RR #66: Actions, Responses and Timing, Part 1 | openCards

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RR #66: Actions, Responses and Timing, Part 1

    This Strategy-Note article was written by Kathy McCracken (aka Major Rakal) and was published first on "Decipher's Website (decipher.com)" at Dec 20th, 1998.

    This article is part of the article serie "Romulan Review" from "Major Rakal (Kathy Mc Kracken)". Also see:

    Aefvadh! Actions and timing weren't thought about much during the early days of Star Trek CCG. You played cards at the start of your turn, attempted missions and started battles in the middle of your turn, drew a card at the end of your turn and played interrupts literally "at any time." As the game became more complicated, though, questions began to arise.

    Can I use a Devidian Door to add a personnel to my Away Team between dilemmas? If I have to do something "at the end of my turn", is that before or after my card draw? When can I use my personnel's' special skills? If I play Amanda Rogers, you play Q2 and I activate The Line Must Be Drawn Here, who loses points? Can my opponent play a Rogue Borg on my ship when I try to move it? Space-Time Portal says I can use it to return a ship to my hand "at any time" - can I escape from a dilemma that way? I just drew to end my turn and got a Kevin Uxbridge - can I nullify your Red Alert before you can play your handful of personnel? Do I nullify a Q’s Tent before or after you decide what card you want to get?

    All these questions involve the timing of actions and responses to those actions. To prevent the chaos of players racing to see who can play an interrupt first, timing rules had to be developed that stated an orderly process for initiating and responding to actions. These timing rules seem to have overtaken dilemmas as the prime generator of rules questions. To address some of those questions, let's dive into a three-part series on...


    Before we can talk about timing of actions in relation to each other, we need to know what actions are and how a single action is put together.


    The first question is, what is an action? Almost anything that you do in the game, particularly during the play phase. (During the seed phase, virtually the only action that can take place is the alternate seeding of cards; no responses are possible.) Here are some examples of common actions during the play phase:

    • Playing (or "reporting") one card
    • Activating a hidden agenda card
    • Moving one ship
    • Beaming a group of personnel from one ship to one planet
    • Attempting a mission
    • Conducting one ship battle or one personnel battle
    • Downloading a card or group of cards
    • Discarding one card
    • Using optional game text on a card already in play (including using a personnel's special skill)
    • Probing
    • Drawing one card from your draw deck

    Automatic modifiers are not actions. For example, D’Tan's special skill adds 1 to the INTEGRITY of Romulans without Treachery where he is present. This enhancement of INTEGRITY is automatic and does not require taking an action (that is, you do not have to say, "I'm using D'Tan's skill to enhance my Romulans' INTEGRITY" in order for the skill to have its effect). Likewise, once you have Bynars Weapons Enhancement in play, all of your ships are automatically WEAPONS +2. You do not have to declare that you are using the Bynars text each time you use a ship's WEAPONS in order to benefit from the enhancement.

    Many actions include other actions. Attempting a mission includes encountering and resolving each seed card (each encounter is an action), completing the mission, scoring points and acquiring artifacts. A personnel battle includes the creation of combat piles, personal combat pairings ("engaging adversaries"), determination of the winner of the battle, random selection of a personnel to be killed and discarding killed personnel. Even a single card play may include a number of other actions. For example, playing Arbiter of Succession includes several actions in its results: conducting a personnel battle (including all its component steps), placing the Arbiter of Succession card on the winner to score points and discarding the nullified Klingon Civil War (if any).


    Every action has three steps that must occur in order:

    1. Initiation (declaring the use of a multifunction card, meeting conditions, choosing targets and paying costs).
    2. Optional responses (attempts to cancel or modify the action).
    3. Results (gameplay consequences of the action).

    Let's look at these three steps in more detail.

    1. Initiation

    Initiating a game action may include any or all of the following:

    • Declaring the use of a multifunction card. Regenerate may either repair and "stop" a Borg Ship dilemma or Borg ship, or regenerate your draw deck from your discard pile. Spacedoor may either overhaul a ship or download a universal ship. You must state which function you will be using.
    • Meeting conditions for performing the action, as required by rules or game text. The conditions for initiating a battle include having a leader in your crew or Away Team, and meeting affiliation restrictions. The conditions for attempting a space mission include having a personnel matching the mission affiliation in your crew aboard an undocked, decloaked ship at the mission. The conditions for reporting the Decius for duty include having an open Alternate Universe Door or Space-Time Portal. The conditions for playing Going To The Top include having two Command personnel together on your facility; in addition, if you wish to play it for the downloading function, Computer Crash must not be in play. The conditions for using the Borg Queen (FC)'s skill to download a drone include being entitled to a card draw that you can replace (right now, not a hypothetical future card draw) and no Computer Crash in play.
    • Choosing targets for the action. Examples include selecting a target card to retrieve from your Q's Tent (by playing a Q's Tent) or your discard pile (Palor Toff), or to download; selecting a compatible outpost for reporting a personnel; selecting a suitable personnel on which to play Ocular Implants; or selecting a player to draw cards for Kivas Fajo - Collector.
    • Paying costs required by the rules or game text. While Star Trek CCG has no concept like Star Wars CCG's "using Force" as a cost of deployment or other actions, using your card play (either to play a card or replacing it with another action such as a download) may be considered paying a cost. Using a "once per game" action such as a special download icon is also an example of paying a cost.

