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Khan: The Next Generation

by Richard New, The Menagerie Lead Designer

20th July 2022

"Leif Ericson, Richard the Lion Heart, Napoleon. I don't know if you're going to like living in our time."

"Then I'll have to remold it to my liking."

- Marla McGivers and Khan Noonien Singh, "Space Seed" Star Trek

Today I'm going to tell you about revamping Khan, which was one of the most difficult parts of designing this expansion for me. After all, we wanted to serve so many masters. For players that loved Khan, we didn't want them to feel betrayed (though I am ready for them to say that we have done just that; just know we tried as hard as we could to prevent that). For players that haven't played Khan before, we wanted to offer more than one option to play the faction. For players that like a challenge, we wanted to revitalize the four-planet option as separate from the three-planet Genesis option. For sanity, we wanted to avoid unnecessary errata. For simplicity, we wanted to keep the number of cards manageable, so players weren't required to have five silver bullets on hand at any moment to protect themselves from unique Khan issues. For myself, I wanted to close annoying loopholes or issues with Khan decks that made them a frequent bother to Design without making them like everyone else. And I wanted to try to make it future-proof, so we didn't have to do this again in a few years.

It was a tall order.

So first, let me take you through the issues. Not all of these issues were evident at the beginning. Some came up as new exceptions and new edge cases that had to be addressed to fulfill the goal, no matter how unlikely. (As an aside, for many of these cases, there are solutions, we know. You could list what the player would have to do to protect themselves. I could name another problem and we could continue until a bunch of cards were added to their deck that "a good Khan player would have; if they don't carry it, they get what they deserve." If you would argue that, I've very sorry, but I do reject it.)

The Wrath of Joaquin

The biggest problem was Joaquin. The deck hinged on him. Not Khan. Joaquin. You take Khan out of a Khan deck and it can still limp along. You take Joaquin out and you're playing solitaire.

Here's a list of general stuff that we identified that could shut down Joaquin, and thus a Khan player:

Some of the problems we identified weren't game-ending. Deal With the Count Man (falling in the first category above) would just delay a player, but falling three turns behind is often insurmountable. Again, we were aware that we were talking about edge cases. We knew that some of these cards hadn't appeared in decks for a long time, if ever. But if there's an effect in the game, it can always be reproduced and we wanted to future-proof Khan decks too. The other argument, of course, is that this is a feature and not a bug of Khan decks. They're supposed to be flimsy. We took this criticism seriously. I would argue that there is a difference between flimsy and fragile. LEGO models, for instance, are often accidentally (and in the case of my youngest, purposefully) dropped on the floor where they can come apart. But the blocks don't break, so you can always keep going and re-assemble. A dropped porcelain doll, however, can shatter into useless and dangerous shards. I'd prefer Trek decks to made of sterner stuff. Something had to be done about Joaquin.

We tried several options to support Khan decks as they were with one simple card that tried to cover all of the issues. We tried a ship that could play to Ceti Alpha V, but some players hated the idea of Khan decks playing a ship and we discovered several of the issues listed above while trying to eliminate the problem. We tried an event that allowed movement between missions without the need for a ship, but that likewise didn't cover all the issues and was hard to limit in a way that wouldn't allow a player to simply forego ships altogether. So, while I can't wait to show you new cards for use by Khan decks, we're going to have to start with an errata. Two, in fact.

Planet Seed

Strangely however, after all that talk of Joaquin, we'll start with Ceti Alpha V. This fundamental mission of Khan decks is becoming dual-sided.

[P] Ceti Alpha V, Forge Settlement (front)

Cards an opponent owns cannot prevent or make you lose command of copies of To Rule in Hell you own. At the start of your turn, you may discard a card from hand to download To Rule in Hell. When you complete this mission, flip it over.

[P] Ceti Alpha V, Escape from Purgatory (back)

Cards an opponent owns cannot prevent or make you lose command of copies of To Rule in Hell you own.

Order –If you do not command a ship you own, you may take a ship from your discard pile and place it at this mission. You now command that ship (it becomes [NA].) You may do this only once each turn.

