Welcome to Stacking the Decks, our weekly look at the Star Trek Customizable Card Game and the hours of joy it brought fans everywhere.
It isn’t an exaggeration to say that the launch of Magic: The Gathering in 1993 fundamentally changed the world of gaming. Yes, there had been loads of card games in the past, but none that had the impact Magic did.
The combination of building your own individual deck, the ability to buy new cards as they came out and the fact the cards had differing levels of rarity was a perfect storm for gamers. Magic became a sensation almost overnight with some cards quickly becoming incredibly desired collectibles with prices to match.
Combining the type of card game created by Wizards of the Coast (who published Magic) with an established entertainment license seemed like a no-brainer. And that’s exactly what Decipher, Inc. did when it introduced one of the first competitors to the dominance of Magic: The Gathering, the Star Trek: the Next Generation Customizable Card Game.
Captain Picard rare card (Image: Decipher Inc)
The game was launched in 1994 and became an instant hit. It appealed not only to gamers but Star Trek fans as well. You played as either the Federation, the Klingons or the Romulans with the goal to score 100 points by completing missions. Players built decks that included ships and crew members as well as equipment and cards that could alter the outcome of encounters. Away teams could do battle as could the ships they were on.
And while the game had a few issues, none of them stopped it from being an incredibly fun way to spend an evening at the game shop.
The initial release, which was titled First Edition Premiere, included all the primary characters and ships from The Next Generation as well as numerous others. That first set totaled 363 cards and included 60-card starter decks and 15-card expansion packs.
One of the biggest issues from the first release was the fact that starter decks were not playable out of the box. Something I can personally attest to after getting beaten numerous times until I could get more cards. This led Decipher to release what they called a Warp Pack. It was a free pack of 12 cards and included new cards that supposedly could help someone play a game with just a starter deck.
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Not that I ever saw that happen, but I digress.
Another problem in those early days was the collating of the cards in the packs. You could buy an entire box of expansion packs and not lay eyes on a single command crew member from the Enterprise, or even the Enterprise itself.
Of course, that didn’t stop me from buying packs by the truckload and having a great time on Friday nights, playing my ridiculously weak Federation deck and getting my butt handed to me almost every time. Those losses led me to spend $10 on a Wesley Crusher rare at my local gaming shop just so I could have a member of the Enterprise bridge crew in my deck.
It’s not something I’m proud of. Don’t judge me.
Next time we’ll look at the first two expansions, Alternate Universe and Q Continuum, as well as the myriad special products Decipher released to eager Star Trek fans in those early years.