    2. Optional responses

    After initiation is complete, either player may make appropriate valid responses to the action. Now we get to the crucial question: what is a "valid response" to an action? An action is a valid response if it specifically relates to the first action - usually, it modifies or nullifies the first action, and nearly always mentions the first action (or a result of that action) explicitly in the game text.

    The next article will look at responses in greater detail, but here are a few examples:

    • Playing a Wormhole is a valid response to the initiation of ship movement, because it says it plays on a ship "just as it begins to move." It modifies the movement by taking the ship to another destination.
    • Playing Honor Challenge is a valid response to the initiation of a personnel battle, because it "plays just after an Away Team battle is initiated." It modifies the battle by killing personnel before the combat pairings take place.
    • Using Surmak Ren's skill is a valid response to encountering the Aphasia Device dilemma, because he "may nullify Aphasia Device where present."
    • Activating The Line Must Be Drawn Here is a valid response to the play of Amanda Rogers, because that is one of the cards which loses points to this hidden agenda event.

    Here are some actions that are not valid responses to specific actions.

    • Playing a Rogue Borg Mercenary on a ship is not a valid response to movement of that ship. It does not say it can interrupt ship movement.
    • Playing a personnel to your Away Team through a "Devidian Door" is not a valid response to the initiation of personnel battle. It does not mention battle.
    • Using Suna's skill to download Reflection Therapy and change a personnel's skill is not a valid response to encountering a dilemma that requires a skill you don't have present. It does not say you may change a skill during a dilemma.
    • Playing Palor Toff - Alien Trader to get a Q2 from your discard pile is not a valid response to the play of Amanda Rogers. Palor Toff does not modify or nullify Amanda Rogers.

    Once all responses are over, or if no responses are made, the results of the action begin (if the action was not canceled by a response).

    3. Results

    The results of an action are the gameplay consequences of the action. When you play an event or interrupt, for example, the results involve carrying out the game text of the card.

    • The results of a personnel battle include everything from shuffling of the combat piles through the final kill and discarding of killed cards.
    • The result of playing Kivas Fajo - Collector is that the target player draws three cards from his draw deck.
    • The results of playing Assign Mission Specialists are that you download two mission specialists to your outpost, and the card remains on the table to allow you to later score bonus points.
    • The results of using Ajur's special skill are that you randomly select three seed cards under the mission, all but those three are placed in the owners' discard piles and no Ajur controlled by you may use that skill again during this game.

    The results of an action may contain other actions (such as the combat pairings and determination of a winner in a personnel battle, encountering dilemmas within a mission attempt, downloading cards into play as the result of a card play etc.). Each of those actions goes through its own initiation, response and results steps.

    Playing Duranja

    1. Initiation: Check conditions (a Bajoran in your discard pile who died on your previous turn), choose targets (select the target Bajoran from discard pile) and pay costs (use your card play for the turn).
    2. Responses: Kevin Uxbridge could nullify the event; Duranja would be discarded, and your card play remains used. If not nullified, results take place.
    3. Results: Place target card in point area, score points equal to INTEGRITY. Discard Duranja. (Scoring points could trigger other actions, such as Aldea cloaking, opponent facing a dilemma at a Nebula, or a response such as revealing Intermix Ratio.)


    Playing Q's Tent

    1. Initiation: Check conditions (side deck is not closed and has at least one card in it, no Computer Crash in play), choose targets (select target card) and pay costs (use your one Q's Tent play per turn).
    2. Responses: Wrong Door could nullify the doorway; Q's Tent would be discarded, the target card goes back to the Tent and you could not play another Q's Tent this turn, but because no results occur, you may still draw a card at the end of the turn. OR Computer Crash is activated, preventing initiation by changing the conditions. Q's Tent returns to your hand and the target card goes back to the Tent. If you nullify Computer Crash later in your turn, you could still play a Q's Tent because you did not use up your "once per turn" play. If not nullified or prevented, the results take place.
    3. Results: Place target card in your hand and discard the Q's Tent. You may draw no cards for the rest of the turn.


    Attempting a planet mission

    1. Initiation: Declare that you are attempting the mission. Check conditions (one matching personnel in Away Team on planet surface), choose targets (already selected by the location of the Away Team) and pay costs (none).
    2. Responses: I could reveal HQ: Defensive Measures if you were attempting my mission with more than one affiliation icon on either end. You would be unable to attempt the mission. Otherwise, you proceed with the results.
    3. Results: Encounter and resolve seed cards one at a time. (Each encounter is an action in itself.) When all seed cards are resolved, if requirements present, complete mission, score points and acquire any artifacts present. (Scoring points could trigger other actions, as with playing Duranja.)


