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The Ultimate User

by Charlie Plaine, Director of First Edition

10th January 2020

Eighteen of Twenty

"Q set a series of events into motion, bringing contact with the Borg much sooner than it should have come. Now, perhaps when you're ready, it might be possible to establish a relationship with them. But for now, for right now, you're just raw material to them. Since they are aware of your existence..."
"They will be coming."
"You can bet on it."
- Guinan and Picard from "Q Who?"

They are coming, and there is nothing The Continuing Committee can do but pass them on to you. Today, we're announcing Q Who?, a new virtual expansion introducing [TNG] Borg to our beloved First Edition! Featuring sixteen (16) new cards (and two reprints), Q Who? will be releasing one week from today on Friday, January 17th, 2020. Over the course of the next week, we'll be spoiling most of the cards from this expansion on this website, plus more on our social media channels. But before we let the unstoppable menace that is [TNG] Borg run rampant, it's only fitting that I introduce the volunteers that have worked on bringing them to you.

Meet the Team
First of all, I need to thank all of the volunteers that aren't designers who've worked incredibly hard to bring you Q Who?. Over the past year, we've had dozens of play testers, rules champions, story-driven experts, artists, and proofreaders working on these cards to make them the best they can be. While the design team gets much of the credit, their work doesn't mean anything without the people that bring it to life. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for all that you've done and that you'll continue to do.

With that said, let me introduce you to the four (4) designers that poured their hearts into this expansion: Paddy Tye [KazonPADD] and Niall Matthew [sexecutioner] were co-leads on this project, stepping up after previous lead Dan Hamman [SirDan] had to step down. Dan still contributed quite a bit to the expansion. Charlie Plaine [MidnightLich], yours truly, also contributed to the design but I mostly helped train Paddy and Niall as new leads. We'll talk more about this team when we get to our next expansion, later this year.

Why [TNG] Borg?
Q Who? was born from (and split off out of) the next large expansion, The Neutral Zone. But why would we even consider putting [TNG] [Bor] cards in an expansion as part of the [OS] block? I'll let Paddy explain that in his own words:

Back when myself, Niall and Dan were wrapping up work on Broken Bow, our thoughts turned to what we would work on next. The next block would be Original Series – and we discussed the idea of doing the Romulans. From a Creative team perspective, I knew there were only limited personnel available, so we knew there would be some space in that set and another faction that both Niall and Dan wanted to work on was TNG Borg. The synergies seemed to work quite well. Both the Romulans and the Borg had both been introduced in their respective shows as a menacing force, going around blowing up outposts in the Neutral Zone. As such, the theme of “Make The Neutral Zone Great Again” became a core part of Project G’Kar.

From that point of view, it makes perfect sense. The name of the next set is apt, as it's not just about [OS] [Rom], but about the Neutral Zone itself. After all, we first heard of a mysterious force "scooping up" outposts in the TNG episode "The Neutral Zone." But Borg were, and still remain, a huge obstacle for many players. They don't follow the same rules, they don't use the same mechanics, and you don't build Borg decks in the same way you build non-Borg decks. They would need a hook. Fortunately, that was something else Paddy and his team had thought about:

In designing TNG Borg we had wanted a simpler approach to playing them which would fit with Continuing Mission – much more of a focus on play and draw, and less of a focus on downloading and assimilating. We based much of their new mechanics on a line of Q’s from "Q Who?": "The Borg is the ultimate user. They're unlike any threat your Federation has ever faced. They're not interested in political conquest, wealth or power as you know it. They're simply interested in your ship, its technology. They've identified it as something they can consume."

It seemed like a good fit, and when they pitched the plan to me (as acting Brand Manager at the time), I signed off on the concept. We all knew it would be a lot of work, but felt that we needed to do something to help people understand the Borg in First Edition. Once we hit on the concept of "Beginner Borg," we all felt like this was really something we could deliver upon.

The Ultimate User

Why Beginner Borg?
First, let me talk to our veteran Borg players, and I'll be as honest and open as I can: if you're a traditional Borg player, you probably won't find too much to excite you with Q Who?. If you've been playing Borg since First Contact, these cards won't feel very Borg to you. There are still some new drones and tips and tricks you can use in your decks, but most of these cards require you to be playing [TNG] to gain the benefits, and thus won't work in a traditional Borg deck. If you're used to probing and downloading and keeping bad probes out of your deck, these cards won't feel Borg to you.

