Saturday, December 10, 2011

"Alternate Universe:" One Great Card Does Not Make For A Good CCG Release!

The Good: Some interesting images, Supplements the first set well, Very cool Ultra Rare
The Bad: Boxes-with rules addendum-are very hard to find, Finding players is a pain, No collector's icon
The Basics: Despite having a very cool ultra rare card that was very hard to find, this is a player-oriented card release and offers less for collectors and card investors.

Every new idea comes with a learning curve, a period of adjustment where the market experiences in something and sees if it takes. With the Star Trek (still at that time referred to as the Star Trek: The Next Generation) CCG was released with its white border premiere set (reviewed here!), players and collectors began to understand it and warm to it and play it and struggle through collecting it (initially the cards were hard to find, prompting many, many reprints which made that first set virtually worthless).

Decipher, the manufacturer of the Star Trek: The Next Generation Customizable Card Game cards, learned quickly, though and with the release of the first expansion set, they were cagey and let it be known almost immediately that there would only be one release of "Alternate Universe" cards. There would be one, black border limited edition set and that renewed interest for the collectors who had been bothered by the reprints of the first set. Decipher also made it known that there would be an Ultra rare card, a card that showed up - at best - once per six-box case.

In doing that, they created a monster. A small monster, to be sure, but a monster nonetheless. Decipher made a set that became somewhat dumped as collectors and players searched for the Ultra rare with little regard for the rest of the set.

Basics/Set Composition

The Star Trek: The Next Generation Customizable Card Game "Alternate Universe" was the first expansion set of cards created by Decipher to continue the Customizable Card Game. Players saw the game as a strategy game that is like a Role-playing game with cards. The players got to use characters, vessels, and scenarios are all already conceived by others. The original concept was to find a way to make play socially acceptable for an older audience and it generally worked. Collectors saw this as another thing to collect to show their love of Star Trek and while the cards have very different images from the trading card releases, many collectors were turned off by how small the images were and how much space on each card was given to game-related text.

"Alternate Universe" is a 122 card set focusing on characters, ships, alien races and scenarios presented in Star Trek: The Next Generation, specifically the mind-bending, reality altering scenarios, most notably from "Where No One Has Gone Before" (reviewed here!), "Yesterday's Enterprise" (reviewed here!), and "Time's Arrow" (reviewed here!). Released following the finale of the series, this card set utilizes material from all seven seasons of the show presenting a well-rounded concept of the Star Trek: The Next Generation universe. The set consists of 40 common cards, 40 uncommon cards, 41 rare cards, and 1 ultra rare card with the most popular characters and scenarios being given rare status and the background supernumeraries filling out the more common cards.

The 122 card set features 7 Artifacts (cards featuring unique devices from Star Trek: The Next Generation), 24 Dilemmas (cards featuring challenges the crews faced), 2 Doorways (cards illustrating openings in time and space, allowing Alternate Universe cards to be played), 2 Equipment (cards featuring generic, mass produced devices in the Star Trek universe, like an I.P. Scanner), 16 Events (cards featuring long-standing challenges or concepts in the overall Star Trek universe, many of which alter gameplay - like cards that allow shuttles to be deployed), 1 Facilities (cards that illustrate originating locations of major races, or in this case Non-Aligned races), 29 Interrupts (cards featuring phenomenon that quickly turned plot events on Star Trek: The Next Generation, like the appearance of a the launching of an anti-matter spread or the appearance of Vorgon raiders), 10 Missions (cards featuring basic plots of episodes, these are used to create the "board" for the game), 23 Personnel (9 Federation, 3 Klingon, 7 Non-Aligned and 4 Romulan characters from Star Trek: The Next Generation), and 8 Ship cards (2 Federation, 2 Klingon, 3 Non-Aligned, and 1 Romulan). This set expands the power of the non-aligned races and increases the variables in the game by providing a number of scenarios that alter the reality of the normal timeline (and thus, normal game play as well).


At its most basic level, this is a board game where one constructs the board and pieces out of a selection of cards. The starting purpose of the game is to get 100 points, points most often are derived from completing missions by thwarting dilemmas using the unique attributes of your ship and crew. The "Alternate Universe" set continues the game with the nine types of cards introduced in "Premiere" (check out the review of that for basic game playability at the link above). The basic idea is to assemble a sixty card deck (for beginners), lay out the board (spaceline) and play against an opponent.

