Monday, November 26, 2012

The Fearsome Borg, Dulled By Star Trek: Voyager Return To Power With The Star Trek CCG!

The Good: Some intriguing images, Good use of material, Powerful cards for players
The Bad: Weaker characters in this expansion, Annoying Dual-Affiliation rarity, Playability issues
The Basics: Another supplemental expansion beefs up one affiliation while neglecting the others and only truly pleasing fans of Star Trek: Voyager.

It's strange to see what happens to a company when its flagship begins to sink. Decipher, Inc. is a Customizable Card Game company which was built on the Star Trek CCG and it quickly gobbled up Star Wars as well. When the Star Wars license went south, Decipher managed to snag the Lord Of The Rings license to produce the Lord Of The Rings Trading Card Game. In between, Star Trek was on rocky ground and Decipher had a few rough years. In that time period, it abandoned the traditional "bonus" cards in the CCG - foils - and went a different way. Beginning with the Star Trek: Voyager expansion, foils were out and they were replaced with Dual Affiliation cards featuring a different colored border for each of the affiliations. This was nowhere near as exciting as foils and when it was continued in the "The Borg" expansion, Decipher set a disturbing and boring trend.

To be fair, Decipher did not have much else it could do. The Borg, introduced as a fearsome and scary enemy on Star Trek: The Next Generation were rapidly weakened on Star Trek: Voyager to the point that they were more a nuisance than a menace. "The Borg" CCG reflects the problematic way the Borg were redeveloped on Star Trek: Voyager while trying to maintain a powerful game mechanic for players of the game. Well, at least they succeeded on one front.

Basics/Set Composition

The Star Trek Customizable Card Game "The Borg" set was the thirteenth full expansion set of cards sold in boxes 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.

"The Borg" is a 143 card set focusing on characters, ships, alien races and scenarios presented on Star Trek: Voyager involving the Borg and the Hirogen! The set consists of 42 common cards, 40 uncommon cards, 60 rare and rare plus, and 1 Ultra 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 some of the more interesting and significant villains from Star Trek: Voyager.

The 143 card set features 9 Dilemmas (cards featuring challenges the crews faced), 1 Doorway (cards that depict passages that allow the playing of side decks, like the Transwarp Network Gateway), 6 Equipment (cards featuring generic, mass produced devices in the Star Trek universe, like a Borg Nanoprobe or a Hirogen Talon), 6 Events (cards featuring long-standing challenges or concepts in the overall Star Trek universe, like the quantum slipstream drive), 3 Facilities (home bases for various affiliations, in this case the Borg and Hirogen), 5 Incidents (cards that illustrate alternate actions and goals, like a breakdown in a Cortical Node Implant), 5 Interrupts (cards featuring phenomenon that quickly turn events, like the use of a multivector assault mode from a new starship), 6 Missions (cards featuring basic plots from the series', these are used to create the "board" for the game), 8 Objectives (long-standing goals for players which establish alternate goals of the game, like Assimilating a Planet), 80 Personnel (18 Borg, 10 Federation, 3 Ferengi, 17 Hirogen, 3 Kazon, 5 Klingon, 21 Non-Aligned, 1 Romulan, and 2 Vidiian characters from Star Trek: Voyager), and 15 Ship cards (5 Borg, 2 Federation, 2 Hirogen, 1 Kazon, 1 Klingon, 3 Non-Aligned and 1 Romulan). This set strengthens existing affiliations and offers a whole new Affiliation - the Hirogen for players to play with.


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 Borg" set continues the game with the fifteen types of cards introduced and revised with the Star Trek: Voyager expansion set and the basic rules from that expansion apply. The basic idea is to assemble a sixty card deck (for beginners), lay out the board (spaceline) and play against an opponent.

"The Borg" adds the Hirogen affiliation, which makes for a weird combination of a weak and strong combination. The Hirogen are powerful hunters who are quite strong and they represent powerful cards that can do quite a bit of damage in hand to hand combat and in the context of the game. The problem with their playability is that there are only seventeen personnel and two possible ships that a Hirogen player can play at this point, making it an easy combination of cards for a skilled opponent to put down quick. "The Borg" set introduces the affiliation as well as it could given that the focus of the set is on the Borg, but it's a weaker than expected affiliation and fortunately for players who want to try something new and play with Hirogen characters, the future expansions build upon this.

Outside that, the big rule change is the warp speed playability. This is a "get on with it" game mechanic that tries to move the game along quicker by allowing one to even up their hand quicker than usual so the turns turn over quicker. This is a player's choice type mechanic that many purists will find more annoying than beneficial. When playing with "warp speed," the non-Borg affiliations mix as if everyone were non-aligned and that severely weakens the strategy of assembling a clever deck and sacrifices it for speed. The full Warp Speed rules are covered on the rules supplement in the boxes of "The Borg" CCG.