I understand if this decision is upsetting, and I'm sorry. Believe it or not, I get it. We haven't really made a lot of Borg content, and finding out there's an entire Borg-related set but most of it isn't targeted to you can't be a great feeling. But I hope you'll eventually come around to see the bright side: these cards are a pathway to getting more people to play and understand Borg. That's all upside for all Borg players, because it will only lead to more cards in the future. And we are planning more cards in the future, for all Borg players. We just chose this opportunity to focus on new Borg players.

Because the reality is that Borg are insanely complex. Over the years and years of playing in tournaments, at big events like GenCon, I've lost track of the number of people who've told me they have never played Borg. These players wouldn't ever play Borg, and these player's eyes glaze over when their opponents play Borg. Veteran Borg players and veteran rules experts don't see the complexity involved with Borg, because it's been internalized. But for those of us that haven't done that - and I count myself among them - understanding Borg is a massive, overwhelming undertaking.

So the idea of combining [TNG] with Borg into a new, beginner-friendly deck, was very alluring. Continuing Mission and the entire launching point for the [TNG] mechanics was to allow for simple decks that were versatile, playable, and competitive. Borg seemingly were at the opposite end of the spectrum, but finding a way to introduce Borg in a familiar way seemed like a great and worthy goal.

And if you're heartbroken that we've "burned" [TNG] Borg on a beginner deck, then hopefully this next statement will give you some comfort. We've only drawn material from Q Who? here, which leaves more appearances from the Borg on The Next Generation for future designers to draw upon. New [TNG] [Bor] cards in the future will work with these decks now, and whatever other decks the future brings. And as I said before, there will be more Borg. After all, resistance is futile. In the end, perhaps we'll all realize that having a beginner-friendly [TNG] [Bor] expansion before a more advanced one is truly the best of both worlds.

Consume: Technology

How are [TNG] Borg Different?
When we started working on [TNG] Borg, we made a list of all of the mechanics that a new Borg player would need to learn. Here's just a taste:

There are countless other rules, some small and some large, that go into understanding how to play Borg. The Q Who? design team started with which elements were core to the Borg: not attempting missions. Changing that would be an unforgivable sin, and not something that was ever considered. But we all felt that if we didn't do something to reduce the overhead, then this project would fail. Our goal was to find a middle ground between how you play/build standard [TNG] decks, and how you play/build Borg decks. That's a huge gap, so any stepping stone at all would be helpful.

The primary decision we made was to eliminate probing from [TNG] Borg. You'll find three new objectives in Q Who?, all some variation on the Consume title. For example, take a look at Consume: Technology. It has a lot of the same language that most Borg objectives have, about targeting missions and scouting being complete, but there's no probing requirement. If you complete scouting (i.e. clearing all the dilemmas) and you're playing [TNG] Borg, you complete the objective. That will give you 35 points, and give all of your [TNG] [Nav] drones all of the targeted mission's skills (except things like Section 31). Pretty cool, right?

The nice thing about eliminating probing from [TNG] [Bor] decks is that it also eliminates all of the extra deck building complexities of a standard Borg deck. You can build a [TNG] [Bor] deck much like you'd build a [TNG] [Fed] or [TNG] [Fer] deck, including using staple cards like Let's See What's Out There or Quinn. You don't have to worry about bad probes, so you're free to stick to familiar deck building concepts and focus on learning how scouting works. That's a huge middle ground for newer players, and once they learn how Borg function at a fundamental level, they can work on learning how to build a probe-oriented Borg deck.

Eleven of Fourteen

The other major change came during the long testing period: no downloading drones. That restriction is right on the new [WC] card, The Ultimate User. Downloading represents the more versatile, adaptable collective from later in TNG and Voyager. It didn't feel very inevitable and singular minded as the Borg were in "Q Who?". And while it's a flavor win, that isn't why downloading was disabled. With the ability do download drones, [TNG] [Bor] decks were very, very good. (Remember, [TNG] was meant to be simple and efficient - so it's not a surprise). Not allow drones to be downloaded let these Borg stand apart a little more, and let players focus less on how many download tricks they could use and more on learning the Borg mechanics.

How Do I Get Started?
The Monday after release, there will be an article - complete with a decklist - from co-lead designer Paddy Tye explaining his take on a beginner friendly [TNG] [Bor] deck. But if you're curious how to get started theory crafting now, I'll share with you my experience. But first, let me explain to you my background with Borg so you can understand my point of view. I'm a complete Borg novice, having only played them once in my entire career. I've written at length about how much I dislike the Borg. When opponent's at tournaments play Borg, I largely shut down - I know I'm going to lose and I just go through motions. I'm 100% the target audience for [TNG] Borg as created in Q Who?.

