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It's been a long time coming, but today we are proud to announce the imminent arrival of Return to Grace, the 30th Second Edition expansion! Return to Grace will be released online and free at trekcc.org on Friday, March 14th, 2014. This expansion is all about "rebirth" and aims to place the Bajorans and the Cardassians firmly on the scene this competitive season. In addition, Return to Grace is a launching point for a new era of design philosophies and principles we have been calling "Phase II."
What is Phase II?
Return to Grace is the first expansion of what we've been calling "Phase II" of Second Edition design. From a design point of view, "Phase II" is a shift in philosophy that manifests in three key areas:
1. Create new and powerful cards. In the past, especially in the past few years, design has been reluctant to push the power level of new cards. Instead, we have just added new "teams", created new tools for existing strategies, or made weapons against powerful strategies. We will still do all of those things moving forward, but we are no longer going to be afraid to make good cards, especially for affiliations that aren't performing well at a competitive level (Accession). This philosophy applies to dilemma design as well, with dilemmas made to encourage deck strategies and innovative piles that are both fun and competitive, such as Chula: The Game.
2. Make affiliations matter. Over the past few expansions, there has been less and less affiliation definition. Likely due to the smaller virtual expansion size (at least in part), designers have made more "toolbox" cards like Tacking Into the Wind, i.e. cards that work in any deck. While these types of cards have a place in the game, each time one is made, it makes the affiliations and sub-affiliations a little less distinct. Phase II originated as part of a desire to return to the "old days," where each affiliation played and felt differently. We want all of the affiliations and sub-affiliations to have a distinct feel, with different implementations of mechanics. One of our mantras was that, even if you were playing a small, tight, solver deck, those decks would play and feel differently.
3. Dial back game speed. For the past several years, as we have made more and more cards to enable interaction decks, game length has increased. Specifically, the number of timed games has gone up, on average, as interactive decks became more and more viable. This isn't an inherently bad thing, as interaction is key and vital to the game, and it's something design wants to see. Imagine the game speed as a pendulum, with Second Edition-only speed decks on one end, and Maquis-disruption style chess match decks on the other. Right now, the pendulum is more on the side of the slower decks, and this point is simply to pull it a little bit closer to the middle. One of the ways we can enable this is with clean, simple cards that make solvers work, and you'll see several in Return to Grace.