    Encountering the Coalescent Organism dilemma

    1. Initiation: Turn over dilemma. Check conditions (Exobiology present?). In this case, you are checking to see if you meet the dilemma's conditions to overcome it. If so, the dilemma is discarded; you do not get past the initiation step to the response step. If not, choose targets (random selection of one personnel) and pay costs (none).
    2. Responses: You may nullify the dilemma with Howard Heirloom Candle. If not, carry out results.
    3. Results: Place dilemma on target (implied by dilemma rules). (As a separate action, discard target when it dies at end of next turn, passing along or discarding dilemma as appropriate.)


    Encountering the Borg Ship dilemma

    1. Initiation: Check conditions (none), choose targets (none) and pay costs (none).
    2. Responses: You may play Temporal Vortex on the dilemma to make it disappear for three turns. If not, carry out the results.
    3. Results: Carry out a "ship" battle between the Borg Ship dilemma and all targets at the location. This ship battle is an action which may be responded to by playing Hugh to nullify the Borg Ship's attack for the rest of the turn. If the attack is not nullified, resolve as for any ship battle, turning cards to indicate damage or discarding destroyed cards. (Any surviving cards are "stopped" as an automatic effect at the end of the battle.)



    As noted above, "responding" to an action modifies or nullifies (cancels) the action in some way. What specific effect does this have on the results of the action? Can it affect the initiation? It all depends on what kind of a response is made. Responses fall into three general categories.

    • Nullification. If a response (step 2) nullifies or cancels an action, then none of the results (step 3) take place. For example, one of the results of a personnel battle is a final determination of a winner of the battle by comparing STRENGTH totals. If you cancel a personnel battle by playing I'm A Doctor, Not a Doorstop, there is no "winner" or "loser" (so you cannot play Data’s Medals or Discommendation).
    • It has no effect on the initiation (step 1) of the action, so any costs paid are not recovered. If the action was a card play, the nullified card is discarded. For example, if I play Kivas Fajo - Collector and you respond with Kevin Uxbridge, not only do I not get to draw three cards (no results), but I have used up my normal card play and may not play another card this turn. Examples of responses that nullify an action are the play of Amanda Rogers to nullify an interrupt, and the use of Dathon's skill to nullify Shaka, When The Walls Fell upon encounter.
    • Modification. If a response modifies an action, then the action resolves, but probably in a different way. Examples of responses that modify an action are the play of Howard Heirloom Candle to double the effects of Anaphasic Organism and the use of Madred's skill to add 1 to the points you score for an interrogation.

    Again, there is no effect on the initiation of the action. If a response modifies the action by removing its target (selected during initiation), you may not reselect a target. The action plays out without a valid target; if the action was a card play, the card is discarded. An example is the use of Countermanda to remove the target of a Palor Toff from the discard pile.

    A response may make a condition of an action invalid. For example, a "Manheim effect" suspending the play of an AU icon card may allow you to play a Revolving Door to close your opponent's Alternate Universe Door. Because he checked the conditions for playing the AU icon card during the initiation step, he can still play the card. You only check conditions once, and any change during the response phase (except for certain hidden agendas) has no effect on the results of the action.

    • Hidden agendas. The activation of a hidden agenda as a response to an action may modify the action or even prevent it, but it works differently than nullifiers or other modifiers. While other responses have no effect on step 1 of the action (initiation), a hidden agenda that modifies the conditions for an action acts as though it had been in effect at "step 0" - you back up to before the initiation of the action.
    • If the action is no longer valid with the hidden agenda in effect, then the entire action, including the initiation, is prevented, as if you never got to step 1. If the action was a card play, the card goes back to your hand. If you used any other resources (such as a "once per game" action), you recover those resources.

    For example, I initiate the play of the event Recruit Mercenaries, checking conditions (no Computer Crash active; I have Treachery present somewhere in play), choosing targets (select the target cards and the location to download to) and paying costs (using my normal card play). You respond by revealing a Computer Crash. This changes the conditions for the card play, making the download illegal, so I back up to "step 0" and undo the initiation. I shuffle the target cards back into my deck (or return them to my hand or Tent), and return Recruit Mercenaries to my hand. It has no results (I do not get the downloaded personnel or lose 10 points), and my card play has not been used up; I may play another event, personnel etc.


    My thanks to my Bolian buddy, Evan "Mot the Barber" Lorentz (or is that Mot "Evan Lorentz" the Barber?), for the "step 0" concept for explaining the effects of hidden agendas; and to Bill Martinson for permission to adapt the entries on actions in the Star Wars CCG Special Edition Rulebook Glossary (upon which the Star Trek CCG timing rules are based).

    Next time we'll look at responses and consider what makes an action a valid response.