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Hindsight: Blaze of Glory

by Jason Drake, First Edition Assistant Designer

15th May 2014

Welcome to Hindsight, the weekly series where we take a look back at previous expansions for the Star Trek: Customizable Card Games with a fresh eye. Our goal is to examine the decisions made in each of these expansions using modern eyes and design sensibilities in order to learn from those decisions. As mentioned in the announcement article, this is not an attempt to create a new game. Instead, we're looking to better understand the game and how it can be improved in the modern era by studying its history.

Examine Singularity

Far back in the depths of time, Decipher's initial plan for the game called for some type of "battle expansion" within just a few years of Premiere. With the popularity of the First Contact film and the acquisition of licenses for properties other than The Next Generation, this concept was put on the proverbial back burner. But with so much of the action in the Deep Space Nine series being centered around (spoiler alert!) war with the Dominion, the long-awaited battle expansion made perfect sense as a follow-up once the characters and events from Deep Space Nine had been introduced.

Blaze of Glory (First Edition)
Released in August 1999
130 Cards (40 Common, 40 Uncommon, 50 Rare)

Card Types Introduced
Tactic
Incident (in its first full expansion, following those in Enhanced First Contact)

Mechanics Introduced
Battle Bridge Side Deck, Escorting Captives, Commandeering Ships

Affiliations Introduced
None

Lessons Learned
1. Don't give players an unlimited resource.
Examine Singularity targeted the three most unpleasant types of resource denial (also known as "stasis decks"). It allowed counters for Anti-Time Anomaly and Static Warp Bubble to be downloaded ad naseum from the draw deck or discard pile. Unfortunately, the downloading rules had not been refined at this time, and any download could go straight to hand.

With a free-but-probably-useless card added to the hand each turn, players looked for creative ways to cash in. Such cards were used to re-open Spacedoors, in combination with Remodulation or Masaka Transformations, and, most popular of all, to Process Ore. This was not exactly a gameplay disaster, thanks to the variety of creative uses and the fact that the benefits were fairly modest. But it was certainly an unintended consequence.

2. Don't add an additional cost to reap rewards for something that is already difficult.
I call this the "Latinum Payoff Non-Payoff", because that card most clearly illustrates the problem. Destroying an opponent's ship is difficult. The inherent reward is already significant. Adding the 'Payoff to a deck provides only a marginal additional benefit and, more importantly, makes it more difficult to achieve the destruction in the first place.

Blaze had the same issue with many capture- and infiltration-related cards, such as Counterintelligence, Inside Operation, Prisoner Escort, and Impersonate Captive. These cards could work only after a sequence of events (including interaction with one's opponent, which is always tricky) occurred. So despite their being good representations of on-screen events, they have never been popular to use.

Captured fared better. It could be seeded, and it made the initial act of capturing (necessary to drive a lot of other mechanics) much more likely. Fajo's Gallery could also be seeded, and provided an instant reward for capture.

Honorable Mention
1. Playtest
Honestly, I don't know what else to say about Scanner Interference. The card's extra requirement of 2 Computer Skill added no significant difficulty to playing scans (you needed a ship and personnel to attempt a mission anyway) and created an entirely new problem by trying to pack on added functionality to make the card more palatable. The download of Atmospheric Ionization is not so bad, as that card is built to limit rather than eliminate beaming. But in combination with the Distortion Field-- or, worse, two copies of Distortion Field flipping on opposite turns (the pre-errata version was not unique)-- this created another unpleasant game state without any middle ground. The strategy either locked down an opponent's planets completely or, if they used landed ships, failed utterly.

Locutus Borg Cube

Good Stuff
1. Intuitive rules and easier play.
New rules allowed captives to be escorted simply by... escorting them. What could be simpler? And players didn't have to do so. If you used capturing dilemmas, for example, merely to reduce opponent's crews and without any other mechanic to exploit captives, you could still leave the dilemma there as a "trap" card and not bother with escorting.

Even better, Blaze changed the rules for side decks with special card types, which affected the Q Flash side deck, the new Battle Bridge side deck, and would later apply to the Tribbles side deck. Players no longer had to add used cards into their main discard pile, but instead returned them to the relevant side deck. This greatly improved the value of side decks by avoiding recycle-contamination when using cards like Regenerate. And of course, it made clean-up much less of a chore. (Unofficial Star Trek First Edition Motto: "Nobody works harder between games than we do.")

