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A Final Unity: The State of the Game 2009

by Charlie Plaine, Chairman

9th September 2009

A Final Unity

Please visit the Ask the Chairman thread to discuss this speech or to participate in the Chairman's Q & A. Your feedback is invaluable!

Conflict is central to human existence. Overcoming conflict is the key to prosperity, happiness, and success. We faced many conflicts in the past year, but we have overcome them... and we are on the road to continuing growth, bountiful success and great prosperity.

The past twelve months have been about solidifying our community. We have all worked to cement the bonds that have brought us and kept us together, all the while welcoming new members into the fold. Old grudges have been laid to rest, new partnerships and new opportunities abound, and the state of our community has never been healthier.

One type of conflict we have seen in our community is that of a feud - a conflict between one subgroup and another equally-diverse subgroup. Sometimes, these feuds are friendly and healthy, like the “orange hats” of Minnesota versus the “green jerseys” of New Jersey. These types of rivalries are good for the game, good for competition, and should not be discouraged. But other kinds of feuds often have deeper issues at their heart, and these can have a more negative connotation.

I am proud to say that through the use of diplomacy, honesty, and trust, we have put the negative feuds to bed.

One of the classic arguments is between First Edition and Second Edition. While the games are always related, they have often not been equally treated. We have taken great strides in the past year to incorporate First Edition events and players into our short-term and long-term plans, and to invite all First Edition players to rejoin the community. The first First Edition Regional events in several years were held in 2009, and a full schedule of First Edition events was held at GenCon. The player base for First Edition has grown 50% in the past year, and shows no signs of slowing its growth.

In addition to all the success with First and Second Editions, we've also managed to provide support for a third game - Tribbles! The April release of More Tribbles, More Troubles expanded the game for the first time, and a new world champion was crowned at GenCon's Tribbles World Championship! We plan to continue supporting Tribbles CCG at all of our major events!

Jeremy Commandeur has led the Department of First Edition to the most successful year for First Edition out of the last seven. The First Edition Rules Committee has generated updated Current Rulings and Conversion Rules, as well as producing Referee cards, errata and rulings. Revised Format, while controversial, has sparked considerably more interest from new and old players alike than in the past five years combined.

We are all dedicated to ensuring that First Edition and Second Edition continue to do more than just co-exist: we want them to cooperate, cross-over, and continue to help each other reach new heights of success. A little later in this message, we'll share some exciting news about the future of First Edition for the rest of this year, and into the next.

Another “famous” conflict has more geographic roots: The United States versus the World. For better or worse, many Australians and Europeans felt slighted during the Decipher era, and continued to feel so as The Continuing Committee took over. I am proud to say that I believe many of the issues that caused this feeling have been resolved, and that the future is bright for global cooperation and participation.

Australia's organized play has never been stronger, and interest in the game across this island continent has grown significantly in the past year. Australian players face huge distances to meet and play in large events, and in spite of those obstacles, they have succeeded and built a stellar community.

Since our inception, there has been resistance to our operations; for some, even to our existence. It is my hope that we have allayed these fears and concerns, and demonstrated our desire to work with everyone in every group. The input of the community is invaluable and we pledge to seek it often. We are your servants and vow to work in your interests, with your input, as long as you grant us that privilege.

But not all conflicts are external. Sometimes, there are internal conflicts that can cause their own share of problems. I deeply regret that my own internal conflict was the cause of our largest failure: shipping and prize support.

When The Continuing Committee was put together, I knew that it would forever be a lot of work. I would be asking people to voluntarily give up their time and energy to make this community thrive. I made a promise to myself that I would never ask someone to do something I was able to do myself. This well-intentioned promise was at the heart of our shipping problems earlier this year; yet, the same promise provided the solution that we now enjoy.

I was wrong to believe that I could work a full-time job, participate in activities with my family, and manage the shipping needs of the community. My pride would not allow me to ask anyone for help, for I was “sure that I could handle it.” As more and more Regional kits became late, I had to face the fact that I could not handle it. I had let the community down, and I had to take responsibility for that.

