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Into the Final Frontier, Part 3 - Expanding Your Power in the Universe (1 of 1)

by Chris Heard and Darren Lacoste

26th February 2009

Once you've played a few games with the starter decks available, you'll soon want to start building your own decks. A great way to begin is to customize the starter decks you already own--but in order to do that, you're going to need some more cards. The Star Trek Customizable Card Game offers you an ever-expanding universe of cards to choose from. But where do you begin?

If you are not really sure which affiliations or strategies most interest you, one effective way of building your collection across the board is to buy products that repackage earlier cards. Chief among these is the Adversaries Anthology, which includes a randomly-selected starter deck from the Call to Arms expansion, two booster packs from each of the first three sets (Second Edition, Energize, and Call to Arms), two Archive Portrait (extended-art) cards representing Shinzon and the Borg Queen, and special foil versions of eighteen popular Star Trek CCG cards. The Adversaries Anthology comes packaged in a nicely-decorated collector's box that can store over 600 cards.

Another good buy for beginning players is Fractured Time. Each Fractured Time box includes 40 cards that are unique to that product--some of which, like Tragic Turn, have become staples of many decks--along with one randomly-selected Second Edition or Call to Arms starter deck and one booster pack from each of the first three sets (Second Edition, Energize, and Call to Arms). The cards are packaged in small, beautifully-illustrated boxes that are perfect for carrying your decks to tournaments.

A third way to build your collection quickly with a representative sample of cards from earlier sets is by purchasing Reflections 2.0 packs. Unlike most Star Trek CCG sets, which come in eleven-card packs, Reflections 2.0 packs include 18 cards. Two of those cards are rare foils, drawn from a set of 61 new cards introduced in Reflections 2.0 plus 60 cards drawn from earlier sets. 30 of the foiled cards from older sets are rare cards from the Necessary Evil expansion, which is otherwise now difficult to find. The other 16 cards in each Reflections 2.0 pack are randomly selected from all sets released before Reflections 2.0.

The three products described above offer great ways for you to immediately build a collection that includes cards from across the first six sets released for the Star Trek CCG (Second Edition). Soon enough, however, you'll likely want a more focused approach. The remainder of this article surveys the other Star Trek CCG products available.

Second Edition is the base set, the extra-large, 415-card set that restarted the Star Trek Customizable Card Game in late 2002. Even today, many Second Edition cards remain core cards for many decks. If you want to play with the Next Generation crew (especially as depicted in the movies), the Deep Space Nine crew, Romulans, Bajorans, Klingons, or Cardassians, you'll find many indispensable cards--especially the headquarters for each of those affiliations or factions--in Second Edition (the headquarters and many other useful Second Edition cards can also be found in Reflections 2.0 packs).

Set two, Energize, is considered by some players to be the weakest of the Star Trek CCG sets, but this expansion introduced some of the game's most enduring strategies. Many Deep Space Nine decks still rely heavily on the Energize card Confessions in the Pale Moonlight, and Energize turned the Maquis terrorists into a fully-playable mostly-Federation faction. If you want to play the Maquis (including Chakotay before his trip to the Delta Quadrant), you'll need a healthy supply of Energize cards.

Set three, Call to Arms, invigorated the Star Trek CCG by introducing two new affiliations, the Borg and the Dominion. If you want to play either of those affiliations, you'll definitely want to invest in this expansion set. But Call to Arms isn't just for Borg and Dominion players. The Cardassian and Federation (both Earth-based and Maquis) affiliations also were significantly enhanced in Call to Arms, and the expansion includes a bit of something for everyone. Entire dilemma pile strategies can be built around Overwhelmed, and individual dilemmas like Gomtuu Shock Wave and Rogue Borg Ambush are perennial favorites.