2. A middle ground for battle.
Tactic cards not only gave players a better chance of inflicting damage in incidental battle, the additional side effect of built-in kills made it worthwhile to go out of your way for an attack even if it did nothing more than damage (as opposed to destroy) an opposing ship.

Inevitably, the Battle Bridge Side deck was used to enhance massive fleets built for the purpose of destroying facilities. But the additional 3-6 WEAPONS that one could get from tactic cards was never the deciding factor in making facility destruction a good (or bad, depending on which side of the table you're sitting on) strategy. Even with the addition of high-shield Headquarters, Defend Homeworld, Orbital Weapons Platforms, and Strategema, the Battle Bridge side deck has remained popular as a means of enhancing dilemmas, improving defense, and giving a boost to the effectiveness of battle-by-opportunity. To this day, the tactic cards remain largely untouched by errata, bans, or magic bullet cards, making them an unqualified success.

Some Statistics
1. Thematic Cards
In addition to the 21 tactic cards, Blaze of Glory included 10 ships covering all existing affiliations except Bajorans; 7 new hand weapons; 12 non-personnel battle-related cards (ranging from an Artifact to Interrupts), and 12 non-personnel cards involving capture or infiltration. Among the personnel, 6 have icons or special skills related to capture and infiltration and 11 have special skills related to battle. That's a grand total of 79 cards with theme-related gameplay functionality. And it doesn't even include other, obviously thematic cards without explicit battle/capturing functions (like Under Fire or the mission Bat'leth Tournament).

2. Current Usage
Using the "recent decks" listings for each card, the non-tactic cards from Blaze have an aggregate of 1010 appearances in "recent decks" (not counting multiples within the same deck). So each of these 109 cards appears in an average of 9.3 decks, with 94 of the cards showing up at least once. The combination of Access Denied and Ferengi Ingenuity is the most widespread, appearing in 125 and 75 decks, respectively. Eighty-one decks used a battle bridge door. The most popular personnel are Ilon Tondro (34), Sarita Carson (27), and Enrique Muniz (27). Locutus' Borg Cube led the ships at 17 decks, and the free-reporting Starfleet Type I Phaser was the top equipment card (18 decks).

Expansion Stories
Maggie Geppert (jadziadax8) sent in this story about chasing her namesake:

Blaze of Glory was the first expansion that came out after I started playing in spring of 1999. As a Trek fan, my favorite character was Jadzia Dax, so i adopted her name as my handle. I was a poor college student but managed to scrape up enough dough to buy one box of packs. The new Klingon Dax was in BoG, so I was really hoping I would pull her. I got very lucky and managed to pull two non-foil versions and the foil. I believe she was one of the URFs in that set. Needless to say, I was the envy of my play group.

Thanks for the story Maggie! We'd like to feature stories from players about First Edition expansions. If you'd like to submit stories, you can do so via email (cplaine@gmail.com) or private message (to MidnightLich). We're looking for players to share stories or memories tied into the release (or nearly after) of specific expansions, from stories about finding and opening product, to stories about games played in release tournaments. The next few articles for First Edition will be on Rules of Acquisition, The Trouble With Tribbles, and Mirror, Mirror.

Conclusion
With Examine Singularity, the game was only one card away from the finally closing the door on generic resource stasis. In fact, that one card-- Quark's Isolinear Rods-- was provided to participants for use at the 1999 World Championships several months in advance of its general release (as part of Rules of Acquisition). With that, and the new opportunities afforded by the Battle Bridge Side deck, the game enjoyed an unprecedented era of interaction on the spaceline that would last until Voyager created an insurmountable quadrant gap. True, it was often a violent and destructive interaction. But as someone who was running far more than chasing, I still consider the era to be uniquely enjoyable.

Editor's Note - Thanks Jason! Next week I'll be back to talk about the Second Edition draft expansion, Dangerous Missions. Jason will return in two weeks to write about the 1E debut of the Ferengi in Rules of Acquisition. Thanks for reading!


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