Dan Hamman provided me a way to take responsibility for my mistakes, as well as implement a solution to the problem. He graciously offered to manage the shipping for us, and I was happy to accept his help. Fortunately, he has done a far better job than I ever could have, and I thank him for that.

It was this conflict between my intelligence and my ego that caused all the shipping problems we had in our first year-and-a-half of operation. I also apologize to each and every one of you that was affected by my stubborn promise – to every Regional participant that did not get a Worf; to every Nationals player that didn’t get a prize; to all of the Australian Continentals participants that didn’t get their badges from the CC; and to each and every one of you that trusted me – I apologize. In the best interest of the community, I promise to you that I will never allow pride to prevent me from asking for help again.

Our Shipping Department will stay on top of orders, inventory, and ordering, of course, to ensure that the flow of prizes, kits and other goods remains consistent, quick, and long-term. As you read this, a resupply of skill buttons is en route to our warehouse; once in hand, the tournaments kits – both First Edition and Second Edition – will continue to pour out. Only about half the skills on skill buttons have been released so far; all of the Second Edition skills (plus a bonus two First Edition skills) will be in circulation before the end of Regional Season 2010.

We’re also proud to be able to provide foil, alternate image promo cards in all future tournament kits (thanks again to the herculean efforts of our Shipping Manager) and will continue to do so for all future tournament kits. These foils are amazing, high-resolution images printed on foil paper and applied to a card back. If you haven’t had the chance to see one of the foils released at GenCon, then you’re in for a real treat when you open up your next tournament kit.

If there is no conflict within one's self, or between one and his or her peers, then there can still be conflict with one’s environment. In our case, we have often run into one of the oldest – and most dangerous – problems in our society: money trouble.

Your generous donations have carried us far, but in these times, there is always someone looking for your last dollar. Fortunately, we have put into place some plans to help keep things stable.

The tournament kits are essential to our survival as they provide a small amount of income. All of our income is used to promote the game and support the community, either via prizes for the larger events, or by paying for the costs of maintaining our website and other services. We encourage any tournament organizer or member of the community to buy a kit and use it to either reward the players at your events, or to entice new (or returning) players back into the game and the community.

Our Premium Membership program has been successful, but only a fraction of the community members have signed up for this enhanced website experience. We encourage those of you that have not signed up to give the service a try, and hope that those of you that have will renew your memberships when the time comes.

To encourage you to sign up for the Premium Membership, we will be having a “free preview” of the services from September 12th through September 19th, 2009.

All users will have the chance to experience the benefits of the premium deck builder, the custom box-tops, and everything else that Premium Membership has to offer. Enjoy the week of free service as a thank you for being part of our community, and we hope that you’ll sign up when you’re done.

The past year has been a great one for many of our player groups, and for the community as a whole. However, if we don’t find ways to expand, grow, and bring in new players, then we will face stagnation, starvation, and the eventual end of the community. It is quite a blessing that we have had so much success in growing the game.

Dozens of new players took up the game this year, hundreds of new members have joined our website, and the games have experienced growth they haven’t seen in years – all without the financial support of a company behind it. Talking to players across the world, I have heard similar tales of new players attending tournaments, old players returning to the game, and entire new groups forming where once there were none. During the course of GenCon weekend, we gave demos for First Edition and Second Edition to over forty people, handing out free product to all of them. Several of these players have already joined the website, and are working on teaching their friends how to play.

World Championship Trek begins its second world-wide season this month, filling the "down time" between the end of Worlds and the next year's Regionals with fun, action-packed Trek play all across the globe. We're proud to offer a new card - Ishara Yar (Deceitful Soldier) - in both regular and glorious foil Archive Portrait formats to our league participants.

But don't worry if you don't have a league near you - Ishara will be available for download about six months after the league season ends, when she'll be available to all!

Our writing team completed the painstaking process of tracking down, updating and republishing the "Into the Final Frontier" series of articles that introduces new players to the game and the community. This invaluable tool remains posted to this day, as an introduction to Second Edition for the immediate future.

