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Design Spotlight: First Edition Cardassian

by Charlie Plaine, Chairman

4th December 2017

"Cardassians are like... timber wolves – predators... bold in large numbers... cautious by themselves... and with an instinctive need to establish a dominant position in any social gathering." - Captain Edward Jellico, "Chain of Command, Part I"

Overview
Cardassians made their debut in The Next Generation, but became a signature species of its spinoff series, Deep Space Nine. They would join First Edition along side of the Bajorans, their in-universe foe. Cardassians have been extremely popular characters on Star Trek, usually as villains but occasionally exploring the morally grey hero role. In 1E, they are defined by their resource management and their proclivity for capture.

At a Glance
Here's a quick look at the Cardassian Union:

Cardassian [Car] [CAR]
Nouns 130 Cards (5 Facilities, 104 Personnel, 22 Ships)
Missions 52
First Appearance First Anthology (1997)
Recent Appearance Crossover (2015)
Signature Skill Treachery (41 - 39.4%)
Attack Restriction STANDARD (Anyone but [Car] )
Appears In TNG, DS9, and Voyager
Doesn't Appear In Enterprise, TOS, and Movies

Dukat

Strengths
Cardassians are a civilization struggling for resources, both in Star Trek and in First Edition. The military of Cardassia took control of the government in order to aggressively expand, allowing them to feed their people. Their struggle to survive informs everything they do, from the occupation of Bajor to joining the Dominion. The affiliation has a lot of options available to them (though not without a price - see weaknesses later in this article): Terok Nor, a generic Nor, and a headquarters provide downloads, card draws, and free reports. Cardassians are also masters of stretching their resources beyond what others can do, such as Dominion War Efforts; though the story is post-Dominion alliance, it is just as useful for a pure [Car] deck as any treaty deck.

Of course, the biggest strength of the Cardassians is their capturing mechanics. Capturing is available to most affiliations in the game, but nobody does it as well or as often as the Cardassians. Moreso, they Cardassians have the most ways to use captives as a resource. Point of fact, the Cardassians have more affiliation-specific capturing-related cards in the game than any other affiliation. A captive held by the [Car] player isn't going to have a good life: they will be Interrogated, Tortured, or sent to work in a Labor Camp. All your work in service of the [Car] Union gives them points or card draws or skills - or simply denys those things from you.

Much like their foes the Bajorans, the Cardassians enjoy quite a few benefits from their own Bajor Region missions, including the ability to attempt and complete Bajor without assistance. They also enjoy their own, albeit smaller, Cardassian Region, granting Cardassians the ability to separate opponent's missions with two blocks of their own.

Finally, the Cardassians are strong fighters and are more than willing to go toe-to-toe with an opponent. They have a lot of ships of decent strength, and with access to Nors, can download them into play. They can bring bodies into play quickly, and have access to Sleeper Trap which is a fantastic way to start fights. I've seen an opponent pull out Dakol, Goran, and Jerax, plus a disruptor and a rifle to hit me for STRENGTH 40. Ouch!

Weaknesses
On paper, the Cardassians have almost everything going for them. But much like in the show, it's a lot of pomp and circumstance and bluster hiding some serious problems. Many of the [Car] advantages come with a built-in weakness that can derail them quickly. For example, a Cardassian player hoping to take advantage of Terok Nor can have those hopes dashed if their opponent brings Deep Space 9. Since DS9 seeds earlier than Terok Nor and the two facilities are the same persona, Cardassian players can start several turns behind being able to use their Nor.

Likewise, they can get some good card advantage with A Better Alternative but it requires precise ratios when building a deck. Even their play engines can come with drawbacks or overhead: Dominon War Efforts burns up your once-each-turn download, and I Miss This Office requires hoop jumping to work if Terok Nor is unavailable. Even their signature mechanic of capturing has heavy overhead as the Cardassians don't have a native Brig; additionally, most of the capturing cards are card plays.

DS9 Character Poll
A few weeks ago, we asked you to vote on which character from Star Trek: Deep Space 9 was due for a new version. Out of Benjamin Sisko, Elim Garak, Ezri Dax, Jadzia Dax, Jake Sisko, Julian Bashir, Kassidy Yates, Kira Nerys, Miles O’Brien, Morn, Nog, Odo, Quark, Rom, Vic Fontaine, and Worf the winner had three times as many votes as any other candidate. And the winner is: Elim Garak! Stay tuned, because we'll be talking more about a new version of everyone's favorite tailor soon!

Torture

Looking Ahead
Because the immediate future of 1E design is focused on the Original Series and movies, there won't be much Cardassian content in regular expansions. However, while that suggests that Cardassian nouns might be a bit light, it doesn't mean that [Car] content will be light. In particular, I think there is a rich vein of capturing-support cards and mechanics that can be added to the game. Any capture support would obviously benefit Cardassians, who already have a lot of the mechanic.

I mentioned this in the Bajoran Design Spotlight, but I'm determined to find a way to bring Past Terok Nor (i.e. during the Cardassian Occupation) into First Edition. We've even done some seeding of gameplay relevant terms into the cards we have made, if you feel like going on a scavenger hunt. I think a way for Cardassians to guarantee a way to begin the game with a functional Nor would be a huge boon for the affiliation.

Finally, I think Cardassians should lean into their role as resource hogs. I'd like to see more cards that give [Car] decks immediate and short-term gains at long-term costs. On the surface of it, it doesn't seem like a powerful strategy but its very complementary for Cardassians. Since so many of their mechanics rely on delayed starts, having early access to high risk resources could help compensate.

Conclusion
Cardassians have been a very popular affiliation, especially for interactive players that enjoy capturing mechanics. Unfortunately, Cardassians have some serious complexity issues and mechanical drawbacks that cause them to be avoided by high level players. I'm confident that, as the wheel of 1E turns, the Cardassian Union will be restored to glory.


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