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The Neutral Zone

by Charlie Plaine, Director of First Edition

20th March 2020

The Neutral Zone

"What purpose will it serve to die?"
"We are creatures of duty, Captain. I have lived my life by it. Just one more duty to perform.

- Captain Kirk and Keras, "Balance of Terror"

At long last, on behalf of The Continuing Committee, I am thrilled to announce The Neutral Zone, a new virtual expansion for First Edition. This is the second expansion of the Original Series block and contains fifty-four (54) new virtual cards. And while a large focus of this expansion is the [OS] Romulans, it focuses as much on the Neutral Zone itself as it does the foes across it. The expansion will be releasing two (2) weeks from today, on Friday, April 3rd - until then, you'll be treated to daily spoilers here on trekcc.org, as well as additional spoilers on our social media. I've got a lot to share with you about this expansion, but before that, I'd like to introduce all of the volunteers that have worked on The Neutral Zone.

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 The Neutral Zone. Over the year or so, scores of testers, rules experts, story-driven experts, artists, and proofreaders working on these cards to make them the best they can be. While the design team gets so much of the public spotlight, 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 argued, tested, and debated their hearts out to bring you The Neutral Zone:

Paddy Tye [KazonPADD], Co-Lead Designer
Designer Profile: Paddy Tye
While his "day job" here is as the First Edition Creative Manager, Paddy has proven himself to be a skilled designer as well. After the project had been started, and we needed someone new to step up and lead this expansion, Paddy was more than willing and able to step up to the plate. His work on Broken Bow, Star Trek 50, and Coming of Age stands tall today, and I'm happy to see The Neutral Zone make a splash.

Investigate Decaying Radiation

Niall Matthew [sexecutioner], Co-Lead Designer
Designer Profile: Niall Matthew
As the Jay to Paddy's Silent Bob, Niall has been the faithful team mate of Paddy on every expansion he's worked on. He was thrilled to have the chance to learn about leading expansions along with Paddy. Most of Niall's focus was on the cards that would become Q Who, but he did plenty to aid in the Romulan and Neutral Zone designs. Also, please join me in congratulating Niall on his recent engagement - it's official, because he put it on Facebook!

Dan Hamman [SirDan], Assistant Designer
Designer Profile: Dan Hamman
Though Dan started out leading this project, he needed to step back into a smaller role partway through. Fortunately, Paddy and Niall were able to pick up the ball and run with it. And though he didn't end up leading most of this project, Dan's influence is all over the cards in The Neutral Zone. As this was his sixteenth (16) project, Dan's experience was proven invaluable during design and development.

Charlie Plaine [MidnightLich], Design Advisor
Designer Profile: Charlie Plaine
My primary role on The Neutral Zone was to be an adviser to Paddy and Niall, as it was their first time leading an expansion. They did almost all of the heavy lifting in terms of managing the project, which left me free to do more design work, although I mostly worked to augment the ideas of others rather than push my own.

The Zone Itself
As you might imagine, the original mandate for this expansion was to focus on the Original Series Romulans. But it turns out Dan, Paddy, and Niall had hatched a sneaky plan. While they were working on Broken Bow, they figured out they would be reunited for this project and decided to do some pre-work. They decided that they had room to do more than just [OS] [Rom] cards, and could do other Neutral Zone adjacent things. Of course, this is where the idea for [TNG] [Bor] were born, though they would eventually be split off into their own expansion.

The design team wanted to see if they could make the Neutral Zone, the physical region in the game, matter. To help accomplish that goal, one of the first cards they designed was called "The Neutral Zone" and was designed to encourage playing with those missions. Here's the final version of the card:

[Inc] The Neutral Zone
Seeds on table if you seeded at least 5 different Neutral Zone missions and no homeworld. All ships are RANGE +2 in Neutral Zone. Once per game, you may download {4653} OR {4707}. End of every player's turn, that player may draw an extra card if their staffed, exposed, non- [Fed] ship is at a Neutral Zone mission.

First, notice the requirement: you have to be invested in Neutral Zone missions to use this. Originally, the card required using all six (6) NZ missions, but that proved to eliminate too many options for players and it was dialed back to five (5). And note that it requires five (5) [b]different[/b] NZ missions, so you can't use just copies of Patrol Neutral Zone. Homeworlds were always disallowed, because there's no need to give Romulan decks using Romulus and more love, and having a homeworld made the card lose that "way out there" feel. If this card is on the table, all ships get a RANGE +2 bonus while crossing the zone. Not only will this help the seeding player move about, but it makes the opponent have a bit of an easier time crossing the zone. Do note that this isn't cumulative, so if you both seed it, all ships still only get a +2 RANGE boost. The downloads of Test for Weakness, a Romulan-themed card you'll see Monday, and Consume: Outpost help to enable Zone-based decks. The last line, the draw for non-[Fed] ships, was added last. This helps any player using the Zone in their decks get a little bit of help, which will be especially attractive for [OS] [Rom] decks, [TNG] [Bor] decks, and anyone else that gets creative in their mission selection.

