RR #87: Mission Timing Revisited | openCards

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RR #87: Mission Timing Revisited

    This Strategy-Note article was written by Kathy McCracken (aka Major Rakal) and was published first on "Decipher's Website (decipher.com)" at Nov 7th, 1999.

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

    Revised 03/23/01
    (I deleted Senior Staff Meeting as an example of a card that could be played during a mission attempt. The 5/30/00 Current Rulings reversed an old ruling so that Senior Staff Meeting now plays, according to its text, just before the mission attempt.) 

    Aefvadh! The recent rules change disallowing the play of interrupts between dilemma encounters is causing a bit of temporary confusion, as players adjust to the repeal of a rule that's well over three years old. While I discussed timing in detail in my December 1998 series on Actions, Responses and Timing (Romulan Reviews #66-68), a pretty big chunk of #68 is now obsolete. Let's take another look at interruption of actions in general and missions in particular in...


    (Note: Everything about mission attempt timing also applies to scouting and commandeering attempts, except there is no "mission-solving" step at the end.)

    The basic timing rule for Star Trek CCG is that you cannot interrupt an action in progress, except by actions that suspend play and by valid responses to the action in progress (or one of its sub-actions).

    An "action in progress" may be a simple action, like reporting one personnel for duty, or it may be a more complex action, made up of several "sub-actions." For example:

    • Reporting multiple cards in place of your normal card play under Red Alert! is one action which has sub-actions of the individual card reports.
    • Processing ore is one action which has sub-actions of discarding a card, placing the bottom card of the discard pile under your draw deck and drawing up to two cards (each draw is a sub-action).
    • A personnel battle is one action which has sub-actions of creating a combat pile, personal combat pairings, determination of the winner, and so on.
    • A mission attempt is one action which has sub-actions of individual seed card encounters and the actual solving of the mission.
    • But no matter how few or how many sub-actions an action may have, the overall action may not be interrupted (except as I noted above). You can't interrupt between my Red Alert! reports; you can't interrupt between my discarding a card and placing one under my draw deck during ore processing; you can't interrupt between combat pairings; and now, you can't interrupt between seed card encounters during a mission attempt.

    "Interrupting" an action means taking any action that is not part of the action in progress: playing an interrupt or doorway, discarding a Space-Time Portal from the table to return a ship to your hand, beaming, moving a ship, using a skill that is not related to the action.

    The things that people want to do during mission attempts generally fall into a few categories. They want to add skills, personnel or equipment to their Away Team or crew, or remove them from their opponent's Away Team or crew. They want to change the effects that a dilemma will have, either reducing or nullifying them (for themselves) or enhancing them (for the opponent). Or they want to stop the mission attempt entirely (either to avoid an unpleasant encounter with a suspected or known dilemma, or to stall an opponent). And the simple fact is that, with few exceptions, you can't do these things during a mission attempt any more.

    Valid Responses

    So how do you know if a particular action can be performed during a mission attempt? Except for actions that suspend play (I'll talk about those later), the action must be a valid response to the mission attempt or some part of it. "Valid response" is a fancy way of saying "the card says you can play it now." In other words, a card text must tell you, explicitly, that you can perform the action while something else is going on. In simplest terms, does the card say some form of the following:

    • "Plays when XXX is happening"
    • "Changes (e.g., doubles) XXX"
    • "Nullifies (cancels, prevents) XXX."

    The key is that it names XXX as being affected. If so, it is a valid response to action XXX.

    When you want to take an action during a mission attempt, ask yourself a few questions about the action.

