This Strategy-Note article was written by Kathy McCracken (aka Major Rakal) and was published first on "Major Rakals Tal Shiar Headquarters (members.cox.net/majorrakal)" at Feb 1st, 1998.
This article is part of the article serie "Romulan Review" from "Major Rakal (Kathy Mc Kracken)". Also see:
- Previous "Romulan Review" (# 44): "RR #44: Timeline Disruption in 2063".
- Next "Romulan Review" (# 46): "RR #46: Resistance is futile. Your personnel will be assimilated".
Aefvadh! One of the new game features introduced in First Contact Expansion was designed to introduce a little randomness into such activities as the completion of objectives and resolution of certain dilemmas. Let's give this new mechanism...
A PROBING ANALYSIS
In simplest terms, probing means examining a card from your draw deck and carrying out a set of instructions depending upon which, if any, icons appear on the card.
Timing and Conditions
Probing is not something you do automatically, like drawing a card to end your turn; it is always either allowed ("you may probe") or required (no "may"), explicitly, by a card, most often an objective. If that card says "immediately probe", you would do so whenever you met the conditions calling for probing. If it does not say "immediately", then the probe always takes place at the end of your turn, just before your card draw.
Any card allowing probing will give the conditions under which you may do so. For example, Assimilate Planet says you must have Borg at the spaceline location in order to probe. Visit Cochrane Memorial requires you to have an unopposed human ENGINEER present at the objective site. However, all Borg objectives involving scouting have one precondition for probing that is part of the rules, and not on the objective; you must have completed scouting (according to the definitions for scouting in the rules supplement) on a previous turn. Also, you may not probe for any Borg objective (unless it says "immediately probe", such as Eliminate Starship) if you battled at that location during the current turn or your opponent's previous turn.
A card requiring probing may have no conditions, such as the dilemma My First Raygun; when you encounter it, you probe.
How to Probe
Assume it's the end of your turn, just before your card draw, and you have met the conditions for probing on an objective card.
- Turn over the top card of your draw deck. This is called the "probe card." Your opponent must be able to see the card to verify the results of your probe. If you have no draw deck, you cannot probe.
- On the objective card will be a list of possible icons to look for, and corresponding "outcomes" for those icons. This is called the "probe list." There may be one or more entries in the list, and each entry may consist of one or more icons.
- Look on the probe card for any of the icons in the first entry of the probe list. If you find one of those icons anywhere on the probe card, that establishes the outcome of your probe. First replace the probe card on your draw deck, then carry out the instructions for that outcome.
- If none of the icons for the first entry are found on the probe card, look for icons in the second entry, and so on, until you find a match, then replace the probe card and execute that outcome.
- If none of the icons in any entry match the probe card, there may be an "Otherwise" entry. If so, replace the probe card on your draw deck and execute the "otherwise" outcome.
- If none of the icons match and there is no "otherwise" entry, just replace the probe card and do nothing.
- After executing the appropriate outcome, you have reached the end of your turn. Assuming you are entitled to do so (i.e., you haven't played a Q’s Tent or other card this turn that sacrifices your card draw), draw your card to end your turn.
What Icons Qualify?
When you look for an icon on the probe card, it counts as a match if you find the icon anywhere on the card - a card type or affiliation icon at the top; personnel staffing, subcommand, Alternate Universe, or other icons in the "staffing area"; ship staffing icons; or icons in the game text. A few examples of the icons that appear on certain cards:
- Assimilate Counterpart: Objective, Borg Use Only, Hidden Agenda, Communications, Navigation, Defense, First Contact set icon
- U.S.S. Enterprise-C: Federation affiliation, Command star, Staff star, Alternate Universe
- Tallera: Federation, Romulan, and Non-aligned affiliation icons, Command star, Fajo Collection icon
The Rest of the Story
The outcome of your probe will usually tell you what to do with the card allowing or requiring the probe. You may be instructed to discard it (Eliminate Starship) or to place it on the target (all the Assimilate objectives). A dilemma requiring probing is discarded (or not) according to standard dilemma rules; e.g., if it has no conditions, it is discarded. If there is no instruction for a non-dilemma card allowing probing, leave it where it is (e.g., Visit Cochrane Memorial).
You may continue probing on each turn for which you meet the conditions, until the card allowing or requiring probing is discarded, nullified, or completed. Thus, you will only probe once for Eliminate Starship, because you are told to discard it; you may probe each turn until you reach a successful outcome for an Assimilate objective; and Visit Cochrane Memorial allows probing each turn for the entire game, as long as it is not destroyed (e.g., if Earth is assimilated).
