in order to ensure consistent worldwide play. Here they are:


   If a Dead End (or some other unique/non-duplicatable dilemma) that you seeded is in play, and your opponent reveals another copy of Dead End (or that other dilemma) that you seeded (legally, at another mission), you may nullify the second copy with Disrupted Continuum. If you do, you may download and seed a replacement. (The second copy would not be discarded for violating uniqueness until the encounter step begins.)  


   Over the course of a game, using multiple copies of Consume: Outpost, you may repeatedly download the exact same outpost from outside the game, even after that outpost has been placed out-of-play.  


   If your [Bor] ship with a point box is destroyed by a non-[Bor] opponent in battle, and you attempt to use your Federation Flagship: Recovered in response to its destruction, the destruction resolves in the following order:  

  1. The ship is destroyed.    
  3. Opponent scores points but does not yet place the ship in their point area.      
    • (If opponent now meets the victory conditions, the game immediately ends, and resolution stops here.)        
  5. The ship is placed on Federation Flagship: Recovered.    
  7. Federation Flagship: Recovered resolves (saving the crew).    
  9. Federation Flagship: Recovered discards.    
  11. The destroyed Borg ship now goes to opponent's point area (instead of discarding with the incident).    

   For details on the hows and whys of these temporary rulings, see the forum thread (about the Disrupted Continuum issue) and the article (about the TNG Borg issues). These rulings are all being added to the Glossary's Temporary Rulings section today. We hope to resolve these issues on a permanent basis starting next month... after Worlds is over.  

 Disrupted Continuum

 Rules Committee Applications

 Thanks to everyone who applied to join the Rules Committee! We'll be closing the application and removing the job description today or tomorrow and begin deliberating about who will ascend to the Rulesy Heights. There's some excellent applicants, so competition will be stiff, gosh we might even have some follow-up questions, and I'm already dreading sending out the rejection emails to highly-qualified candidates. But that's still a ways off. I expect we'll make our final decision in December. Seriously, though, thank you to everyone who volunteered. It's really encouraging to see you willing to dedicate time and energy to this most esoteric corner of the universe, and, whether you're the accepted applicant or not, please remember that the game couldn't survive without your spirit of volunteerism.

 Monthly Rulings

 There's really nothing in this month's Recent Rulings Document. We fixed a five-year-old copy-paste error and we updated an example that referred to an unsupported 2EBC card. (Numerous typos and links were also fixed, but typos are not listed in the RRD.)

 Rules Soapbox: Making the Rules More Navigable

 Last month, we suspended the Glossary-to-Rulebook project for a little while in order to focus on ways to make the rules documents (and rule changes) more navigable. Finding rulings in the Glossary was hard enough, but now you often have to searchtwo documents to answer your rules questions? It's a lot, and you need better tools.

 In fact, we've needed better tools for a long, long time. (I've even written about this before.) The rules of this game have always changed, at every stage of its life... and the game has struggled enormously, since all the way back in Decipher times, to successfullycommunicate those changes to players. At least once every other month, I come across some experienced player who thinks you need a matching personnel to operate a cloaking device (rule cancelled 31 July 2000) or that dual-personnel cards that exceed the "group limit" of a random selection can be re-selected in some cases (rule cancelled Summer 2002) or that holograms cannot report activated even if a holodeck is present (rule cancelled 5 February 2018).

 I myself, as a callow youth, acquired a copy of Assign Mission Specialists in 1997... then me and my playgroup (several other local 10-year-olds) waited four long years for Decipher to explain what a "mission specialist" was, because we assumed it was a broken link -- never realizing that it was a term defined by rule on a rules sheet we'd never seen! (You won't believe how long it took for us to find out the 60-card deck rule was gone, and our wild guesses at how to play Q-icon cards or Borg were deeply amusing. None of these things appeared in an actual rulebook that an ordinary kid might actually purchase in a starter deck until, at the earliest, 1998!)

 Last month, I promised you that this month, I'd be giving an overview of the projects we are undertaking to make rules and rulings (1) easier to find during a game, (2) easier to track over time, and (3) easier to discover when you return to the game after a hiatus. Here's that overview!

 The Errata Database

 One of the problems players have when they return to the game is that they don't know right away which cards have changed. Hopefully they will discover the changes while building their decks, but not always, especially if they build decks from their binders rather than from Deck Builder. This makes it significantly harder for players to return to the game. Sometimes, errata you weren't aware of can be even harder to deal with than rule changes you were unaware of.

 I am building a web page that lists and dates all errata in the history of the game, linked to a high-resolution print of each erratum where available, with substantial sorting and filtering options. I owe a special thanks to the Art Department's Jörn Engstrom (admiral-mogh), who has provided a treasure trove of maximum-resolution, unrasterized errata images from the past several years, and to jrch5618, whose exhaustive errata research over the years provided the foundation for me to build out this database.

 ...as a matter of fact, it's already built, and I've been given permission to debut it today:

 Check out the new Errata Database!

 Let's take a quick spin through the features of this page.

