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Michael Mikaelian

Rulebook: Part Five

Enter the Breach

This spring, SW:TCG will see the release of Revenge of the Sith -- and with it, a new rulebook. Michael Mikaelian continues his coverage of exactly what this rulebook will contain, what's been added, what's been changed.

The battle phase is the heart of Star Wars Trading Card Game play—it’s the reason we play. While working on the Revenge of the Sith rulebook, the Star Wars Guru discussion group wasn’t looking to change the battle phase. What we were hoping to do was describe how the phase worked as simply as possible. Most of the changes serve to streamline the game rules. To do that, we came up with a basic outline for the battle phase.

Battle Phase

1. Battle phase starts.

  • “When the battle phase starts” abilities resolve.

2. Pass-or-Play opportunity (PoP).

3. Space battle step starts.
  • “When the Space battle step starts” abilities resolve.
4. PoP.

5. “Fastest” untapped unit may attack (resolve ties/make choices).
  • Unit either:
    a) attacks;
    b) activates a “play only when this unit would attack” ability; or
    c) does nothing.
  • Tap the unit.
6. If the unit attacked, abilities that trigger or resolve when the attack ends resolve.

7. PoP.

8. Repeat steps 5–7 until all units in the Space arena are tapped; when all units in the Space arena are tapped, the Space battle step ends.
  • “When the Space battle step ends” abilities resolve.
9. Ground battle step starts.
  • “When the Ground battle step starts” abilities resolve.
10. Repeat steps 5–7 until all units in the Ground arena are tapped; when all units in the Ground arena are tapped, the Ground battle step ends.
  • “When the Ground battle step ends” abilities resolve.
11. Character battle step starts.
  • “When the Character battle step starts” abilities resolve.
12. Repeat steps 5–7 until all units in the Character arena are tapped; when all units in the Character arena are tapped, the Character battle step ends.
  • “When the Character battle step ends” abilities resolve.
13. Battle phase ends.
  • “When the battle phase ends” and end-of-turn abilities resolve.

For the rulebook, the fine folks at Wizards of the Coast translated this into English, but it’s the same at its core. The big change here—which was spoiled in the first installment of this column—is the new Pass-or-Play opportunity (number 2 on this list). The Empire Strikes Back rulebook combines the beginning of the battle phase and the Space battle step, leaving no chance to play Battle cards before the beginning of the Space battle step. Lando's Influence is the most notable of these cards—and it definitely gets better with this otherwise-subtle addition to the game.

When originally pitched to the discussion group, this PoP was not so popular. Why would we want to make Lando's Influence any better? While that wasn’t the intention, the lack of a pre-Space battle step PoP made it a confusing Battle card. The more the group thought it through, other uses for this PoP became obvious. Dark Side Space swarm decks have a heck of a time dealing with Asteroid Field. Once the Light Side deploys this Location, the Dark Side’s only choices until the next build step are to risk the fleet or give up Space. With a pre-Space battle step PoP, Occupation becomes a valid—and much more palatable—third option.

Run, Luke! Run!

Another change that you might consider major—especially if you’re fond of Cloud City Dining Hall—is in the resolution of contested units. Contested units are usually dealt with at the start of battle. Some players mistake this coincidence for a rule and think that the contest only occurs at the start of battle. Sorry, but using Hidden Cost to deploy Boba Fett (H) during the Character battle step will still force a contest if your opponent also controls Boba Fett.

The change—like so many you’ll find in the Revenge of the Sith rulebook—reads like a minor detail: “The loser of the contest is moved to the build zone.” This move to the build zone will no longer be considered retreating, so anything that would prevent a unit from retreating has no effect. Of course the sentence that follows in the rulebook makes that fact clear. This change completely closes the loophole that permitted Anakin to fight Vader and turned Lando’s inner struggle into an outer one. At the same time it doesn’t do anything to neuter Millennium Falcon (F), which should elicit an equal number of cheers and groans.

Hidden Options

While working on the Revenge of the Sith rulebook, the discussion group also got a chance to check out the Return of the Jedi set. That set’s new keyword ability, Hidden Cost, raised some concern among the group. “If you have at least X build counters on this card, you may deploy it at any time by paying Force for the remaining build cost.” “Anytime” was not something that had ever been defined before. Taken literally, you could deploy a Hidden Cost unit during damage prevention, your opponent’s retreat step, or a disrupt PoP. There was potential trouble there.

While no one identified a killer combo that could abuse Hidden Cost, we all agreed that “anytime” was a little too free. For the Revenge rulebook, “anytime” is defined as during any PoP except a damage-prevention or disrupt PoP. That means you can’t use Hidden Cost during your build step, but there are few situations where you’d want to deploy the unit that early anyway. Reroll PoPs, however, are still fair game. That might not come in handy in battle, but it could be worth a few Force to earn an extra build point during the build roll reroll PoP.

Is This a Bad Time?

Ever wonder whether you could play a damage-prevention Battle card outside of the battle phase? You’ll always be able to find the answer you’re looking for in the Empire Strikes Back rulebook depending on where you look. On page 6, it says you can only play Battle cards during the battle phase.

On page 38, you’ll find the slightly more ambiguous “Many times during a turn (mostly during the battle phase), players get the chance to play activated abilities and Battle cards.” The entry then goes on to explain that any time a unit is about to be damaged, both players get a chance to play only Battle cards and abilities that prevent damage.

So which is it?

Starting with Revenge of the Sith, any time there’s a PoP you may play the appropriate Battle cards. After a die roll, you can play Battle cards (as well as activated abilities) that affect die rolls. Likewise, when a unit is about to be damaged you can play Battle cards (and abilities) that prevent damage. The same goes for disrupt. For instance, if you play the Mission card Jedi Training Exercise, you can use a Battle card to prevent the 1 damage it deals to your Jedi. Likewise, your opponent can play Change in Destiny, Disrupting Strike, Lando's Trickery, or Sacrifice to attempt to disrupt your Battle card. And with Desperate Times taking the place of Sacrifice, you can attempt to disrupt his or her disrupt.

I think you’ve had enough for one week. Check back next time to see what’s new when units attack.

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