The only truly sensible "Warp Speed" ruling in "The Borg" expansion is that Borg players are given an alternate goal for the game; one planet objective and one space objective must be achieved for a Borg character to win. This makes sense as points would be irrelevant to a Borg.

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.

Rule Changes

The basic rules for the Star Trek CCG were revised in the Star Trek: Voyager expansion and are covered in my review here!

The rule supplement that comes in the box is extensive and it explains well the new goals of the Borg characters. The rules supplement clarifies what happens when opposing players personnel cards are assimilated by the Borg, as well as how the Borg personnel meet staffing requirements when they are assimilated. The Borg affiliation also has specific rules covering probing, scouting and sharing skills as a result of the unique hive mind of the Collective. The rules supplement makes these things very clear, but the gist is that the Borg occasionally get to look through their deck (probing), investigate the opposing player's ship (scouting) and may utilize skills from one Borg to another (skill sharing).


Players, collectors and fans of Star Trek: Voyager will appreciate the image quality of the characters, the wonderful use of weapons and the scenarios involving the more colorful races in the Star Trek: Voyager series. "The Borg" capitalizes on the very popular Borg characters, but it's a very esoteric set. Those not into Star Trek: Voyager will only likely be interested in the Deanna Troi card and possibly the Reginald Barclay ultra rare. Primary characters appear in alternate forms from their traditional appearance, like Seven Of Nine as a Borg character, B'Elanna and Chakotay as their full Maquis personas from the first episode of the series, the aged and angry Kes from "Fury" and the EMH from the U.S.S. Equinox.

The obvious selection for a highlight would seem to be either the Reginald Barclay Ultra Rare card or one of the annoying ten rare plus dual-affiliation cards, but Barclay especially is an underwhelming card to chase after. It's largely a "who cares" card. A far more powerful ultra rare, like the Borg Queen, would have made sense.

For me, the best card in the set are the Icheb cards. Icheb, the young Borg who is rescued from the Collective appears as both a Non-Aligned personnel card and as a Federation dual-affiliation card and he's worth it. Icheb is an intriguing character and the image on the card is a good one with a nice playability and versatility that makes him an asset to the game. I also have a soft spot for the vengeful Kes.


"The Borg" is an easy set for collectors outside of the 12 dual-affiliation alternate border cards. The problem here is that the cards one is forced to chase after to complete a full set are hardly interesting. The dual-affiliations are annoying to collectors. From the second set, there have been characters who have had multiple affiliations (like Major Rakal being able to be played by either Romulans or Federation players). With Star Trek: Voyager and now "The Borg" - made worse by the majority of the dual-affiliations being rare plus cards each - the dual affiliation personnel and ships come with a card for each affiliation they may be played as. So, for example Icheb is 104R (Non-Aligned/Federation, yellow-border card) and 104*R (Federation/Non-Aligned, blue border card) and the printing difference is not truly a great incentive to chase after the same card twice.

Yet, that's what collectors do. Unfortunately, each single dual affiliation while technically only a rare plus ends up effectively being an Ultra rare turning up about one of each in every five to six boxes. The result is a true master set takes an average of an entire six-box case to complete. And it's hard to say, unless one is truly obsessed with the Borg, that that is worth it.

Decipher did not overproduce the "The Borg" product and it remains fairly strong in the market because it reinvigorated the Borg players affiliation. The cards come in packs of 11 cards that feature one rare (or rare plus or ultra rare card), three uncommon and seven common cards. This means that with a box of thirty packs collectors should be able to assemble even 2 - 3 common sets and usually one uncommon set. That is, unless the person assembling the set is looking at the common dual affiliations as true commons, then they are lucky to get two common sets per box and they are left with a ton of singles left over. A full master set takes about six boxes and that would leave collectors with a lot to sell off!

"The Borg" cards were never reprinted or re-released, making them one of the more valuable sets on the market!


This set has some wonderful images, but its lack of easily recognizable characters for the masses makes it a very esoteric set. Some players will enjoy the chance to beef up their Borg decks and try the Hirogen affiliation, but many find this set weak for the affiliations they play as it does not enhance a lot of players' decks. Investors are generally pleased because true master sets were annoying and costly to assemble, so few people did initially and even fewer want to do it now. As a result, many collectors are willing to buy master sets to avoid the overstock of singles left over by trying to assemble a master set.

Ultimately, it's a preference thing and Star Trek: Voyager's treatment of the Borg was disappointing and the game does little to redeem that. As a result, I'll acknowledge this is a player's set and a Star Trek: Voyager fan's delight, but it's not much for the rest of us.

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

This set was preceded by Star Trek: Voyager (link above) and followed by the Star Trek CCG expansion "Holodeck Adventures," reviewed here!

This is a set of cards I sell in my online store! Check out my current inventory of them by clicking here!


For other gaming cards, check out 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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