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Thinking Out Loud - Agenda Deck Decisions

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After playing a Twin Shadows Campaign as the Imperial Player last year, I found that by the last mission I was flooded with too many cards in front of me and it actually cost me the campaign because I overlooked a card that would have let me win. I'm not good at remembering rare timing triggers, and I wound up with a lot of missed opportunities. I have a new Twin Shadows campaign coming up with new players who have never played before, so this time I want to be smarter about card choice.  I may do a separate post about my class deck decision-making, but for this edition of "Thinking Out Loud", I'm going to go through my thought process on selecting Agenda sets for this campaign. 

I have two primary goals for my Agenda deck:

  1. I want to choose Agenda cards that I'm not going to forget to use and that have simple timing requirements. I want to avoid card clutter in front of me.
  2. I don't want to ruin the experience of new players, so I am looking for fun or interesting cards, not "gotcha sucker!" cards that will frustrate them.

First, I wanted to know how many Agenda cards I'll even wind up buying. I feel like last time I had several cards in front of me, but I think that was because I saved all the Agenda cards for the last mission and bought a ton of low-XP class cards. So I listed out the possible Influence earnings:

  • Twin Shadows Agenda Earnings: Lose/Win
  • Pre-Campaign Steps: No starting Influence
  • After Mission 1: Hunted Down: 1/1
  • After Mission 2: Past Life Enemies/Shady Dealings: 1/3
  • After Mission 3: Canyon Run: 1/3

That's not much, just 3 to 7 points total over the course of the entire campaign.  Which also means card cost can become an issue. After selecting my six agenda sets, I wound up with the following:

  • A 15 card Agenda Deck (after the mission cards are removed)
  • 9 cards that cost 2 Influence
  • 6 cards that cost 1 Influence, but 4 of them can be shuffled back into the Agenda deck when used

That means it is entirely possible that I could draw 4 cards after Hunted Down that cost 2 Influence and be unable to buy any of them. However, cost and card draw were not my primary concerns, so I have to just accept that as a possible risk and move on. 

Here are the six Agenda Sets I choose for this campaign:

IMPERIAL SECURITY BUREAU: (Core Set)

  • Internal Affairs: 1 Inf, Play in play area, Add 1 Regular Imperial Officer to my hand after setup. This is a nice card because it gives me more options but doesn't directly impact play, and I don't have to pay attention to it after the game starts.
  • ISB Enforcers: 2 Inf, Secret, Attach to a Stormtrooper group you deploy to allow them to make multiple attacks. Discard at the end of the mission or when that group is defeated. This is a perfect card for me because it acts like a a one-time attachment. I am used to attachments from playing skirmish, and I can easily keep track of those.
  • Imperial Operative: 1 Inf, Secret, Attach to an Imperial Officer you deploy to grant +1 speed, +3 health, and auto-Focus. Discard at the end of the mission or when that figure is defeated. Just like the previous card, this is a one-off attachment card that will be easy for me to use. Also, I can't wait to drop an Officer and be like, "This is no ordinary officer. This is Grand Moff Tarkin's nephew, Bob. You must be doing something right if the Empire sent Bob after you!"

Overall: A+! This is exactly the type of Agenda I was looking for. No mission cards makes it perfect for a Twin Shadows campaign (since those cards get tossed anyway). These are nice cards that provide some variety for play but give players time to react to them when used. 

IMPERIAL DISCIPLINE: (Core Set)

  • Impending Doom: 1 Inf, Secret, Discard or Shuffle when used. When a hero is wounded, use this card to Focus 2 Imperial figures. This is one of those cards where I probably will forget to trigger it. On the other hand, it isn't two harsh for new players because likely the heroes are activating next and will be able to kill the focused figures before they can act. This is the least valuable of the three cards in this set.
  • Tactical Maneuvering: 1 Inf, Secret, Discard or Shuffle when used. At the end of any round, perform a move with 3 Imperial Figures. Twin Shadows uses Heavy Stormtroopers a lot. They are slow and often get left behind the action. This helps them catch up. 
  • Fire at Will: 2 Inf, Play in play area. Deplete at the end of an activation to have an Imperial Trooper attack at +1 surge. There are a lot of Troopers in Twin Shadows. Kayn Somos is a Trooper. This is a good card. As a Deplete card, the Rebels will know I have it available so it won't be a surprise.

