This spring, SWTCG will see the release of Revenge of the Sith -- and with it, a new rulebook. Michael Mikaelian begins his coverage of exactly what this rulebook will contain, what's been added, what's been changed -- starting with those tapped to provide its feedback.
On July 14, 2004, Henry Stern, R&D Lead Developer for the Star Wars Trading Card Game, made an offer that was hard to refuse. He was looking for volunteers to give feedback on what should be done to the Star Wars TCG rules for the forthcoming Revenge of the Sith rulebook. “I’m not looking to do a complete overhaul of the rules (like the change from Fifth to Sixth Edition in Magic: The Gathering),” Henry wrote. “I would like to clean up the messier bits. In some cases, this will mean changing the rules. In others, it might mean reexamining how a particular card works, or how a ruling was made for a particular card. I’d prefer not to issue a ton of errata for old cards. In some cases this might not be avoidable, but it should be our goal that the old cards fit seamlessly into the new rules.”
Among those whom Henry invited to join the Star Wars Guru discussion group, three rose to meet the challenge. Over the course of six months, David Cornford, Jay Purvis, and myself sacrificed much of our personal time and a few brain cells to give Henry's team everything he asked for (and a few things he didn’t). Who are we to get such an opportunity?
If you frequent this website, then you probably know David Cornford. David’s written a dozen articles published here, including the incredibly useful Lucky Rules: The Phantom Menace Mechanics; the turn structure used in the Revenge of the Sith rulebook was derived in part from this article. Originally from Canada, David now lives in Sydney, Australia and is putting the finishing touches on his first fantasy novel. David's always been a huge Star Wars fan and was introduced to the Star Wars TCG by friends of his who own a store. "I was immediately hooked," says David. "I now regularly demo the game at conventions in New South Wales."
David's biggest concern going into the project was the lack of clarity in the turn structure. Early on, he also suggested that abilities and effects should have a standard way of working and standard wording. Throughout the game's two rulebooks and several expansions, enough rules changes had been made and new abilities added that it was no longer clear exactly how they were all supposed to interact. For instance, at the beginning of your build step do you draw a card before you pay Upkeep? Now, you can resolve all of the things that happen "at the beginning of your build step" in any order you choose. That includes drawing a card, paying Upkeep, and collecting Bounty.
Star Wars TCG forum regulars probably know Jay Purvis better as JangoJay. Jay's also a moderator and resident rules guru at www.rebelbasers.com. He's been playing Star Wars TCG since its release. Jay lives in Alexandria, Virginia, and works in technical analysis and policy development—a job that's well suited to the task at hand. He wanted to see the Revenge of the Sith rulebook "establish core rules around which the many effects play out." Card errata and FAQ clarifications had become the foundation for rulings. "That's backwards," says Jay. "Rules should be the foundation for rulings."
Take this situation for example: The Dark Side has Admiral Motti (A) and Darth Vader (F); the Light Side has Yoda (C) and Shaak Ti (B). What are these players' options? Can Vader use his ability to discard Shaak Ti instead of attacking Motti? Can Yoda "tap 'n' zap" Vader, or must he choose Motti as the target (if he can choose to activate the ability at all)? To get the answers to these and similar questions required a trip to the various FAQ documents or a phone call to Wizards of the Coast customer service. The rulebook just wasn't clear on how these cards interacted before, but it is now: Vader, Yoda, and Shaak Ti must attack Motti.
Spring 2002, I was working in the Wizards magazine division in Renton, Washington, as managing editor of Star Wars Gamer. While I didn't get to playtest Star Wars TCG, I hit the ground running when the game released in April. Every spare moment I had found me playing against customer service reps Matt Hyra, Steve Warner, and Bryan Zembruski. Since 2002, I've played the game, reported on it for this website as well as Star Wars Insider and Undefeated magazines, and helped clean up the occasional card text.
I was pretty excited by Henry's offer. I had been itching to do something like this in my spare time just for kicks; now I had the opportunity to do it with a purpose. My goal for the Revenge of the Sith rulebook was to make it clear and easy to understand. Like Jay, I wanted to eliminate the need for FAQs to answer basic questions—like, "when do I play Lando's Influence if I want to steal a Space unit?" That one in particular required the addition of a new Pass-or-Play opportunity after the start of the Battle phase but before the beginning of the Space Battle step.
As a group, we agreed on several things early on that we felt should be true of the new rulebook: It needed to have a bigger glossary; anything that worked as a glossary entry (including the reminder text explanations of keyword abilities) should be in the glossary. It needed to avoid stating "laws" (things you can or can't do) and instead set "rules" (guidelines for how things must be done). And it needed to deal with the all-too-often occurrence of what to do when one player controls two Lando Calrissians.
Those are just a few examples of the things we suggested that found their way into the final Revenge of the Sith rulebook. Check back next week to read part one and find out what's new with unique units.
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