 By toggling the "No-Impact Errata" buttons, you can hide or show all the errata that had no actual gameplay impact. Sometimes you want to see every erratum in the history of the game, right down to the Wesley Crusher typo correction. But often, you only care about how the cards' gameplay changed. If you Hide the No-Impact Errata, it all vanishes instantly.

 The search box searches the entire table, not just card titles. Want to see all errrata that involved an offload? Search "offload" in the box. Want to see all errata from the year 2019? Type in "2019-". Want to see just the 28 biggest errata of all time? Search "major".

 You can then click "Print Latest Version of All Visible Cards" to print out those cards, and just those cards. No longer do you have to print the entire errata file, or build a special "errata prints" deck in DeckBuilder! You can just search for the errata you want (say, all impactful errata from 1999), press "Print Latest Version of All Visible Cards," and boom! Custom errata page! (This custom print page is generated by the server, so it is rasterized, so it is not the max-resolution material Art gave us. For the BEST version of each card, you will want to use its Hi-Rez link.)

 Finally, you can change the "Show [All] entries" box to paginate the table. This feature will be somewhat more useful once we get the website fully responsive, at which point you'll find the pagination much easier to use when browsing the site on your phone... but Operations Manager Brian S is hard at work on that, it's a much bigger project than this errata page, and for now I'm just laying the groundwork.

 Hopefully this new tool will make it easier to meet all your errata needs.

 The Rule-Change Database

 Speaking of groundwork, the Errata Database is preparing the road for a much larger project. Imagine a tool where a returning player comes back to the game after a few years away. The tool asks him, "When did you play last?" The player types in a date... say, July 2016. The tool then prints a list of every single rule that has changed since July 2016, including a short description of the change, a link to the complete text of the change, a link to the article that was published explaining the change when it came out, and a link to the current rules on the same issue.

 Now take it a step farther. Imagine we tied that tool into the Glossary itself, so that, every time you opened the Glossary and said to yourself, "hang on, wasn't that rule different before?" you could just tap a button next to the Glossary entry and instantly see every change to that Glossary entry going back to before there even was a Glossary?

 This would be a huge project. Even Magic, with all its vast resources, only kinda-sorta did this once, in an article, like three years ago.

 But, man, wouldn't it be handy? Especially for players just coming back after some time away?

 Well, I hope so, because I've been working on it for 15 months. It's taken significantly more time and effort and late nights than writing the Rulebook, with many hours spent trawling the Internet Archive for ancient rule documents, begging people on Facebook for copies of FAQ v.3 (dated February 1995, please send it if you have it!) and CRDs from Summer 2002, and re-reading every Rules Committee article in the CC archives. It will probably never be truly "complete" the way the errata database can be declared "complete." Nevertheless, about two weeks ago, I finally finished my first pass through the complete history of the game's rules. In theory, my research notes contain not only every generally applicable rule that is, but every generally applicable rule that ever was as well, and how they evolved over time.

 Check out the All Rule Changes Spreadsheet

 I still have some important questions to answer and dots to connect before this is ready to go into the database, and then there's a whole lot more work to do converting this raw data into useful tools. It won't be readily useful to end users for a while yet. But I'm happy with the progress being made, and I already on this research in my work as rules master.

 The Compendium

 One complaint we've received about the current rulebook situation is a really simple one: we used to be able to search a single document (the Glossary) for all references to our problem by pressing "ctrl-F" and typing in the name of the card we had questions about. Now, we have definitive rulings in two documents, which means we have to ctrl-F both documents, and a lot of the nitty-gritty in the Rulebook is in closed sidebars, which aren't searched by ctrl-F. This makes searching for rules and rulings cumbersome and slow.

 Here's one solution I've been toying with. It's called The Compendium. It's a single document that contains the entire Glossary + the entire Rulebook, with all sidebars opened by default, all in one big happy document which can be ctrl-F'd to your heart's content. Is this helpful? I'm sharing this with you today in a "beta test" mode. If it's well-received, I'll polish it up and release it as an official rules document updated monthly alongside the other monthly rules documents. If it's crap, let me know in the forum thread and I'll try to think of other solutions for navigating both documents together more easily (please let us know if you have anything else in mind).

   Check out the The Compendium Beta Test: HTML Version | PDF Version

   Rulebook Numbering  

   This one's mostly for our good friends who are still using a printed-out Glossary and printed-out Rulebook. When the Glossary links out to the Rulebook, it usually says something like "See Rulebook: Dual-Personnel Cards." The bold text is a link that navigates directly to the relevant section of the Rulebook. But that's no use in a printed Glossary! Since there's no clear indication in the Rulebook where the "Dual-Personnel Cards" section might actually be, printed-paper users are finding themselves riffling through Rulebook pages looking for the appropriate heading... and the blasted thing is 92 pages long! That's no good. (Worse: the table of contents provided to web users doesn't print out in the paper version.)  


   So I'm working on a Javascript system to discreetly attach numbered headings to each section of the Rulebook. It won't just be the "Dual-Personnel Cards section" anymore; it will be "Section 6.3.4: Dual-Personnel Cards." Then the Glossary can provide those section numbers in its link-outs, and players using a printout will at least have some clue where to look for the relevant rules and whether they've overshot.  