Set four, Necessary Evil, sold out very quickly and is now rather hard to find, but worth the effort. Necessary Evil included three high-powered dilemmas that now see frequent play: Formal Hearing, Whisper in the Dark, and Tsiolkovsky Infection. Along with these, two low-cost dilemmas, Back Room Dealings and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?, are among the most often-encountered dilemmas in the game. Necessary Evil also introduced the Consume keyword, which compensates for stronger dilemmas by stacking extra dilemmas under the mission being attempted. The event card At What Cost? dramatically sped up many decks, while effective use of At an Impasse allowed many Romulan players to dramatically slow down their opponents' decks. While Necessary Evil gave every affiliation something to cheer about, three of the more prominent themes within the expansion are Romulan manipulation of opponents' decks, a Next Generation bridge crew reflecting the first season of the series, and the introduction of Federation Cadets for Earth-based decks. Necessary Evil packs are a good buy for any affiliation or deck type. If you have trouble finding Necessary Evil packs, though, Reflections 2.0 packs include many Necessary Evil cards and are a good alternate choice.

Since we talked about sets five (Fractured Time) and six (Reflections 2.0) above, let's jump to Strange New Worlds, the seventh Star Trek CCG set, which brought in another new affiliation: the Acquisition-oriented Ferengi. If you're interested in playing the little ultra-capitalist trolls, Strange New Worlds is a must-have set. While Holograms, Androids, and Infiltrators all gain new resources in this set, and while everyone can of course benefit from the new dilemmas and general-purpose cards, the Ferengi are really the shining stars among these Strange New Worlds.

Set eight, To Boldly Go, focused especially on Starfleet as depicted in the television series Enterprise. If you are partial to Jonathan Archer, T'Pol, Phlox, and the rest of the NX-01 crew, then To Boldly Go is definitely the expansion for you. Even if you're not that interested in the Archer-era Starfleet, you'll still want some of the 20 new dilemmas (including Headquarters-specific dilemmas such as Telepathic Invasion and the deck-design-altering Agonizing Encounter) and 25 new events (heavily featuring the keyword Replicate, allowing multiple uses of the same exact card) included in that Star Trek CCG expansion.

Set nine brought a trio of boutique products called Dangerous Missions. These box sets came in three styles, featuring well-known personnel from the Next Generation faction, the Starfleet affiliation, and the Bajoran affiliation. The first official draft product for Second Edition, these boxes ushered in a new style of tournament play; the fixed contents of each box, plus the four sealed booster packs each contained, allowed players to compete by drafting and assembling their decks "on the fly" using just one box and its corresponding Headquarters mission. Of particular note, the Bajoran affiliation got its first reasonably-inexpensive, non-unique ship with a Range boostable to 9 in this set: the Vedek Assembly Transport.

Captain's Log, the tenth set, introduced the Voyager faction to the Star Trek CCG. Worth noting, the Voyager faction doesn't have a Headquarters mission; rather, it relies on the Caretaker's Array for its emergence in the Delta Quadrant aboard the U.S.S. Voyager (Home Away From Home). Voyager's game text itself functions as a headquarters, allowing appropriate personnel and equipment to report directly aboard the ship. Different as that was, Janeway's and Chakotay's crews had another unique trait: allowing you to win the game using The Long Journey Home when your personnel complete four Delta Quadrant space missions and earn 100 points. Being stranded never felt so good...

Not all the cards in Captain's Log involved the Voyager crew, however. A new suite of cards featuring the Pursuit keyword revitalized that mechanic, first introduced in the Second Edition base set. Whether it's Make a Run for It, New Discovery, or A Long Road (just to name a few), chasing after your opponent got a lot easier--and more rewarding--thanks to Captain's Log. Naturally, the set featured a host of new dilemmas as well, nineteen of them to be exact. Notables include the powerful An Issue of Trust and the deadly Necessary Execution.

Set eleven is called Genesis, and its theme was to include cards from the first episodes of Star Trek's The Next Generation, Deep Space 9, and Voyager series (the "genesis" of each), along with the Genesis material from movies Star Trek II and III. This set was not sold by retailers; rather, it was available for purchase directly from the manufacturer's (Decipher's) website. Today, sets of Genesis are difficult to find, but not impossible. Notable cards found in this release include The Caretaker's "Guests," No-Win Situation, James T. Kirk (Original Thinker), and Kruge (Instinctive Commander).