    1. Does the card you want to play (or game text you want to use) say explicitly that it plays during a mission attempt or dilemma encounter, or that it modifies, nullifies or prevents a mission attempt, type of dilemma or a specific dilemma? If so, it's a valid response to the mission attempt or dilemma, so you can play it. Here are some examples of cards that might be played, revealed or used during a mission attempt:
      • Destroy Radioactive Garbage Scow ("Plays to discard Scow.")
        Eyes In The Dark ("Plays when facing a dilemma.")
      • Howard Heirloom Candle ("Plays to double effects of Anaphasic Organism or Empathic Echo OR nullifies Coalescent Organism...")
      • Plexing ("Nullifies Empathic Echo OR ... Frame of Mind OR System-Wide Cascade Failure...")
      • Q2 ("nullifies any Q-related dilemma.")
      • Senior Staff Meeting ("Plays...just before the initial attempt of a space mission"--the Glossary says this plays as a response to the initiation of the attempt)
      • Use Dathon's skill to nullify Shaka, When the Walls Fell ("Nullifies Tamarian-related dilemmas where present")
      • Reveal HQ: Defensive Measures ("opponent may not attempt any of your missions")
      • Reveal Fair Play ("No player may solve an opponent's unique mission...")
      • Reveal Access Denied ("adds 1 Computer Skill to mission requirements and increases existing Computer Skill requirements of each dilemma by 1.")
      • You must play the card during the response step for the action it affects. For example, if I encounter Frame of Mind, I can nullify it immediately with Plexing. But if I let Frame of Mind resolve and replace a personnel's skills, and two dilemmas later I now need those lost skills, it's too late to play Plexing during the mission attempt, because the response step for that dilemma is over. (It could be nullified after the mission attempt is done, however.)
      Revealing a hidden agenda must also be done during the response step for the action it affects. HQ: Defensive Measures prevents a mission attempt, so it must be revealed as a response to the announcement of the mission attempt. Once the attempt is in its results step (encountering seed cards), it's too late. Fair Play, on the other hand, only prevents solving the mission--it has no effect on attempting a mission. Therefore, during a mission attempt it may be revealed only after the seed cards have been resolved and the player is ready to solve the mission. Access Denied could be revealed in response to the encounter of a dilemma with an existing Computer Skill requirement (because it increases it by 1), or in response to the attempt to solve the mission (meet its requirements), because it adds to the mission requirements.
      While you may add to your skill pool with Eyes in the Dark when facing a dilemma, you can't do the same with Vulcan Mindmeld, for example, because it does not say you may play it during a mission attempt or while facing a dilemma. Likewise, while you may reveal Access Denied when your opponent encounters Impassable Door, to add to its Computer Skill requirement, you may not reveal Mirror Image when your opponent encounters Thought Fire, in order to make your Traveler affect him; Mirror Image does not say it affects Thought Fire. And while you can use Dathon's skill because it specifies that it nullifies certain dilemmas, you cannot use the skill of your Sabotage Drone aboard an opponent's ship during his mission attempt (to reduce his ship's RANGE), because that skill does not say it may be used during a mission attempt.
    2. Does the dilemma itself say that it can be nullified by another specific card? If so, you may play that other card as a valid response to that dilemma encounter. For example, Drumhead says, "Nullify with Plexing," so you may play Plexing when you encounter Drumhead. This is the reverse of question #1, but the principle is the same: one card says that it is directly affected by another card, so the use of that "other card" is a valid response to the first card.
    3. Does the card you want to play say that it affects some part of the results of a dilemma encounter? For example, a dilemma may capture (Cardassian Trap), assimilate (Borg Servo) or kill personnel (lots of dilemmas), or include a ship (Scout Encounter) or personnel (Sleeper Trap) battle, which may in turn include destroying a ship or killing personnel. It may let you score bonus points (Barclay’s Protomorphosis Disease), or allow a download (Scout Encounter). We may play or reveal cards that respond to those occurrences, such as the following:
      • Alas, Poor Queen ("Plays if Borg Queen (FC) was just killed.")
      • Anti-Matter Spread ("Plays at start of ship battle.")
      • Escape Pod ("Plays on ship being destroyed.")
      • Extraordinary Methods ("plays on one of your personnel just selected to die.")
      • I'm A Doctor, Not A Doorstop ("Plays to cancel a personnel battle...")
      • Prisoner Escort ("Plays on a personnel you just captured.")
      • Reveal Fajo’s Gallery ("You may draw two cards each time you capture a unique personnel...")
      • Reveal Intermix Ratio ("If any player's ratio of bonus points to non-bonus points exceeds 1:1...)
      • Reveal Computer Crash ("No player may...download any card...")
      • Reveal Prepare Assault Teams ("at start of personnel battle...)
      While none of these cards refer to dilemmas (either specifically or in general) or mission attempts, each one names a specific circumstance that could occur as part of a dilemma encounter, and can be played under those conditions, even during a mission attempt.
    4. Does the card you want to play affect or nullify another card that is played or revealed as a valid response during a mission attempt? If so, then it's also a valid response and can be played. For example, if I play Howard Heirloom Candle to double the effects of the Empathic Echo you just encountered, you may play Amanda Rogers to nullify the Candle. Or, if you reveal Computer Crash to prevent me from downloading my Cardassians when you encounter Sleeper Trap, I can nullify it with Kevin Uxbridge.
      In other words, something happens as part of a mission attempt; you can play a card that is a valid response to what happened; I can play a card that is a valid response to what you played, and so on. When the chain of valid responses ends, the mission attempt continues.

