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Design Spotlight: First Edition Deep Space 9

by Charlie Plaine, Chairman

13th November 2017

“At the request of the Bajoran provisional government, Starfleet has agreed to establish a Federation presence in this system following the withdrawal of Cardassian occupational forces.” - Benjamin Sisko, "Emissary"

As I wrote in my Federation spotlight article, the CC has spent the bulk of the last five years working to divide the Federation in 1E into different groups. For this article, we're going to focus on the [Fed] [DS9] group, first introduced with 2013's Emissary. However, this spotlight article is going to focus more on the decks built around Deep Space 9 itself; that means there will be a focus on the DS9 Federation working with the Bajorans instead of just the Feds themselves.

Deep Space 9

Programming note: It was pointed out to me that my original Federation article covered the entire Federation affiliation and not just TNG (even though it was TNG Week.) So I'll be writing an extra article to cover the TNG sub-flavor of the Federation.

At a Glance
Here's a quick look at the [DS9] Federation:

Federation (DS9) [Fed] [FED] [DS9]
Nouns* 74 Cards (2 Facilities, 60 Personnel, 12 Ships)
Missions 158
First Appearance First Anthology (1997)
Recent Appearance Through the Looking Glass (2016)
Signature Skill ENGINEER
Attack Restriction ALL (Attacking is Prohibited)
Appears In TNG, DS9, and Voyager
Doesn't Appear In ENT, TOS, and Movies

* These counts do not include [TE] , [KCA] , or [Maq] personnel.

In this article, I'll be talking about what the [DS9] Federation sub-faction brings to the game, and how they interact with the other affiliations together. To read about the specific qualities of the Federation affiliation as a whole, the Federation design spotlight article will go into detail. Similarly, Bajorans will be covered in next week's Spotlight Series.

Deep Space 9's key strength is resource management, largely driven by the titular Nor. Nors can both be quite powerful and incredibly complex, but they allow a DS9 player near on-demand access to most of their deck. If you aren't familiar, most Nors (including DS9) come with up to six different sites. Each site allows a subset of cards to report to the location; additionally, in place of the normal card play, any such card can be downloaded into play. So if you're using the Science Lab, you have access to any SCIENCE personnel or equipment when you need it. This gives a DS9 player a lot of versatility during a game, and during deck constructions.

When these cards were added to the game, in 1998, they were incredibly powerful. Downloading hadn't proliferated to absurdity yet, so Decipher attached two significant costs to the site download mechanic. First, it required you to download matching personnel and ships (meaning only Bajorans to DS9 and only Cardassians to Terok Nor). Secondly, it prevented you from drawing further cards that turn. As the game evolved, these restrictions became obsolete and overbearing and were removed, courtesy of Trust the Prophets and We Need You Here, respectively. This gave [Fed] [DS9] personnel full access to the powers of the Nor mechanics.

Aside from Nors, DS9 is probably best known for investing in the Gamma Quadrant. Gamma Quadrant [GQ] missions were traditionally a lot of trouble, since cross quadrant travel is carries high overhead in First Edition. With The First Stable Wormhole significantly reducing this overhead, and with the addition of some cards to reward solving [GQ] missions, this has become a strength of the DS9 Federation decks.

Not to cause another controversy, but Nors are at least a complicated as they are powerful; requiring players to learn all the associated rules in order to access that power is a definite weakness of the affiliation. The elevation in power of being able to download a specific class of personnel each turn doesn't outweigh the difficulty of knowing that you can't beam off of a Nor or walk between sites more than once. Assuming that you are able to internalize all of the Nor-specific rules, using a Nor still offers some advantage to your opponent as well. After all, it's not every facility that needs multiple cards to protect it.

A more subtle weakness of the DS9 Federation decks is how seed intensive they can be. This was a huge complaint just after the release of Emissary; designers had added a lot of power, but at the cost of an unreasonable number of seed cards. This is one of the reasons that Trust the Prophets has the story it does, so that the designers could justify adding in a download of another seed card (The Celestial Temple). If you're playing DS9, in particular out of the station, you just need more seed cards to get to the same place as a TNG Federation deck does. This forces the player to make trade-offs, either with less resources in the seed deck, or by using fewer dilemmas.

Finally, there are two smaller disadvantages. As is the case with almost all Federation factions, battle restrictions can be a significant disadvantage. However, the DS9 crew is better equipped to circumvent the Federation's "peaceful" ways than others. After all, Sisko can always ask Kira to take out a Bajoran ship and blow up an annoying opponent's ship. He just can't send any of his crew along. Of course, if you have Federation and Bajoran personnel working together, you'll need a treaty. And while there are quite a few ways to get this treaty out, it's still another cog in the DS9 machine.

Looking Ahead
As one of the designers of Emissary, I say with honest self-reflection that we heavily erred when dividing up [Fed] [DS9] . There were quite a few factors, but the largest was an over-correction from what we'd learned from The Next Generation-block. We left too much complexity and overhead in without offering anything even close to the simplicity/power level of Continuing Mission, even after the errata. In short, we tried to swing the pendulum towards the middle and ended up going way to the other side. We did our best to quickly "patch" things with Warp Pack: Emissary, but we still didn't quite get it right. Now that's not to say that this sub-faction is unplayable or that everything we did was bad - just that we missed our goals.

The Celestial Temple

That being said, there is a lot of ground we can cover with [Fed] [DS9] in the future. Setting aside all of the material we can pull from the Dominon War that isn't station based (which is the topic of a future article in this series), there is a lot of design space to explore for DS9. Most obviously, the Gamma Quadrant. We kind of dipped our toe into this area with the work in Emissary-block, but there's more to do. If any affiliation should be able to ignore You Are a Monument in the [GQ], it's [Fed] [DS9].

Aside from the Gamma Quadrant, it's been a wish (and a regret, in some cases) amongst the design team that we haven't done more to represent DS9 being the hub of the show. There are dozens of episodes that take place on DS9 itself that remain mostly unrepresented in First Edition. Wouldn't it be cool to have a deck where you have to run around the station solving problems? Along similar lines, where are the cards and mechanics that represent how DS9 was a hub of commerce and trade? (Cargo runs, aside, of course.)

Deep Space 9 has some of the most well-written and popular characters in all of Star Trek. While there are some true heroes and true villains, most are realistically in the middle, featuring moral complexities that reflect our own. Which DS9 character do you think is most in need of a new version? Fill out the survey below with your answer and share your reasoning, and you'll be eligible to win a set of three virtual promos!

But we'd be remiss from exploring the Dominion War in more detail, and DS9's role in that war. One cool aspect of Nors is how they can be a battleground between players trying to wrest - or keep - control. There's even a trophy you can win for this struggle. During the Dominion war, we saw the station change hands and be the site of two major battles - content that is just ripe for exploration.

The recent past and immediate future don't involve a lot of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine content, but don't take that as a rebuttal of the series and it's stories. The First Edition team is very eager to tell stories from the Dominion War and I can promise you it's only a matter of time before DS9 content is back in the spotlight. I'm sure I, or whomever succeeds me as the First Edition Brand Manager, will share specific plans with you as they are made.

Deep Space 9 was the series that revealed a little tarnish on the image of the perfect Federation presented by The Next Generation. Its characters were flawed and forced to deal with harsh situations not faced by Picard and the crew of the Enterprise. In trying to give [Fed] [DS9] their own identity, they've been a bit buried under complexity and overhead. This is a shame, as this is one of my favorite series and one that I'm eager to see take its place in the First Edition spotlight again.

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