RR #74: The revised Everything you always wanted to know about dilemmas | openCards

RR #74: The revised Everything you always wanted to know about dilemmas

This Strategy-Note was written by Kathy McCracken (aka Major Rakal) and was published first on "Decipher's Website (decipher.com)" at May 11th, 1999.

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


Just over two years ago, I published Romulan Reviews #16 and #17, probably my all-time most popular reviews. Why? Because they explained how to intepret and resolve dilemmas, and gave a link to a comprehensive list of dilemma facts on my website. Well, a few things have changed since then (among others, you can't attempt space missions from outposts any more, and Borg have some special rules), and there are a lot more dilemmas to deal with. My dilemma fact lists have been added to piecemeal so you needed several lists to have them all, and Dominion dilemmas haven't made it onto the list at all. So, it's time for an update. If you've ever gotten lost trying to figure out whether something on a dilemma was a condition, cure, target, trigger or nullifier--and what to do with it when you finished--you need...

*but were afraid to ask

Does this dilemma stop my Away Team? Do I discard this dilemma or put it back under the mission? What's the difference between a cure and a nullifier? Dilemmas are one of the most important factors in the game, and one of the most confusing. The Glossary entry on "dilemma resolution" covers the "components" of dilemmas, but you may not have the Glossary handy, or may wonder how to translate this information into practical terms to explain how a particular dilemma works. In this review I will expand on the Glossary explanation and give more examples.

Note: All of the following applies only to dilemmas seeded under missions (including Q-icon dilemmas seeded with Beware of Q), not to Q-icon dilemmas encountered from your opponent's Q-Continuum during a Q-Flash.

However a dilemma is phrased, it all boils down to a few components:

which collectively determine how it works (what it does to you, whether it stops you, and how you dispose of it).

A TRIGGER is something that must be present or a situation that must exist if the dilemma is going to do anything at all. In other words, something that "triggers" the dilemma. It will almost always be stated at the beginning of the dilemma and usually starts with "If..."
"If android present..."
"If The Traveler: Transcendence is affecting you..."
"If ship damaged or RANGE reduced

One exception to this "If" rule is Bendii Syndrome, which reads, "OneVulcan without Youth present..." Although this may appear to be a TARGET (the Vulcan is targeted to die), it is also considered a TRIGGER because a Vulcan without Youth is necessary for the dilemma to have its effect on other personnel (the Vulcan is the one who contracts Bendii Syndrome).

With a few other dilemmas, it's hard to tell if they have a trigger or a target. For example, Kidnappers says "Place on a female present..." Though a randomly selected female is a target of this dilemma, there must be at least one female present for the dilemma to have any effect, because otherwise you cannot choose a target. In that respect, the female may be looked on as a trigger.

One other aspect of triggers to consider is that a dilemma may have two sets of effects; if a trigger is present, it triggers one set of effects, if not, an "otherwise" clause takes effect. Shot In The Back says, "'Stops' SECURITY androids and OFFICER androids, if any present. Otherwise, kills one non-android Away Team member..." The presence of a SECURITY or OFFICER android triggers one thing to happen, but something else happens if that trigger isn't present.

NULLIFIERS come in three flavors: those listed on the dilemma card itself in the game text, other cards that state that they nullify specific dilemmas, and countdown icons. The most obvious are the ones stated in the game text, which may require skills present or some action on your part:
"Nullify with 3 ENGINEER OR Miracle Worker."
"Nullify dilemma with Shelby OR 4 SECURITY."
"To nullify, evacuate ship at your outpost until end of turn."

You can always tell a game-text nullifier, because it uses some form of the word "nullify." A cure is not a nullifier.

Many dilemmas may be nullified by the presence in the Away Team of a specific personnel, equipment, or artifact card whose text says it nullifies certain dilemmas; by the existence of an Event in play; or by playing an Interrupt card.