Creatures of Duty

Since we would be focusing on, and playing around with, the Neutral Zone Region, it only seemed prudent to add some new Neutral Zone missions. You'll find three (3), brand new missions for the Zone here: two (2) space missions, and one (1) planet - Investigate Decaying Radiation. With requirements of just four (4) skills - SCIENCE + Exobiology + Astrophysics + Youth - this is a great mission for 35 points, and a really good use for all of those Federation Youth mission specialists. It also happens to be a 23rd century mission, so it works with any related tricks like To Boldly Go. You'll see one of the space missions tomorrow, but you'll have to wait for release day to see the other - unless you follow us on social media!

But even with an expanded focus on the Neutral Zone itself, this expansion still needed to deliver on new [OS] flavored Romulans. After all, before The Neutral Zone, there were only ten (10) such cards in the game, including the white-border preview of Centurion Kirk. And yes, I'm happy to tell you that he gets his black border version, in both Romulan green and Federation blue, in this expansion.

Of course, to be playable, [Rom] [OS] decks need more cards. And you'll be getting more cards, including a new ship and ten (10) new personnel - not including Centurion Kirk. If you've been following us on Facebook, you've already seed one famous face among them. All of the others will be new background characters, including Ptol, bringing five skills and a useful equipment download to this faction. And while many of these new characters are universal, giving plenty of personnel to work with, there's another problem - they're all male. In fact, we only saw a single [Rom] [OS] female in the show, and she was printed in Mirror, Mirror. Gender is an important characteristic in First Edition, and a faction without a good balance of males and females would be starting with a big disadvantage.

And while it's true that you can supplement [OS] [Rom] decks with [OS] [NA] females, including some new options in The Neutral Zone, we wanted to solve the problem natively. We know there are lots of different kinds of players out there, and many of you are "affiliation purists" and wouldn't want to add [NA] cards to solve this problem. The design team explored a lot of options for adding females to the available pool, including stealing the trick the [22] [Rom] cards used by expanding the pool of personnel that could be legally used. Instead, we found a way to lean into the gender disparity in a very thematic way - Creatures of Duty. This event lets your male [Rom] [OS] OFFICER personnel meet dilemma requirements as if they were CIVILIAN, V.I.P., or female - all things the faction doesn't carry in abundance. There's a cost to it, i.e. they're stopped after doing us, but it's a cool and fun way to shore up the gaps in their personnel pool. And this card is the release promo for The Neutral Zone, giving you an alternate image and shiny option for your decks.


Androids, Dilemmas, and More
While a nice chunk of the cards in The Neutral Zone are dedicated to the Zone and the [Rom] [OS] themes, there is plenty more content for everyone else to enjoy. We've got a new "trope" style card that provides deck building guidance - The Squire's Rules - but you'll have to wait until Wednesday to see it. I'll just say this: it's a lot of fun, it will be very popular with people who do demos of the game, and it has to do with dilemmas. And speaking of dilemmas, you've got a full page of nine (9) new dilemmas to enjoy, almost all of which will work well with The Squire's Rules.

There's a whole cycle of androids for players to wrap their heads around. Though many of these androids were developed as part of The Cage, they were cut from that expansion and ultimately reworked for The Neutral Zone. You'll be able to use new androids like Kirk-Android in decks focused around the Original Series, or in all-property logo android decks. But you'll ready more about these options over the next two weeks of spoilers.

And finally, there are some very cool off-theme cards. I know both Paddy, Niall, and Dan pride themselves on creating individual cards for a variety of decks, and they did the same here in The Neutral Zone. There are [Dom] cards, [TE] [SF] cards, and cards for [DS9] decks big and small, all offering exciting new tools to decks outside the 23rd century. But 23rd century fans get tons to love too, as many of the Romulans name planets so they can be used with Preserver Obelisk. There's a lot to love in The Neutral Zone, and we're thrilled to share it with you.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more spoilers ahead of the expansion's release, as well as getting them on this website over the next two weeks. 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 The Neutral Zone on Friday, April 3rd. And you'll be able to play with these new toys in all formats where virtual cards are legal one week later, on Friday, April 10th.

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