RR #34: First Thoughts on First Contact | openCards

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RR #34: First Thoughts on First Contact

    This Strategy-Note article was written by Kathy McCracken (aka Major Rakal) and was published first on "Major Rakals Tal Shiar Headquarters (members.cox.net/majorrakal)" at Nov 3rd, 1997.

    This article is part of the article serie "Romulan Review" from "Major Rakal (Kathy Mc Kracken)". Also see:

    Aefvadh! With the release of the First Contact Rules Supplement and two of the card images, everyone's attention, focused for weeks on the Fajo Collection, has suddenly turned to First Contact. And well it might, for even a cursory examination of the rules supplement verifies the tag to its opening paragraph...THIS CHANGES EVERTHING. Although it's impossible to predict, before seeing the cards themselves, all the implications of the sweeping rules changes, new card types, and other new features that will come with this set, I have decided to make this review the first in a series examining those implications. This time out, I'll just give an overview of my...


    Breathtaking. Mind-boggling. Wow... Oh, you want me to get a little more specific? OK, here goes.

    Unlimited Deck Size

    Who hasn't wanted this? If you want to use a Cryo or a lot of doorways, and still have room for enough dilemmas to put a damper on your opponent's mission-solving abilities, you've probably been using every one of your 30 seed card slots already, leaving a bare 30 for your draw deck. And let me tell you, that's *cramped.* By the time you include a minimal crew to cover your missions and dilemmas (13-14), a ship or two, 3-4 Q's Tents, a couple of Kivases, a minimum of the omnipotent trio of counters (you know you're going to need them!), and a few Palors, there is just no room for something to enhance a theme, an equipment card, an Interrogation, a Thine Own Self... all the nifty cards that you look at time and again when deck-building and say, "I think I'll put one of these in", and then find there's no room once again.

    No more! Now you can use those 30 seed slots, and still put everything you want in your draw deck. Want to build a deck that lets you have everything to solve your missions, but also add a theme of "don't let your opponent reuse cards"? You now have room for a few Fire Sculptors, Devidian Foragers, and Countermandas, without sacrificing your missions. Want to build a capture deck? In addition to a few Cardie Traps among your dilemmas, throw in Madred (maybe in your Tent) and some Thine Own Selfs, Interrogations, and Brainwashes. Tired of losing your Empaths to Yuta, just before a Thought Fire or Cardie Trap? You have space for a bunch of Wolf interrupts!

    Just watch out that you don't try to do *everything* in one deck. Before you know it, your draw deck will be so huge that you won't be able to draw the cards you need when you need them. If you need 3 or 4 Q's Tents in a 30-card draw deck now to make sure you get one early, you'll probably need 6 or 7 in a 60-card draw deck. The new "downloading" promises to make obtaining some cards on demand easier, but at what cost? We don't know yet, and it certainly won't apply to everything.

    No Duplication of Unique Missions

    If this rule had been in effect for the World Championships, one very interesting match I played against Chris "Morgan Bateson" Swearingen would have been very different, though no less interesting. Our mission decks were identical--all 6. We would have ended up with only 6 unique missions between us to actually attempt, plus between 6-12 non- attemptable universal missions. This rule will strongly encourage use of the more obscure missions, which will translate to lower point, mostly single affiliation, missions. No longer will you have two Pegasus Searches, two Hunt for DNA Programs, or two Wormhole Negotiations to choose from; you'll have only one. Who will get to it first? If it's the whole basis of your strategy, you may be in trouble.

    Seeding and Reuse of Artifacts

    Finally, the long-time tournament rule restricting artifacts to one per player per mission has been made the standard for all play. This is good. Solving an easy outpost planet mission for 3 artifacts is definitely abusive; what chance do I have after you acquire a Horga'hn, Betazoid Gift Box, and a Kurlan Naiskos? Not much. Artifacts are supposed to be "rare objects", according to the original rulebook, with "immense powers". Doesn't sound like something you'd expect to find three of on one planet, does it? Note especially that if you illegally seed more than one at a location, *all* of them are considered misseeds and must be placed out-of-play. You don't get to keep even one.

    Another new ruling states that a discarded or nullified artifact cannot be brought back into play unless it is reseeded (Q's Planet) and re- earned. This presumably will replace the current tournament ruling that "discarded after use" artifacts such as the Gift Box are placed out-of- play. The reason for that ruling was largely to prevent endless reuse of the Gift Box through repeated Palor-ing. But it didn't go far enough, because it allowed a nullified artifact, such as the powerful Horga'hn or Ressikan Flute, to be Palor-ed and immediately replayed. The new ruling neatly takes care of both problems at once, essentially allowing you to retrieve *one* artifact *once*, if you have Q's Planet and can solve it before your opponent does. A good curb on the unbalancing power of artifacts.

