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First Edition and The Future

by Charlie Plaine, Chairman

23rd January 2012

We are very proud of the work that we have done on First Edition to date, and for the most part we are happy with the state of the game. It has been incredibly rewarding to see so much growth in our player base as well as the renewed interest in the game. We still have a lot of work to do, but we are in it for the long haul. So much so that we have been working on some long-term plans for the game, and today we would like to share some of those plans with you.

Lessons Learned
We are constantly striving to improve not only the quality of our work, but our understanding of the needs and desires of our community. We have had issues with communication in the past but we are dedicated to listening to - and having dialog with - as many of our players as we can, and I believe that we have made great strides in improving that communication.

The Official Tournament Format has proved to be very popular, and it is something we are going to continue using for high level events. The format still has a few flaws, but they are not insurmountable obstacles and we are already working on ways to improve the quality of high-level play. We want to be more informative about when and how cards enter (or exit) the OTF Ban List and it is still our goal to reduce that list as much as we can. We just do not want to do so for the sake of doing so; it is going to be a time-consuming process but it is one we will stick with.

We have also made strides in getting our First Edition Rules Documentation up to date. The 1.9 Update of the Glossary, while not the long promised "rewrite," did give us full control of the document and has set the stage for the 2.0 release later this year. In addition, our Rules Committee is working on a new simple rulebook for beginning or returning players as well as a more comprehensive rule book for veteran players. Creating and updating these years-old documents is a slow process but one that will be very rewarding when completed.

We also feel that, at times, we have been too conservative with our design. The conversion of Skeleton Crew is a prime example of our early "treading water." We did not take the opportunity to make it an effective card, either out of fear or out of inexperience. It was an important lesson, and our more recent conversion cards have been more aggressive and more relevant to First Edition's style of play.

It is understandable that we would be shy over our first year or so of development; we did not have the advantage of years of experience like the Second Edition teams had going into the virtual development environment. We have had to relearn lessons that had been forgotten and to try and respect the history of the game while finding ways to move it forward. We have learned a lot about the design of First Edition and I am excited to see design "take the training wheels off" as we move forward.

All that being said, we are very proud to have released three virtual expansions of new cards and several collections of reprints to enable players to play First Edition with less overhead. There are quite a few difficult- or impossible-to-find cards that are essential for players, and we are dedicated to finding ways for players to play with alternative options or to make those cards available as reprints. Expect more new and reprinted First Edition cards as we move forward!

Paradigm Shift
Our goal as we move forward is to do more with First Edition design and do so in more creative ways. One of the bedrock principles to which we adhere is one established by our former First Edition Director Jeremy Commandeur, paraphrased as, "Expand the game, do not escalate the game.". We have no desire to turn the game into a war of increasingly powerful cards. It is not our intention to provide more and more draws, free reports and downloads at an ever decreasing cost, as that is a sure-fire way to destroy the game's integrity and stability.

Instead, as we work to solidify the foundation of the game, we want to take it to new places. We wish to provide new options and new choices for players that do not expand the game upwards, but sideways as we continue to explore the possibilities of the game and the Star Trek universe. One of the ways we plan to do so is through the introduction of a new affiliation - Vulcan - in the future. Another example of expanding the game appears in Shades of Gray with the separation of the Enterprise-E "faction" from the larger Federation. It has proven to be a popular and effective tactic and one we intend to explore more as we move forward.

Our goal now is to take our designs further and to build real affiliation flavor, themes and mechanics as we develop new cards for those affiliations. In addition, we want to tell interesting stories and provide thematic and mechanical connections from expansion to expansion: to build something more than just collections of cards. In order to do so, we will be switching to a new style of design and development for the next three years: blocks.

A "block" is a set of related expansions that are thematically or mechanically related to one another. The concept was used for Decipher's The Lord of the Rings TCG when they created a "block" based around each movie in the trilogy. Magic: The Gathering has been building "blocks" of expansions for years and it has been quite successful for them. And while we will never be working at the size and scope of the folks who work on Magic, we see a lot of exciting potential in the "block" concept and we are looking forward to implementing it.

Our implementation is simple: roughly one block per year, and three expansions per block. The first expansion of each block will introduce both the thematic and the mechanical concepts of the block. Expansions two and three will expand upon or develop those themes further and to different and interesting places.

Please note that just because we are working on a block design system does not mean that we cannot still release "one-off" expansions as well, such as a new Homefront-style release or another reprint-based expansion such as BaH!. It just means that our expansions of new virtual cards will be more tightly focused and related inside a block than we have done so far.

New Options
As excited as we are to build blocks of thematically-related expansions, this move is part of a larger strategy. It starts with the recognition that there is a contingent of players in our community that are not being satisfied with our current options for organized play. These are the players that want to play the game, but do not want the overhead of the entire library of cards that exists in First Edition. And while there are sealed deck options for those players, it is not quite enough to sate their desires. These players are hungry for a form of competitive play with a more limited card pool than any of our formats currently provide. After all, not everyone can get their hands on hard-to-get expansions like All Good Things.

