RR #68: Actions, Responses and Timing, Part 3: Timing | openCards

You are here

RR #68: Actions, Responses and Timing, Part 3: Timing

    This Strategy-Note article was written by Kathy McCracken (aka Major Rakal) and was published first on "Decipher's Website (decipher.com)" at Jan 2nd, 1999.

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

    Aefvadh! Having dissected actions and responses in more detail than you could ever have hoped for, we now can look at the overall flow of those actions, in...


    So many possible actions - card plays, using personnel skills, attempting missions, starting battles. But you can't just do anything, any time; you must follow certain timing rules.


    The most basic timing rule in Star Trek CCG is the turn concept. In a nutshell, you can initiate actions during your turn, but not during your opponent's turn. There are exceptions: if a card or rule says you can do something "at any time" (including playing interrupt cards), or that it "suspends play" (including using special download icons), or that it can be done "every turn" (which by definition includes both players' turns), then you can do it during your opponent's turn. Also, you can perform any action that is a "valid response" to another action during your opponent's turn.

    Beyond that, you have to take the term "at any time" with a large shaker-full of salt. It doesn't have the expected everyday meaning; it's game shorthand for "at any time between other actions." Besides allowing you to take an action during your opponent's turn, it might let you do something out of the normal turn order, such as playing an event card during the "execute orders" part of your turn. (For example, Plans of the Tal Shiar allows you to play a Romulan espionage card "at any time" where you have Tal Shiar present.)


    This still doesn't tell you exactly when during your own turn (or your opponent's turn) you may perform a specific action. Your own turn has its own general timing rules.

    First, you do anything that may or must happen at the "start of your turn." That might include scoring Colony points, conducting a Rogue Borg battle or processing ore. If a start-of-turn action is automatic or mandatory (such as a Rogue Borg battle), it must happen before optional start-of turn actions (such as processing ore).

    Next comes your optional "normal card play" (any card except doorways and interrupts) or any action that replaces it, such as an Ops or Spacedoor download, or a group of cards reported under Red Alert! Any cards that play or report for free must be played at this time also, such as an android reported via Cybernetics skill or Elim Garak to Garak’s Tailor Shop.

    After your card play (if you choose to make one), you may "execute orders" using cards you already have in play. This is quite open-ended and may proceed in any order (moving ships, mission attempts, battle etc.).

    Finally, you perform actions that may or must happen at the "end of your turn," such as probing (including executing the outcome of the probe) or moving a Borg Ship dilemma or a Dragnet. As with start-of-turn actions, mandatory end-of-turn actions (such as moving the Borg Ship) must be performed before optional ones (such as probing). The end-of-turn actions must be followed immediately by drawing a card to end your turn.

    You may play Interrupt cards (on either player's turn) and Doorway cards (on your own turn only) after any start-of-turn actions are completed and before the normal card play; between the normal card play and executing orders; between other actions during the "executing orders" segment of the turn; and after executing orders but before any end-of-turn actions. You may not play interrupts and doorways between start-of-turn or end-of-turn actions, or after end-of-turn actions and before the card draw.


    Only one action can happen at a time (except for responses and actions that explicitly suspend play). Before any other non-response action may be taken, the first action must fully resolve.

    There is one exception to the rule that you may not interrupt an action with an unrelated action. A mission attempt is one action, but you may play Interrupt cards (on either player's turn) and Doorway cards (on your own turn only) between individual dilemma (or Q-Flash) encounters, and between the announcement of the mission attempt and the first dilemma encounter. These interrupts and doorways are independent actions, not responses to dilemmas.


    Now we come to the next level of timing rules. If your opponent is allowed to perform limited actions during your turn (such as playing interrupts), to avoid confusion there must be some constraints on exactly when he may do that.

    You take the first action during your own turn. This means your opponent may not play an interrupt after he has drawn his card to end his turn, and before you have taken any action. Once your action has resolved (either had its results or been nullified), your opponent may initiate an action (generally, playing an interrupt or using another "at any time" action). When his action has resolved, you may initiate an action, and so on.