If you find an icon match, but are prevented from executing the related outcome, replace the probe card and do nothing. Once you find a match, you do not look for any others. For example, Visit Cochrane Memorial calls for you to draw one card if you find a Federation affiliation icon on the probe card. But if you played a Q's Tent this turn, you are not allowed to draw any cards. If the probe card was Guinan, you will find both a Federation icon and a Fajo Collection icon on the card, but you cannot continue down the list and execute the "download one card" outcome for the Fajo icon; your outcome is to draw a card, which youcannot do.
The text of the card allowing probing may override some of the rules presented here. For example, although you normally replace the probe card on the draw deck, Eliminate Starship instructs you to draw the probe card (into your hand), while My First Raygun requires you to discard the probe card.
At some point, you may be allowed to probe by two different cards on a turn; this is not currently possible because the Borg may have only one current objective at a time, and the only end of turn probing card for non-Borg is Visit Cochrane Memorial. If you did have two card allowing probing, you would still look only at the top card of your draw deck, and examine it separately for the probe icons for each probe-enabling card. You may execute the respective outcomes in any order you wish.
Simple Example (one possible outcome)
"...Your Borg may scout that location. If you have Borg there, you may probe: ,: Sector cleared. Place on location. Download to here one Transwarp Network Gateway (if possible). May download one Objective card."
You completed scouting last turn and have not battled since. You have a Borg on a ship at the location. At the end of this turn, you probe. Your top card is Amanda Rogers, which has no subcommand icons; there is no "otherwise" entry in the probe list. Replace Amanda Rogers on your draw deck. Now end your turn.
Next turn, you probe again. The probe card is Assimilate Homeworld, which has the subcommand icon (in its own probe list). Your probe is successful and you carry out all instructions assciated with this outcome. Since the objective is completed, you do not probe again.
Complex Example (two cards, multiple outcomes possible)
Because there are not yet two existing probe-enabling cards that may be in play together, I will use the hypothetical Upgrade Starship objective from the FC rules, along with Visit Cochrane Memorial. They illustrate a variety of interesting interactions.
, : Progress. Draw one card.
, : Equipment failure. Discard objective.
: Upgraded: Place on target. It is now RANGE +3.
: Discard one card.
Visit Cochrane Memorial
, : "Oooh." Draw one card.
, : "Aaaaah." Play one card.
[Fajo], : "Wow!" Download one card.
, : "I thought it'd be bigger." Discard one card.
Let's assume you meet the requirements for probing each turn, and look at the results of several probes on successive turns.
- Galen. He has a icon, but also a Federation affiliation icon in his restriction box. Because the Federation icon is in the first entry for both objectives, you look for that first, and so you will draw one card for each objective. (Note that the fact that Galen's NA icon appears at the top of his card does not affect the outcome. You examine the probe list from top to bottom, not the probe card.) Replace Galen on your draw deck, then draw the top two cards. End your turn by drawing another.
- Kivas Fajo - Collector. Examining first for the Upgrade Starship probe list, you find an event icon, so that objective lets you draw one card. Don't do it yet. Next examine for the VCM probe list. There are no Federation or Objective icons on the card, but the next entry contains the Event icon, so your outcome for VCM is to play one card. Replace Kivas Fajo-Collector on your draw deck, and execute the two outcomes in whatever order you wish. For example, you may draw the Kivas Fajo, and then play it (drawing three cards). Or you may play a card from your hand, and then draw the Kivas for later use. End your turn by drawing a card.
- Spot. None of the icons in the Upgrade Starship probe list appear anywhere on Spot, so you will execute the "otherwise" outcome of discarding one card (not yet). Looking through the VCM list, the Fajo icon is the first one found on Spot, which allows you to download one card. Replace Spot on the draw deck. You may discard first and then download, or you may download first, perhaps for a card that you know you will not be using this game, so you can discard it instead of a more valuable card from your hand. Shuffle your deck if you download from it, and then draw to end your turn.
- Commander Tomalak. For Upgrade Starship, your outcome is "Upgraded," for the AU icon. Place the completed objective on the target ship. None of the icons in VCM's probe list appear on Commander Tomalak, and there is no "otherwise," so you do nothing for this objective. Replace the probe card, then draw.
- Tallera. On this turn, you played a Q's Tent. The first icon encountered from VCM's probe list is the Federation icon. Your outcome is to draw a card, but the Q's Tent play prohibits it. You cannot execute the Fajo icon outcome. Replace the probe card and declare your turn ended.
- Tallera. No Q's Tent this turn, so you will get to draw a card for VCM. Replace Tallera, then draw her, plus one more to end your turn. Note that you get no card draw from Upgrade Starship, because the objective was completed.