These Are the Voyages was the twelfth release, and certainly one of the most influential. For starters, it introduced a new, playable faction to the game, the Kirk-and-Spock-era Original Series characters. Based at their headquarters, Earth (Lush and Beautiful Home), the personnel and ships of the faction all share an interesting trait. Each card has the capacity to be "upgraded;" that is, to be played at an additional cost for some additional benefit. But These Are the Voyages wasn't just about the Original Series. In fact, there were several "suites" of cards introduced in that release which have had a lasting impact on the game. Two of these suites are Original-Series-era Klingons (with the Past icon, including Kang, Koloth and Kor) and the Starfleet MACOs. Almost all decktypes got a boost in the form of Dukat (Pah-Wraith Puppet), who can remove cards in a discard pile from the game, and Optimism, which has multiple useful Orders all on one card. Event prevention, event destruction and interrupt prevention also got a lot easier--and less expensive--thanks to Grav-Plating Trap. Dilemmas from the set were many and varied, but included powerhouse cards such as Excalbian Drama/Fesarius Bluff, Gorgan, and No Kill I.

The thirteenth set, ylkraD ,rorriM a nI | In a Mirror, Darkly, heavily featured cards with an Alternate Universe icon, cards that added the icon to other cards, and cards that gave benefits for using such personnel. While just about every affiliation/faction in the game received new Alternate (or often, "Mirror") Universe personnel, three groups in particular stood above the rest. One of these groups included "evil" versions of personnel from the Original Series. Standout members include Leonard H. McCoy (Fiendish Physician) for his targeted kill ability, and Montgomery Scott (Uncivilized Engineer) for his event-destruction ability. The second group included mirror versions of the Starfleet personnel and ships featured on the television series Enterprise. This robust addition to the Starfleet affiliation introduced a new theme of receiving strong benefits by having no cards in hand. Cards such as Phlox (Sadistic Physiologist) and Charles Tucker III (Competent Engineer) offer potent offensive and defensive abilities. Both the I.S.S. Enterprise (Terran Flagship) and the I.S.S. Avenger (Admiral's Ship) facilitate keeping your hand empty, and even grant unique benefits of their own for doing so. The third group represents the U.S.S. Enterprise-D (Battleship) and her crew in an alternate universe where the Federation is at war with the Klingon Empire. Each of these personnel has an ability that can be used when he or she is present with a Next Generation personnel who costs "4 or more," and almost all of the bridge crew are represented: Beverly Crusher (Battleship Doctor), Data (Battleship Officer), Jean-Luc Picard (Battleship Captain), Wesley Crusher (Battleship Helmsman), and William T. Riker (Battleship First Officer). The last suite of personnel worth mentioning aren't from the Alternate Universe at all; instead, they are future, holographic, "Revised" recreations from the Voyager episode Living Witness. Both the (obvious) Voyager faction and (not so obvious) Maquis faction received significant boosts from these personnel, particularly from Revised Chakotay (Imposturous First Officer) and Revised Kim (Interrogator), respectively. Finally, as with any release, In a Mirror, Darkly included many dilemmas as well. Several of those dilemmas "punished" a player for using personnel with a low cost in mission attempts, including Aftereffects, Captured by the Breen, Dangerous Missions, Preventative Repercussions, and The Dal'Rok.

What You Leave Behind, the fourteenth set, represents the end of an era. As the final Star Trek Customizable Card Game set produced and released by Decipher for Second Edition, it brought closure to over a decade of Trek customizable card gaming. But as you'll read below, it did not result in an end to the game, just a new heading along its journey. As a "final" set, it comes as no surprise that What You Leave Behind did not introduce too many new concepts to the game. There were two, however, that are certainly worth mentioning. The first is a keyword featured on many of its dilemmas: Persistent. This text tag allows the player who owns the dilemma to get it back when the opponent completes the mission under which it is overcome. What You Leave Behind included five such dilemmas (Neurogenic Field, Night Terrors, Prisoner of the Exile, Spatial Distortions, and The Phage), as well as the event Ghost Stories, which allows other planet-only and space-only dilemmas to gain the keyword. The second theme manifests itself over a variety of card types, and attempts to entice players to include missions worth 40 or more points in their decks...five of which are offered in the set. Whether "stick" dilemma Old Differences, or "carrot" cards like event U.S.S. Enterprise-J, Non-Aligned personnel Tallera (Covert Isolationist), and both versions of the ship I.K.S. Qel'Poh, many "40 or more" missions enjoyed an emergence from dusty card binders thanks to What You Leave Behind. And speaking of cards left behind, events with the Decay keyword, first introduced in set five, Fractured Time, saw a marked resurgence in What You Leave Behind. Eleven new Decay events joined those that came before them, offering new gameplay for affiliations ranging from Bajorans to Romulans.