   Of course, I could do this whole numbering system in about an hour if I just did it manually... but, then, as soon as the numbering system changed in any way, it would break all the references. And I think we all know, from decades of experience with STCCG rules documents, that there's a good chance we would forget to update some of the references. So I am holding out for an automated numbering and linking system -- more work up front, but more maintainable in the long run. (I hope!) That's why this isn't done yet.  


   I wrote a prototype for the Rulebook side of this... but then accidentally deleted it without a backup, shoot. I haven't written anything for the Glossary side yet, but I have some promising ideas for how to get the correct section numbers from the Rulebook over to the Glossary automatically.  

   Rules Archive  

   Another common complaint from the printed-paper crowd is that the Recent Rulings Documents go away too quickly. Players who use printed-paper rules documents don't want to reprint the Glossary + Rulebook every month, or even every six months, because the two documents are enormous. In theory, a printed-paper player could just print the Glossary + Rulebook once a year in, say, January, then collect each month's Recent Rulings Document for the latest updates until next January, when you can print new core documents and throw out the RRDs. That's exactly what the Recent Rulings Document says to do, in fact. (Third paragraph.)  


   But here's the problem: what if you miss a month? Lots of players go four weeks without checking the CC website, and some might even say that's a sign of a healthy and well-adjusted personality! Old RRDs vanish from the website immediately when the new one is released. We can say, "Okay, then, print out the Rules Committee articles instead," but even my very long articles are no replacement for actual rules text.  


   In the short term, we have a rough-and-ready solution: the Starship Excelsior STCCG Rules Archivearchives all RRDs as they are released.If you miss one, you can go get it from there. This is a bad long-term solution for two reasons. First, the Excelsior Archive is an independent website that has nothing to do with the Continuing Committee. I, James Heaney, happen to own it, but former Rules Master Jeremy Commandeur used to host 1E rules documents and other important files on his website... and, when his website went down, they disappeared from the Internet forever. This stuff should ultimately be hosted on the CC. Second, the Excelsior Archive is incredibly ugly! It's just a web directory, a raw list of filenames, no style or descriptions or search or anything to make it easier to find stuff.  


   In the long term, the First Edition Department is working on some renovations to the Continuing Committee's 1E website section. It is my expectation that, as that work comes to fruition, the Rules Committee will get a little webspace for us to play around with. At that point, we'll have a long-term host for all the rules documents currently hosted on the Excelsior Archive, we'll have a proper webpage helping you to find the documents you want (with little descriptions of each), and we can probably even coax the CC File Admin Scripts to automatically archive old RRDs there as the new ones come out. I don't know when this will be coming, but it is in the works.  

   STCCG Gatherer  

   One of the most common requests is for relevant rulings to appear on the actual card database pages, like they do in Magic: the Gathering's "Gatherer" database. Wouldn't that save everyone an enormous amount of lookup time? (Don't our friends in Second Edition already have something like this with their 2E Rules Tool?)  


   Yes, it would. (And, yes, they do.)  


   This, too, is happening, but so far verrrrrrrrrrrry slowly. There are a couple of large challenges. They are surmountable but... well, large, and I simply haven't had the time to surmount them yet. First, the entire Glossary would have to be converted to a data table; the data structure would have to be virtually identical to the structure of the 2E Rules Tool, in order to take advantage of pre-existing editing tools and code for the 2E Rules Tool. The new Glossary was created with a fairly rigid HTML structure, specifically to make this easier (because I've known since the day I applied to become Rules Master that "First Edition Gatherer" was something I wanted to build for this community)... but it's still a lot.  


   Second, the current Glossary would need to be rewritten as an export from that database. (I like the 2E Rules Tool's power, but I don't think the Glossary would work well if it were laid out like this. It's much too large for that. The Glossary needs to be a rich, searchable, pretty HTML document like it is today.) That rewrite would have to happen within one month, because, of course, the monthly publication of the Glossary does not stop just because we're working on it behind the scenes. Third, someone would have to write a series of complex SQL queries relating each ruling in the Glossary to the relevant cards in the database. 2E has already done this, but let's just say it will be somewhat more challenging to do this from scratch in 1E. We got a lot more cards and a lot more funky rulings.  


   TBQH, I could use some help from the programming-minded out there, although I would have to negotiate with the CC Operations Department to get any volunteers the required permissions without giving them the proverbial keys to the kingdom. PM me if interested, highly motivated to work on your own.  


   Either way, this is happening, and I don't intend to retire until it's done... but it's slow going so far and I'm sorry about that. It will be amazingly useful when complete, just as everyone who put it in my suggestions box has said, and I'll try to keep you posted as we make major progress.  


   So THAT is what I am working on right now. THAT is my plan to make the rules documents more navigable and to more clearly communicate changes to the game's rules. Some of them are quite long-term projects; some of them I expect to have finished in a month or two. The Glossary-to-Rulebook project will not resume until at least a few of them are finished, released, and working well -- which hopefully means Q1 2022. Please enjoy the new errata database as a down payment on the rest!  

 See You Space Cowboy...

 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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