    During the response step of an action that you initiated, your opponent has the first opportunity to initiate a response to that action. After his response has resolved, you may initiate a response to your own action, and so on, alternating responses. Again, responses to an action should not be confused with actions taken between other actions.

    Here's a diagram of how a turn could proceed with alternating actions and responses between two players A and B. The actions that start at the left margin are the major, alternating actions taken by the two players. The indented actions are responses to the greater actions, and responses to the responses. Note that A already has a staffed ship (#1) in play.

    • B: Draws card to end turn (Kevin Uxbridge).
    • A: Processes ore.
    • B: No response.
    • B: Plays Kevin Uxbridge to nullify A's Red Alert!
    • A: Responds with Q2 to nullify Kevin Uxbridge.
    • B: No response, so Kevin Uxbridge is discarded.
    • A: Plays Q’s Tent, chooses (targets) a personnel from Tent.
    • B: Activates Computer Crash. Target returns to Tent, Q's Tent goes back to A's hand.
    • A: Plays three personnel and ship #2 under Red Alert!
    • B: No response.
    • B: Plays one Rogue Borg on A's staffed ship #1 (previously in play).
    • A: No responses, so battle ensues and crew is stopped.
    • A: Loads new personnel (reported above) on ship #2.
    • B: No response.
    • B: Passes (takes no action).
    • A: Undocks ship #2 from outpost.
    • B: Plays Wormhole targeting undocking ship.
    • A: No response.
    • B: Plays second Wormhole on Gamma Quadrant planet.
    • A: No response, so ship goes to GQ.
    • B: Plays Temporal Rift on A's ship #2. {Note that although B just played the Wormholes, that was a response to A's action. Once A's action and the responses to it resolved, it is B's "turn" to initiate a new action.]
    • A: Plays Alternate Universe Door to nullify Temporal Rift and returns it to hand.
    • A: Beams crew down to planet.
    • B: No response.
    • B: Passes (no action).
    • A: Declares mission attempt.
    • A: Plays Alternate Universe Door to nullify Temporal Rift and returns it to hand.
    • A: Beams crew down to planet.
    • B: No response.
    • B: Passes (no action).
    • A: Declares mission attempt. The mission attempt is completed successfully and the points scored.
    • B: Passes (no action).
    • A: Probes for Visit Cochrane Memorial, where he has a human ENGINEER. Probe card shows Affiliation Federation icon (outcome = draw one card). Replaces probe card on draw deck, then draws it to execute the outcome.
    • B: Plays Subspace Schism. A discards the drawn card and draws another.
    • B: Passes (no action).
    • A: Draws one card to end turn.


    A personnel battle is a complex game action containing many sub-actions and many possible responses. Let's break a personnel battle down into its three steps, in detail.

    1. Initiation. I state that my Away Team is attacking yours. I must meet conditions for the battle:

    • Do I have a leader (OFFICER or Leadership), or SECURITY with Prepare Assault Teams in play, or a Borg Defense Borg in my Away Team?
    • Does my Away Team meet affiliation battle restrictions (if not counterattacking)? If Borg, I must have an objective or other card that allows me to battle (e.g., Assimilate Counterpart); if Federation, I must have a card such as the 3-way treaty; for all non-Borg, I must not be attacking the same affiliation (unless using HQ: Defensive Measures).

    (Suppose you have a Federation/Romulan Treaty in play. My Romulans try to attack your Away Team, which I thought was all Federation. But you show me that you actually have a Romulan in that team. I do not meet the conditions for initiating this battle, and have to call it off because I don't have HQ: Defensive Measures. We did not battle, and no one is "stopped.")

    I must choose the target of my attack - this should be obvious (your personnel present with my Away Team). There are no costs to pay.

