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Voyager CCG Expansion

By Zun
Posted at June 6, 2001 - 12:04 PM GMT

The back of the starter deck box for Decipher's new Voyager set, their tenth expansion for the ancient and honoured Star Trek Customisable Card Game, reads: "Control the crew of the U.S.S. Voyager, exploring the Delta Quadrant where no one has gone before. Marshal the power of the treacherous Kazon and plunder enemy ships for their territory. Command the plague-ridden Vidiians, fighting to survive by stealing vital organs from your opponent's personnel."

Wow. That sounds like quite the adventure... Especially for a game of two-dimensional cards! But is it as much of an adventure as the box promises?

The review below assumes you have basic knowledge of the game. Which is why I'm first going to give a very, very brief summary of the goal, the rules and the cards of the game. If you have played the game before, feel free to skip to the actual review.

Decipher's Customisable Card Game - copyright Decipher Game Summary: In the Star Trek Customisable Card Game, you and your opponent take control over the military side of a major spacefaring power. Currently, the game consists of the Federation, Romulan, Klingon, Bajoran, Cardassian, Ferengi, Dominion and Borg 'affiliations'; the Voyager expansion adds the Vidiian and Kazon affiliations to this already extensive list. You will take a ship, staff it with crew members, fly it to a planet and use your crew's expertise to solve a mission.

The game begins with you and your opponent creating the 'spaceline' where you will let your ships fly. Both players lay a few 'mission' cards in a row (planets, space expanses, etc.) and these missions will later have to be solved in order to win the game. You can't just solve them like this, though; they have requirements. These requirements come in the form of 'skills', which are on every one of your Personnel cards. These skills are things like Anthropology, Law, Computer Skill, Treachery, Engineer, Medical, and whatnot. To solve a mission that requires 'ENGINEER + Astrophysics', you need to bring one Engineer and one crew member with the Astrophysics skill to that location, and the mission is solved.

You first need to put those personnel cards into play, though. They can only enter play at your 'outpost'. (There are three outposts in the Voyager set; the Nekrit Supply Depot, the Kazon Outpost and the Vidiian Outpost.) This is where you 'report' Personnel, Ship and Equipment cards. Guard your outpost well; if your opponent manages to destroy it, you can't play any more crew for the rest of the game!

There are several other cards you can put into your deck, like Incidents, Events, Interrupts, and Objectives. These are supposed to help you by giving your ships extra powers, or hampering your opponent, or allowing you to draw extra cards - or any other global or local effect. What really wins you the game, though, are the missions; and to solve the missions, you need personnel and ships.

Your personnel and ships have each three numbers associated with some qualities (or lack thereof); each of your Personnel has Integrity, Cunning and Strength, while each of your Ships has Range, Weapons, and Shields. The Strength, Weapons, and Shields are important if you want to do battle - slaughtering your opponent is a tactic the Klingons, Dominion and Kazon love to utilize.

So basically, the game comes down to this: Putting personnel and ships into play, flying them to missions, perhaps shooting a few rounds of phasers and torpedoes at opposing ships, battling the opponent's crew if you're feeling bold, and most importantly, solving missions.

I'm going to be using these terms a lot too: the cards come in three different 'rarities'; common, uncommon, and rare. Per pack of eleven cards, you get one rare card, three uncommons, and seven commons. Needless to say, you'll probably end up with more duplicates of a common card like Billy Telfer than of a rare card like Kathryn Janeway.

Even if you have read the short explanation of the game above, you will undoubtedly encounter a few unfamiliar terms - but I've tried to minimize the amount of 'gamer' talk and keep the story open for everyone. Perhaps you'll get enthusiastic, want to understand everything, and want to play it. By all means do - it is a great game if you recognize every card, if you're a Trek fan - but don't say you haven't been warned; it is an expensive hobby.

Decipher's Customisable Card Game - copyright Decipher

Review: Voyager has been designed to be a New Starting Point for newer players - an expansion that contains all the cards to get set in the STCCG universe and go. This also means the set contains a few dozen cards you've already seen before. The only difference of these cards are the picture and the 'lore,' the tiny description of what you see in the picture, added for flavour only, while some have also undergone slight rewrites. These cards, such as Captain's Log and Assign Mission Specialists, are simply useful for new players, and their presence in the Voyager set makes sure new players don't have to buy ten packs of every previous expansion as well. Which I'm interpreting as a good thing. Okay, this will mean you get a couple of cards you've already got in multiples, but the best way to avoid this is by not buying too many starter decks, since most of these reprints only appear in those.