Overall: I used this Agenda the last time I ran Twin Shadows, and I loved it. I was trying to avoid using it again but it's just a solid fit for that campaign. The cards give neat effects but aren't overly strong. I just need to remember to use them!

NEFARIOUS DEALINGS: (Hired Guns Pack)

  • Final Blast: 2 Inf, Play in play area, Deplete when a non-unique figure is defeated to get off one last shot. This is the type of card I usually avoid, since I always forget to use it, but since the trigger condition is so common I'll just use it first chance I get so I can ignore it after that. Since it is a non-unique figure it probably won't be overpowered, plus the rebels will know I have the option on the table. 
  • Trade Routes Disrupted: 2 Inf, Secret, Discard when a hero grabs a crate to prevent them drawing a card (they still get the 50 credits for the crate itself though). This falls in the annoying "gotcha" category, but doesn't really hurt the rebels much for the price. For 2 Influence, you'd kind of expect the crate to explode or something instead.

Overall: These cards are good for me to use against new players. They are pricey, but don't hurt the rebels much.  

SOLDIERS FOR HIRE: (Boba Fett Pack)

  • By Any Means Necessary: 1 Inf, Secret, Discard or shuffle into Agenda deck when used. After a Scum figure attacks, it gets to attack again, but then suffers 4 damage. While this is a Gotcha card, the downside is pretty fair.
  • No Disintegrations: 2 Inf, Play in play area. Deplete to do -2 damage on an attack that doesn't miss to add 2 to threat. Another card with a fair trade-off that I can just use the first chance I get and then ignore. 

Overall: These cards aren't too harsh in the scheme of things. They won't be my first picks though.

PURSUIT OF THE ENEMY: (Twin Shadows Set)

  • Strike and Subdue: 1 Inf, Secret, Discard or Shuffle when used. As an action, cause an adjacent hero with 2 or more strain to test Insight or suffer 2 strain and test Might or be Weakened. Although this is a "Gotcha" card, the hero does have a chance to negate both effects, and it costs the Imperial figure an action, so it is more than fair. 
  • Death Mark: 2 Influence, Place in a Hero's area. All Scum attacking the hero gain +1 damage. This card is only discarded once that hero is defeated. Honestly, this card could be kind of brutal, but that depends on when it is purchased and used. On the last mission, when Boba Fett is likely the only scum you'll face, it wouldn't hurt the hero as much. 

Overall: Strike and Subdue's trigger conditions are trickier than the other Agenda cards which means more for me to remember, and Death Mark isn't even in my play area. I can see forgetting about these a lot if I buy them. They won't be my first picks, but if I am low on options they aren't the worst buy in the world.

DEFENSIVE TACTICS: (Return to Hoth Set)

  • Enhanced Armor: 1 Inf, Secret, Attach to a non-Creature/non-Vehicle group you deploy - while defending, they ignore 1 point of Pierce. Discard at the end of the mission or when that group is defeated. I love these attachment-type agenda cards; they are so easy to keep track of. 
  • Counter-Strike: 1 Inf, Secret, Discard or Shuffle when used. Play AND SPEND 1 INFLUENCE while an Imperial figure is Defending to apply +1 Block and Evade. If no damage is suffered, the attacker takes 3 damage. This is kind of a terrible card, and I'll probably never pick it. That weird double Influence spend is confusing. It should just be a 2-Point card, and I counted it as such in my earlier breakdown.
  • Personal Shield Generators: 2 Inf, Place in play area. Deplete when an Imperial figure is defending for +3 block. This is a handy card for making the big bad like Kayn Somos or Boba Fett more intimidating. 

