Monday, December 19, 2011

Star Trek: First Contact, A Trek Film Less The Principles, A Card Game That Changes Everything!

The Good: Some interesting images, Good introduction of Borg and time travel, Some good new rules.
The Bad: Game is becoming ever more complicated, Repetition of key characters
The Basics: Based on a problematic film, Star Trek "First Contact" CCG makes use of the quicker Borg to add them to the popular gaming card set in a worthwhile release.

When Star Trek: First Contact first aired in theaters, I was excited about it. It was possibly the Star Trek film I went into knowing the most about and when the movie was over, I was generally satisfied. The more I thought about the movie, though, the more some of its ideas nagged at me and I became troubled by the character and plot inconsistencies and faults. It was a mainstream success, but with the fans who liked the Star Trek franchise as an intelligent program of philosophy and adventure, it was just another "kill the villain" cinematic outing and many of us felt Star Trek: The Next Generation could do better.

The gaming card company, Decipher, however, utilized the release of Star Trek: First Contact for their customizable card game, making the Star Trek: The Next Generation CCG into the more broad Star Trek Customizable Card Game and releasing its third expansion set, "First Contact." Following the dud "Q-Continuum," Decipher was desperate for a hit CCG and "First Contact" represented the best chance for success the company had for some time. And, for the most part, it worked.

Basics/Set Composition

The Star Trek Customizable Card Game "First Contact" set was the third 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.

"First Contact" is a 130 card set focusing on characters, ships, alien races and scenarios presented in Star Trek: First Contact, specifically the experience of the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-E when encountering the Borg and traveling in time back to the mid-21rst Century! The set consists of 40 common cards, 40 uncommon cards, and 50 rare cards with the most popular characters and scenarios being given rare status and the background supernumeraries filling out the more common cards. This set offers a new opportunity for fans and collectors to collect the main bridge crew from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

The 130 card set features 3 Artifacts (cards featuring unique devices from Star Trek: The Next Generation), 15 Dilemmas (cards featuring challenges the crews faced), 4 Doorways (cards illustrating openings in time and space, allowing Alternate Universe and time location cards to be played), 3 Equipment (cards featuring generic, mass produced devices in the Star Trek universe, like a StarFleet Type III Phaser Rifle), 11 Events (cards featuring long-standing challenges or concepts in the overall Star Trek universe, many of which alter gameplay - like Borg entering into a regenerative mode), 1 Facilities (cards that illustrate originating locations of major races, in this case the Borg), 22 Interrupts (cards featuring phenomenon that quickly turned plot events in Star Trek: First Contact, like the Borg using assimilation tubules or Data making a last ditch grab for the Queen), 3 Missions (cards featuring basic plots of the movie, these are used to create the "board" for the game), 46 Personnel (19 Borg, 21 Federation, and 6 Non-Aligned characters from Star Trek: First Contact), 9 Ship cards (5 Borg, 2 Federation, and 2 Non-Aligned). This set introduces the Borg affiliation and requires some serious alterations to gameplay to accommodate their appearance.


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 "First Contact" set continues the game with the ten types of cards introduced in "Premiere" and expanded on in "Alternate Universe." The basic idea is to assemble a sixty card deck (for beginners), lay out the board (spaceline) and play against an opponent.

"First Contact" adds a two new card types and one new Affiliation, which require players to adapt to a few new ideas, most radically the concept of Objective cards. The cards that premiere in this set are the Objectives and the Time Location cards. Objectives are essentially tasks that act as goals (usually for the Borg) that usually require cards to be drawn to determine if the goals are met. To a non-player, the difference between Objectives and Events may seem miniscule and more confusing than playable. Similarly, the Time Location card serves as a glorified mission card, which may require a doorway to get to to play.

The new affiliation is the Borg and there are Borg Personnel and Borg ships in the "First Contact" set. Playing them is the subject of a huge oversized rules supplement that comes in the boxes of "First Contact" CCGs. Once one gets used to the alterations from the standard personnel attributes to the Borg concepts of Communication, Navigation and Defense, the game progresses smoothly once more, but this does require some new training and practice playing which might leave seasoned player groups a little miffed by it.

