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Conversions: An Analysis - The Next Generation (Part 4 of 6)

by James Cream, Staff Writer

25th May 2012

This article is the fourth part in an analysis of the converted backwards-compatible Second Edition cards (2E BC) found in The Next Generation expansion. This time, we will look at the seven converted dilemmas.

The converted dilemmas which were chosen for this expansion are all of a certain type. They are utility dilemmas which always do something but are not particularly powerful in either game. They represent a subset of Second Edition dilemmas which have been played since the beginning of the game and have never lost favour: each often acts as the backbone of a good dilemma pile in that game in order to set up the more powerful dilemmas. They work by screening out (filtering) personnel with a specific skill or skills in order to ensure that the later dilemma hits.

None of these were particularly broken or weak in either game and therefore made for easy conversions. What’s more, since they are some of the foundation dilemmas used in Second Edition, they are likely to work well as the foundation dilemmas for the new Block play format.

In First Edition, there are a few dilemmas which fall into "types." That is, they follow a certain pattern and wording but differ in their targets. This is true of dilemmas like the "wall + unique personnel screen" type of The Arsenal: Divided and The Arsenal: Separated or the "full screen down to one personnel" type of Personal Duty, Picking Up the Pieces, and Blended. This pattern is much more prevalent in the Second Edition of the game.

Type 1: Screen Skill X or the Red Shirt Gets It

This type is one of my favorite screening dilemmas to use in a Second Edition dilemma pile. This dilemma has the specific goal of screening out skill X such that the follow-up dilemma has a higher likelihood of hitting. As an added bonus, if the player doesn’t have any personnel with the targeted skill, someone will die. That is what I call a win-really win scenario.

For instance, I have often used Triage to set up Mugato (a 2E-only dilemma requiring 2 Medical and 2 Biology). This dilemma type has worked well in both games and all versions were Backwards Compatible. Prior to their conversions, these dilemmas already worked quite well in the wrong game to set up key powerful dilemmas. This makes them an excellent choice for conversion with little playtesting necessary.

There are three dilemmas of this type in The Next Generation: Magnetic Field Disruptions, Triage , and Warp Bubble Mishap, though there are many more of this type in Second Edition left to be converted. Magnetic Field Disruptions can filter out Astrophysics or Navigation, Triage can filter out MEDICAL or Biology, and Warp Bubble Mishap filters Physics or SCIENCE.

In their original 2E BC forms, I would have guaranteed that each of these dilemmas would solely be used as a filter or middle dilemma in a combo. One would want to force the player to bring a good number of personnel with a wall dilemma, filter those personnel to reduce the likelihood of skill X, and finally hit hard with a powerful killing dilemma. But in converting these, the design team actually made them all better. Each now has an additional attribute requirement in the mid-20s. This means that each could be used as a middle dilemma or as a starting dilemma in order to make sure that the other player isn’t just "red-shirting" the combo. What’s more, each sets itself up. By eliminating a personnel (by either a kill or a stop), the opponent is that much less likely to have target attribute > twenty-something and on their second attempt they will have to bring skill X unless they want someone else to die.

Type 2: Screen Skill X or Nobody Can Continue

This dilemma type also works well as a screen, though in this case it is possible for the opponent to nullify the dilemma. In each case, it is not particularly likely to be nullified but a few key 1E personnel just became that much better.

Unlike Type 1 dilemmas, I rarely encounter these in Second Edition anymore unless the format somehow limits which dilemmas can be used. Though they certainly aren’t bad, nobody is too fond of a dilemma which can simply be overcome with no effect. In 1E, it is rather harder to overcome these as skill gaining is less prevalent than it is in the second game (and let’s keep it that way!).

Tense Negotiations and Microbrain both fall into this type; the former screens Diplomacy or Leadership (which tend to be on the same personnel) and the latter screens Exobiology or Geology (which are rarely on the same personnel).

The Second Edition versions were even weaker in the First Edition than they were in 2E. In both cases, the opponent was able to choose a person with skill X to be stopped unless the requirements were met, but the requirements were considerably easier. There are many people in 1E with "skill x2." This was rectified in conversion by making the requirement for dilemma nullification much higher, raising it to "target skill x3."