"But is there anything new worth buying the set for? Any superb new cool mechanics? New side decks? More affiliations? A new card type? Another station?"

Nah - not really. The only thing that might be regarded as new is the presence of the Vidiians and the Kazons. Now don't get me wrong; these two affiliations are very fun and both have a very intriguing way of doing battle - the Kazon simply ram their shuttle into the opponent's ship and the Vidiians grab their Boarding Claw, hook it into the unsuspecting Voyager and simply walk through the Claw to the other ship, where they will harvest organs like there's no tomorrow. Both are very cool to actually do, especially if your opponent is playing Federation. Also, the two new affiliations on the block don't have the 'I Am So Lagging Behind'-penalty; both might lack the numbers, but the quality of the few personnel they've got is superb. You'll have trouble finding Vidiian personnel with only two skills, and they average on four. This is a huge advantage to the Federation, who have a tradition of mediocre, two-skilled personnel that they uphold in this set.

The newbies have other bonuses. The Vidiian Harvester weapon gives, apart from the normal +2 Strength bonus, Medical to all your Vidiians present (and it's cumulative) (and it can be used to harvest organs). The Kazon Disruptor (Rifle) can report without using up your play for that turn. And best of all, their Big Ships are Big indeed, laughing at the puny Voyager. The Vidiian Cruiser is Range-Weapons-Shields 9-10-10 and can download its Boarding Claw to start some harvesting, and the Kazon Warship is a whopping 8-11-12. Both, by the way, require the same staffing icons, one command and two staff, as the original Enterprise-D - ah, the joy of technological advancement!

Finally, both cultures have an 'emblem' card: The Kazon Collective and The Vidiian Sodality, which is downloadable from their outposts and is a Treaty card (with any affiliation you choose). It's also a universal 'Espionage: on Non-Aligned' card, and makes the outpost into a Headquarters for their affiliation. But you can also play these incidents on their capital ships and turn the ships into a spacefaring outpost. (If you didn't get all that, just read the card and come to the conclusion that it's simply Good.)

In short, Decipher has made every effort to 'un-newbieize' these affiliations from the start, and they certainly won't be suffering from the Bajoran Affiliation Wannabe Syndrome.

"Wait... They sound too good to be true."

OK. There are a few minor disadvantages to playing them. The Kazon, for example, have no transporters. Which makes things a bit harder indeed. You're going to have to get used to using shuttles to ferry your Away Team down. But as with any downside, it can be circumvented; just grab a common Transporter Control Module, and your ship or outpost gets transporters.

Decipher's Customisable Card Game - copyright Decipher The Vidiians have the Phage. That won't be much of a surprise to you if you have seen 'Phage,' 'Faces,' 'Deadlock' or any other Vidiian episode (coincidentally, they are all good); but the nasty disease had to be transformed into the game. And boy, it has been transformed. I'd almost say, it has been made worse for the Vidiians. The Phage is a common interrupt that can be played at the start of a battle or mission attempt, to simply kill a Vidiian. Of your choice. Whoa. Needless to say, this card is just plain broken versus the Vidiians. Then again, it's completely useless against other affiliations, so the V-guys might still live. They can circumvent this card too, by the way, by committing some Organ Theft.

"Kazons. Vidiians. Anything else? The Borg, perhaps?"

Good point - after all, Voyager takes place entirely in the Delta Quadrant and we all know TPTB's favourite Delta Quadrant villains. Where are our villains in black with the kick-ass ships? Not in the Voyager expansion. The Borg affiliation icon is nowhere to be seen, Seven of Nine is the only personnel with Borg subcommand icons (all three of them, though) and the Borg have been 'ruined' some more because they cannot assimilate the Kazon.

"My cousin is a Romulan fan...Anything for him?"

The short version is "No." The longer version is that there are a few Romulans in the set, three to be exact, from 'Eye of the Needle' and 'Message in a Bottle.' There's the two Ferengi from 'False Profits.' There's the Bajoran from 'Nothing Human.' And there's everybody's favourite Cardassian, Seska, complete with Kazon affiliation icon. But the other 54 rares are all from this set's true affiliations. The Dominion is non-existent, the Klingons are nowhere to be seen - it's all Vidiians, Kazons and Federation here.

