I am a bit of a history buff as I presume many of you are, which may partially explain why we enjoy a 15 year old game with a ~350 year old setting. While I enjoy swashbuckling and cannon attacks with cardboard as much as the next armchair sailor out there, I find the history of the 7th Sea game very interesting. So much so that I regularly venture deep into the bowls of the internet or scour eBay hunting down forgotten information or AEG, Scrye, and Inquest publications (donations or loans welcome). In doing this I came across an online letter regarding the details of one of the most critical events in the game's short life: the Marked for Death tournament.
The Marked for Death tournament was meant to mark a major shift in the story arc of the game and set the stage for how new cards would be introduced in the coming years. As with all things AEG, it was meant to be informed and driven by the players themselves to sail the story of Theah forward. While AEG had already hosted many story line tournaments where characters were killed, this one's outcome would be a whole lot bigger and meaner. The winner of the Marked for Death tournament would be able to remove an entire faction from the game... or so everyone thought!
Sadly the details of the tournament's outcome was poorly communicated and poorly understood with public perception being that someone's favorite faction (and their investment) would be removed from the game permanently... this was not so good for sales as you can imagine. What was worse was the winner of the tournament choose the popular Gosse's Gentlemen to be marked for death.
With your run of the mill player thinking one of their favorite factions (with many valuable cards) was gone for good, people left the game in droves and sales steadily declined after that. However, the real outcome, as explained below and witnessed by history, was that many Gosse characters were sent to Davey Jones' locker, not the entire faction.
Now in theory Marked for Death was a great concept as it provided a logical mechanism to bring in a drove of new characters, Ship, Captain, while expanding the story arc. Over the years this could have been a regular way to rebalance the game and expand the series.
Unfortunately, just like your county fair winning cow, Blue Belle, killing something with a name is a lot more upsetting for you and others than expected. Even if the masses had known the Gosse faction was not going anywhere, killing off most of the Gosse cohorts was going to hurt the game without something immediate and tangible (like a new set with Gosses) to distract everyone.
Below is the above mentioned letter from AEG attempting to clarify the tournament outcome and motives well in advance of it taking place.
This is rumor control, here are the facts. This is official word from AEG, myself and John Zinser, on the Marked for Death tournaments.
1) First and foremost, we try to get information to our Bounty Hunters as soon as we possibly can. In this case, they received information from a meeting where certain principles had been decided, but the details were still being worked out. The meeting had not been finalized and was not the national public announcement we had intended to make. We are still working out some of the details as we speak.
2) Marked for Death is intended to be a part of the final story arc, a dramatic climax akin to the Day of Thunder for L5R or Kingdom Come for Doomtown. In that light, we want to have as many players as possible involved in the decision.
3) We will not be removing a faction from the game. The Marked for Death promo marks members of a given faction to die at the final battle at Gen Con 2001, not the entire faction. In story terms, this means that one faction will be nearly wiped out and the survivors will be regrouping in the second story arc. In mechanics terms, this means simply that we won't be printing new experienced versions of those cards. You can still play with the old ones, and new cards will be released in future sets continuing to support that faction. Characters die in our CCGs; we've already iced quite a few. It makes for good drama and avoids the A-Team Factor of heavily-armed men who somehow never seem to kill each other. In this case, we're going to be killing a more than normal, and we wanted tournaments to have an impact on how it all turned out. In this case, we think it will help enhance the climax and let you guys have a hand in it.
4) Speaking of which, we want the players to have a voice in which characters die and which ones don't. The choice of words in the Bounty Hunter newsletter was unfortunate (and frankly made me sound like a colossal jerk). We don't want you to "plead for the life of your favorite characters," but we do want you to tell us what you think about killing certain characters. You're going to know well in advance which characters are under threat, and if you don't think that it's a good idea, we want you to tell us. "Hey, you can't kill the General, he's cool!" "Don't ice Margaretta, that would be stupid!" Or alternately "Yeah, kill Gosse; he really sucks." Players between now and then can petition for certain characters to live, and we'll reveal the results of that petition at Gen ConS which will have an effect on the final results.
5) Yes, most of the events are sealed deck, but sealed deck events will include all sealed deck factions, not just sets that are releasing at that time.
6) NO ONE PERSON WILL DECIDE WHICH FACTION DIES. The winner of the Gen Con tournament does not get to choose who bites the dust. The final decision will be determined by certain overall factors of the various tournaments, which we're currently debating (Lowest turn-out? Most losses? The specifics are still being worked on). Rest assured that you will know long beforehand what the exact conditions will be, and that whatever they are, they will involve as many players as possible. It will not be decided by one person alone. For those of you who are excited about the prospect of winning and killing off a faction, don't worry. The winning faction of Gen Con is going to get a great story boon (unrelated to Marked for Death), as well as the usual bevy of fabulous prizes.
We'll have more for you when we make our formal announcement. Believe it or not, we're actually excited about the fact that so many of you had such a strong opinion about this. It means that you care about the game, and care about what happens to it in the future. That's what we strive for. AEG has built a reputation of strong customer service and listening to the players who pump down their hard-earned money for our games. We want Marked for Death to be a continuation of that tradition, and we think it will be. We hope that when you see what we've got in store, you'll agree.
Comments, criticisms and death threats may now continue.