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Emissary: Beyond the Final Frontier

by Charlie Plaine, Emissary Lead Designer

15th November 2013

"Ironic. One who does not wish to be among us is to be the Emissary." - Kai Opaka

The Continuing Committee is proud to announce Emissary, the first expansion of the new Deep Space Nine block. This eighty-one (81) card expansion will release for free on Friday, December 6, 2013 and will be legal in all constructed formats one week later. In addition, there will also be a simultaneous release of Emissary: Supplemental, an eighty-one (81) card reprint expansion - a total of almost two hundred (200) cards! And as always, these virtual expansions will be available for download here at trekcc.org.

Reshape the Quadrant

Meet the Team
Before we start talking about what you'll see in Emissary, let's talk about the team that designed this expansion:

Charlie Plaine [MidnightLich], Lead Designer
Designer Profile: Charlie Plaine
Emissary is my fifth time working on a standard First Edition expansion, and my third as lead. However, this is the first time I've lead a large expansion that starts off a block. I'm excited to see how the themes we've started here will be delivered later.

Thomas Vineberg [Exon], Assistant Designer
Designer Profile: Thomas Vineberg
This is Thomas' fifth time working as an assistant designer, last working on Engage. Thomas' work has been excellent and he has an attention to detail unlike any other. I expect we will see Thomas lead his own expansion before too much longer.

Corbin Johnson [CorbinQ27], Assistant Designer
Designer Profile: Corbin Johnson
Corbin is the final member of the team, working on his second First Edition expansion and reuniting with his Engage co-worker Thomas. Corbin is a great generator of ideas and great at both giving and receiving feedback, and I know he'll be back to do more great things.

Block Details
As mentioned above, the release of Emissary will alter the card pool for Block. As this is the first time we're having a set rotation, let's talk about what that means. Once Emissary becomes legal on Friday, December 13, 2013, it will cause a rotation in the card pool. All of the expansions in the "Phoenix" block, or Block 0, will no longer be block legal. These expansions are shaded yellow on the official card list page. This is especially exciting for our First Edition team because it means that from this point on, Block will contain cards especially made for Block. We're looking forward to seeing how the decks from the The Next Generation block will interact and play with (and against) the cards from the Deep Space Nine block. However, there were some power level concerns that will be addressed before the official release of Emissary.

Investigator Odo

When we originally made Continuing Mission, it was our intention to create a powerful engine that would be easy for beginners to understand, and that would make the early cards desirable for use. While we have been successful in all of our goals, it is clear that we underestimated the power of a combined play and draw engine. During the design and development of Emissary, we tested a variety of ways to balance the rates of play, the rates of card drawing, and the health of the play environment. We were able to find a solution that hopefully meets all our goals. This minor errata to Continuing Mission will be released in December - more details on that change then.

This block is built around the early years of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, before the beginning of the war with The Dominion. Emissary features cards from many of those early stories that haven't been featured in the game often, although not exclusively so. We'll talk more about the themes and cards you'll see in the rest of the article. The second expansion, codenamed Project Boomer, will reintroduce the Maquis to First Edition while the third, codenamed Project Apollo, will venture beyond the wormhole and explore The Dominion prior to the war. This time around, we've been able to plan out the block a lot more and are looking forward to telling the stories of the early years of Deep Space Nine.

A New Reaction
Let's start with the basics: the key to many of the decks in the Deep Space Nine block is going to be Reshape the Quadrant. Much like it's predecessor, this incident seeds and allows you to download a play engine of your choice. Unlike Continuing Mission, Reshape the Quadrant does not use the [WC] icon; we've created a new icon called the Reactor Core (RC) icon that serves a similar purpose. This icon will appear on DS9 themed cards much as the Warp Core (WC) icon-appeared on TNG-themed ones.

Why did we create a new icon (RC) when we already had an existing icon (WC)? Well, if we'd been planning out multiple blocks at a time up front, we might not have. But as we discovered during testing, the ability to stack Warp Core cards using both Continuing Mission and Reshape the Quadrant proved to be far too strong. After trying a few more complex options and some rules-based solutions, we came to the conclusion that we were trying to make the [WC] icon do something it shouldn't, and the most elegant option was to create a new icon.

Benjamin Sisko

Let's also talk about the elephant in the room a little bit: aren't we just repeating ourselves by creating a "new" Continuing Mission? Well, yes, we are; that was the point. The original idea of splitting out the Federation by property logo was always designed to apply to both The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. Once we knew that the technology would work for First Edition, we were always going to use it again. It's proven to be functional and easily understood - why would we make something different just for the sake of being different? That would be wasting design space making things worse for the game overall. But don't fear, this isn't a mechanic that we have plans to use again. After all, the other shows are already separated.

Reshape the Quadrant is the foundation of Emissary, but all the flavor and spice comes from the rest of the expansion. Over the next three weeks, we'll be taking you on a tour of the three affiliations that have play engines in this expansion: Bajoran, Cardassian, and Federation. Of course, we'll have articles and plenty of spoilers for you along the way.

