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Michael Mikaelian

Sith and Lovin' It

Revenge of the Sith Rulebook Preview

Wizards of the Coast R&D started the "Star Wars Guru" discussion group to collect ideas and provide a sounding board for changes to the Revenge of the Sith rulebook for the Star Wars Trading Card Game. When it became clear that free help is better than no help, the Star Wars Guru mandate expanded beyond the rules-revision project. To date, the group has discussed card errata, reviewed and sometimes contributed to upcoming sets, and aided Wizards customer service with player quandaries.

The group members who heeded Henry Stern's call for volunteers never imagined what was in store for them. Back in January 2005, the article "Prologue: Stern Taskmaster" offered a glimpse of what some members thought going into the Revenge of the Sith rulebook project. So what does the group think about it after the fact?

Thoughts of Revenge

"My favorite change in the Rise of the Sith rulebook is the new rules on Pilots," said Jay Purvis. "I like Pilots no longer being 'Characters.' " While Jay is happy with this change, it eliminates one of David Cornford's favorite Light Side deck archetypes: Pilots -- Luke's Garage. "This is one of the few Light Side decks that allows me the dastardly tricks and versatility I always strive for," said David. "You have great Character units that can also move into other arenas to provide bonuses to Ground and Space units, plus they can be used to remove 3 damage counters per turn."

Guru Profile: Jay Purvis (a.k.a. JangoJay)
Favorite Side: Dark Side
Favorite Deck Archetype: Imperial ("I find the mass and uniformity 'impressive . . . most impressive.' ")
Favorite Cards: Explore the Swamps, Jawa Sandcrawler

As Henry said in his initial letter to the discussion group, he wasn't interested in a complete overhaul of the rules for the Star Wars TCG. "I would have liked to see a more powerful contesting rule," said David. He was hoping for something more along the lines of the Magic: The Gathering's legendary rule. "This would have needed a lot of work," he admitted. After all, the game would lose a lot of flavor if the Light Side player could discard a fully stacked Darth Vader (K) by building a 3-cost Anakin Skywalker (J).

Jay would like to see harsher rules for rolling too many dice: "If you roll too few dice, you roll the extra dice. If you roll too many dice, your opponent removes dice." For anyone considering rolling extra dice just to see if he can get away with it, this would give him a lot to think about. "I still hold out hope that this becomes a tournament rule," said Jay.

Does this mean the discussion group isn't pleased with the end result? "Don't expect perfection," said Jay. "Unlike regular games where you can make one run and it's done, TCGs are 'living games' that change with each expansion. New abilities require ever-evolving rules." David added, "I think that we did as much as we possibly could have done. Yes, there are still gray areas, but there always will be. These rules are as complete as can be."

Guru Profile: David Cornford
Favorite Side: Dark Side or neutral ("I love tricks, and I love being the maverick!")
Favorite Deck Archetype: Anything aggressive
Favorite Cards: Hanging Around, High Speed Dodge, Orn Free Taa (A)

The discussion group worked on these rules, so it's no surprise that they're happy with the new rulebook. But what about the community at large? "I've paid a lot of attention to players' responses to these changes, and by and large it's been very positive," said Jay. "My focus was to give the new rules enough clarity to make things easier for new players," said David. "Experienced players now have a well-defined turn structure within which to play. Everyone benefits."

Visions of the Future

All the volunteers were excited to spend their time making the Star Wars TCG better with the Revenge of the Sith rulebook project. But just because the rulebook was off to the printer didn't mean that the group was finished. "I believe more energy should be focused on a responsive rules committee," said Jay. "Players can forgive blemishes in the rules provided any rules questions that come up are addressed with definitive and consistent answers."

Knowing both the old and new rulebooks gives the discussion group a big advantage when it comes to unraveling tricky questions. Rulings and clarifications the group helps out with comply with both the recent and next version of the rules. This ensures that today's right answer is also tomorrow's.

Guru Profile: Michael Mikaelian
Favorite Side: Light Side
Favorite Deck Archetype: Rebels ("Versatile and very powerful cards -- at bargain build costs.")
Favorite Cards: Yoda (E), R2-D2 (E), IG-2000 (A)

Along those lines, the group has moved from rules suggestions to tackling three years' worth of FAQs. This ambitious project scoured every existing FAQ document to make sure it complied with the new rulebook. "My goal was to knock these off at about one per day," said Jay. "The approach I used was to delete what we already say in the rulebook, update items to comply with the rulebook, and add items that need to be covered."

Group members also got a taste of what it's like to be a game developer. "Hey, guys, I'm working on Rise of the Empire now," Henry wrote. "If you have any card ideas you'd like to see in print, now's the time to send them to me!" Henry might as well have been asking C-3PO for an opinion; the group leaped at the opportunity to pitch ideas.

Download the Revenge of the Sith rulebook and check out their work yourself! (948k zip/pdf)

About the Author

Recently, Michael Mikaelian had the good fortune to "cross over" from volunteer to Wizards of the Coast associate TCG editor. Wouldn't you know it? His first project was the Rise of the Empire set. He was delighted to see that some of the group's ideas actually made it into the set, including two really neat cycles of card abilities.