Wait. Did I say Federation? I did indeed, saving the coolest for last, of course. 26 of Voyager's crew members are featured in this expansion, including several dead ones as the universal, standard crew. It is very good to see Lt. Cmdr. Cavit again, and yes - Stadi's here too! How insanely cool. Not. Of course, we can't expect Decipher to just put Captain Janeway in every pack, but still, we need our 47 Voriks to let him die painfully by the teeth of a Hanonian Land Eel. That's a bit difficult if the guy is rare. (Joe Carey is common, though.) But oh man, it's all made up for once you actually open a Senior Staff Crew Member. From Tuvok to the Captain herself, almost every skill in existence is spread amongst the brave bridge crew. Torres (whose lore contains Season Seven Spoilers) has a nice truckload of skills you'd expect from an engineer in the Delta Quadrant. Chakotay has been Season One-characterized as 'Deeply Spritual' and has Anthropology x2 (?!), Archaeology, Honor, Leadership (?!?!) and Cunning 8 (!!?!?!?!?!?!). Another nice detail is that Neelix is generally more useful than Harry Kim. The list goes on and on - get the entire crew on your ship and Delta Quadrant missions and dilemmas won't be more than a nuisance to you.

Another very fun thing is the large amount of double-icon personnel. All of the Maquis personnel and all of the Equinox personnel (and Neelix and Kes) have two affiliation icons, in most cases it's just an added Non-Aligned icon. This enables you to use the cool rare Voyager personnel in almost any non-Borg deck! Torres cooperating with the Vidiians? Neelix helping the Kazon? Anything's possible. What's more, these cards come in two versions; one with a standard Federation border, one with a yellow Non-Aligned border. Both are twice as rare as a standard rare, and thus together, they have an equal chance to appear in your pack. Strangely, Tom Paris, the only crewmember who actually left the ship, lacks a Non-Aligned icon...

Decipher's Customisable Card Game - copyright Decipher Finally, let's take a look at the U.S.S. Voyager herself - a shining beauty at 9-8-8 for one Staff icon less than the Vidiian and Kazon capital ships. She has two beautiful special downloads, though. (Special download: Once per game, you can at any convenient time use up the 'download' and search through your deck for the named card and put it immediately into play, for free.) Generally speaking, you get two cards for the price of one. In this case, as Voyager has two downloads, you get three! First, there's the infamous Bio-Neural Gel Pack which boosts the stats up to 10-9-9 (feel free to add more) and second, Blue Alert which allows her to land on a planet. Add in a Captain's Log while Kathryn Janeway is aboard, add the maximum number of Gel Packs (3) and you'll have a 12-14-14 monster that can obliterate the Queen's Borg Sphere in a single attack. (Hey! You don't think...) And oh, the 8-7-7 Delta Flyer can report into the shuttlebay for free. And oh, you can put a Home Away From Home incident on the ship to allow your personnel to report aboard (for free?). Etc. Etc. The possibilities are limitless.

Best laugh in the set: On the Type 9 Shuttlecraft's lore: "U.S.S. Voyager carries an unusually large complement."

So the cards are okay. They look great, their powers are great fun, and every single one of them looks like a small masterpiece. But that doesn't make a game - how does it play? How does it buy? How does it work?

The Voyager set is being sold in 40-card Starter decks and 11-card packs, containing 2 and 1 rares, respectively. The cards cost heaps (to me, the price has risen again; I don't know how it is in the States, but here in the Netherlands, the cost of a pack has risen to 1.6 the amount Premiere sold for) so you'd better expect everything to be all right within. Unfortunately, this appears not to be the case. Decipher's message boards contain quite a few horror posts from angry buyers who bought an entire box and only opened 7 rares. I myself opened a starter deck that had only 39 cards - you guessed it, one rare is missing. These cards are the cards you pay the money for, so it's only logical they are actually inside - especially since the box promises them. Now, Decipher's Customer Service says you'd need to contact them and they'll handle it all, which I am sure they will, but the irritation factor still grows.