When we realized that there was a need we were not filling, we sought out ways to address that "gap" in our organized play offerings. When we took a long look at our plans for the "block" design, we realized that it would also serve as the perfect opportunity to solve this organized play problem as well. The solution allows us to expand the block design concept and finally provide a format that will meet the needs of this unsatisfied group of players.

Coinciding with the release of our next virtual expansion (the first of the new block-design structure), we will be introducing two new tournament formats. Here are the rough descriptions of each, which are subject to change:

Block Constructed [1E]
This is a constructed format that allows players to include only printable cards from a limited number of expansions in their decks. Players may use cards from: the current block, the previous block, and any Homefront expansion. As a constructed format, players build their deck ahead of time, using their card collections, and bring it to play in the event.

Block Sealed [1E]
This is a limited format event in which players build their decks at the time of the event, from the cards that are provided. In these events, players are provided with a random starter deck from a particular block as well as a number of optional booster packs from the same block. Players should then be given at least twenty minutes to build their decks for the event, and may use any or all of the cards provided to do so. Players may also change their decks between rounds using any of the cards they were provided with.

Anyone familiar with Magic's standard format or the World of Warcraft TCG's Core Constructed format will recognize the Block Constructed format outlined above. Essentially, when playing in a Block Constructed tournament, you are limited to a "base set" of cards (in our case, all of the Homefront expansions), cards from the current block and cards from the previous block. All other cards are excluded from the format. Not only does this provide a limited pool of cards, but it also provides a maximum number to the size of the pool. In addition, Block Constructed format ensures that the format will constantly evolve and remain fresh, as cards are regularly rotated out of the format when each new block is released.

The Block Sealed format is similar to the Block Constructed format, except that most events will draw their card pool from a single block. Instead of being constructed events, players will use pre-defined started decks and add cards to them to build their decks. In order to support this new sealed format, each block will feature between two (2) and four (4) new starter decks. These will be complete decks, tested and balanced against each other, that players can download, print, cut and bring to a tournament. These decks will not only provide an entry point for new and returning players, but will enable virtual sealed deck play.

Finally, to provide a true "sealed deck" experience, we will be enhancing our Virtual Pack Creator software (currently used for Second Edition's Infinite Diversity draft format) to generate "booster" packs for our block expansions. Tournament directors will be able to generate random boosters to give to players at Block Sealed events, ensuring a different experience each time.

These two new tournament formats will be fully detailed in the next update to our Organized Play Guide. In fact, barring any delays, you will be able to schedule and run Regional tournaments in either Block Constructed or Block Sealed formats - and you will even have new cards with which to do so! But Regionals are still a few months away - so you will have to wait on more information about that!

We are dedicated to creating a game and a community where everyone has the opportunity to play the game in a format they enjoy. But the introduction of these two new formats does not mean that we are abandoning any of our other formats - quite the opposite. We are still going to support OTF, Revised, Open, OTSD, and all of the other formats that are popular with players across the globe. Block Constructed (and Block Sealed) are being designed to address the needs of a neglected subset of our players - but we hope they will be fun options for all of you to enjoy from time to time as well!

Three Year Plan
What does it all mean? When we first began outlining the block design structure (and what would become our two new tournament formats), we laid out a three year plan. And although it has evolved somewhat since then, it is still being used to chart our course for the next few years. We would like to take the time to walk you through the plan, detailed below:

Block 0: The Lifelessness Block
Life from Lifelessness, Straight and Steady, and Shades of Gray
Although these expansions were not designed with the block system in mind, they do make a nice support suite of cards for quite a few affiliations. The heavy Starfleet representation in Straight and Steady means that they will be a presence in the first year of Block Constructed.

Block 1: The Next Generation
This block will feature thematic and mechanical links based on Star Trek: The Next Generation. It will consist of a larger virtual expansion (~March 2012) followed by two "small" a.k.a. standard-sized virtual expansions (~July 2012 and ~November 2012).

Project Moody (TNG-1)
Much like Shades of Gray worked to "reinvigorate" the dilemmas and verbs from the "PAQ era" (Premiere, Alternate Universe and Q Continuum), one of Moody's main goals is to give new life to the original personnel and ships from those expansions. This expansion features a new mechanic, similar to that of the Enterprise-E, that "divides" the TNG cards into their own deck and rewards players for doing so. Moody will release with complete starters for the Federation, Klingon and Ferengi affiliations.

Project Umbridge (TNG-2)
The second expansion of the TNG block will focus on Next Generation-era Romulans, but will also add - for the first time - many of the cards from the movie Nemesis. The Remans, B-4, Donatra and company will finally join Shinzon and the Scimitar in First Edition. Project Umbridge will add a fourth starter, Romulan, to the sealed environment.

