Hi everyone, I hope you’re all staying safe and healthy and making good choices. If you’re an essential worker who’s had to venture out into the world on a daily basis to do your job, we thank and salute you and I hope you are being fairly compensated for the essential services that you provide.
Now that the Season 3 3.2 update has been released to you all, I thought I’d share some behind-the-scenes stories about how we got to these versions of the cards from their original 3.0 and 3.1 versions to give people a glimpse into the process of how the steering committee designs and develops these cards.
First off, I’ll list who is on the steering committee during these changes so you know who all I’m talking about in the stories when I credit people by name. Then we’ll get right into the changes.
FFMonkey aka Oliver Dewhurst
Wintermute aka Patrick
The big change here was to a problem which was noted during the IACP Regionals finals which was that Boba’s Whipcord was unintentionally able to target large and massive figures. Allowing Boba to pull AT-STs and Tanks towards him with his tiny woven whipcord was not very thematic, and also not something we wanted massive figures to have to deal with.
Several committee members, including myself, and a fair number of you in the community, thought there was now too much easy access to Stun in IACP with the introduction of season 3, especially in Scum hunters with the introduction of Dengar and Zuckuss, and that pushing a hostile figure 3 spaces into a potentially compromising position was quite powerful enough without being able to also guarantee Stun. I initially aimed for a compromise by suggesting we replace Stun with Weaken, but other voices in the committee spoke up later in the revision process and echoed that pushing a hostile 3 spaces was powerful enough on its own without any added benefits and I happily agreed.
Jake suggested the cost was too high for what it did and being limited to one figure. At first 1 was suggested to avoid Negation, but then it was pointed out that by making it 0 and the fact that it was start of round could create an interesting mind game against the opponent for whether they play their negation or save it for a possible Take Initiative, and it was also noted that this card was comparable in some ways to the card set a trap, which was also a zero point card.
Iron Will (formerly Soften the Blow)
There were a lot of discussions and ideas for how to make this card playable and worth 3 points without being broken or another On the Lam. Reducing incoming damage by 3 like a reverse Assassinate, pushing friendly and hostile figures during an attack, removing attack dice after dice were rolled were all suggested and considered. One of the discussions that happened was questioning whether the “adjacent non-guardian” was really something that needed to be universal to Guardian cards, a restriction that was introduced when Royal Guards were nerfed to prevent the paired deployments from always giving each other a +1 block. The theming of Guardians as defending other non-guardian figures is nice, but that templating was creating problems when used on command cards by making the cards difficult to play and also discouraging players from putting multiple Guardians in a list, which made it harder to include lots of Guardian command cards.
After a lot of ideas were discussed, Patrick (aka Wintermute) came up with the idea of making a card that capped the amount of damage an attack could deal to the figure using the card, but he also urged for it not to be usable on adjacent figures or it would be too strong with figures like Vader. The group agreed allowing Guardians to defend themselves with their most powerful card was appropriate and would lead to some good gameplay which would help to mitigate a lot of the buckets-o-attack-dice strategies that had become prevalent with combining Focus with cards like Tools for the Job, power tokens and Deathblow. We decided that punishing “on declare” attack abilities with this card was a play pattern we were okay with, but didn’t want the card to be a complete blow-out against abilities that added modifiers like Assassinate, Hera and Positioning Advantage, so we restricted the card to being played on declaration of an attack before attack dice were rolled.
Also, I pushed hard for changing the name. I thought an apex 3-point defensive card deserved a hard and edgy name that didn’t have the word “soften” in it, although I think the original name made sense when it was made for protecting another figure.
Get Behind Me!
This card was an absolute templating nightmare because of how many restrictions we had to put on the ability and how specific we had to be about what the card could do. The revision to this card started when I suggested dropping the non-guardian restriction and just leaving non-brawler to prevent it from being used on Vader, a discussion which extended out to the revision for Soften the Blow/Iron Will as well. My argument was that only being able to protect non-guardians meant that the card would only ever be used by cheap guardian figures to protect expensive non-guardians, which left the expensive guardians like Chewie and Royal Guard Champion unable to benefit from the card in a guardian list. The problem though was making it non-brawler still meant it couldn’t be used to protect the Royal Guard Champion, and if we made it non-leader or non-force user to prevent it from being used on Vader, it also wouldn’t be able to be used on Palpatine which we didn’t want to prevent. Derek came up with the idea of basing it on figure cost, which would allow us to be more selective about which figures it could be used on. Ultimately we went with figures cost 10 or less so it could protect the Royal Guard Champion, but could not be used to protect Chewie because we were worried that giving Chewie On the Lam and this card AND the new Iron Will would be too much to deal with, which was pointed out by Oliver while we were simultaneously working on Iron Will. Chris later suggested adding a small figure restriction due to the thematic disconnect of a small figure shielding a massive tank or walker with its body.