Overall: This would be an A+ set if Counter-Strike was replaced with a better card. 

Closing Thoughts: 

If you read this wall of text, thanks! Really I was just jotting down notes as I tried to think through the six Agenda sets I wanted to use for this campaign, and when I realized that my notes had turned into an almost formal analysis, I figured I'd share it. 

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Two small things which may help.

1) there is a rule in the Jabbas Realm Campaign where the IP is not allowed to have more than 4 Agenda cards in his hand at any time. Using that rule may help force you to have fewer cards to remember and deal with

2) obviously the cards that are “place in your play area” cards are easier to remember ,  but the secret ones can be a pain. I also dislike the “gotcha” effect of springing these cards. One thing I have done is to keep the secret cards face down but next to a deployment card (if already in play), or a card in my open groups (if figure is not deployed yet, but I want to use this secret card on the figure when deployed). This helps me to remember to use it. 

Lastly, at the start of the mission I point out to the rebels that I have some unknown agenda cards that might be in play in this mission (maybe I use it maybe I don’t). This keeps them kind of guessing “what effect is it? When will he use it, etc” which I think is more fun and a little strategic vs just having it totally hidden and sprung on them.

 

 

Edited by totalnoob

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Thanks for the tips. I will definitely use the idea of keeping cards with the deployment cards I want to use them on.

In the last campaign I wasn't hoarding cards on purpose, I just kept forgetting the timing on them or the timing triggers never happened, so they stuck around. The only card I purposefully held back using was Tactical Maneuvering because I knew that in the last mission I would want to be able to have my Heavy Stormtroopers be able to chase after the retreating Rebels or get in their escape path. I think the real problem was the way I tried to organize them mixed in with my class cards (attachments, action effects, exhaust effects, deplete effects) wound up confusing me more  because I didn't organize them by when they happened. A better way for me would probably be a pile that is used when deploying cards, a pile that is used during attacks, a pile that has end of round effects, and a pile with special timing triggers like a wounded hero. 

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Might I suggest performing a thorough review of your agenda cards after a mission, but before purchasing new ones and before a game, but after reviewing each character along with their abilities and gear, which you may already be doing. With these two things I'll explore and enhance what I mean in the following paragraphs. Note you are one player versus 2 to 4 other players typically and your idea of tactics and play style must be strategically sound based on your strengths and weaknesses, select Agenda Card decks and Imperial Class to either over strengthen your strengths, reinforce your weaknesses or to bring balance to the err... Force? You mentioned recalls of cards in your active agenda hand. Perhaps altering how you keep these face down would assist you, a small card book you can sit open facing you but away from player eyes, perhaps you even have fake or dummy cards in place in case a player gets a glance. The card book could also be used to keep photo copies of each characters rewards, gear and class cards for easy reference so you don't tip off players by needing to look at one of the mentioned cards. Also keep in mind to purchase agenda and class cards only after players have completed their step 2 Rebel Upgrade. What Agenda decks you play with and what class you play should also be fun and exciting, using the same decks often allows alert players to weaken your tactics and strategies,who will then exploit this.

Review of current active agenda card hand before new purchases. 

In this concept I'll go over my process in card purchase tactics and mission and campaign strategy selections. I will not mention specific decks as that is a personal choice. Once players are done with the Rebel Upgrade, review each character individually, as teams and as a group. As players they will want to synergies as often as possible in many new and often unforeseen ways. 1 imperial player versus X Rebel players will mean in many situations you will be out played in some fashion, often more than once during a mission, but the opposite can be true also. Your offsets are your agenda cards a resource the Rebel players don't have. As players each of us has a different play style which can weigh heavily on both sides of the table, the rebels have a co-op play style which can help and hinder in the extremes. The Imperial player self for better or worse plus agenda cards. 

