Dice to See You A blog

Smash Up - Infiltrate Card

The game Smash Up generally has good ability descriptions on each card, but the "Infiltrate" card in the Ninja faction is very confusing. So let's spend way too much time analyzing this card, why not?

Infiltrate Card

The description of the card's ability is:

Play on a base. Destroy an action that has been played here.
Ongoing: You may ignore this base's ability until the start of your next turn.

Going just off the description as written on the card, I would interpret it as:

Play on a base. Destroy an action attached to it or an action attached to a minion on the base.
Ongoing: You may ignore this base's ability.

But making assumptions about the designer's intent, another possible rephrasing is:

Play on a base. Destroy an action attached to it.
Ongoing: You may ignore this base's ability. Destroy this card at the start of your next turn.

Start of Your Next Turn

The most confusing part about this card is the "until the start of your next turn" clause:

Ongoing: You may ignore this base's ability until the start of your next turn.

It doesn't say that anything specifically happens to this card at the start of your next turn. So since it is an ongoing ability, does it reset at the start of your next turn? Or does the ongoing ability stop doing anything, but the card remains in play?

I'd lean towards the first interpretation: since it doesn't say anything specific happens at the start of your next turn, that part is basically meaningless until the card is removed from play. In the rare case where happens and the base is still in play, then the ongoing ability should continue to apply until your next turn starts. Even though that is kind of stupid and hard to keep track of.

One other possibility is that the designer of the game intended for the card to be destroyed at the start of your next turn. The "Smoke Bomb" is another card in the Ninja faction with that mechanism and a better description:

Smoke Bomb Card

Play on one of your minions.
Ongoing: This minion is not affected by other players' actions.
Destroy this card at the start of your turn.

Unlike the "Smoke Bomb" card, the "Infiltrate" card doesn't say anything about being destroyed or discarded. So using just the description of the "Infiltrate" card, I wouldn't accept the destroy interpretation.

But if the card is not destroyed/discarded, then why have the "until the start of your next turn" at all? It just makes the card much more complicated for what would be a rarely used edge case. And it would make thematic sense for this ongoing ability to be short-lived, since an infiltration is over once the element of surprise is lost.

You May Ignore

This part of the ability isn't too bad, but it can lead to some arguably ambiguous situations:

Ongoing: You may ignore this base's ability until the start of your next turn.

The weird part about this is that only you ignore the ability. For contrast, a card with a very similar ability to the "Infiltrate" card is the "Jammed Signal" card from the Alien faction:

Jammed Signal Card

Play on a base.
Ongoing: All players ignore this base's ability.

The big difference here (other than not having the great "until the start of your next turn" clause) is that it affects "all players" instead of just you. Having all players ignore the ability is easy to figure out, but having just one player ignore it can be a little strange.

In one game, I played the "Infiltrate" card on the "Cave of Shinies" base. It has this base ability:

After each time a minion is destroyed here its owner gains 1VP.

While the "Infiltrate" card was active, I destroyed another player's minion on the base. Since the ability uses the passive voice ("a minion is destroyed", "its owner gains"), there was a little confusion over whether the other player should get a victory point.

We ended up deciding that it was the other player using the base ability. And since the other player was not ignoring the ability, they did get the victory point.

Another similar example is the "Tar Pits" base with this ability:

After each time a minion is destroyed here, place it at the bottom of its owner's deck.

I think this one is even a little more arguable. Who is placing the minion on the bottom of its owner's deck? The player who destroyed it? The owner? Someone else?

I would interpret it as the player using the base ability is the one whose minion was destroyed. So if you destroy another player's. minion then you don't get to decide whether it goes to the bottom of its owner's deck. But if your minion is destroyed on a base where you have an infiltrator in play, then you can choose to ignore the base ability and not put it at the bottom of your deck.

However, I think there are valid arguments to be made for other interpretations.

Instant Ability

Compared to the ongoing ability, the instant ability of the "Infiltration" card is pretty clear:

Play on a base. Destroy an action that has been played here.

That is, it's clear if you want to destroy an action that is attached to a base. But as long we're doing a stupidly in-depth an analysis of this card, there's one more question we could ask: can you use it to destroy an action that is attached to a minion in that base?

For comparison, the "Terraforming" card from the Alien faction says the following:

Search the base deck for a base. Swap it with a base in play (discard all actions attached to it).

Here, it unambiguously applies only to actions "attached" to the base. It doesn't say "discard all actions that have been played here".

If the "Infiltrate" card could only be used on base actions, then I would expect it to say:

Play on a base. Destroy an action attached to it.

So what it comes down to is that the "Infiltrate" card uses a different, more general phrasing than another card in the same set. For that reason, I would lean towards allowing the instant ability to also work on an action attached to a minion in the base.

Conclusion

The ongoing ability of the "Infiltrate" card isn't particularly great, and that would be especially true if it only lasted for one turn. So having it destroy itself seems like it would make it a fairly worthless ongoing ability.

As far as I know, the designers haven't publicly clarified the ability on the "Infiltrate" card (as of August 2015). There is a FAQ on their website that clarifies the abilities of some cards, but this is not one of those cards.

So going just off the description of the ability written on the card, I would go with this interpretation:

Play on a base. Destroy an action attached to it or an action attached to a minion on the base.
Ongoing: You may ignore this base's ability.

The other interpretation I think deserves consideration is:

Play on a base. Destroy an action attached to it.
Ongoing: You may ignore this base's ability. Destroy this card at the start of your next turn.

But without any official clarification on this card, the only way to get to that interpretation is with assumptions about the designer's intentions.