I suggested not forcing the figure using GBM! to have to move into an attackable space and could just use the card for the movement points, or for example Yoda moving up to enable Force Deflection without taking the attack, but Chris was pretty clear about how he wanted the card to work, and doing it the other way also would have opened up weird corner-cases in certain situations where the figure using GBM! could move to block line of sight to the defending figure without being in line of sight itself, and that’s not what we wanted. (Note, you can still accomplish this if you combo with Hide in Plain Sight on a spy like Ahsoka, or Vanish with Davith. Go try it on your friends!)
We realized that at 7 points, even though Obi-wan was slightly better than Kanan stat-wise, he would always be competing against Kanan’s defensive reroll for all friendlies within 3 spaces, and adding the Guardian trait wasn’t enough to make him ever worth playing over Kanan, even with our newly buffed Guardian command cards. Chris put out the call on the committee slack channel for ideas to buff Obi-wan, and there were a lot initially, most of them around making him harder to kill. I suggested leaning harder into the unique abilities Obi-wan already has going for him which would make him into more of a roleplayer, which is alter-mind and its ability to dominate objective play. I suggested removing the figure cost limit on the ability to make it more relevant against the meta, but the committee didn’t like the thematic implications of using a jedi mind trick on figures like Vader and Han, or how immensely powerful it would be on the Claim the Ruins mission where Obi-wan would be able to deny the opponent the ability to contest the entire barracks tile from multiple safe spaces. It was decided that increasing the threshold from 6 points to 9 points would help to make the ability relevant again while still allowing Queen pieces like Royal Guard Champion and higher cost figures to be immune to it and thus offer more interesting counter play.
Meanwhile, Chris continued to lean more into Obi-wan’s role in the films and came up with an ability he called Sacrifice, which he later changed to Strike Me Down to semi quote Obi-wan’s last words to Vader before allowing himself to be struck down in order for the heroes to escape and win the day. It’s incredibly thematic, and also just a great gameplay mechanic in my opinion, sometimes creating a tough decision for an Obi player about whether they want to cash him in for the 3 points and Focus, or take a risk on him surviving one more attack. Initially it reduced Obi’s cost by 4 down to 3, but we decided that 4 points should be the minimum that someone earns by killing a figure like Obi-wan, so the reduction was changed to 3. I’m really happy that it doesn’t interact with cards like Dying Lunge, which I feel would be anti-thematic and a bit too strong if it could be used nearly on-demand. I personally feel like this ability was the missing piece from the FFG version which completed Obi-wan’s story in card form.
This was probably the most contentious discussion that occurred during the 3.2 revision process (just wait until we get into season 4 stories though). Late into the call for 3.2 revision submissions for voting, Derek came up with the idea of, rather than increasing their Health to 7 (the most popular suggestion at the time) we reduce their figure cost to 3 and add the Trooper trait so that the ISBs can play Reinforcements, which would help with their weakness of losing access to Coordinated Raid whenever one figure in the group is defeated. This would also give them access to some of the better trooper cards like Ready Weapons, Grenadier and Concentrated Fire which would give them a slight offense buff if their player was willing to commit the command cards to them.The idea was well received at first, but some in the committee felt that this was stepping on the toes of elite Cross-Trained Riot troopers too much, who had been previously filling the niche of Reinforceable Imperial Spies at 8 points compared to the ISBs at 7. There was also concern that the playability of Scout Troopers as Trooper-Spies at 8 points would be affected*.
I argued that Cross-Trained elite Riots were not a sacred cow that was worth defending and that ISBs deserved to take the role of best reinforcable spies from elite Riot Troopers (who would still be plenty playable without cross training and also brought unique strain synergy), that Cross Training would still be a viable choice for regular Riots and Death Troopers, and that ISBs and Scouts would occupy different niches because of their different abilities and Reinforcements vs Call the Vanguard and we could buff the Scouts if needed. But resistance to the idea was strong and the addition of the trooper trait was outvoted.
Instead it was decided to lean into making Coordinated Raid easier to pull off, and I suggested removing the line of sight requirement for the figure using the ability, since I had always found that to be the most clunky part of the ability, and that was combined with lowering their figure cost to 3 to reflect their lower durability compared to other 4 point figures like Jet Troopers and Riots.
Even though Yoda’s card didn’t change all that much, Yoda’s journey from 3.1 to 3.2 was a long and interesting one, and I realized as I was writing it all out that it was actually going to be long enough to be its own article. So we are going to end here and I’ll post another article next week about how we came up with the change to Yoda in season 3.2.
Thanks for reading everyone, make sure to check back next week for another Designer Diaries article.
*This article was edited on 4/28 to include discussions regarding the impact of ISBs as troopers on the viability of Scout Troopers that was brought up during ISB revisions discussions.