We must do anything and everything we can to support the growth of the game. Examples of this already abound in our community, with veteran players donating cards and offering advice to new players across the globe. We encourage all of you to do the same, but also to reach out to new and veteran players, and let them know about the success we’re having continuing – and growing – the games.

With a bit of hard work and some luck, I know that we can double our growth – or more – in the coming year. I can easily see the day coming soon when we look back on a World Championship field of thirty-one players and think, “Is that all?”

“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” – George Santayana

Everything we have achieved is at risk if we are not prepared to examine ourselves, see where we went wrong, and take appropriate action. We are not beholden to do things the way they have always been done, and it is our responsibility to look at new options every time we put a plan to paper.

The Continuing Committee is proud to announce that the 2010 World Championship will be held in late-summer in Germany. The European players have consistently shown passion, dedication and considerable skill, and those traits will be rewarded with the biggest championship we have to offer. It is our hope that many non-European players will make the trip to visit Europe in 2010, and will stop to take their shot at the title. Expect more details soon as they are finalized, but count on a trip to Germany if you want to follow in the footsteps of the 2009 2E Champion Neil Timmons, or the 1E Champion Franklin Kenter!

In the meantime, we will be offering a considerable amount of high level, high quality competition to players that can’t make the trip to Europe for the World Championship. As always, the Regional season will kick off in 2010 and start the championship quest; Continental Championships will be held that exceed the standards set in 2009. Nationals, Chairman’s Challenges and other high level events will be scheduled throughout the year and across the globe to ensure that as many players as possible can play in high level events.

But what good are high level events without new cards to keep the game fresh, balanced, and interesting?

First on the schedule is The 15th Anniversary Collection, a virtual expansion in three parts that will be released on Friday, November 6, 2009.

The first part, Chain of Command, will contain fifteen new First Edition virtual cards drawn from across the television series and movies, focusing on the famous faces of the original three affiliations: Federation, Klingon and Romulan.

Legacy will be an expansion of fifteen new Second Edition cards created by past and present Trek designers, each given the opportunity to create a card they wanted to make.

Finally, Things Past will introduce fifteen new proxies to each edition: alternate-image cards for Second Edition, and cards redone on the original template for First Edition. The community has had and will have the chance to vote on the cards that will appear in Things Past, in a process that's already gotten underway!

All three expansions will be released to coincide with the 15th Anniversary of the release of Star Trek: The Next Generation Customizable Card Game. You’ll be able to participate in release tournaments, anniversary celebrations and contests, and a special thank you for all the former staff and volunteers that helped shape the game and the community over the past fifteen years.

December will be a month to remember for First Edition players when the first full virtual expansion is released! Featuring a combination of reprints, conversions, and new cards, this expansion will focus on some of the lesser-played affiliations, and will function as a starting point for new players to enter the game. Stay tuned for more details on the release of this landmark expansion.

Meanwhile, Second Edition will see the release of its fifth full virtual expansion, Allegiance. Focused on teams, teamwork and creating new deck types, this forty-five-card expansion will send you scrambling to put the new cards to good use. Featuring crews from Deep Space Nine, The Motion Picture, Enterprise and Voyager, Allegiance promises to test every creative muscle in your brain!

2010 will offer a full slate of new and exciting virtual releases for both First Edition and Second Edition. The Will of the Collective will return with a new host and a new format, allowing the community to create a card that will appear in a future virtual expansion. In addition, aspiring card creators will have the chance to compete for an Assistant Game Designer position for one of our upcoming Second Edition expansions – a rare, and never before available opportunity!

When I look back at 2009, I will always remember it as the year that enemies became friends, obstacles became opportunities, and this community grew closer and more tightly knit than it had been for a long time. I won’t remember the conflicts and the problems we had, but instead I will remember how we overcame those obstacles to provide a safe, fun environment for all that wish to play.

2009 has been a banner year for our games and our community. I am confident that, with a little hard work, some open and honest communication, and your continuing support, 2010 will be even more amazing. Thank you.

Please visit the Ask the Chairman thread to discuss this speech or to participate in the Chairman's Q & A. Your feedback is invaluable!

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