PSA about Affiliation Changing Team Tactics Cards in MCP – Guest Article from John Elson

AMG has released or spoiled a series of three cards that allow you to change the affiliation of a character, along with some other minor benefits. SHIELD has The Initiative, Sentinels have Under Your Skin, and Hydra has Sleeper Agent. The following text is on each card:

When you include this card in your squad, choose 1 non-[current affiliation] affiliated character in your squad. It is now a [current affiliation] affiliated character.

The Problem

The most obvious application for these cards is getting a normally non-affiliated character to count towards affiliation. In other words, you could play a team of:

  • Red Skull, Master of Hydra (Hydra)
  • Arnim Zola (Hydra)
  • Captain America + Sleeper Agent (now Hydra)
  • Lizard
  • Toad 

And have that be a Hydra affiliated 17 threat roster. After all, three of the five characters are Hydra, right?

Well, they are now. But Captain America wasn’t when you were building your squad. On page 13, the rules say:

[W]hen building your squad for a mission, you can choose to use a specific squad affiliation. […] For a squad to use a squad affiliation, more than half of its characters must share the same squad affiliation.

Then, under Selecting Team Tactics Cards, it says: 

After building a squad, each player chooses which Team Tactics cards they will use during the mission. […] If they’re using a squad affiliation, they may select Team Tactic cards that require that affiliation.

In other words, you pick your affiliation before picking Team Tactics cards, and at that point you have to have half or more of your characters be affiliated to qualify as affiliated. That means you have to get over the 50% mark before using The Initiative/Under Your Skin/Sleeper Agent. Otherwise, you don’t get the leadership or any affiliation specific cards.

Unfortunately, this isn’t just me being a rules curmudgeon. AMG has confirmed that this is how it works. Here’s the thread on the rules forum.

Potential Solutions

There’s a huge gap between how these cards seem to work and what they actually do. Most players aren’t going to figure this out on their own because it hinges on a distinction that has never mattered before: the order of steps in squad building. Those steps are all done in secret, so people doing them wrong can’t learn the correct order by watching other players. It’s a big feel-bad moment on both sides when someone brings an unintentionally unaffiliated squad to a tournament game. There’s no good option: you either force your opponent to play without a leadership and likely down tactics cards, or you allow them to tweak their roster while already knowing what you’re playing.

In my opinion, there are two reasonable paths forward here:

  1. AMG should change the core rules to say that you pick characters and tactics cards at the same time, and you check for affiliation when you reveal your roster. This makes the cards work as they  seem to on first reading.
  2. If it’s important for the cards not to work that way, AMG should add reminder text to these cards stating that this character doesn’t count towards the “more than half” requirement for affiliation.

The upcoming release of Sentinels and Hydra makes this problem more urgent: not only are there three of them now, but one of them is in an affiliation that is incredibly narrow. Personally, I hope that AMG is planning on doing option #1, but they’re either waiting for the physical release of the Sentinel/Hydra cards before ruling on them, or they have several other changes to the core rules in the works and they’re delaying so they can do them all at once.

Rules as Intended vs Rule as Written

I’m sure there’s a group of people rolling their eyes right now. If you know how the rules are supposed to work, then who cares what it says on the card? Just play it the right way. This debate is sometimes summarized as Rules As Intended (RAI) versus Rules As Written (RAW). These acronyms are typically invoked when a player believes their opponent is using an overly literal or legalistic interpretation of the rules (RAW) to twist the rules away from their intent (RAI) to get an unfair advantage.

The problem is, there’s no way to know how the author intended the rules to work. This case is an excellent example of why: while the way the card is written strongly implies the timing distinction is unintentional, it’s entirely possible that the folks at AMG did this on purpose. They’re way, way more familiar with the rules than we are; maybe they thought the timing was clear. Between these cards and Rogue Agents, you could have five character squads count as affiliated with only one actual member of the affiliation. Maybe that’s too much. I don’t know.

For now, I will continue to play these cards as written and keep spreading the word about how they actually work. When I encounter players who are unintentionally unaffiliated, I will continue allowing them to tweak their lists. I encourage all of you to do the same.

I’m always looking for good topics for articles. If you have any rules questions you’d like addressed, post in the discord: link

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