Set fifteen, the aptly named The Undiscovered Country, explored the potential for virtual cards--those made available electronically (for free) and printed by players--to continue the rich customizable card game legacy created by Decipher back in 1994. This could-be pipe dream became a reality thanks to the organizational efforts of Charlie Plaine (current Continuing Committee Chairman), and a team of volunteers. Design of the virtual cards was led by one of those volunteers, former Decipher designer Brad DeFruiter, and his team members, many of whom had been working with Decipher on design of its last few sets. The Undiscovered Country was their first virtual product, and contained 45 new cards, a modest addition to a game whose expansions often 120 cards or more. Even with a set size approximately one-third of what a typical release might contain, The Undiscovered Country managed to include cards to enhance nearly every affiliation and faction in the game, and included several thematically-connected cards. Of particular note were five new "wall" dilemmas (those that stop all personnel in a mission attempt) and game-pace-balancing cards like Show Trial and Surprise Amity.

Favor the Bold, the sixteenth release, was all about dilemmas. 41 of its 45 cards were either dilemmas themselves (20 cards) or dealt with dilemmas in some way (21 cards). Since dilemmas are a part of every deck design, it is no wonder that Favor the Bold is a must-have set for all players. It was also unique in that it included the game's first community-designed card, All-Consuming Evil. Notable card pairings include Helen Noel (Enterprise Psychiatrist) and Reyga (Young Scientist)--each of whom counters each dilemma that has "a cost of 1 or more and does not require a skill"-- and Temporal Thieves Ajur and Boratus, known for their collective ability to put any dilemma from your dilemma pile on top of that pile. Favor the Bold also introduced eight "keyword" dilemmas, those that are closely linked to the draw deck, and provide additional effects if the dilemma's owner commands a quantity of personnel with a particular keyword.

Set seventeen is the latest release as of the date of this article. Entitled Raise the Stakes, this expansion includes 90 cards, twice that of any other virtual expansion to date. The theme of this release has been informally summarized by the phrase "Go big, or go home," and includes a number of cards which provide powerful effects, but at a significant cost. Perhaps the best example of this is the event Favor the Bold, which lets you lose 5 points to render one of your missions "no longer completed," allowing you to attempt it again. (You don't lose the points you scored from completeing the mission previously.) But that's just one card. Raise the Stakes is positively filled with cards designed to help all affiliations and factions. It includes another of the "keyword" dilemmas popularized in set sixteen, five cards which encourage the use of personnel or events that cost "4 or more," twenty cards which encourage the use of missions worth "40 or more" points, and a brand-new suite of twelve cards which typically cannot be played until the "mid-game" (informally, the "you must command six" cards) but which have a powerful effect when played. It completes the series of "Artifact personnel" (so named because of the common characteristic of having completed a mission with certain skill requirements) introduced in previous expansions, and introduces two more suites of cards: Dissident Vulcans and Delta Quadrant Klingons (and their ship, the I.K.S Voq'leng). Not bad for an expansion that shares its name with the only First Edition card to have ever been banned!

As you can see, the Star Trek CCG universe is vast and ever-growing, but with a few targeted acquisitions, you should be able to quickly begin expanding your power in the universe. As your collection grows, be sure to continue following this series. In the fourth installment, James Hoskin will ease you into deckbuilding by showing you how to customize your starter decks.

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-djl-

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< Part 2 - Getting Oriented in the GalaxyInto the Final Frontier IndexPart 4 - Customizing Your Starter Decks >


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