  • Hippocratic Oath (nullified by Goran’Agar in Away Team or crew)
  • Empathic Echo (nullified by Plexing, Mr. Homn, Madame Guinan)
  • Common Thief (nullified by playing Caught Red-Handed)
  • Thought Fire (nullified by Thermal Deflectors in play)
  • Armus dilemmas (nullified by Interphase Generator in Away Team)

Finally, if a dilemma has a countdown icon, it self-nullifies at the end of that many turns of the player who seeded it. This is not something you have any control over.

If you have the nullifier present (or play a nullifier) when the dilemma is encountered, it discards the dilemma immediately, without it having any effect. This is true even if the nullifier is listed at the end of the dilemma text. If the dilemma stays in play, a nullifier can also be used later to get rid of it (when it acts much like a cure).

CONDITIONS are the most common dilemma component. They are requirements that you must meet in order to avoid the dilemma's bad effects. They may include skills, attributes, specific personnel, equipment, or other elements that must be present at the dilemma site; occasionally, you must take some action with those cards such as discarding something or relocating a personnel. In a few cases, they do not involve the Away Team or crew, but instead represent some condition that must exist in the game, such as having a certain number of points.

The most common keywords indicating conditions are "unless" (as in "Unless XXX is present, something bad happens") and "to get past" or "to continue" ("To get past requires XXX"), or sometimes both ("Cannot get past unless...). But there are exceptions; some uses of "unless" are not conditions (usually they are cures), and a few dilemmas with conditions, such as Q, use a confusing "if" format.

  • "Unless INTEGRITY > 32..."
  • "...unless Greed present."
  • "...Away Team must have Computer Skill present."
  • "To get past requires Stellar Cartography and 2 Navigation."
  • "To get past, most CUNNING MEDICAL present must help aliens..."
  • "...unless...you bribe rebels...by discarding an Equipment card."
  • "Unless you have at least 50 points..."

When a dilemma has conditions, they must be met (or "overcome") when the dilemma is encountered in order to avoid its effects. Bringing the necessary skills in later cannot undo a dilemma's effects, i.e., conditions may not be used as a cure.

TARGETS are personnel with specific characteristics that the dilemma can affect. If no personnel with that characteristic are present, no one will be affected, but the dilemma may still have other consequences.

  • "...two Away Team members with Diplomacy..."
  • "All Away Team members with INTEGRITY < 5..."
  • "...one unique, non-Cardassian personnel..."
  • "...kills a non-changeling present..."
  • "...most CUNNING SCIENCE personnel present who does not have Greed or Treachery."
  • "All of your personnel with three or more icons..."

The presence or absence of specified targets in the Away Team has no effect on discarding a dilemma or stopping the Away Team. They simply limit who may be affected. If you are to do a random selection for a specified target, you select only from the personnel who share that trait. That is, if a dilemma targets a non-android, you must remove androids from the Away Team before shuffling and selecting.

(Actually, every dilemma that selects personnel has targets, but if it can be anyone in the Away Team or crew, it doesn't matter, because there will always be a target--you can't encounter a dilemma with zero personnel.)

RESULTS are the effects of the dilemma. They may only happen if you don't overcome the conditions of the dilemma, or they may be something that you cannot prevent. Results may include killing or otherwisediscarding one or more personnel (Berserk Changeling, Anaphasic Organism), diseases and other long-lasting effects that may or may not expire naturally or be curable later (Rascals, Birth of "Junior"" Parallel Romance), damage and destruction of ships (Null Space, Nitrium Metal Parasites), stalling of ships (Conundrum) or Away Teams (Chula: The Dice), loss of points (Lack of Preparation), and other nasty consequences (The Sheliak).

CURES appear similar to CONDITIONS and NULLIFIERS, but instead of discarding the dilemma outright or preventing an immediate effect from taking place, a cure either puts an end to an ongoing effect, or prevents a "delayed effect" from taking place. A cure usually requires skills, attributes, or equipment that must be brought to the dilemma site or to the affected ship or personnel, or may be an action that you must take.

