by Darrin Bright
With a few exceptions, timing in Illuminati: New World Order is generally pretty simple. The INWO VFAQ does a very nice job of explaining issues like canceling and speed-play. In general, cards take effect in the order in which they are played, and all actions take effect first before you can cancel them. But there are a few gaping holes that pop up when certain plots are played. Specifically, I'm talking about Are We Having Fun Yet?, often abbreviated AWHFY. Here's a quick look at the card, if you're not familiar with it.
Play this card at any time. It requires an action by group(s) with total Power greater than that of the target. One action or special-ability use of the target is canceled.
I tried (and failed) to tackle this problem before, and some of you may already be familiar with a long rambling piece I wrote called "The Remains of The Somewhat Complete Guide to All The Fun You Can Have with 'Are We Having Fun Yet?' But Were Afraid To Ask." It was an attempt to sort out for myself what was going on with some rulings that had to do with special abilities and timing issues. If you haven't read it yet, you might want to take a look at it, but it's not necessary to be familiar with it for the purposes of this article. (If you tried to read it, lose 1d6 SAN.) I don't think even I understood what it was about and it didn't reach any meaningful conclusions, so I'll just give you a quick recap:
"The Remains. . . " was principally concerned with the rulings mess on what is or is not a special ability, an instruction, or a limitation. (It's still a mess, but we've managed to cope.) It started out as an attempt to classify all identifiable special abilities into five different categories, but as the article meandered onwards, I discovered that there were only two kinds of special abilities. The first kind is activated when specific events occurred, such as spending a token or announcing an attack. The second kind are continuous abilities that have no particular duration and stay in effect all of the time. This second group was where the first article really fell apart, since it's not clear how long the cancellation lasts if you hit these groups with AWHFY.
It did occur to me at that point, though, that my problem wasn't AWHFY or special abilities or instructions or whatever. It seemed to me the whole thing depended on how time is divided in INWO. When "continuous effects" are canceled, how long do they stay canceled? Until the next event, or the end of the phase, or the end of the turn? And what the heck was an "event" anyway? Was an attack one single event, or a group of events? Uh, your eyes are starting to glaze over. . . maybe I should get to the point.
The Gnomes Problem
When I first considered immunity as a special ability, I thought it was a continuous effect, as in it was active all the time. The Discordia ruling didn't work that way, however. When you cancel Discordia's immunity during an attack, it only lasts long enough for one single Straight or Government group to interfere, then that counts as "one single use" of Discordia's power and it goes back into effect. (The INWO VFAQ discusses this under Canceling - Special Abilities, but uses the Vatican as an example.) Aha, I told myself, immunity isn't a continuous effect, it is only activated when a group attacks or interferes in an attack. It was at this point that I discovered that my neat little five categories were actually only two categories: event-based abilities and continuous abilities.
But wait, I thought to myself. If immunity isn't continuous, maybe those other powers aren't continuous either. Maybe they only look like they're continuous. If I could classify all powers as taking effect on a particular event or under certain conditions, then it would be perfectly clear how AWHFY works with ALL special abilities. It would be one grand unified theory on how all events work in INWO. It would clear up all the confusing timing and event issues, it would bring about world peace, it would get me to clean the house!
At that point I ran into the Gnomes Problem, and the whole thing fell apart. Here's a look at the special ability I was puzzling over.
Gnomes of Zurich:
You may hold 6 plots in your hand, rather than the usual 5.
When I tried to wrap my little mind around the timing of this particular ability, everything went to pieces. When you cancel this ability, it immediately goes back into effect, right? The duration is pretty much infinite. As long as the Gnomes are playing they may hold up to six plot cards. It wasn't a power that was activated or happened under certain circumstances, it was a change to the basic rules of the game and there was no clear answer about how long it would stop working if it were canceled. Until the end of the phase? Until the end of the turn? I had no idea, so I gave up.
The Yeti Ruling
When the SubGenius expansion was released, one of the new cards that attracted a lot of attention was the Arise! goal. One of the first tricks people came up with was "attack to control all my groups, and we'll share a victory." But who wants to share a victory when you can get all the glory yourself? I set about the problem of tricking an opponent or at least crediting an opponent with taking away your last group.
What I came up with was Deck of the Week winner #61, "Somebody Kill Me, Please!" It's a fairly simple deck, really. Move all your groups onto the Center for Disease Control, attack to destroy a rival's place with biological warfare, and make sure the attack fails. When the CDC is destroyed and your rival is credited with the kill, reveal Arise! and win.