    Unused Seed Cards

    Seed cards unused at the end of the seed phase have always been intended to go out-of-play (not to the discard pile), to prevent retrieval of unearned artifacts or a pool of nasty dilemmas to place under Q's Planet. Unfortunately, that was never written down anywhere official, and had to be extrapolated from the rule that misseeds go out-of-play. Now it's official.

    Seeding Outposts

    Well, I guess I have to revise my review on outposts. Just when we got it all settled how many you *can* seed and *must* stock, they've changed the rules on us.  :-)  But it's a heck of a lot simpler now. Anyone can seed one Neutral Outpost, in addition to one affiliated outpost for each affiliation you're playing. Or you can seed (or include in your deck) fewer, or none at all. Whatever suits you. Simple and fair.

    Winning the Game

    No more premature deck draw-out wins! If you've ever been blind-sided by an opponent grabbing a quick mission and then drawing out his deck before you could score more than a few points, you'll appreciate this one. There is no longer any advantage to a quick draw-out, because the game won't end till your opponent also draws out. With unlimited deck size, that could be a while. Meanwhile, you'll have to play with the cards you have. Of course, the unlimited (and variable) deck size made this necessary.


    Sounds intriguing. I'll reserve further comment until we see just what can be downloaded, and how that can be triggered.

    Battle Enhancements

    Well, folks, anyone who knows the Major at all knows that she's pretty lukewarm on battle. Other than noting that the new personnel battles sound a lot more interesting (if you like battle) and a lot more dangerous (you can lose considerably more than one personnel), and that it's nice to see the rules for attacking, leaders, and retaliation clarified and simplified, I'm really not the one to review battle rules. Maybe if they provide more capturing mechanisms tied to battle (in the battle expansion), it'll pique my interest.

    New Bridge Crew and Persona Replacement

    Considering how often the Major plays Feds (what, never?...well, hardly ever), this is another "ho-hum" for me. Persona replacement is likely to be fairly useless for the Romulans, too, unless they come up with a few green personas, which seems fairly unlikely--there aren't enough Rommies as it is, and most were seen only once; where will they get personas from?

    Regions of Space

    Again, the implications are unclear. I'll pass until we see how the concept is used.

    Hidden Agendas

    This sounds like something with definite possibilities for the Romulans. Who better to have a hidden agenda? But we still don't know what they might be.

    Countdown Icons

    I think I'll hire a bookkeeper to keep track of when to move the Borg Ship dilemma and The Sheliak, when to flip Aldea, what the RANGE is now on my Birth of Junior-ed ship, how far along the Anti-Time Anomalies and  Temporal Rifts are, what K'chiQ's skill is this turn, how close my ships are to being repaired, and now, when the countdown icons should be turned...

    Objective Cards and Probing

    This is apparently the main method the Borg have for scoring points. But we are promised some that are usable by other affiliations. Again, I'll have to reserve judgment until we see them. The probing mechanism introduces some randomness into certain card effects, and if the real objectives are anything like the hypothetical example, you may be encouraged to include certain card types in your deck just for the icons.

    Timeline Disruption

    This appears to be a major Feddie hoser. However, Romulans and Klingons can get hurt, too, because we rely so much on non-aligned personnel, several of whom are human (Galen could really hurt), and Sela, one of the better Romulans, is half human. Fortunately, Major Rakal is protected by her AU icon.

    Captain's Log

    This card now relies on "matching commanders", which can be from personnel lore OR ship's lore. At this point, this has no effect on the Romulans, as their capital ships are all CL-eligible under the old rule anyway. But it will enable a few new combos for the Klingons, and will make the Fed fans *very* happy--not to mention Q, who will no longer have to answer the question, "Why doesn't Jean-Luc Picard get CL for the Enterprise?".

    The Borg

    Clearly this topic deserves an article or two or three all to itself. At this point, I'll just say that it appears that Decipher has done a bang- up job of working out how this new affiliation is going to work. Their single-mindedness has become a requirement for an "objective" (only one at a time allowed); they don't do missions, just as we would expect, but they still have to face dilemmas via "scouting" (this is crucial; if all your dilemmas were useless when confronted with a Borg opponent, it would be a gamebreaker), and while some dilemmas will apparently be ignored by the Borg (Matriarchal Society, Love Interests), it would appear that others may be pretty nasty to an affiliation required to start scouting with a redshirt (Alien Parasites). There are apparently quite a number of drones with different skills, alleviating some concerns that the Borg might be pretty boring, with only 3 or 4 generic drones. They have some super-powerful ships (8-24-24 sounds pretty intimidating; I think I'll stock up on Plasmadyne Relays, Nutational and Metaphasic Shields, and Bynars, thank you) with the negatives of a 7-personnel staffing requirement, a 45-point bounty, and the necessity to have an objective in play that will allow them to attack. I would have to say that it sounds like they have worked very hard at making the Borg powerful, scary, but balanced.

    The Major's Combos:

    • First Contact + any affiliation. There's something here for everyone, whether you want to play Borg or not. I think we're going to find it was well worth the wait.