RR #117: Hidden Agendas Revealed, Part 1 | openCards

RR #117: Hidden Agendas Revealed, Part 1

This Strategy-Note was written by Kathy McCracken (aka Major Rakal) and was published first on "Major Rakals Tal Shiar Headquarters (members.cox.net/majorrakal)" at Apr 10th, 2001.

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

Aefvadh! The First Contact expansion introduced a new icon, found on some events and objectives (and later, incidents), for cards representing "clandestine strategies." This "hidden agenda" icon shows the back of a STCCG card, symbolic of the way you play this kind of card -- face down and without announcing the card title or showing it (as is normally required). When can you reveal a hidden agenda? Which part of its text must you carry out immediately and what can be saved for later? These questions and others will be answered in...

Hidden Agendas Revealed, Part 1

Most hidden agenda cards have a lot of text on them, often allowing a variety of multiple functions. It can be hard to know just when you can use these functions. Some can be used only on your own turn, others on either player's turn; some are valid responses to certain actions, others are not. Let's pick apart some game text and see what makes the difference.

Seeding and Playing

The first text on almost every hidden agenda is either "Seeds or plays on table" or "Plays on table." (If it doesn't say either, then "Plays on table" is implied.) The most important thing to realize about this text is that it has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the text on the card. All it does is tell you whether the hidden agenda is seedable, or only playable. (A common misconception is that all hidden agendas can be seeded. Unless it says "Seeds or plays", you cannot seed it. If you do seed it by mistake, when you reveal it, it is placed out-of-play as a mis-seed.)

Whether you seed it or play it, a hidden agenda goes "on table," in the same area where you would seed or play any card that seeds or plays on table. It never goes on the spaceline, on a ship, etc. This retains the mystery of the card: your opponent can't tell whether the card will target a mission, foil his wormhole strategy, or keep his excess bonus points from counting toward winning. If it's going to target something, it will do so only later, when you activate it.

Unlike all other cards you play, a hidden agenda is always played (or seeded) face down, even if you are downloading it. You don't show it to your opponent unless you download it (which you must do for every download). Although you may have just played the card, it still is not "in play" -- a face-down hidden agenda event cannot be nullified by Kevin Uxbridge, for example, because it isn't in play.


Once the hidden agenda is face down on the table, you may "activate" it (turn it face up) at any time during the play phase. (Not during the seed phase! In particular, you cannot activate a seeded Computer Crash to prevent a seed phase download of Bajoran Wormhole, mission specialists, Emblem cards, etc.)

"At any time" means the same thing it does in card text: "at any time between other actions or as a valid response", and that includes during your opponent's turn. In other words, you can activate a hidden agenda at any time you could play an interrupt. Activation does not suspend play (even if some function of the card itself may suspend play), so you cannot interrupt another action unless the hidden agenda qualifies as a valid response to that action.

There is one special rule for activating a hidden agenda that you download with a special download icon. When you download it, you show it to your opponent as usual, play it face down as usual, and then immediately activate it and carry out its text (if appropriate). If it says to target something, you must do so; if there is no valid target, you can't do the download. Remember, this applies only to a special download. For any other download, immediate activation is not required; but if you do wish to activate it, that is a separate action (not part of the downloading process).

Valid Responses

Activating a hidden agenda "between other actions" is clear enough. Players alternate initiating actions. I report Tomalak; you play a Palor Toff. I move the Decius; when it's done moving, you activate Assimilate Counterpart and target Tomalak. These actions don't have anything to do with each other, so one of us must complete one action before the other can perform a new action. But what about actions that do have a direct connection, because one directly and specifically affects the other one? These are called "valid responses." (For a detailed look at responses, see Romulan Review #67.)

In simplest terms, activating a hidden agenda is a valid response to action (or card play) X if it says some form of: "this affects X". It might be "changes the conditions for X" or "changes the results of X" or "when X happens, you can do Y" or "prevents X" or "nullifies X". But the game text must mention X. Not some other card that might affect X, but X itself.

Some examples:

"Changes the conditions for X." Obelisk of Masaka says, "Also, to move or initiate battle, each ship that has one or more staffing icons (and each Interceptor) requires at least two crew members aboard." Activating it is a valid response to initiating movement or battle with such a ship, because it says it alters the conditions for those specific actions.

"Changes the results of X." It's Only a Game says, "Limits each non-Borg report with crew action to four total personnel/equipment." Activating it is a valid response to the initiation of reporting an Alternate Universe ship with crew by discarding a Space-Time Portal, because it changes the possible results of that action (you may report only four cards aboard, not the ten you had in your hand).

"When X happens, you can do Y." Bodyguards says, "At start of any personnel battle, each of your bodyguards and leaders who has SECURITY in that battle may exclude from battle one of your V.I.P. or CIVILIAN personnel." Activating it is a valid response to the initiation of a personnel battle, because that is exactly when it says it has an effect.

"Prevents X." Computer Crash says, "No player may play a Q's Tent doorway, download any card or play any card that requires downloading." Activating it is a valid response to an attempt to play Q's Tent, or to play a card requiring a download, or to perform a download with a card in play, because it says it prevents each of those specific actions.

"Nullifies X." Panel Overload says, "Also, you may... discard incident to nullify Bynars Weapon Enhancement or Genetronic Replicator." Activating it (and discarding it) is a valid response to the play of either of those cards, because it says it nullifies those specific cards.

Note that I said it can respond to the play of those cards, not to the "use" of those cards. That is, you can't activate Panel Overload when my Away Team encounters Armus - Skin of Evil and Sela is saved from death by my Genetronic Replicator; or when I initiate battle against your ship, to remove the effect of my Bynars Weapon Enhancement before I calculate my ATTACK total. That's because valid responses must be made to actions, and Genetronic Replicator and Bynars Weapon Enhancement work as "automatic modifiers," which are not actions.

As long as the card is in play and any conditions are met (having the two MEDICAL present, for example), the effects of these cards are automatic, without my performing any specific action -- I don't declare that "I'm using my Bynars Weapon Enhancement to add to my WEAPONS" or "I'm saving Sela with my Genetronic Replicator," because I have no choice. So the only "action" you ever take with Bynars or a GR is playing the card in the first place, not "using" it, and that is the only action that Panel Overload can respond to.

Here's another example of an activation that is not a valid response. Intruder Alert says, "At any time, you may... download Intruder Force Field..." Intruder Force Field says, "Rogue Borg invading your ships must be three or more to be effective." So, can I activate Intruder Alert as a response when you play a single Rogue Borg on my ship, to disable that Rogue Borg? No, because Intruder Alert does not say any form of, "affects Rogue Borg" -- it does not mention Rogue Borg at all. All it does is download a card that does affect the results of Rogue Borg, but that isn't enough to make it a valid response.

So much for when you can activate a hidden agenda. Next time, we'll look at the rest of the text after "Seeds or plays on table," and decide when (after it's activated) you can or must do what the card says.