    2. Optional responses (attempts to modify or cancel the battle). You get first opportunity to make a valid response to the battle initiation. This might include playing an interrupt (or activating a hidden agenda) that specifically states that it plays "at start of personnel battle." Suppose you activate Prepare Assault Teams. As a result of that activation, you download a Starfleet Phaser Rifle to your Away Team (unless I activate a Computer Crash and you can't nullify it) and split your cards into two teams; I choose one of them to participate in the battle. (While this means choosing a new target, that is the nature of hidden agendas - they are treated as though they were already in play at the start of the action they respond to, so in this case I have to "back up" and redo my target selection.)

    Once your action has completely resolved, I may make my own response to the battle initiation. I use the text of Antique Machine Gun (which is in my Away Team), randomly target two of your personnel and mortally wound them (Wesley Crusher and Jenice Manheim). (Don't discard them yet; mortally wounded personnel don't die till the battle ends.) The only valid response you could make to this action would be one that affects mortally wounded personnel; for example, you might use a MEDICAL personnel and the text of Hypospray to change one of the mortally wounded to disabled (assume that you do not do this). You may not play a Disruptor Overload to destroy the Antique Machine Gun (this interrupt does not play during battle or specifically affect battle).

    Once that action has resolved, you may respond to the battle initiation again You play I'm A Doctor, Not a Doorstop in an attempt to cancel the battle by sacrificing your Paul Rice. I play Amanda Rogers to nullify the interrupt (you do not respond with Q2). Your Paul Rice is not sacrificed (because your interrupt was discarded without results).

    Now that your interrupt has resolved (by discarding), I pass on making any further response to the battle initiation. You also pass, so the response step is over and we proceed to the results (the actual battle). Neither of us may make any further responses that apply to the start of battle.

    3. Results (gameplay consequences of battle).

    We shuffle our combat piles (leaving out your two mortally wounded personnel) and place them face down. (This is an action within the battle action.)

    We then simultaneously turn over the top cards of our piles and they engage in personal combat. (Remember to include Jenice Manheim's +4 STRENGTH modifier for Paul Manheim - even though she is mortally wounded, that still works - as well as your Phaser Rifle.) Each such engagement is an action within the battle, and may be responded to as appropriate. (Since this action directly involves both players, if both of us want to respond to the same combat pairing, I may respond first because it is my turn.)

    The first pairing is your Paul Rice (a hologram) vs. my Soong-type Android. I respond with Android Headlock. If you do not nullify it, Paul Rice is mortally wounded and my STA engages the next personnel in your combat pile. He stuns that personnel. (If you did nullify Android Headlock, the original pairing would proceed normally.)

    The next pairing is your Beverly Crusher (Prem) vs. my Tomalak. You have a Hypospray in your Away Team, and respond to this pairing by using its text ("During personnel battle, one of your MEDICAL present may stun their adversary") to allow Beverly to stun Tomalak.

    After one of us runs out of personnel in our combat pile, the personal combat step of the battle is over. It is time to determine the overall winner of the battle. But first, either of us may play a card that applies "before a winner is determined." You play Phaser Burns, and randomly select Tomalak and another of my stunned cards (Varel) to die. I respond to this selection by using Garak's special skill (he was not stunned) to replace Tomalak; Garak and Varel die and are discarded. Neither of us has any more "before a winner is determined" actions to make.

    We now total the STRENGTH of our personnel who are not stunned or mortally wounded, adding in applicable modifiers as during the personal combat. I lose, and Tomalak is randomly selected to die (he was still stunned after Garak got bumped off in his place) and is discarded.

    Now all the mortally wounded cards die (except your holographic Paul Rice, who just deactivates), the stunned cards recover, and everyone is"stopped." The battle action is now completely resolved, and because I initiated it, you now have the next opportunity to initiate an action (remembering that it is still my turn) such as playing an interrupt card (for example, you may play a Temporal Rift on my ship).


    Another complex action is a mission attempt. Not only does it contain many sub-actions (for example, dilemma encounters), but also the rules allow you to play unrelated interrupts and doorways between dilemmas. Let's look at a complete planet mission attempt. Before the attempt begins, I have selected an Away Team and beamed them down to the planet. (It is important to recognize that this is not part of the mission attempt. Beaming an Away Team to a planet is a completely independent action, and your opponent might play an interrupt between the beam-down and the actual mission attempt. Furthermore, you are not required to attempt a mission just because you beamed an Away Team to the planet.)