"Alternate Universe" adds a new card type, Doorways, which in this case simply play on the table to allow cards that have alternate universe icons (a red energy ribbon) to be played in normal play. This does not radically alter the game, nor does it make it any easier or harder to play the game.

This is a very complex customizable card game, but it represents a level of gaming sophistication designed to appeal to younger adults and actually challenge them, which is a decent idea given the thematic complexity of the Star Trek universe. The problem, of course, is that most people who would be most stimulated by this game do not have the time or effort/interest to learn to play it. As a result, the mid-teens that basically run the CCG players world seem to have had mixed impressions about this game.

Anyone who has played the initial game will have no problem incorporating the new cards into their deck. Playability is not significantly changed in this expansion.

Rules/Rule Changes

The rule supplement that comes in the box explains how to use doorways. The two doorway cards in "Alternate Universe" are the common "Alternate Universe Door" and the rare "Devidian Door" cards. Each of these cards allows specific actions to be taken which allow personnel and scenarios bearing the Alternate Universe logo on them to be played. Outside that, there are no rule changes to note.

This set contains dual affiliation characters who may be played as either Romulan or Federation personnel and, as established in the Premiere rulebook, only one persona of a unique persona may be in play at a time.


Players, collectors and fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation will appreciate the image quality of the characters and scenarios from Star Trek: The Next Generation. "Alternate Universe" beefs up the main crew, most notably the women with alternate versions of Dr. Crusher - as Beverly Picard from "All Good Things. . .", the "Yesterday's Enterprise" Tasha Yar, and the Romulan persona of Deanna Troi, Major Rakal. As well, Governor Worf from "All Good Things. . ." makes an appearance as a Klingon Affiliation Worf. There are also super powerful ships like the I.K.C. Fek'lhr, a futuristic Klingon ship!

The grail of this set, though, is the very worthy Ultra rare card. In this case, Decipher chose a beauty; the super-powerful Future Enterprise, the retrofitted Enterprise NCC-1701-D from "All Good Things" is the ultra rare. This ship is powerful, well shielded and basically has the ability to take out any other ship introduced by Decipher up until this point! The image is intriguing, clearly showing the third nacelle and it is enough to make a fan, collector or player want to chase down this card!

This release is a tough nut to crack. Rumor is Decipher only printed 10,000 Future Enterprise cards, releasing it one per case. The problem is, 10,000 is not exceptionally limited for a Star Trek product, certainly not for a card release. This means that collectors were usually able to assemble three to four complete sets (minus the Ultra Rare) for every true master set created. The result is a flooded market where only one card from the set sells. Even now, the "Future Enterprise" Ultra Rare commands prices between $30 and $50.

Collectors with significant collections also had good cause to hate "Alternate Universe" when it came to basic organization. There is nothing that differentiates the "Alternate Universe" cards from the initial black border release and only the 1994 copyright date on the cards separates "Alternate Universe" singles visually from the subsequent release, "Q-Continuum."

The cards come in packs of 15 cards that feature one rare, three uncommon and eleven common cards. This means that even with a box of thirty-six packs collectors should be able to assemble even 3 - 4 common sets and at least one uncommon set. A full master set takes six boxes or a lot of luck because of the Ultra rare. Master sets lacking only the UR could be easily assembled with two boxes of cards, with quite a bit left over for the next set or to trade/sell.

"Alternate Universe" cards ended up in the "Reflections" pack release as well as the tournament sealed deck boxes, but they were never reprinted. The set is also overwhelmingly for players with its emphasis on game cards, like Missions, Dilemmas, Events and Interrupts as opposed to the collector-friendly personnel and ships. It's always a disappointment to be skulking for the Ultra rare and pull one of the nine rare Missions!


This set introduced an important concept for players, the alternate realities of the Star Trek: The Next Generation universe, but it did not have enough that was different and special to keep collectors truly interested in it, outside the thrill of trying to hunt down the Ultra Rare. But when only a single card will sell from a set, it does not make for a good investment and it, thus, becomes impossible to recommend.

This set culls material from all seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation, which is reviewed here!

This set was preceded by "Premiere" (link above) and followed by the Star Trek: The Next Generation CCG expansion "Q-Continuum," reviewed here.

This is a set of cards I sell in my online store! Please check out my current available inventory by clicking here!


For other card reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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