One of the problems with the deck, however, was the CDC didn't have an open control arrow to accept any puppets. But that wasn't a problem for the Yetis. They can attach themselves as a puppet to any group, whether or not it has an open control arrow. Only at the last minute I realized one of the cards I'd put into the deck could have ruined the whole thing. The Blue NWO: World Hunger strips the action tokens from green groups and nullifies their special abilities. . . and the Yetis were green! If World Hunger was played, the deck might not work.
Or would it? I told Deck of the Week Guru Ralph Melton to substitute Global Warming for World Hunger in the final deck submission, but the two of us puzzled over what, exactly, would happen if somebody did play World Hunger or somehow canceled the Yetis special ability. Let's say the Yetis are hanging off somewhere, minding their own business, and all of a sudden they're not supposed to hang there anymore. What happens? Do you have to move them immediately, or do you have to discard them because they are in play in an illegal position?
This card may be placed on any side of its master's card, even if there is no outgoing control arrow there! A group with an unused, but blocked, control arrow may attack to control the Yetis.
After puzzling over it, Ralph put forth the following interpretation. The Yetis special ability is only activated when they are actually placed in a power structure. Once in play, they stay there until moved, and canceling their special ability has no effect, since there's no rule that says they have to be discarded once they've legally made it into play.
Weird, huh? I thought it was a pretty wacky interpretation, but Head Netrep and INWO Goddess Lynette Cowper agreed with him and made it official. So once a group is in play, it doesn't matter if it's actually on an open control arrow so long as it got there legally. I called it a rather pnambic ruling, but let it go. . . there are worse rulings I can rant and rave about.
But to get back to our little story, that ruling got me thinking. Here was another apparently continuous ability that wasn't continuous at all. And you could cancel it with AWHFY, if it was played just after the Yetis were placed in play. I decided to tackle the Gnomes Problem again.
The Gnomes Solution
Inspired by the Yeti ruling, it eventually occurred to me that the Gnomes special ability is not continuous. The Yeti ruling actually has nothing to do with the Gnomes solution. . . it's just that I was thinking about the Yetis just before I figured out how to handle the Gnomes problem. It occurred to me that the Gnomes special ability is only in use when they have more than five plots in their hand. Once the Gnomes special ability is canceled via AWHFY, the Gnomes player has to discard down to five cards. . . at which point the special ability is no longer active. It's only activated when a sixth card is drawn, and it stays active until his next turn comes up or he's forced to play or discard a card. If canceled, the Gnomes player discards down to five plots. If he does draw another card, then his special ability goes back into effect, but it is considered a separate use of this special ability.
The Ross Perot Problem
I was close. I almost had it. Only one serious obstacle remained that I could see, but it was Ross Perot, which leads to a very nasty little rules conundrum with the Dittoheads. Actually, I'm not going to even touch that problem in this article, since it doesn't exactly involve AWHFY or timing. Well, it kind of does, as I want to talk about the special abilities that create the paradox, but that's as far as I'm going to go. There's actually probably a lot more quasi-continuous abilities out there that I'm ignoring, but I thought I'd try to keep this article out of the "multiple volume" length, so I'm going to pretend it's the last obstacle.
Ross Perot and the Saturday Morning Cartoons add to or change the alignments of their puppets. The Dittoheads, Day Care Centers, and Secret FisTemples also change alignments, but these three groups actually copy the alignments of their masters. Although these two types of groups seem to have similar abilities, only Ross Perot and the Saturday Morning Cartoons actually have special abilities. The INWO VFAQ points out that the alignment-changing of the Dittoheads is actually an instruction, so it can't be canceled with AWHFY and I'm not going to worry about it here.
Any group controlled by Perot immediately becomes Straight and Conservative, losing any Weird or Liberal alignments it had. This is a "permanent" change, but the alignments will revert to normal if the group gets another master.
There are two ways to interpret Ross Perot's special ability. The first is similar to the Yeti ruling and is based on the wording "This is a "permanent" change." If it's permanent then it only needs to be done once, right? It works the same way as playing Straighten Up and Fundie Money on the group. Like the Yetis, the ability is activated only when Ross gets a new puppet and if it isn't canceled immediately at that point then it's permanent and can't be canceled later.
