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In the Cards: Playing Favorites

by Michael Shea, Staff Writer

23rd July 2020

I can remember being a young teenager fresh out of middle school and watching awestruck as an assimilated Jean Luc Picard stepped out from the shadows and said, "I am Locutus, of Borg" - his regal voice infused with a metallic, raspy that lent the line added menace. A few seconds later, Riker gives the order for the Enterprise to fire and the screen goes black with bright, electric blue letters spelling out "To Be Continued..." It was Trek's first cliffhanger. If I hadn't already been hooked on The Next Generation as a kid then, that episode and that moment probably did it for me. Lately, I find myself returning to those episodes from multiple franchises and revisiting those moment. I know I have talked a little about favorite episodes before and how they can inspire design. But, whereas my last article was about what those favorites might inspire us to do in the future, in this article I'd like to talk about the cards that have already sprung from these episodes. I'll be looking at cards from "Balance of Terror", "All Good Things", "The Siege of AR-558", "Year of Hell" and "In a Mirror Darkly". I hope you enjoy the selection, and that this article gets you thinking about the episodes of Trek you love and the cards that come from them.

Keras, Creature of Duty

"Balance of Terror" was an early episode of the Original Series that showcased James T. Kirk's martial prowess but also introduced us to a new and cunning enemy in the Romulans. Decipher's 2007 set These Are The Voyages introduced us to many of the crew of the first U.S. Enterprise, but it also gave Second Edition its first look at Original Series-era Romulans. Those green meanies gave us a new deck archetype, and we'll be looking at two of the cards essential to the build: Keras, Creature of Duty and Gal Gath'thong, Pride of the Praetor.

The idea is really very simple. A player uses Romulan shenanigans like Clear Ultimatum or Deep Hatred or At an Impasse to get an opponent's hand down to size, then she uses Keras to tell that opponent to grab a card - maybe a card crucial to their deck - so that the Gal Gath'thong can then get rid of them. But, even without all those tricks, this combo can also serve to make an opponent play more conservatively, holding back playing cards in order to draw extra to protect cards needed later. And, this can really slow down the speed of an opponent's deck. For added nastiness, she can also throw in a copy or two of Dukat, Pah-Wraith Puppet to make sure she doesn't see discarded cards come back.

"All Good Things" is probably televised Trek's greatest finale. In this episode, the character arc of Jean Luc Picard comes full-circle, as he's forced to reckon with the entity that first challenged him in the series' premier in the form of Q, an impish, omnipotent being. Except this time Q, who has grown grudgingly fond of Jean-Luc and his shipmates, tries to give the good Captain a hand during his civilization-ending predicament. This episode produced two of my favorite cards that work together to make a player's dilemma pile even more potent: Quarantine and Collapse Anti-Time Anomaly. These cards are an old favorite combo of mine that I honestly hadn't thought of until I started writing this article, and I may have to revisit them again soon.

The idea here is that a player builds their mission suite around Collapse Anti-Time Anomaly and then use that mission to go get Quarantine, using tricks like Delivery Boy to make Quarantine cheaper to play. Then, Quarantine keeps your dilemmas from going under missions. You'll just need to protect the event and make sure you've got the kind of pile that doesn't get a lot overcome. I used to enjoy pairing this combo with a good old-fashioned TOS attack deck. The skill-set of TOS personnel tend to match up well with this mission, and it mixes well with a typical Fed solver mission suite relying on easy missions like Investigate Destruction or Investigate Massacre. But, it can also be used And, on the off-chance that an opponent does get to destroy Quarantine, The Manheim Effect can always be used to get a dilemma back and keep that player grinding. I wonder how this Q-inspired combo would work out with a dilemma pile built around the dreaded doublers?

Stir Crazy

Roddenberry's Federation showed us a utopian vision of a future human existence in which humanity had seemingly transcended our darker impulses and created a paradise on Earth. Deep Space Nine wasn't afraid to show us that it was "easy to be a saint in paradise" but that humans were still capable of deception, subterfuge, and even murder justified in Machiavellian terms. "The Siege of AR-558" also showed us a darker, grittier side of war. Far too often, war is glamorized in science fiction, or at least presented in its most romantic, noble light. But this Deep Space Nine episode showed us what war does to the everyday soldier that fights in the trenches - living every day with death breathing down his neck. The Federation soldiers we meet in this episode aren't the happy, optimistic officers The Next Generation conditioned us to expect, or even the cowboy swashbucklers of The Original Series - although one imagines that might well once have been. The federation soldiers we see in this episode are just hanging on, they are overwrought, desperate, and losing faith. But they remain heroes and one of my favorite cards to come out of this episode is Stir Crazy because it's an interesting way to capture their fighting spirit and determination to hang on.

Stir Crazy is one of those cards that can be classified as a "lose less" card - a card that can help a player who's fallen behind find a way to catch up and perhaps even the score. It can also be a way to really slow down a speed deck. Combined with a kill pile or a pile that relies on expensive dilemmas like Tsiolkovsky Infection and Whisper in the Dark this event can really pack a punch, particularly because it's stack-able. Cards like Chimeric Diversion and Delirium can add to the effect and make it so that a player can spend oodles on dilemmas if they need to. And, since all of these cards are non-unique, just having them out can help you get the cost of Tsiolkovsky Infection and Whisper in the Dark or Sylvia down without necessarily even having to activate their text.

I will confess I have never been a huge Star Trek: Voyager fan. Too me, the show's pacing and story-telling was often uneven, though I did like Katherine Janeway as Trek's first female lead. That being said, Voyager had some good, even great, episodes and the two-parter "year of Hell" was among them. If the Dominion War story arc showed us what Federation officers could be capable of in a desperate situation, Voyager showed us what that could look like when compounded by isolation and a trepidation of the unknown. Year of Hell plays with temporality ina  clever way to show us a multiple of unpleasant, hellish outcomes Voyeger suffers during a protracted conflict with a fading power known as the Krenim. This episode gives us Trek's classic mulligan card, Obrist, Temporal Tactician. As a personnel by himself he's pretty good. He's got a command star and he costs 2, and for that you get a 6-6-6 with 5 skills, including Archaeology, which can be a rare skill. For that alone he's worth putting in a lot of decks. But, his ability really makes him shine. If you have him in your opening hand, and you don't like your hand, you can discard him to get a new 6 cards. That, as anyone who's ever been ship-screwed will tell you, can be a game-saver.

Star Trek Enterprise was a show that could have been truly great. But, it never found its footing. However, the two-parter "In a Mirror Darkly" probably stands out as one of Trek's better episodes. These two are often ranked as among Trek's best. I wrote an entire article on a deck built around cards from this episode, and since I've already gone on a bit longer than I wanted, I'll link to that article so you can read if you're interested.

That concludes this installation of In the Cards. I am sorry for my long absence, but I hope to be writing these more regularly from now on. Don't forget that even though we can't see each other as much as we like, we still have opportunities to play this game we all love. The Discord is putting on a number of online events coming up over the next several weeks, and the CC's Subspace Series and Return to Farpoint events also offer players a chance to engage online. I'd very much encourage you to learn Lackey, if you don't already know how to use it, and consider playing in some or all of these events. For your convenience, I've linked a few up-coming tournaments. Register in them tonight!

The DOJO Hall of Fame Event

The DOJO Constructed Event - Online NOT Worlds

The Subspace Series Academy Event

Return to Farpoint Sealed Event

As always, stay healthy. And, as Spock would say, live long and prosper!

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