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. However, getting used to the game mechanic alterations that come with the introduction of the Borg may take some getting used to and it does change the playability some.

Rule Changes

The basic rules for the Star Trek CCG are covered briefly in the review for "Premiere" (reviewed here!).

The rule supplement that comes in the box is one exceptionally long page long with two columns and very small type. The gist of the rule changes brought about as a function of "First Contact" is how to play Borg characters and ships. Because of the hive-mind concept of the Borg and their ability to assimilate other entities, a whole series of rules had to be made to explain how they would capture, alter and use crewmembers. With the rules supplement sitting in front of one, this seems remarkably straightforward and easy enough to do.

In addition to rules on how to play Borg characters and use the Objective cards, this set introduces a "download" icon which allows characters to immediately get weapons or other items or cards from your hand. This is convenient as it leaves some personnel cards with essentially a fast draw to defend themselves when they are attacked.

The rule supplement also has clarifications to the rules in regards to three previously released cards.


Players, collectors and fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation will appreciate the image quality of the characters and scenarios from Star Trek: First Contact. "First Contact" introduces the Borg and allows players and collectors another chance to get the entire main bridge crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise. Both of these aspects make for a very popular release and increase the value of the product. In addition to popular characters unique to the film, like Zephram Cochrane and Lily Sloane, the "First Contact" set offers the Borg Queen, a rather popular and creepy villain that makes Borg decks rather popular.

In addition to the popular Borg Queen card which still draws fans and collectors to this set, the release has the U.S.S. Enterprise-E card and it is the only Enterprise E card in the entire First Edition Star Trek CCG run! It has a great image, is very powerful and is easy to staff given the cards in this set. The Enterprise-E is the card to pull from this series and it is nicely complemented by new cards of Picard and Data, as well as the other main crew of the ship!


"First Contact" represents a nice balance between playability with its strange game mechanic and collectibility with its popular characters! Collectors will find this a ridiculously easy set to assemble and therefore all they truly have to get excited about is the content of the cards. Because the set offers rares that are of some of the most popular characters, collectors and investors will find this set retains value, despite not having an Ultra Rare or anything else gimmicky. Indeed, Decipher simply did not overproduce the "First Contact" product and it sold fairly well as a result and held its value. There is nothing hard to find and with boxes having 36 packs, a master set requires a second box; with ideal collation, with there being one rare per pack, a collector may end up needing only fourteen rares after opening a single box! This is essentially a two-box set and in those boxes, there are fourteen strong and powerful - and very collectible - rares with another two that are powerful as well. This is a very decent set for collectors as well as players.

As well, "First Contact" begins the trend of Star Trek cards coming with a collector's icon to differentiate the sets! This adds an additional ease of collecting that increases the collectibility (it would still be several more sets before they added numbers and rarity keys, but they were headed in the right direction with this release!

The cards come in packs of 9 cards that feature one rare, three uncommon and five common cards. This means that even with a box of thirty-six packs collectors should be able to assemble even 1 - 2 common sets and usually one uncommon set. A full master set takes two boxes and that would leave collectors with a few leftover sets and rares to trade or sell off!

"First Contact" cards ended up in the "Reflections" pack release as well as the First Anthology boxes and later special Enhanced First Contact draw decks, but they were never reprinted. One might think this would devalue the cards, but the main box release was so limited, the appearance of more into the market merely stopped price gouging for the better rares!


This is, despite the difficulties with the changes in game play, a phenomenal Star Trek CCG release and fans who like the game from "Premiere" might well skip the two expansions in between and jump to "First Contact." Players will thrill to be the villainous Borg or the heroes that combat them, collectors will enjoy the fact that this set has value to it and has held that. And there are character and concept cards that cannot be found elsewhere, which is what makes a collection worth having to begin with!

This set culls material from Star Trek: First Contact, reviewed here!

This set was preceded by "Q-Continuum" (reviewed here!) and followed by the Star Trek CCG expansion "Deep Space Nine," reviewed here!

This is as set of gaming cards I proudly sell in my online store! Be sure to check out my current inventory and shop 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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