Of course... One of my booster packs contained the ultra-rare, 1-in-121-packs The Pendari Champion, which alleviated the pain somewhat. But I haven't seen a Janeway yet. ;)

Back to the distribution process - Decipher has claimed every starter is playable. And they're right. They certainly are, and create a lot of fun. Any starter you buy appears to be containing either a truckload of Vidiians, a few ships full of Kazons, or a couple isotons of Federation people. The missions that are inside can be solved by the personnel you get. Incidents, outposts and events you get are more likely to be useful to the affiliation you opened (for example, get a Vidiian deck and I'd say there's a 90% chance The Vidiian Sodality is inside). There are enough ships to go around with, a good number of PADDs and Disruptors, and the dilemmas are not too abundant. You can actually play good games with forty random cards. Of course, the rules team had to change the rules a bit. They've dubbed it 'Warp Speed' play; you get to draw until you have 7 cards, you can play 2 cards per turn, you may seed a personnel or ship face up at your outpost... These games last only ten minutes or so (if you're playing an experienced player). Solve 2 missions, point values are irrelevant, and you win. Easy enough. Oh yeah - the fact that your cards can mix with any affiliation surely helps if you didn't get a single-affiliation deck.

Also, the Starter decks contain a Warp Speed version of the rule booklet. And like the previous ones, it explains the game thoroughly yet simple. I gave it to a friend of mine, who read it, and afterwards we started playing. Of course he made a few minor mistakes (attempting to play four Personnel cards on the first turn comes to mind) but he got the point of the game and knew to draw a card every turn, knew what Range, Cunning and a Staff icon meant.

So am I positive? Do I like this set? Is it worth buying?

Umm... Yeah. I'm going to be very careful here - the set does not have that much cool new features. But it really can draw people into the game. The revised rules are easy to learn. A great deal of the rares have a big coolness factor (unlike some nameless other standalone set (**looks at Deep Space Nine**)). And since Decipher has declared this set as a new beginning for the tournament game, abusive decks from the past aren't welcome in Voyager Constructed. And new beginning it is indeed. I'm not one to give praise easily. But I remember buying a starter deck of the very first TNG set, Premiere, six years ago. Then another, since I couldn't play a game with the first one. Then I found out the distribution of the cards really sucked, since I still only had a Romulan outpost. Opening a Voyager deck won't give you this problem.

To Voyager fans who have been wanting to play the game for a while, I say: Buy it. Grab a friend, get both of you a starter deck, and I think you'll have a good evening. Perhaps you'll even score a Seven of Nine card and cheer (or rip it apart). If you really like it, buy more and play more. If your budget allows it.

To older players, who will undoubtedly buy the set anyway, I say, despite the distribution problems: Buy it. Collect the bridge crew and take them to a Warp Speed Constructed tournament. Win some. (Or lose.) Collect every Kazon in the set, four times. If you're female, don't stop until you have 47 Tom Parises. Hope you don't get a faulty box.

To people who love Inspector Kashyk: Sorry. He isn't in.

And to people who have never really liked Voyager that much: This might not be the best game for you to buy. Much of the fun in it comes from playing with characters you love, and if you're a member of the Anti-Janeway Faction, you won't get much of a kick from opening her from a pack. Still, you could try the Deep Space Nine expansion... Or you could buy a Starter Deck II (which contains only The Next Generation cards)... But as I've said, you might have to buy more than one deck to enjoy your game.

All in all, if I really have to give it a grade, I'd say 78.47%. (Yeah, that is a somewhat random number between 7 and 8.) Better than the first five sets, worse than 'Mirror, Mirror'.

On the back of the instruction booklet, we see a nice ad: "Look for the companion set... The Borg." So that's where they are... And they will undoubtedly be rearing their heads later this year. Perhaps we'll see a new Queen Susannah?

The Voyager expansion set for the Star Trek CCG has begun to appear in various hobby, comic and gaming stores worldwide since the Voyager finale. For information on where to buy the game in your region, please check Decipher's site. For a closer look at the rules and cards of the set, to download a checklist and/or a spoiler list, and for more in-depth articles on the impact this set makes on the game, look here.

All card images are (c) 2001 Decipher, Inc. and Paramount Pictures.

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Zun moderates the General Trek Discussion forum over at the Trek BBS. He lives in the land of Tulips and Windmills, the Netherlands, where he spends his time doing lots of complicated maths problems and sitting difficult exams. When he isn't watching Star Trek or being a Math Geeks you can find him over at the J Team, worshipping the Goddess that is Kathryn Janeway.

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