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5 Reasons Why I'm Playing Excelsior Act 2 (and you should too!)

by Fritz Meissner, Ambassador

6th June 2018

I loved the Excelsior concept when it came out. In Act II, I feel that the Excelsior team has (to borrow a metaphor from a game I've never watched) hit a home run. It's extraordinarily fun and has helped me tremendously as an organiser. Here's 5 clickbaity reasons why.

1. It's fresh for old hands

Excelsior's limited, rotating card pool makes me think about cards and decks that I've never considered before. For example Dominion Commodities, Escaping Detection, and Thei, Candid Analyst. Even with the recognisable brands like the Ambitious ship-discarding Cardassians, or Paranoia, the question has to be asked: how good are they in this pool?

It's even more true for dilemma piles. Kill and attrition piles are unrecognisable. Maybe it's worth looking at Science denial with Chained Environment and The Nth Degree, or maxing out on skill dilemmas and Overwhelmed, or going heavy planet and space only dilemmas with Shinzon. I don't know, and neither does anyone else - that's the beauty of it!

I find myself surprised by what a difference the limited pool makes, but then perspective returns. The most regular Second Edition groups play only once or twice a month, building decks from a pool of more than 3000 cards. By contrast, Magic: the Gathering's thousands of starry-eyed pro-wannabes have less than half that when preparing for big standard format tournaments. 

This creates an environment where only a fraction of 2e cards ever made actually matter, despite the heroic efforts of designers and testers. New cards must straddle the line between power creep and binder fodder, and the line is only getting thinner.

But try Excelsior, it's different!

2. It's new player friendly

New players are important for this game. If you're the only person in your town or city who plays, you know how much one new player could mean to your enjoyment of the game.

Experienced players manage with the complete card pool by building on years and years of knowledge, using that to understand each new card that is revealed. New players have it much more difficult. When I started playing 2e after years of absence, I was frustrated to see new cards spoiled and immediately dismissed by players who would point out that they were irrelevant because of this one card that was made five years earlier. 

Fortunately, in Excelsior we have a small enough card pool that it really is possible to browse through every card available for your chosen affiliation. Heck even this PDF of every single card isn't so bad. Everyone is on a much more even playing field.

Once they've got a few games under their belts, even the most powerful strategies aren't unrecognisable: there are no crazy decks generating 45 counters in one turn, or returning all your personnel to hand, or mission attempts with only 2 personnel; power is within the standard parameters of the game.  

3. It's an introduction to one of Trek's greatest stories

This Act focuses almost exclusively on the early stages of DS9's Dominion War. Staples in the complete card pool (in a single deck) are from as far apart (chronologically) as Enterprise and Voyager. With basically every card, you're sent off to a one tiny moment of ST history. That's fun for Trek trivia, but for an entirely different and more cohesive experience, try watching these 9 episodes of Deep Space Nine while building your Excelsior decks. You'll find that your cards are well represented: 

Go find out why First Minister Ornithar thinks THIS is interesting

4. Casual play matters

Excelsior makes casual play matter. Casual games can be reported for storyline points. Just post in the Excelsior forum with your score and the deck lists you used. At the end of the season, the affiliations with the most points get new cards, and the losers get the chop (sorry, Klingon players / not sorry because in complete you have all the good cards and no real trek reason why).

Klingons felt the pain in Act 1

For years I was hesitant to promote casual play because I wanted games to "matter" and I wanted players to get the feel for how their decks would perform against multiple other decks.

More recently (maybe with a bit more desperation to find new players) I've realised that casual play offers many advantages:

Since casual play counts for something these days, I have no problem running casual events at a 3 or 4:1 ratio to local tournaments, and my local group thanks me for it.

5. It's organizer friendly

I've done some hard yards promoting the game over the last few years. I wish I'd had Excelsior when I started.

I've always had extra decks on hand for new players with recently-twisted arms, and that's never been easier to manage. Try a Jem'Hadar strength solver - it almost builds itself, and your first effort won't be unrecognisable compared to the optimised super solvers that get used in tournaments. 

This is the opposite of my experience with the complete pool, where I had to choose between understandable and competitive, except for a narrow range of speed solvers. And really, who wants to play another game against commons DS9? Not Worf.

Excelsior's shorter games also make for more easily timed events. At time, when both players have enough personnel to make 2-3 attempts in one turn, turn length is at its peak. Even turns after 50 minutes makes it an even chance that a round actually will finish in an hour, which is a win for finishing on time.

Paradoxically, that 50 minute time limit is also merciful for games that are running long. Much better to let the players reset and try again than to slog it out for 70 or 75 minutes in a game that is going nowhere. 


So there you have it, 5 reasons why you should give Excelsior Act 2 a look. Good luck!

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