I conferred with the Secret Masters and they didn't like this interpretation, although some of them conceded that the reasoning was technically sound. But there's no way to foil a victory attempt if Ross' owner is winning with an alignment-based goal, and it doesn't make much sense if you can't cancel something that can obviously be used more than once. If the ability actually was canceled, then that puppet would never be Straight or Conservative unless it was moved to another one of Ross' control arrows, which doesn't make much sense either. And so it was decided that this interpretation was incorrect.
The second and correct interpretation is much similar to the Discordian immunity ruling. Let's say Ross' puppets can call on his special ability to change alignments whenever they need to. Even if it is canceled Ross will just change the alignments back to Straight and Conservative later when he or his puppets act again. It just happens that way and we're not going to worry about why or how long it lasts. Well, to play AWHFY on him when he takes over a group now is pretty pointless, since the next time any of his puppets act they'll be Straight and Conservative again. With this interpretation, you can only actually cancel Ross' ability if he or his puppets are trying to do something with it, either to spend a token or claim victory via an alignment-based goal. Just so we know exactly what's going on, let's take a look at some examples.
Ross has control of California, and California wants to aid an attack to control the Tobacco Companies. Since California is using the Straight alignment to aid the attack, you could cancel Ross' ability to give them the Straight alignment, and California's token would be lost as an illegal action. Actually, you could cancel California's token directly by using AWHFY, but Ross generally has a lower power than California and it's probably cheaper to use AWHFY on him.
Here's a stickier problem, though. . . let's say someone has played Fundie Money on the Tobacco Companies, making them Conservative. California now has two matching alignments. If Ross' ability is canceled, are both alignment changes canceled or only one? If only one, then which one? Actually, I'm not sure what happens in this case, but I'm going to guess that both alignment changes are part of the same special ability, so California is neither Straight nor Conservative until it can act again. I won't get bent out of shape if you feel differently though.
Finally, let's take a look at a victory attempt. Ross has control of two groups that are not normally Conservative and you're trying to win with the Let Them Eat Cake goal. You've destroyed 2 Liberal groups, and due to Ross' special ability you now have 7 Conservative groups when a rival plays AWHFY on Ross. Since you're using those Conservative groups to claim victory, your rivals can cancel Ross' ability for that victory attempt. But now the question is how many Conservative groups count? Actually, one of them does and one of them doesn't. Since Ross controls two groups, his special ability is being used twice, and AWHFY can only cancel one use for that particular victory attempt. Your rivals would have to play two AWHFY plots on you to affect both puppets.
Well, if you made it this far, this should just about wrap up everything you need to know about Are We Having Fun Yet?. It's not quite the End-All Be-All Grand Unified Theory of INWO Timing Issues, but it might be pretty close. To sum up, I submit to you the following: All special abilities in INWO are activated when specific events or conditions occur, and they can be canceled at that time by playing AWHFY. There are no continuous special abilities in INWO that are "always active", and all abilities have some sort of specific duration.
There's one last thing I want to clear up with AWHFY. Some of you may be wondering what happens when AWHFY is played on a card with a special ability that is not currently being used or activated. Some of you may be thinking, okay, well, the next use of that ability is canceled, right?
Wrong, and here I just want to clear up how timing works in INWO when you want to cancel something. In INWO, all events happen first, then you decide if you want to cancel them or not. The classic example discussed in the World Domination Handbook is Discordia giving the NPCs (Nuclear Power Companies) the Government alignment. In order to cancel Discordia's action, you have to wait until it happens first. Once the NPCs have become Government, however, Discordia is now immune to them and they can't cancel the change of alignments.
AWHFY works the same way. You can't use it on anything that hasn't happened yet. So if you play it on Ross Perot when he has no puppets and Ross isn't trying to do anything, it has no effect. With nothing to cancel, AWHFY was played illegally and is discarded along with any tokens spent to power it.
So, no longer need you fear the Card That Cannot Be Named or flee the INWO Mailing List when it is mentioned. You can stride confidently into any rules argument and know that yes, there should be some way to resolve it without going insane. Of course, due to the "generally beneficial" OPEC/Moonbase rulings, we have no ferk-blast-it clue what is or is not a special ability, limitation, or instruction without consulting a Netrep, but that's a horse of a different color. . . and not really one of the concerns of this article. But that shouldn't stop you from having a little fun with AWHFY.
Article publication date: April 21, 2000
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