Welcome to Rules School. A series of articles that focuses on some of the intricacies found within the rules of Dice Masters. Everyone from new players, to long time veterans, can find themselves in a confusing situation when certain game states come up. Our hope with this feature is to clear up some of these situations and help your games go as smoothly as possible.
Do you have a question about how a certain part of the game works? Something you would like to see covered in a future article? We would be happy to help you out. Send your questions to RulesSchool@dm-north.com.
On to today’s lesson…
The “Strike” Keyword
Yes, I said everybody was playing Strike wrong. Yes, I meant it.
Not utterly wrong. It’s more a little detail about it that (almost) everybody gets wrong. But it can be kind of an important detail.
Most players arrived at their understanding of how Strike works by reading the reminder text on one of the cards that uses the keyword. But note the words “reminder text.”
What Is “Reminder Text”?
In most (but not all) cases, card text in parentheses is there to add clarity and reduce confusion, but does not change how the character ability works.
A very common example is “(until end of turn)”.
Experienced players generally know that unless stated otherwise game effects end when a turn ends. But that rule is easy to forget and/or miss entirely for newer players who learn the game by such methods as actually reading the rulebook.
In almost all cases, the presence of that text doesn’t actually change how the card works.
Take Avengers ID Card: Priority Identicard (shown at left). If the text in parentheses were to be removed or blacked out the global ability on this card would work exactly the same as it does with it.
When the Avengers ID Card global is used, the target character die gains the Avengers affiliation. The reminder text lets player know that when they use the global, the targeted character die only keeps the Avengers affiliation until the end of the turn.
If the reminder text wasn’t present, how would players know how long the targeted die would keep the Avengers affiliation? They would have to refer to the default rule from the rulebook.
5. CLEANUP STEP
All damage to all dice is cleared. All applied effects (“until the end of the turn”) end.
X-Men Forever Rulebook, p. 16.
The Avengers affiliation gained from the use of the global is an applied effect, so it ends when the turn does, or to be more specific, in the cleanup step.
Is there a circular reasoning argument here? There seems to be, given that the section of rulebook I quoted seems to imply that the way to recognize an applied effect is to note whether it was described as lasting until end of turn.
The problem is that section is worded a little bit . . . sub-optimally. The “until the end of turn” condition is one way of recognizing an applied effect as such, but its presence in writing is not required for a game effect to be an applied effect.
So it’s time to discuss exactly what is an applied effect, and what other kind of game effects also exist. You may want to make sure you have some aspirin tablets handy.
Types of Game Effects
According to the X-Men Forever rulebook Game Effects fall into one of three categories:
The term applied is fairly self explanatory. It doesn’t ‘just happen’, a player must do something (which I’m going to call a trigger effect) to cause it to happen. The most common stat modifier applied effect is a global ability such as the one found on Hulk: Power of Attorney. The trigger for that effect is paying the cost of the global.
Another common trigger for an applied effect is the use of an action die. But there a plethora of other triggers that activate applied effects including ‘when fielded’, ‘when attacks’, ‘when KO’d’ and ‘when this character takes damage’ on certain cards. Sacrificing a character die can also be a trigger for an applied effect with certain cards such as White Tiger: Razor Sharp.
Applied effects last until the end of turn. If a player so desires, and has the means, an applied effect can be triggered repeatedly throughout a game. However, each use only lasts until the end of the current turn.
The X-Men Forever rulebook says “These will generally affect a future game state” and gives a few examples including such things as force attacks and force blocks.
I’ll be honest – I don’t really see any hard and fast criteria, that makes it easy to classify an effect as ‘Persistent’ as opposed to ‘Applied’. Well, with one small exception, which we’ll get to shortly.
Fortunately, in almost all cases, it’s entirely academic whether an effect is Applied or Persistent, because it makes no difference gameplay-wise.
These effects will specify how long they last, If otherwise unstated then they will end during the Cleanup Step
X-Men Forever Rulebook, p. 24
So I’m forced to conclude the global on the uncommon Blackbird is a Persistent Effect since if you use it on your own turn it lasts past the end of the current turn and through your Opponent’s turn.
I’ll be honest, I don’t love this term, as I don’t find it at all intuitive, but I’m still going to use it to maintain a certain degree of consistency with WizKids own terminology.
Static is used here in the sense of ‘unchanging’ and/or ‘unchangeable’. A static effect is one that happens because a source (character or continuous action die) that has a ‘while active’ ability is active. While it begins at the moment such a character becomes active, that should not be considered a trigger event.
The X-Men Forever Rulebook states that ‘while active’ effects are the ‘most common’ Static effects there are others. However, it does not provide any examples of other Static effects and I can’t think of any myself. I’m going to stick with ‘from “while active” abilities’ explanation until I’m forced to expand it.
Here are two examples of cards with Static Stat Modifier abilities:
Note that while each Kree Captain die will receive an increase to its A and D so long as it is active, the exact amount of that increase will vary, changing every time a Villain die enters or leaves either player’s Field Zone. So while the source of a Static Effect doesn’t change (Kree Captain being active) the end result, particularly in the case of a Stat Modifier, still can.
If may feel like we’ve gone a fair bit astray from the “Strike” keyword, but I needed to lay a foundation regarding reminder text and types of game effects before I could continue with the lesson.
