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Harbinger Peptide Cake with Mint Frosting

by Triumph, Second Edition Creative Manager

27th October 2020

Editor's Note: This article was intended to be posted during spoilers for All Our Yesterdays, but due to Suliban interference, didn't make it to the front page. It's recently turned up again - thanks, Daniels - so we present it now, as it was written! Temporal mechanics give us a headache!


Visit the card search engine and look up cards with the Consume keyword. Then do the same with Persistent. What flavor do these mechanics have? Your guess is as good as mine. They do forty-seven different things, and draw on all manner of stories. Persistent at least is found only on [P] or [S] dilemmas, but “don’t use it on [D] dilemmas” is pretty lame for a theme.

These keywords are purely mechanical. Their presence on a dilemma tells us nothing about how the gameplay and Star Trek relate to one another. To me, these keywords feel like a big missed opportunity on Decipher’s part, one that undermines the "Star Trek" part of "Star Trek Customizable Card Game Second Edition."

Sometimes, Design presents the Creative Team with straightforward cards that obviously depict specific people, places, things, and stories from Star Trek… And sometimes Design gives us cryptic puzzles. Recently, the Creative Team faced the five Harbinger dilemmas during our attempt to solve the story elements of All Our Yesterdays. When Creative first gained access to the set formerly known as Bruce, these five dilemmas had thoroughly generic playtest titles:

come on down!
look at the wheel, not the girl
ugh! that guy?
where are they going next?

The cards also had pretty much the same gametext as their final versions, including the Harbinger keyword. This new keyword gave us a chance for some One-Upsmanship with Decipher: the opportunity to have a loaded dilemma keyword with some kind of thematic connection. The first hint to the flavor of these cards was the fact that Bruce was supposed to focus on Enterprise and [TOS] . That at least narrowed down the range of stories we’d be considering.

Proclamation of Doom

“Harbinger” itself was the second potential clue to the flavor of these dilemmas. The cards shared this keyword, which suggested to me that the stories for these cards should have some kind of commonality. These aren’t just five random dilemmas; they are five dilemmas with a connection.

Of particular note, “Harbinger” is an episode title from the third season of Enterprise – that is, the Xindi story arc. The two non-dilemma cards dealing with Harbinger reinforced my instinct to associate these cards with the Xindi story. Jane Taylor, who already had that title, is a character from Enterprise season 3, while the personnel now called D’Jamat had the playtest titles “trellium mine foreman” and then later “miner character.” The species was undecided, but there was a clear implication that this card was supposed to be character from the Xindi arc.

Fortunately, Michael Shea had the excellent idea to suggest that we invite Bruce’s lead designer, Richard New, to the Creative Team’s Zoom meeting about Bruce. We got a lot done in that meeting, including discussing Design’s intent behind several cards. To quote Richard, “I suppose the way I look at Harbinger is manipulations from the future.” He hoped the story for this particular batch of cards would focus on the Sphere-Builders of the Xindi arc, but also intended the Harbinger keyword to be usable with other stories about the future reaching back to influence the past.

This was a major step forward for the Creative Team. Now we knew these cards were supposed to relate to the Xindi arc, but loosely enough that it could be more than just an “Enterprise season 3 mechanic.” The solution we reached was to split up the flavor. A majority of the cards would tie in directly to the Sphere Builders and Xindi, while a minority would try to branch out into stories that fit Design’s intent and Bruce’s themes, but also signaled that Harbinger is not an exclusively Xindi-related mechanic.

The breakdown ended up being 4-3, or maybe 5-2. Divisive Patron shows a Sphere-Builder stirring up internal conflict among the Xindi. Due to her influence, some Xindi are helping your crew (making [D] dilemmas cost more), while other Xindi in other places are working against you (making [D] dilemmas elsewhere cost less). Proclamation of Doom likewise depicts a Sphere-Builder, this one predicting bad things to come (your opponent might draw all sorts of nefarious cards thanks to this dilemma). While they don’t depict Sphere-Builders, per se, D’Jamat and Jane Taylor are both part of the Sphere-Builder/Xindi arc, making for a clear majority of Harbinger or Harbinger-related cards with direct ties to Enterprise season 3.

Anachronistic Meddlers

I said the breakdown is 4-3 OR 5-2 because of Forewarned. If you don’t do something about this problem by sending a ship to the mission it’s on, something bad will happen (your opponent gets points). But this encounter between Archer and unnamed future dude occurs at the end of Enterprise season 2. Since it’s part of the setup for the next season’s story, but isn’t strictly from season 3, it’s Sphere-Builder/Xindi-adjacent, but sitting right on the border pushing the boundaries a little.

That leaves two totally-not-Sphere-Builder-related-at-all cards. Spoiler Warning is from Enterprise, but its story has nothing to do with the Xindi. One of your personnel gets a warning not to poke their nose where it doesn’t belong, and if they do, there’ll be a consequence. Finally, Anachronistic Meddlers leaves Enterprise behind entirely in favor of a [TOS] story. From the perspective of Gary Seven, Kirk and his crew are troublemakers from the future who threaten to stop his mission and derail the timeline. Just as Kirk et al. make Gary’s job harder, this dilemma lets your opponent make your mission attempt more difficult by granting bonuses to how many dilemmas they draw and how much they can spend on them.

Well, I hope you enjoyed the flavor of Harbinger. I recommend washing it down with some prune juice (it's a warrior's drink!).

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