Project Snape (TNG-3)
The final expansion of this block will add in some TNG-mechanic cards for Bajorans and Cardassians (who appeared occasionally on that show) as well as more general support cards for all decks.

Block Constructed play during the "Moody Block" will consist of Homefront, Homefront II, all of the "Lifelessness Block" and whichever of the TNG expansions are released at the time. When Project Moody releases in a few months, it will consist of LfL-SaS-SoG-TNG1; later in the year when Umbridge releases, it will be added to the legal expansion list.

Block 2: Deep Space Nine
This block will feature thematic and mechanical links based on the third television series, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It will consist of a larger virtual expansion (~Early 2013) followed by two "small" a.k.a. standard-sized virtual expansions (~Summer and Winter 2013).

Deep Space Nine Block Expansion #1
The "large" expansion of the DS9 block will center on recreating the teamwork and cooperation of the crew of the show's titular station. DS9-1 is planned to release with complete starters for the Bajoran and Federation affiliations.

Deep Space Nine Block Expansion #2
This expansion will bring together and tell the story of the Maquis, defining that faction in First Edition as more than just random personnel with an icon. In addition, a third starter based on the Maquis is slated to be released.

Deep Space Nine Block Expansion #3
The final expansion of the Deep Space Nine block will reintroduce one of the greatest enemies of all of Star Trek lore - The Dominion - and focus on the exploration and dangers of the Gamma Quadrant. A fourth starter based on the Dominion affiliation is planned for this release.

The release of the first expansion of the "DS9 Block" will be the first major shakeup for Block Constructed play, as the entire "Lifelessness Block" will rotate out of the format. This means that when DS9-1 releases in 2013, the legal expansions for the format will be TNG-1, TNG-2, TNG-3 and DS9-1 (plus any and all Homefront expansions.)

Block 3: Beyond The Mirror/Veil
The third block of our three-year plan will feature thematic and mechanic links to alternate universes, including the most famous of them - the Mirror Universe. Just like the previous two blocks, it will consist of a larger virtual expansion followed by two "small" a.k.a. standard-sized virtual expansions, all of which are planned to release in 2014.

The New AU Block Expansion #1
The "large" expansion of the New-AU block will focus on the mirror quadrant, specifically on the "DS9-era" rebellion and the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance, and feature starters for both of those factions of the Mirror Quadrant (and possibly for the TOS-era Terran Empire as well.)

The New AU Block Expansion #2
This expansion will introduce the "Enterprise-era" Starfleet version of the Terran Empire, converting or introducing mirror versions of your favorite 22nd-century characters. A Mirror Starfleet starter is planned to be released with this expansion.

The New AU Block Block Expansion #3
In addition to tying up loose ends in the Mirror Universe, this expansion will peek in on several other alternative timelines and universes that have appeared throughout Star Trek's history.

When the "New AU" block releases its first expansion, the entire "TNG" block will rotate out of the block formats.

One point of clarification: just because a block has a theme does not mean that each and every card in all of that block's expansions will be dedicated to that theme. For example, even though we are making a block based on TNG, that does not mean we are going to leave out the non-TNG affiliations. Sure, the majority of the cards will be TNG-era but we are still going to keep our eyes on the [DQ] and the rest of the game to give them new toys as they need them.

Remember, even though we are introducing two new tournament formats, we are not abandoning the existing ones. Each of these expansions will be legal in Open, Revised, Standard and OTF and the cards within will be available to all of your favorite decks.

Sticking It Out
Well, that is our big plan for the next few years. We know that it is a big change and that not everyone will like this direction right away, and that is something we are going to have to accept. There is a lot of information here to digest and there will be a lot of questions - many of which we can answer, but some we will not be able to. We have been down this road before, when we first introduced OTF, but we are confident in our plans and we are excited to see what you think.

But we know that we are not above making mistakes, so we are planning to "check in" on this plan after some time, to revisit this paradigm in a few years and see where we stand. We will constantly be asking you what you think, how you want the game to develop and assessing what is - and what is not - working. If we find we are on the wrong course, we will be able to make new plans for the game beyond this first three years. Or, if we find that we are on the right track and the "block design" is fun and entertaining, we could be planning out the next three years.

It is going to be all about your feedback. Right now, we are going to answer your questions, listen to your opinions and your concerns and do our best to address them and make sure you are a part of the process. We have started a special thread on our Gameplay (1E) forums for your questions about the new tournament formats and the three-year plan outlined above. In addition, we'll be hosting a Live Q&A with Chairman Charlie Plaine and several of our key First Edition staff - stay tuned for the details and the time and date!

The future of First Edition is bright and we are excited to be working with great people on some fun and exciting projects. The Continuing Committee is dedicated to supporting the existing community of First Edition players and to ensuring that this community will not only continue to exist, but to grow, for years and years to come.

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