Tuesday, September 18, 2012

All Together Now (And Going Forward): Star Trek: The Next Generation CCG First Anthology!

The Good: Intriguing unique cards, Not a bad value for the boxed set
The Bad: Everything inside is (eventually) available elsewhere.
The Basics: Six unique (for a time) cards highlight the "First Anthology" boxed set which served to unload extra inventory from the First three Star Trek CCG releases!

My alternate title for this review was "Simple Repack Theatre, Vol. 1" because this review will be the first of many - over the course of my CCG reviews - where I am reviewing a product that is essentially a repackaging of previously released products with the inclusion of a nominally collectible card or set of cards tossed in. To be thorough in reviewing the Star Trek CCG products, one must stoop to including the semi-bogus products. One of those is "First Anthology."

Whenever I think about products like "First Anthology," I imagine a conversation at the Decipher warehouse. The conversation is between an imaginary manager and an imaginary warehouse worker. The warehouse worker is always named Vinnie in these conversations, for some reason. The conversation usually goes like this: "Hey Vinnie!" "Hey Dave." "What are you up to?" "Just moving product from one side of the warehouse to the other." "Getting orders ready to ship out?" "No, just moving pallets of cases from one side to the other. I figure you'sa paid me already, the least I can do is show up and do some work." "I'd rather we were selling that stuff." "You and me both, Davey!" "It's been a few days since we got any orders in." "Yes sir, you sure printed a lot of this crap." "What is it? What do we still have left?" "Well, we got a lot of all the Star Trek product we've printed up so far. Look yonder at that wall." "What wall?" "The one blocked floor to ceiling with palates of Star Trek: The Next Generation White Border Premiere, 'Alternate Universe,' and 'Q-Continuum' CCG cases." "Holy [A foghorn blows]!" "Exactly, sir." "We've got to get rid of this!" "I got a brother Sammy, he's good with a torch . . ." "No, we need to make money off it. We need to sell it." "Can't see to who; the product's all been on the market for a year or two, everyone who wants it has already bought it. Especially that 'Q-Continuum' stuff, people made master sets of that real easy. I got a brother, Teddy, he and his wife are heating their house this winter by burning stacks of common cards from that set!" "You're right, no one is going to buy our old crap." "You think? It's not even dressed up nice to tempt them . . ." "Eureka!" "What does camping have to do with this?" "Vinnie, I know how to sell all this overstock. Well, some of this overstock." "Yeah?" "We're going to break open some of these cases and boxes and take out the packs and mix them all together. We'll sell it in a gift box of some sort." "Yeah, but Star Trek fans aren't that stupid, especially the ones who play our needlessly complicated game." "Well, we'll throw in some new cards, people who want them will have to buy the boxes that have all our old crap in them to get them!" "That's brilliant! Or diabolic! It's just crazy enough that it might work." "Great, I'll go see what our guys in design have been working on for the upcoming sets and see what we might be able to use!" "I'll start moving some of those pallets back to Production!"

And scene.

I'm sure that's how the "First Anthology" set came into being. This decorative box that holds over five hundred gaming card singles is designed to sell a compact playing experience to the casual fans of the game and give collectors a chance to enhance their collections. With two starter decks of Star Trek: The Next Generation White border Premiere (reviewed here!), and two packs each of boosters from Premiere, "Alternate Universe" (reviewed here!) and "Q-Continuum" (reviewed here!) this is a monument to the Star Trek CCG experience thus far.

Why did anyone purchase this set, then?

Inside every box of "First Anthology" cards, is a cellophane pack of six cards. These six cards have white borders instead of the traditional black borders for Star Trek CCG products. This is what is unique about this set and this is the only reason anyone would buy them. These six cards are the "First Anthology" white bordered preview cards.

Now, to be sure, all six of the cards will eventually be in sets. One of them was actually in the very last set of booster-pack Star Trek CCG cards, but it made it in! So while for a long time these six cards were unique to this set, they eventually made it into the general releases. However, it is worth noting that the later versions of each of these six cards had the usual black borders. The "First Anthology" boxed set is the only place to get the six cards as white border variants.

But as far as preview cards went, the "First Anthology" set is remarkably well conceived. Five of the six cards are of characters and popular ones at that, piquing the interest of both fans and collectors for what is to come. The "First Anthology" cards in the preview set are: the Artifact - Orb Of Prophecy And Change, Garak (who technically becomes the birth of the Cardassian affiliation! This card was impossible for players to play when this boxed set was First released because there were no other Cardassian personnel!), Ensign Tuvok, a Klingon Affiliation Quark (Quark Son Of Keldar), a Non-Aligned Tom Paris, and the Romulan Dr. Telek R'Mor.

These characters may be used to enhance virtually any deck, though it is worth noting that some of them require special attention. Tom Paris, for example, is the alternate universe Paris from "Non-Sequitor" and as such bears an Alternate Universe icon, meaning one must have a doorway in play that allows alternate universe characters to enter play. None of these six cards resulted in any changes to the rules or playability, though all five of the personnel were remarkably hot to collectors and fans.

Indeed, Decipher should get some kudos for picking a great blend of intriguing characters from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager, two series' that had not had any representation in the game before this set.

Despite the enduring popularity of the characters depicted on the five cards and the power of the artifact card, the expense for the boxed set now makes it cost prohibitive to purchase it for the exclusives. Most players will simply hunt down the rare version from the set the card they want eventually made it into. So, for example, Dr. Telek R'Mor ends up as a rare card in the "Voyager" CCG set eventually. Rather than purchase this boxed set to get that card, tracking down some "Voyager" packs and risking it (or trading the rares with others who have many Teleks) is much more cost effective.

In fact, players who pick up the "First Anthology" boxed set these days are more likely purchasing it for the ease of getting a boatload of cards cheap to assemble a deck as opposed to the premium preview cards. Only die-hard collectors are likely to shell out the money to get this set to get the six exclusive cards. To them it's worth it because they are part of the complete Star Trek CCG collection.

For the rest of us, this is a take-it-or-leave-it repack of overproduced merchandise that masqueraded as an opportunity to get some great new cards years before they would otherwise hit the market. Collectors might do well to pair with players who are looking to beef up their decks by using the extra packs in the Anthology set and split the expense of the box of these. The "First Anthology" boxed set was not produced in as great a quantity as the "First Anthology," so finding it might be a little more difficult than some of the other Star Trek CCG products.

Too bad it's not truly worth it!

This set was snuck into the marketplace a while after "Q-Continuum," but before "First Contact" (reviewed here!).

The six unique cards cull images from the following episodes:
"Past Prologue"
"House Of Quark"
"Non Sequitur"
"Eye Of The Needle"


For other gaming card reviews, be sure to visit my Gaming Card Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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