Reminder text can be considered a kind of “cheat sheet” for players. If the only word on a card not in parentheses is a keyword, it should be safe to assume that the parenthetical text is reminder text that explains how the keyword in question works.
Unfortunately with Strike, that’s not exactly the case, because even though there are two slightly different versions of reminder text for Strike, neither completely describes how Strike works.
Here’s the definition of how Strike works, from the WizKids Keywords page:
Strike: On the turn you field this, at the end of the Main Step, if you fielded no other character dice this turn, this character die gets +2A, +2D and Overcrush. (DCDM6)
So, there is one important differences between the keywords definition and the reminder text players were working with: the point in the turn when the effect begins.
When a player fields a die which has the Strike keyword, nothing happens to that die until the end of the Main Step. But players who were going by the reminder text understandably thought such a die received the +2A/+2D as soon as it became active (so long as it was the only die fielded on that turn).
So, be aware that if you use something like Confront the Mighty with a Strike character die during your Main Step, your Strike die will not have yet received the +2D. (or +2A, but as the Strike die’s A would have been overwritten by the use of Confront the Mighty, that hardly matters.)
Is Strike an Applied, Persistent or Static Effect?
Well, it’s not a ‘While active’ effect, so we can safely assume it’s not a Static Effect.
Nowhere does it say it lasts beyond the end of the (current) turn, so the safest assumption is it’s an Applied Effect.
So, basically, fielding the Strike die activates a delayed trigger that doesn’t go off until the Main Step ends.
EDIT: Upon additional reflection after the initial posting of this article, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is not a question with a single answer – because Strike is not a single effect. It’s two or three effects (depending on whether you count the two part stat buff as one effect or two) with a common trigger.
Stat modifiers are described in the rulebook as a very common type of Applied Effect and are not mentioned under Persistent Effects, so the logical conclusion is the +2A/+2D are Applied Effects.
Whether the Overcrush is Applied or Persistent is not entirely clear to me.
The rulebook specifically states “Applied modifiers may be manipulated by game effects.” That means the buff from Applied effects is not ‘locked’ to the given character die, but can be moved to another character die by something like the Splinter’s Teaching’s global.
I will have some follow-up to this in the Comments section.
One thing I didn’t mention about applied effects, is that (to paraphrase the rulebook) once they happen, they generally cannot be undone.
I’m not sure I’ll get universal agreement, but in my view, the way the Keywords page definition is worded, the Strike ability cannot be ‘deactivated’ by fielding characters after the end of the Main Step.
Basically, the condition is only evaluated at the end of the Main Step. Effectively, the condition can be considered to read ‘if this is the only character die you fielded during your Main Step’ as opposed to ‘if this is the only character die you fielded during your turn’.
Of course, by that point in the turn, a player cannot field characters by the regular, narrow definition of ‘field’ regardless. That definition being, moving a character from the reserve pool to the Field Zone after paying any required Fielding Cost.
However, in the Attack Step, players can still use global abilities, and the attacking player can still use Action Dice. There are both global abilities (e.g. Atlantis) and Action Dice (e.g. Instant War) that can result in the fielding of Sidekick character dice. Granted, they can’t be used to attack this turn, since by the time the Attack Step global/action dice window opens attackers have already been assigned, but if you have an active Batman: Plays Too Rough you may not care.
Going by either version of the Strike reminder text, the impression given is that fielding another die, by any method, at any point in the turn, negates the Strike effect.
That reminder text also gives the impression that, if the Strike character die were to lose its text (e.g. opponent using Loki Laufeyson’s ability) the character die would lose the benefits of its Strike ability, similar to the way a character with a “while active” ability” would lose the Static effect of that ability while their card text was blanked.
How We Got Here
Not that every team you see is going to have a Strike character, but they do seem some play.
So how did we get into a situation where a reasonably common keyword is almost invariably misused?
WizKids released the first products with Strike characters – the Justice campaign box, and the Mystics and Doom Patrol team packs at the end of February. There was no mention of Strike in the Justice rulebook, Not even in the Glossary.
And . . . WizKids did not update the Keywords page to include a definition of Strike until mid-April.
So players used the reminder text on Strike cards to figure out how that keyword worked, because (at the time) they had literally nothing else to go on.
By the time WizKids made an actual definition of Strike available to the public, players had been using it for a month and a half. After that amount of time, it seemed familiar enough to players that nobody felt any urgent need to check what the WizKids keywords page said about it. Even among those who actually knew the WizKids Keywords page had been updated.
At least nothing too similar should happen again anytime soon. That mid-April update to the keywords page included some other new/upcoming keywords like Spark that we won’t actually see on any cards until the next D & D set is released.
WizKids has an online Keywords page.
A month and a half after releasing 11 different cards which have the Strike keyword into the wild, WizKids updated their Keywords page to include a definition of the Strike keyword. This definition includes some important details about the timing that were never mentioned in the reminder text on any Strike cards.
If there is any discrepancy or inconsistency between a current rulebook (including the keywords page) and any parenthetical reminder text, the rulebook trumps the reminder text.
The Dice Masters player base is largely unaware that there is a major inconsistency between the Keywords page definition and the reminder text written on Strike cards. Therefore when they are using Strike characters, they are frequently using the Strike ability incorrectly.
That’s all for today’s lesson.
If any of you have any questions about any of the above, the Comments box is right below. I encourage you to use it.
But for now, class dismissed.
Son of L