I started out by looking at what I know, and that's how to build a Continuing Mission (CM) deck. I'm going to seed CM, download The Ultimate User into play, and play personnel. However, I need a place to play them. I could use a Borg Outpost, but a more thematic option is available in They Will Be Coming. I decide to use that, and pick which ship to use. You're getting a new ship in Q Who? by the way, which is what I went with, but you also have Locutus' Borg Cube available. (You'll see the new ship on Monday.)

I normally look at missions next, so I look for six (6) that I like. Consume: Technology requires space missions that require Computer Skill (representing the technology to consume), so I look for those first. After knocking out the stealable missions, there are fifty-eight (58) options. I find some with skills that I might want to give my Borg, and put them in. I make one exception though: Examine Distant Sector. Aside from the flavor win of using System J-25, there's another benefit to including it which you'll see next week (complete with an article from Niall Matthew).

Examine Distant Sector

Once my space missions are locked in, I do the same with planets (though you'll need to check out social media or wait until next week to see the planet objective.) I will tell you that you want to avoid homeworlds, to help out your theory crafting. There aren't any other requirements, though, so find skills you want to share. And, of course, I need to include a few copies of my objectives to make sure I can scout missions. The Ultimate User lets me switch objectives, so I don't need A Change of Plans, but I can include one if I want more versatility.

Then I look for personnel, thinking about the dilemmas I'm likely to see - and which ones I can ignore. There are a few existing [TNG] personnel, including Locutus, so I include copies of those guys. Which is nice, because some of them are references on new personnel, like Eighteen of Twenty. This new drone partners up with Six of Thirteen, giving the earlier drone an extra skill. And don't fret that we've taken away all downloading from [TNG] [Bor] - they still have familiar tricks. As long as the new Eleven of Fourteen is standing with a [TNG] [Com] drone, they can convert a draw into either A Willing Companion* or Lower Decks.

*Click here to read the footnoote.

At this point, I heard an imaginary voice in my head from the future - perhaps one of yours? "Whoa, whoa, woah, woah. Woah! Hold the phone. A Willing Companion? Counterparts weren't a thing until 'The Best of Both Worlds.' And the only [TNG] Counterpart is Locutus of Borg. Why would I ever want A Willing Companion? Do you guys even lift, bro?"

Well, my angry imaginary voice, you're right. We bent the rules a teeny-tiny bit to make these guys play better and be more fun. But Locutus won't be the only [TNG] Counterpart for long - both Gowron of Borg and Tomalak of Borg are going to be changing from the ST:CCG property logo to the ST:TNG property logo. We announced the end of the ST:CCG property logo way back in 2015 when we changed Captain B'Etor to the ST:DS9 property logo so she'd work with Reshape the Quadrant. For the same reasons, we're changing these two counterparts to the ST:TNG property logo. So you'll have this to look forward to when our next errata update happens on February 3rd, 2020.

Speaking of card draws, I'm going to be getting three (3) a turn most turns: my normal card draw, one from Continuing Mission, and one from The Ultimate User's scouting trigger. But just for some extra versatility, I add in a few copies of Let's See What's Out There. While I'm at it, and since I don't care about losing points, I'll put in some copies of Quinn. Finally, I put in a few copies of Adapt: Negate Obstruction to deal with the dilemmas I can't usually deal with.

In short, I know how to build a [TNG] deck, so I mostly follow that model to build my very first Borg deck. And that's exactly what I did when I was testing these guys out. The verdict: I still don't really enjoy Borg, but this is as close as I've ever come to getting them. I have a better sense of how to play them and, more importantly, how to play against them. Q Who? helped me, a Borg newbie and hater, bridge the gap. I'd call that objective complete.

They Will Be Coming
Q Who? is filled to the brim with fun and excitement, and the potential to open up a whole new auidance to the glory of the Borg. These aren't your traditional Borg cards, but they will spread the gospel of the Collective further and wider than ever before. You'll get to see at least one new card every day between today and Friday, January 17th, when the expansion is release. There will be articles, deck lists, and more.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more spoilers ahead of the expansion's release. And don't forget to visit the Gameplay (1E) forum where the design team will be answering questions as you have them. All of this will be building up to the official release of Q Who? next Friday, January 17th. [TNG] Borg will then be legal one week later on Friday, January 24th.


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