Wednesday, December 14, 2011

With The Emergence Of "Q-Continuum," The Star Trek: The Next Generation CCG Goes Into Blase Territory

The Good: Some interesting images, Supplements the prior sets in a fair fashion
The Bad: Boxes - with rules addendum - are inconvenient to find, Finding players is a pain, No collector's icon
The Basics: With its lack of anything extraordinary to chase after and esoteric cards emphasizing new game mechanics, "Q-Continuum" strikes out for both players and collectors!

Even as the Star Trek: The Next Generation Customizable Card Game evolved over its first few expansions, it found itself faltering some and with its second expansion, the third release, Decipher produced a lasting dud. "Q-Continuum" remains one of the least-played, least collected Star Trek gaming card products and with good reason. There is nothing special about this set.

Responding to early criticism that Q, arguably the most popular villain in Star Trek: The Next Generation, was not represented in the gaming cards (there is a Q related Dilemma in the "Premiere" set), Decipher put out a series that focused almost exclusively on Q and the Q-Continuum. This is a tough sell for a game as it tends to change the rules significantly when one introduces an all-powerful being to a game!

Basics/Set Composition

The Star Trek: The Next Generation Customizable Card Game "Q-Continuum" was the second 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.

"Q-Continuum" is a 121 card set focusing on characters, ships, alien races and scenarios presented in Star Trek: The Next Generation, specifically the experiences of the U.S.S. Enterprise when encountering the Q entity! Released following the finale of the series, this card set utilizes material from all seven seasons of the show, though it seems strangely obsessed with the first and second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The set consists of 40 common cards, 40 uncommon cards, and 41 rare cards with the most popular characters and scenarios being given rare status and the background supernumeraries filling out the more common cards. Unlike the prior set, there is no Ultra Rare to give fans and collectors anything truly special to chase after.

The 121 card set features 3 Artifacts (cards featuring unique devices from Star Trek: The Next Generation), 9 Dilemmas (cards featuring challenges the crews faced), 3 Doorways (cards illustrating openings in time and space, allowing Alternate Universe and Q-icon cards to be played), 2 Equipment (cards featuring generic, mass produced devices in the Star Trek universe, like an Anti-matter pod), 13 Events (cards featuring long-standing challenges or concepts in the overall Star Trek universe, many of which alter gameplay - like the Klingon Civil War), 2 Facilities (cards that illustrate originating locations of major races, or in this case Non-Aligned races), 8 Interrupts (cards featuring phenomenon that quickly turned plot events on Star Trek: The Next Generation, like the act of stepping through the wrong portal or being tapped suddenly to be an Arbiter of Succession), 8 Missions (cards featuring basic plots of episodes, these are used to create the "board" for the game), 39 Personnel (13 Federation, 4 Klingon, 19 Non-Aligned and 3 Romulan characters from Star Trek: The Next Generation), 5 Q-Dilemma, 12 Q-Event, and 11 Q-Interrupts (cards that function like Dilemmas, Events and Interrupts, save that they only apply to Q characters and scenarios and may only be played when the special Q-related doorways allow it) and 6 Ship cards (1 Federation, 2 Klingon, 1 Non-Aligned, and 2 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 "Q-Continuum" set continues the game with the ten types of cards introduced in "Premiere" (reviewed here!) 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.

"Q-Continuum" adds a three new card types, which will not throw players who have played because they function so similar to cards already well established in the game. The cards are the Q-Dilemmas, Q-Events, and Q-Interrrupts, which may be played as long as one of the doorways which allows a side deck (see below) to enter play. They function like Dilemmas, Events and Interrupts, which are fundamental to the game, so it does not make the game any less playable to have these new Q specific card types.

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.

The only real pain to players here are a series of cards that have undefined variables. For example, Mortal Q has an unknown Cunning rating and the Barber's Pole does nothing (seriously long-time players cannot figure out what it is supposed to do!). Moreover, "Parallax Arguers" is a card that the rule supplement admits is not intended to be taken seriously! In some ways, that's a good metaphor for this set; it's almost a parody of the game.

Rule Changes

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 "Q-Continuum" is the creation of side decks. Side decks allow players to sidestep the 60 card deck rule by creating a secondary, themed deck. In this case, players are encouraged to make a separate deck that includes all Q-Continuum cards that specifically reference Q related themes, denoted on the relevant cards by a small icon which has a Q in it. The side deck may be activated by seeding a doorway into the regular 60 card deck or playing a Q-doorway (there are two different ones in this set) on the table.

This set contains dual-icon missions as well, which allow one to seed missions with dilemmas that are either planet based or space-based.


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. "Q-Continuum" returns the emphasis of the game to providing more characters, especially significant characters that have been neglected in previous releases. Likable supporting characters like Dr. Pulaski, Keiko O'Brien, Lal, Mr. Homn, and Guinan are included in this set. Ashley Judd's character, Robin Lefler, makes her CCG debut as well. There are, however, no regular bridge crew characters, save the non-aligned pirate version of Picard, Galen. Also, Data's headless body makes its appearance, allowing players to play the "Alternate Universe" card "Data's Head."

The only card people truly seem to like from "Q-Continuum" is the Mortal Q card, the only Q character card in the game (which makes sense because he's omnipotent, you can't rightly have a fully powerful Q and have a playable game!). The card features a nice shot of Q from "Deja Q" when he was human and it's a decent card.

The problem is, those ten cards are the best in the set. The rest of the set is pretty much a collection of duds.


"Q-Continuum" is a hard players set and then it goes out of its way to isolate the players with joke cards like the Parallax Arguers! Collectors will find this a ridiculously easy set to assemble and therefore are much more likely to be unenthusiastic about it. There is nothing hard to find and with boxes having 36 packs, a master set barely requires a second box; with ideal collation, with there being one rare per pack, a collector may end up needing only five rares after opening a single box! This caused the value of this set to plummet because there was little incentive to buy more than two boxes and boxes remain disproportionately cheap.

Collectors with significant collections also had good cause to hate "Q-Continuum" when it came to basic organization. There is nothing that differentiates the "Q-Continuum" from the "Alternate Universe" cards or the initial black border release, save that these are copyright 1995 instead of 1994! This is hardly enough to make a clear and easy distinction! (All subsequent releases will have a collector's icon to make it easy to tell immediately which set the card comes from!)

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 usually two uncommon sets. A full master set takes two boxes and that would leave collectors with quite a few leftover sets to trade or sell off!

"Q-Continuum" 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 the game cards, like the new Q-related card types, though it does flesh out some of the better obscure characters for collectors as well.


Still, it's not enough. This set is a mess and the new mechanic is not that exciting. I cannot think of a time in watching people play when I've seen someone pull out a Q-side deck. The cards add Q to the game, but it's hard to get excited about playing the very confined Q side decks instead of going back to the traditional play with either space battles or solving the missions for points.

As a collector, it's hard not to see this set as a dud and as an investor, there's not a worse Star Trek CCG investment than this bland, overproduced set.

This set culls material from all seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but most notably the Q-related episodes, which are:
"Encounter At Farpoint"
"Hide And Q"
"Deja Q"
"True Q"
"All Good Things"

This set was preceded by "Alternate Universe" (reviewed here!) and followed by the Star Trek: The Next Generation CCG expansion "First Contact," reviewed here!

This is a set of gaming cards I sell in my online store. Check out my current 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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