Cardassia Prime
The Cardassians will be featured during our first week, and they went through a lot of changes during their design and development. One of our big goals for Emissary (and for Deep Space Nine block in general) was to find ways to make Terok Nor a more useful tool for the Cardassians. Our first efforts allowed Terok Nor to seed in the mission phase, but this ended up causing a lot more problems than it solved. It also eliminated one of the only weaknesses of using the station (and one of the advantages of using Deep Space 9), so it was abandoned.

Our next idea was to find a way to allow both Terok Nor and Deep Space 9 to exist at the same time. It took some doing, but we found a version that we really liked and was working well in testing. Unfortunately, it was adding a bit more complexity than we wanted and it was not quite a good fit for Emissary. I've come to learn that a good idea will find it's way into the game eventually, when it finds a home where it makes sense. So we set that idea aside and looked for more options to help Cardassians and their signature station. (Although we left a lot of groundwork for the idea in the expansion!)

Precision Piloting

Finally, we stumbled on the idea that would end up appearing on the Cardassian [RC] card - but you'll have to wait until Monday to see what we did! Let's just say that Cardassian players won't be out of luck if their opponent seeds Deep Space 9 before they can seed Terok Nor; but the station will still be important. Meanwhile, Cardassian fans will find a lot of new tools for their decks, and not just for DS9-themed decks. There are conversions, famous faces as reprints, and new versions of popular characters. Investigator Odo represents everyone's favorite Changeling as he was during the Occupation of Bajor. Much like modern-era Odo, he doesn't use hand weapons; but he's smart, strong, and can grab the captive of your choice! Pretty good for Cardassian fans, we think.

I'm Blue
Federation week follows next, during the second week of spoilers. The Federation of Deep Space Nine is well represented in Emissary with a suite of new personnel, a pair of new ships, and some nice support cards. Of course, they also have useful cards in Emissary: Supplemental, too. In the early years of the show, the Federation was very interested in exploring the Gamma Quadrant, and that is represented on many of their personnel. Benjamin Sisko, complete with hair, gets a big bonus while he's on the other side of the Bajoran Wormhole. And there are plenty of ways for the Federation (and others) to easily get through the wormhole and be rewarded for doing so.

Making the Gamma Quadrant matter (e.g. be relevant in gameplay) was a big goal when we first set out to design Emissary. It was the genesis of the new Federation mechanic, and there were a lot more GQ cards in this expansion for most of development. But as we were winding down development and testing, we had a lot of cuts to make. We realized that we'd be making the Gamma Quadrant a huge piece of Emissary, moving away from it for Project Boomer, and then back to it again for Project Apollo. That didn't feel like it was right, so a lot of the non-Federation Gamma Quadrant stuff was moved into the design file for the 3rd set of the block, where we expect that quadrant to be a major focus.

But don't fret - there's a lot of good stuff related to the Gamma Quadrant in Emissary. It's a solid foundation that can be built upon later in this block, and in future blocks. It's still a major goal of design, and myself personally, to make the GQ relevant in modern play.

Host Tournament

Bajor Style
The Bajorans are a powerful affiliation already, evidenced by the fact that two (2) of the Top 4 decks at Worlds were Bajoran, so designing cards to give them new options wasn't an easy challenge. We wanted to provide new tools for many different kinds of Bajoran decks, but also build a new deck type based on the early seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

The premiere play engine for Bajorans right now is Bajoran Resistance Cell, and it will still be good after Emissary (although not in Block). We've even given this deck a new personnel or two to use. There are ministers and vedeks (both new and reprinted), including a new persona of Kira: Vedek Kira. This converted personnel can play for free in at least two different ways, one of which is to the Chamber of Ministers. In fact, headquarters are going to be very popular in DS9-based decks, and Emissary was designed to embrace this fact.

Of course, one of the other key components of the show was that the Federation and the Bajorans worked together to administrate the station. Emissary wouldn't be complete if we didn't enable this, and we've included the required Treaty reprint in Emissary: Supplemental. We're excited to see all the options for different combinations of decks that will emerge when this expansion is released.

Emissary Rises
Though Emissary delivers new play engines (and draw engines) for Bajoran, Cardassian, and Federation decks, it's got a lot more to offer to others. We've tied less cards specifically to DS9, meaning there are more tools for decks of all types. A host of new dilemmas, like Precision Piloting, will give new seed options no matter what deck you like to play. Space dilemma combos will become a lot more lethal unless you're careful to bring a good mix of Navigators, and the Borg will have to Adapt past this staffing based requirement to continue.

Of course there are also a lot of conversions in Emissary, including Hard Time. A staple in Second Edition play, this dilemma has been enhanced to have a much greater potential effect in First Edition. Suddenly players that want to "red shirt" mission attempts are going to have to care about the number of skill dots on their personnel - interesting game play, to say the least.

We're excited to explore the early years of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine with you, and can't wait to bring you Emissary and Emissary: Supplemental on Friday, December 6, 2013. Stay tuned for more articles, spoilers, and discussion both here on the main page, and on the forums. Get your pagh ready, folks, it's time to walk with The Prophets!


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