In the current meta of 1E, Microbrain is much better than Tense Negotiations. There are a few people who are able to nullify the latter including Sarek, Opaka , the new Kahless , and of course Seven of Nine (while linked in the same hive with a Sarek counterpart).

There are currently no personnel with 3x Exobiology and it seems unlikely that anyone ever will, since even Mora Pol only has Exobiology x2, while the only personnel with 3x Geology is Mortal Q (haven't seen him played in a while). It is possible to overcome this with skill gaining (such as Reflection Therapy) but this seems far less likely to occur than getting at least one stop. I just can’t see anyone planning for Microbrain unless a particularly good combo appears in the meta.

Type 3: Randomly Select 3 Personnel, Then Screen Them for Skill X

Another moderately powerful screening dilemma; I am less of a fan of this type as it only looks at a subset of the crew or Away Team. Still, it really depends on how this dilemma type is used and in what combination.

We saw the conversion of another 2E dilemma of this type in the Homefront I expansion: Murder Investigation does work slightly different than Temptation from the TNG expansion. The former randomly selects three personnel and then stops all of them if any have Security. The latter randomly selects three personnel and then stops those which do not have Honor or Treachery.

The obvious flaw with both of these is that they might not do anything. Even if the opponent’s Away Team (or crew) has a lot of Security, random chance might have none selected as the three examined. Similarly, Temptation could stop 3 personnel or it could stop none at all. Both dilemmas work a bit better in Second Edition where a player can choose to use them or not use them based on what personnel the opponent has played thus far. In First Edition, they could work great against one deck and then do nothing at all against another.

But there is one instance where both dilemmas are great in both games: when the random selections are NOT random. With Elim at the mission, one could use Murder Investigation to stop one Security of the player’s choice and two more people, while Temptation could be used to stop any three non-Treachery/non-Honor personnel.

Type 4: Punishment for Macro-teaming

This dilemma type is one that occurred rather early in the life of Second Edition to discourage the use of large away teams which could bust any dilemma combo. They follow a fairly specific pattern: look for >9 personnel and then punish the player for each personnel over 9 while reducing the number of personnel in the attempt to 9.

Over the life of 2E, many variants were released and with each new variant they got progressively stronger. What became apparent was that the early versions were not sufficient deterrents to stop macro-teaming. Rather, many players considered it an acceptable risk to see if the opponent had a Type 4 dilemma in their pile as well as to see if they would happen to draw it.

Not surprisingly, each Type 4 Second Edition dilemma released was made backwards-compatible as macro-teaming can also be an issue in the earlier game (with one exception). Two dilemmas of this type have already been converted: Fractured Time in the Homefront II expansion and Restricted Area in the Homefront I expansion. In both cases, each essentially retained its function upon conversion.

However, those represent two of the three best forms (and later versions) of this dilemma type. (The third is Bio-neural Computer Core which is not backwards-compatible).

Pinned Down is considerably different in function than its 2E predecessor, though perhaps not in intent. In 2E, this card follows the basic trend of its dilemma type but the punishment is simply a slap on the wrist. All the personnel over nine are stopped and can reattempt in smaller groups on the next turn. In Second Edition, this dilemma has been functionally replaced by the later more powerful versions and as a result converting this card in its original form would have only produced an inferior option to the superior Fractured Time and Restricted Area.

So the designers went in a different direction, one that punishes the micro-team, which is a far bigger issue in 1E. In my Referee card-despising opinion, it makes a good opening dilemma in a combo as it ensures that the player bring more than one personnel and preferably a few more. But unlike a straight-up wall, it almost dares the player to only send four.

This exists to catch those players who like to dip their big toe in the water first before diving in. They send a single personnel down to look around and do succeed in seeing the first dilemma but he fails to meet the requirements (2 personnel) and is stopped. Then they have to send down three more (four if a Q card is in play) in order to even see what the follow-up is. So the ideal follow-up is any dilemma which punishes a micro-team, such as a Friendly Fire, a Q’s Vicious Animal Things, or a Hanonian Land Eel.

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