The front stays mostly the same, retrieving To Rule in Hell and then protecting it for a Khan deck, but it also flips itself when complete. The back, however, loses the requirements (the mission is done, after all - but just to make sure someone doesn't complete a requirement-less mission over and over again with Favor the Bold, it utilizes the "no attempting" text from Temporal missions; go ahead and uncomplete it, but it doesn't flip back) and gains a new version of Joaquin's order. Honestly, if dual-sided missions were available at the time, I think this might have been the solution. The ship-grabbing text just needs a blank space to go and Khan's lieutenant was just the best place to put it at the time. But in the game, missions and ships have some built-in protections that personnel and other types don't have nor need. Since a ship was out of the question, the mission is a logical choice for a place to put the text.

There are some additional subtle changes to the text itself. First, one of the conditions is now a ship "you own," making further shenanigans - in the vein of Omag - something that a Khan player doesn't have to worry about. However, to prevent interaction with such ownership, the source of the ship had to be limited to your own discard pile. While there's a fun flavor to be had with stealing an opponent's ship, most players bring their own. And since Khan players have the choice of any ship in the game, it's logically unlikely that your opponent would have a better choice.

After that, we can talk about Joaquin. The changes themselves started with trying to get his text right. So, so many tries. In the end, after the movement of the order to the mission, we wondered if he needed the text at all, but we decided to change as little as possible. His tweaks fall in line with the new version on Ceti Alpha V, but he retained the ability to get a ship wherever he happened to be, so he's not completely superfluous.

[NA] Joaquin, Superhuman Lieutenant

Order –If you do not command a ship you own and have completed Ceti Alpha V, you may take a ship from your discard pile and place it at this mission. You now command that ship (it becomes [NA].) You may do this only once each turn.

U.S.S. Enterprise, Superior Starship

Speaking of ships for Khan decks, let's take a break from the tweaks to gameplay to see something brand new. While we didn't make a ship that could dodge the Khan ship mechanic and simply be played at Ceti Alpha V, we did design a ship that was meant just for them.

The U.S.S. Enterprise (Superior Starship) continues the story from "Space Seed" as if Khan had kept command of the Enterprise. Admittedly, I both get nervous and excited when we in Design create new game spaces. This card has a minor one, as we forego the normal "To play this ship..." for the unique "To command this ship..." After all, it's likely this ship will never actually be played (the cost is almost ornamental). But the upshot is that Joaquin can't get this ship into play in other decks by completing Ceti Alpha V, but possibly more importantly, it thus can't be commandeered, making it a safer ship for the Genetically Engineered. The ability benefits a 4-planet build with 2-span planets, even more than simply having a 10-Range ship, which probably still works better in a Genesis build.

Out of Darkness

The final change we made to Khan decks solved a couple of problems for us; we asked for one more errata and lowered the number of points needed for a Khan player to win with To Rule in Hell from 120 to 100. There's a certain math that supports the 120-point threshold when compared to Voyager's all space strategy, but the added benefit of being able to use those extra points for various purposes outweighed that for us. Unlike Voyager, which ends it's 4-space journey with 110 points, Khan would normally end their 4-planet conquest with 125 points.

[Evt] To Rule in Hell

To play this event, you cannot command a headquarters mission. Plays on your Ceti Alpha V. When a card instructs you to place a personnel on your headquarters mission, that personnel may be placed at this mission. When you command four completed [AQ] planet missions and have 100 or more points, you win the game. You may play [NA] Genetically Enhanced personnel and equipment at this mission.

They're Still Coming Through

A card that had been included from the very beginning of development was basically the Khan equivalent of Homeward Bound, an event that forbade the use of Genesis Planet, but allowed Khan's followers to be unstopped. We realized that putting those extra points to good use would add an additional separation between a Genesis build (which generally ends with exactly 100 points) and a 4-planet build. And the card eventually evolved into They're Still Coming Through!

Much of the card had to be balanced with the characteristics of augments. First of all, the Genetically Engineered tend to have larger attributes, leading to the ability to microteam, and unlike Voyager, they're predilection for conquering planets instead of space missions had no need for a second ship to reserve crew for multiple attempts. For the mere cost of 5 points (that you probably weren't going to use anyway), Khan gets a pretty big second - or maybe third - bite at an apple. Keep a couple of augments in reserve, send in multiple teams to soften defenses, and your primary team can be revitalized to break through, saving valuable turns in the process. Sounds exactly like the strategy a superior human would concoct.

As a final note, this errata is being finished up as we speak (or as you read) by the talented folks in the Art department. We'll follow the traditional release schedule of the first Monday of the month - August 1st, in this case - so stay tuned to see the next long-awaited errata release three days after The Menagerie becomes legal, including the cards I spoiled here, fully updated in glorious picture form.

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