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Design Spotlight: First Edition Voyager

by Charlie Plaine, Chairman

28th May 2018

"We're alone in an uncharted part of the galaxy. We have already made some friends here, and some enemies. We have no idea of the dangers we're going to face, but one thing is clear. Both crews are going to have to work together if we're to survive. That's why Commander Chakotay and I have agreed that this should be one crew. A Starfleet crew. And as the only Starfleet vessel assigned to the Delta Quadrant, we'll continue to follow our directive to seek out new worlds and explore space. But our primary goal is clear. Even at maximum speeds, it would take seventy five years to reach the Federation, but I'm not willing to settle for that. There's another entity like the Caretaker out there somewhere who has the ability to get us there a lot faster. We'll be looking for her, and we'll be looking for wormholes, spatial rifts, or new technologies to help us. Somewhere along this journey, we'll find a way back. Mister Paris, set a course for home." - Kathryn Janeway, "Caretaker, Part II"

Voyager and her crew made their debut in the fourth live action Star Trek series in 1995; six years later, they were introduced into First Edition with the eponymous expansion. In both the show and the game, they have ventured across the Delta Quadrant, meeting new friends and both new and familiar foes. Their debut in 1E marked the start of a tumultuous period for the game, some effects of which are still being felt today.

At a Glance
Here's a quick look at the Voyager faction of the Federation:

Delta-Quadrant Federation [DQ] [Fed]
Nouns 61 Cards (0 Facilities, 57 Personnel, 4 Ships)
Missions 22
First Appearance Voyager (2001)
Recent Appearance Metamorphosis (2018)
Signature Skill Computer Skill (35.1%)
Attack Restriction ALL (Attacking is Prohibited)
Appears In Voyager
Doesn't Appear In Enterprise, TOS, TNG, DS9, and Movies

U.S.S. Voyager (Virtual Promo)

I'll be blunt: Voyager was in the midst of an era of rampant power creep in First Edition. As a result, the preeminent strength of the Voyager slice of the Federation are their skills and attributes. For example, the average skill density among the [TNG] main cast is 4.43 skills/personnel. The Voyager main cast averages two more skills per person with 6.44 skills/personnel! Another example: there are fifteen (15) distinct personas for [DQ] [Fed] cards that have one or more skill with multiple levels. The non-[MQ] [OS] [Fed] cards have five (5), one-third as many! And even if you add in the [MQ] folks, it's only a total of eight (8).

Continuing the theme of Delta Quadrant power, another advantage for Voyager players is the available mission pool. There are at least two 40-point missions (Prevent Annihilation and Return Life-form) that can be solved with a single personnel. The average point value of missions in the DQ is around 5 points more than in the Alpha. That means Voyager players get access to highly skilled personnel and high point missions. There is a reason that Delta Quadrant decks reigned supreme for nearly a decade!

Hitting the trifecta of power, Voyager players get access to a host of support cards that give them considerable advantages. For example, Voyager players can seed U.S.S. Voyager and then get to report their personnel directly aboard. Since their ship is a mobile outpost, they rarely have to spend time shuttling personnel to their missions. Blue Alert is downloadable by Voyager, and lets her land and take off as well as carry and launch shuttles. The infamous (and still banned) Delta Quadrant Spatial Scission let [DQ] players have two copies of their personnel in play.

One of the most consistent weaknesses of all of the Delta Quadrant affiliations is their available pool of nouns. It's less applicable to [DQ] Federation than it is to the Hirogen, Kazon, or Viddians, but there are only so many personnel and ships that can be made with a [DQ] icon. This means that many such decks will feature the same personnel which somewhat telegraphs a deck's skill matrix. But as I said, it's much more of a weakness for the non- [Fed] [DQ] decks, so I'll talk about this more in depth there.

But the elephant in the room with all the [DQ] decks is how hard they've been hit with bans, errata, and magic bullets. Voyager was released in 2001, and for years they dominated competitive play. The game degenerated into DQ vs. DQ matches (or DQ vs. anti-DQ) and it contributed to the end of 1E, though correlation is not causation.

Dealing with the power imbalance between the Delta Quadrant and the other quadrants was a major issue for the CC. The early days of the Continuing Committee's support of First Edition were a struggle to both blunt the power of [DQ] decks and boost the ability to play non- [DQ] decks. We made a lot of mistakes when we first started working on these. By the time that the Official Tournament Format (OTF) and The Next Generation rolled around, we realized we might have hit the DQ a little too hard.

I think the larger downside is that we avoided making [DQ] cards for years, or made cards that carried minimal impact. And we heard, loudly, from players that didn't like that some of their favorites didn't see much love. Quite a few people rate Star Trek: Voyager as their favorite series, and avoiding making cards for [DQ] Feds (and the other [DQ] affiliations) felt like a slight. I want to take a moment to apologize to those players. We've come around to making some more cards, like Kazon Voyager, Full Complement of Shuttles, and the Revised personnel in Metamorphosis, and we'll make more cards in the future as well.

Home Away From Home

Looking Ahead
I've mentioned this before, but I'm a big fan of what the Cold Front design team did with The Spires of Romulus. It's a lot to unpack and pushes the envelope slightly with complexity, but I find it's the kind of complexity people figure out quickly. The ability to expand an available card pool by adding extra resources is innovative, and something I expect to see explored for [DQ] [Fed] decks.

We've played around some with the idea of getting Voyager home. Given that was the entire premise for the series, I think it's an area where the [DQ] Federation can get more development. Added to the fact I see a need for more DQ/AQ interaction in general, this seems very likely to appear in the future.

The largest challenge is going to be adding breadth (new options) and depth (more support for existing options) without returning [DQ] decks to their pre-CC power levels. I am confident it can be done, with new missions, objectives, or even artifacts - there are a lot of Voyager stories to tell. Ideally, I'd like to see modern [DQ] decks on the same level as more recent powerhouses, like [TNG] [Fer] decks or [Vul] decks. The goal of having all affiliations be viable in both local and competitive play is tricky, but worthy. I would like to see the [DQ] [Fed] decks advance to be significant choices.

Delta Quadrant decks have been vilified over the past decade and a half. While it is certain such decks were powerful enough to be format-warping, I've come to the conclusion that they - and the players that enjoy them - have suffered without attention long enough. We've slowly been adding more and more tools to the [DQ] wheelhouses, and I expect to see that trend continue. The history of the Delta Quadrant is something we should always remember, but it's time to move past that history into a new era of interesting deck building opportunities.

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