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Strategy Articles

How Do I Design a Card?

by Neil Timmons, 2009 World Champion

20th August 2010

How do I design a card? It is a question that had been rattling around in my head ever since I got a private message from Brad after winning Worlds in 2009. Compared to many, I may be a bit new to the Star Trek CCGs, but I am not new to CCGs in general. However, I never thought of myself as any good; I just like playing. I really never dreamed of making cards and I never thought I would have an opportunity to do so. Imagine my surprise when I found myself at GenCon shuffling my decks at the final table!

My first thought went to the Maquis - one of my favorite affiliations. The Maquis are full of fun tricks, but I think they are missing that one thing that will push them up to tier 1. I set out to figure out what that was, and build it. After watching Defiant I was determined to make a mission that would help the Maquis get a ship into play.

I thought the text would go something like:

“At the beginning of your turn, if this is your first turn, download a ship and play it at cost -4. Your opponent can download Damage cards and place them on that ship. If the ship is destroyed, search your deck and remove all copies of that ship from the game then score 5 points.”

The idea was that you can get your ship on your first turn, but your opponent can easily blow it up. But if he or she does, you get a prize for them falling into your trap. In my mind, it perfectly matched the episode: Riker was captured, but Sisko still asked some very pointed questions about the Orias system.

As I'm sure you've guess, this first attempt demonstrated my complete lack of understanding on how to build a card. First of all, the card is a "wall of text" and is too large to fit on two mission templates! Second, the timing of the download and discount is all wrong and won't work. Finally, in order for this to be a Maquis mission, it would have to be attemptable by either Federation or Non-Aligned, which would make this mission miss the intended affiliation and go straight into every TNG or TOS deck.

Obviously, I had a lot to learn.

Right around the third or fourth try to make the mission work, I was invited to be a co-host for the Make it So podcast. Without thinking of my card design, I accepted in a heartbeat, and was excited for the chance to be involved in Make It So! When I had time to finally think about it, I realized this was exactly what I needed - lessons in card design!

Ultimately, I realized that making a focused mission like my original idea would be very limited, and I decided to abandon the idea to make a mission. After all, every design-a-card winner wants people to play with his or her card! I thought it would be fun to make a personnel, but that brought up a lot of other questions: Who do you design? How do you choose a persona? Do you choose a personnel who exists in the game?

When I was a child in 1987, watching Star Trek: The Next Generation ever week, Wesley Crusher was my hero. Ten years later, when Deep Space Nine became my favorite show, I grew to idolize Benjamin Sisko. I had too many favorite characters; I couldn't decide. Frustrated, I turned to my friend John Corbett for some advice.

He offered up some really great ideas (if he wins, watch out for a really super card ), but he did remind me that I cut my STCCG teeth in New Jersey, playing with Team Jersey. He reminded me that there was a personnel that appeared in The Next Generation who also was from New Jersey. Even better, his character was the stereotypical New Jersey persona. The more I thought about it, the more I realized John was right. I owe many of my Trek skills to Team Jersey, and the least I could do is honor them with my card.

With my decision of ‘who’ made, it was time to figure out ‘what’ he was going to do. He was clearly a thief, since he kept stealing equipment from the Enterprise. He was after profit: steal from the future, and sell to the past. It's a pretty good idea, if you don't mind violating the Temporal Prime Directive. We've had thieves in Second Edition before, but none that did any actual thieving. I asked myself how I could make a thief that - in the game - actually stole things.

Is it really a bonus to steal a piece of equipment when you can’t do anything with it? I thought there had to be something fun you can do with your opponent’s equipment. Why not sell it back to them? After all, that was Rasmussen's plan the whole time, steal things to make money. And in the end, that's what he does - he steals your equipment, and sells it back to you! How awesome is that?

When it was all said and done, I learned a lot about designing cards. I may not have been a contestant on Make It So, but being part of the podcast I felt like I learned just as much as the competitors. The end result of my design-a-card prize is a card that nods to the play group I play in, the TV series I watched growing up, and a card that adds a new personnel to the game. I am very proud of how he came out, and even happier to be part of the fantastic Star Trek CCG community.

Thank you to Brad for all of your patience while I tossed terrible idea after terrible idea into your inbox. Thank you to Charlie for your card design lessons and advice. Thank you to John Corbett for the idea that became today's spoiler. Thank you to John, Alex, Darrell, Ben, Ed, Len, Ken, Phil, Matt, Jack, and the rest of the Team Jersey gang! Finally, thank you to all of the Make It So contestants for inspiring me to learn along with you!

To all the players, thanks for reading! See you in Germany in October!

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