    1. Initiation. I announce that my Away Team will attempt the mission. I check conditions (the mission has Romulan and Federation icons, and there is at least one Romulan-affiliation personnel in the Away Team), choose targets (I split my personnel into two Away Teams of 6 and 2 personnel, and designate the 6-man team, plus two equipment cards, as attempting the mission) and pay costs (none).

    2. Optional Responses. There aren't very many actions that are valid responses to the initiation of a mission attempt. If this is your mission, you could activate HQ: Defensive Measures to prevent me from attempting it. Because this is a hidden agenda, I would back up to "step 0"; the mission attempt would be completely prevented. If it were a space mission, and I had the requisite personnel types present, I could play Senior Staff Meeting so I could discard the first dilemma encountered. Neither of these responses is made, we both pass and proceed to the results step. (After this, it is too late to activate HQ: Defensive Measures during this mission attempt.)

    3. Results. Before the first seed card is encountered, we may play unrelated interrupt or doorway cards. You play Brain Drain, selecting Major Rakal as its target. I respond by using Madam Guinan's skill to nullify an Alternate Universe-icon interrupt. Neither of us has any more interrupts to play right now, so I encounter the first seed card. It is a Betazoid Gift Box, which I move to the back of the seed stack.

    I reveal the next seed card, which is Coalescent Organism. I have no Exobiology present, but I respond by playing Howard Heirloom Candle to nullify the dilemma. You respond with Amanda Rogers, which I respond to with Q2. You do not respond, your Amanda is nullified and my Howard Heirloom Candle takes effect. The dilemma is discarded.

    Before I encounter the next dilemma, you play a Disruptor Overload on the Away Team, destroying the Romulan Disruptor they were carrying. (This is a separate action, not a response to anything.) I reveal the next dilemma, Chalnoth. I check conditions and do not have STRENGTH>40 (it is only 35); however, I respond to the dilemma's initiation byplaying Eyes in the Dark ("Plays when facing a dilemma"). I have Empathy present (Major Rakal) and I randomly select one of the personnel on your ship and add their skills and attributes onto my Away Team's totals. This brings my STRENGTH up to 42, passing Chalnoth (which is discarded).

    You now play Temporal Rift on my ship in orbit. (Again, an independent action between dilemmas, not a response.) I do not respond, but I play Full Planet Scan to check the remaining cards. You pass.

    I now reveal the last dilemma, Punishment Zone. It has no conditions; an Away Team member is selected to be killed (Sirol; because my ship is in a Rift, he cannot beam up). I respond to that selection with Extraordinary Methods (three OFFICERs and a Medical Kit are present), delaying Sirol's death. I place the dilemma in my point area, scoring -5 points.

    There are no more seed cards under the mission (except the artifact already encountered), so I must determine if I have the skills to solve the mission. Neither of us may play any more interrupts or doorways before the end of this mission attempt, or take any other action unless it is a response to solving the mission. (For example, if this were your mission and worth less than 40 points, you could reveal Fair Play at this point and prevent me from solving the mission.) Fortunately, I have the requisite skills, and I complete the mission, scoring its points and earning the Betazoid Gift Box, whose game text I use immediately to choose three cards from my deck. The mission attempt is now complete.

    You now wish to play Palor Toff - Alien Trader to retrieve your Amanda Rogers from the discard pile, and since I initiated the last major action (the mission attempt), ordinarily it would be your turn to initiate an action. But I announce that I am playing Particle Fountain, which is a "just" action ("play...on just completed planet mission"), so that comes first. After it resolves and I score 5 points, you may play Palor Toff.


    My thanks to game designers Bill Martinson and Sandy Wible, for answering my incessant questions on actions, responses and timing until I finally (I hope) understood. ;-)