When your review of the Rebel characters is complete, take time to recall notable Rebel and Imperial events from the last mission and decide what effect it had on your pregame tactics and strategy and what if anything should be added, altered or removed from future mission play styles. Also truly ruthless events may force you to alter your campaign strategy, more on this in the end. For an example of a notable event is when players or yourself discover a new exploit or weakness through various methods such as synergies or even activation order of say character C going before characters A. These new events become the tactics both sides use, simple right? So with that in mind do you feel your active agenda hand needs additions or subtractions to deal with or enhance your side of the table based on your draw of purchasable agenda cards, or do you need to alter mission strategies to compensate? You don't need to spend agenda points if you feel you have a solid strategy for the next mission and nothing the Rebel players picked up during stage 2 was a red flag. But if card you really like to use is an option grab it, but if as I said earlier, you've become predictable you might hold off. That is unless you have found a new way to reliably use it successfully. Don't get into a reliance on certain cards as the players will adapt and minimize it's effects.

When you purchase agenda and class cards think of your campaign strategy and your mission strategy as two separate but intertwining malible beasts. If you like to lock players down and run the clock out on them great, but some missions that may not be effective, giving the rebels a long time to grab crates and perhaps pull out a win with a lucky draw. The opposite end of going with slaughter power can take a bad turn when characters X controls your figure Z and has a really good time of it. Recall review the rebels, some are just a bucket of angry Rebel utility waiting to exploit your idea of Imperial fun time. Adding conditions to both enemy and friendly figures can work for both sides of the table, never forget that. Getting to place focused on a whole squad of storm troopers can be lots of enjoyable dice rolling. 

 

Review before mission

More refresher than new information, but say the players deploy an ally you weren't expecting, with your agenda and class cards in hand, knowing what your Imperial and villain access is, do you need alter your turn to turn tactics or mission strategy? What if any play style adjustments should you make? Is taking out the Rebel melee tank characters asap the best mission strategy this time or will denying the rebels their highest TECH attribute character force the clock to run out and provide a Imperial win? If you have keep secret/face down agenda cards or specific activation requirement cards, build a tactic scenario before game you try to setup to implement the card, rather than letting it occur randomly. I like the comment above "Remind the players you've got hidden agenda cards", exploit the psychological unknown as suggested, perhaps it might delay them a turn or keep that single storm trooper alive. I like to look at a face down card multiple time starting when they take out the first storm trooper, then again on the second and when they are talking about taking out the last model in the squad. Don't say anything, just glance at the models and then put the card down, body language will do the work. Even if the card has nothing to do with wiping out a whole squad of storm troopers, deception in the way of the Empire! Often you need to sacrifice things to get you secret agenda card activated, don't be afraid to do so when winning or losing the mission means being able to play the card. A 4 influence cost agenda card not used was a bad investment. 

 

With overall campaign strategy keep in mind what characters the Rebel players choose and how the players and characters synergize (new groups of players tend to be weaker and established groups may have so much experience they will displace the emperor), what campaign you're running and your play style strengths and weaknesses. Rebel players should select their characters before you choose your agenda cards and Imperial class. If you note that the rebels are going to potentially nullify agenda deck Imperial Fluffy Cat usability or they know you love the Imperial Class deck Synchronized Tie-fighter Ballet, shy away from them. Try to select different villain options also when available. If your own experience is limited as the Imperial player look to the forum for wisdom that enhances your strengths and shores up your weaknesses, and remember you don't have to reinvent the wheel per say but resize it to fit your own off-road Death Star. 

Edited by doktor grym

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Thanks doktor grym! That's a heck of a comprehensive write-up!  Since this campaign is with new players who either don't know the game at all or have only played skirmish, I luckily won't need to worry about things like them anticipating my picks and working to offset them. You make a great point about sacrificing units if it will allow a needed card to trigger in order to force the opportunity to use it - I'm going to keep that in mind. 

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Glad I could help. One other thing to perhaps try is to use some alternate Agenda cards and a different Class deck to allow you to learn the in and outs of those decks. New players will be easier for you to wrangle and it allows you a chance to have a low pressure opportunity to try something new for yourself. 

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