  • The dilemma may say "cured by (or with)...", or "...until XXX present."
  • "...until mission completed OR 3 Leadership present."
  • "Cure with 3 Empathy present."
  • "...unless 3 MEDICAL present OR ship returns to outpost first."

The last example is from REM Fatigue Hallucinations and at first glance appears to be conditions rather than a cure. It would be more clear if it it read "...unless 3 MEDICAL present by then" .

The difference between a cure and a nullifier may be subtle. If a nullifier is present in your Away Team when you encounter the dilemma, it is nullified before it has any effect. But a dilemma that has a cure takes effect first, often disabling, "stopping" or killing one or more personnel and removing their skills from the pool so they are not available to help with the cure. If the needed skills remain after the dilemma takes hold, then it is cured immediately and the Away Team can proceed (but personnel who are killed don't come back to life). If the cure is brought in later, then it works the same as a nullifier at that point (the dilemma is discarded when cured).

Unlike nullifiers (which always use a form of "nullify"), cures may not be phrased as such. If a dilemma has an ongoing effect "until something is present" or can be "removed by" some action, that's a clue that it's probably a cure. In other words, if the effect can be cancelled later, but it doesn't say "nullified," it's a cure.

POINT VALUES are usually shown in a point box on the card. (A few dilemmas have no point box but the text states that you score points, usually a point loss.) You may gain or lose points from a dilemma. If the dilemma doesn't state explicitly how you score the points (e.g., Sarjenka, The Higher...The Fewer), then you score them:
when you overcome a dilemma's conditions (e.g., Nagilum)
when you cure a dilemma (e.g., Hyper-Aging)
If you don't overcome a dilemma's conditions or cure it as specified, you don't score the points. In particular, you do not score the points from a nullified dilemma.

Dilemmas with point boxes go in your bonus point area if you earn the points, but are discarded as usual if you don't qualify for the points. Dilemmas without point boxes are discarded, so you have to keep track of the points some other way.

So, you may ask, how does all this let you figure how what to do with the danged dilemma once you turn it up? There are a few simple rules to follow.

  1. If a required TRIGGER is not present (and there is no "otherwise" clause), the dilemma is discarded immediately. It has no further effect; you don't need to see if you meet conditions or select anyone.
  2. If you can nullify the dilemma with a NULLIFIER personnel, equipment, event, or interrupt, discard the dilemma immediately. It has no further effect.
  3. If a dilemma has a CURE, first it takes effect. Then, if you still have the skills remaining to cure it, discard it and go on to the next dilemma (assuming it didn't "stop" you).
  4. The Away Team or ship and crew are "stopped" only if a dilemma has CONDITIONS and you did not overcome them (though specific personnel may be "stopped" because the dilemma explicitly says so).
  5. If the dilemma specifies a TARGET, and there is no target present, simply play the dilemma out for any other effects it has. If you did not meet its conditions, it "stops" your Away Team even if no one is targeted.
  6. After following its instructions, discard the dilemma:
    • if it says "discard dilemma"
    • if it says "mission continues" and doesn't enter play
    • if it had no conditions and doesn't enter play
    • if it had conditions and you overcame them
    • when you cure or nullify a dilemma that enters play
    • when a dilemma that enters play expires or is destroyed
    • If the dilemma has a point box, place it in the bonus point area (if you earn the points) rather than discarding it.
  7. If it doesn't meet one of the criteria for discarding and doesn't enter play, put it back under the mission (on the bottom of the stack) to be encountered again. When you do encounter it again, treat it exactly as though you were encountering it for the first time.

In Review #75, I will present Major Rakal's Revised 6-Step Guide to Dilemma Resolution (one important revision is that it's now 6 steps instead of 5), including a couple of detailed examples of how to "parse" a dilemma, and provide a link to revised tables of Dilemma Facts and Dilemma Resolutions on my website, which list in gory detail exactly how each dilemma is handled.