    Suspends Play

    Does the action you want to perform suspend play? If so, you can do it during a mission attempt, even though it may not represent a valid response to any part of the mission attempt.

    How do you know if an action suspends play? There are only two kinds of actions that suspend play--playing a card (or using game text) that says "suspends play," and using a special download icon (the downward-pointing triangle icon). Nothing else suspends play. "At any time" does not suspend play. Any download that does not have a special download icon does not suspend play.

    So, you can play Flight of the Intruder or The Guardian, or discard Access Denied to download Fractal Encryption Code, during a mission attempt, because each of these cards says, "suspends play." But you can't discard a Space-Time Portal to return your ship to your hand, because it does not say that action suspends play.

    Likewise, you may use Alyssa Ogawa (Prem)'s special download icon for a Medical Kit during a mission attempt (even while facing a dilemma), because special downloads suspend play by definition. But you may not use Suna's skill of downloading Reflection Therapy to change a skill during a mission attempt, or play Awaken to download a drone (first function), because neither card has a special download icon.

    What You Can't Do

    So that's about it for what you can do during a mission attempt. Now let's look at some other actions that players often want to take during a mission attempt. These actions aren't legal, because they are not valid responses to anything happening in the mission attempt (they don't say they modify or cancel any part of a mission attempt), and they don't suspend play.

    • Bring personnel or equipment into play with cards such as "Devidian Door" or Ready Room Door (first function)
    • Remove personnel or equipment from the crew or Away Team with Disruptor Overload, Off Switch, Thine Own Self or The Devil (by destroying a Treaty)
    • Add or subtract skills from the crew with cards such as Brain Drain, Devidian Foragers or Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, or by changing a multi-affiliation personnel's mode
    • Remove a ship from the mission attempt (Temporal Rift, take back to hand with Space-Time Portal)
    • Play an interrupt to "stop" your cards or otherwise end the mission attempt, such as Emergency Transporter Armbands, Smoke Bomb, End Transmission, Time To Reconsider or A Change of Plans
    • Retrieve or remove cards from discard pile (Palor Toff, Fire Sculptor, Oof! (second function)) or Q’s Tent
    • Look at upcoming seed cards (Scan, Full Planet Scan, Ocular Implants, Orb Experience (second function))
    • Cloaking, landing or capturing abandoned personnel with the ship downloaded with Scout Encounter (the text of that dilemma allows the ship only to attack or move away; it may take no other actions)
    • Remember that in general these actions are illegal only during the mission attempt. Before I announce my mission attempt (for example, after I move my ship to a space mission location, or after I beam my Away Team down to a planet), we can play interrupts or take other actions. For example, I arrive at the mission location, and you may play a Temporal Rift on my ship. Or I beam an Away Team of one down to the planet, and you play Thine Own Self to "lose" him. These are legal actions, because the mission attempt has not begun. (However, you may not take any other actions with your downloaded scout ship until your own turn, because that would be executing orders.)

    Since card combos aren't appropriate to this review, how about...

    The Major's FAQ Trivia:

    In what month and year was the rule allowing the play of interrupts between dilemmas originally announced in a FAQ or CR?

    May 1996, in the first "unified" FAQ (5-14-96, to be exact)

    Bonus question 1: Who announced it?

    Jason "Q" Winter

    Bonus question 2: In what month and year was the play of doorways between dilemmas first allowed in a FAQ or CR? (No, it wasn't part of the original rule.) By whom?

    December 1997 (in the 12-18-97 Current Rulings), also by Jason Winter