Captain's Blog: Skin of Evil
Posted January 27th 2020 by dragoncymru1
“I do not serve things evil, I am evil.” – Armus, ‘Skin of Evil’

Welcome to the latest article about my solo version of Star Trek CCG First Edition. This time I’m discussing that evil entity Armus and the various dilemmas related to it, the tactics of ‘red-shirting’, how the CCG can mirror an episode of Star Trek, plus a look at ‘Class H’ planets...

Armus: This evil pit of tar has no less than 4 Dilemmas with his name on, none of which are particularly pleasant and all designed to kill one of your Personnel. In looking at Armus: Sticky Situation however, I’m reminded of a story that Jonathon Frakes tells after he had to get himself covered in the stuff. Apparently Brent Spiner shook his head, smiled and said ‘Frakes, I would NEVER have done that!’ With the Event All-Consuming Evil, as long as you have the Save Stranded Crew Mission in play, the effects of these Dilemmas are doubled. Placing Armus: Skin of Evil on an important Mission for the Opponent would certainly make him think twice about attempting it, knowing that he would lose two Personnel – unless he uses that well-known tactic in the CCG - ‘red-shirting’...

Security Sacrifice: ‘Skin of Evil’ is known for killing off Denise Crosby as Tasha Yar. Gene Roddenbery wanted her to die a senseless death like any other security officer on the show and that’s what happens here. Much is made of course of the life-expectancy of security personnel, especially in the original Star Trek series where a non-regular character wearing a red shirt would die on a weekly basis, and where movies like the excellent ‘Galaxy Quest’ would poke gentle fun at Star Trek. The tactic of ‘red-shirting’, as it came to be known, is popular in STCCG where you send down one or two (expendable) Personnel to clear, or at least scout, some of the Dilemmas seeded there. This is also exemplified by Security Sacrifice where you can get SECURITY personnel to take the hit for you rather than anybody else getting killed. The card features Tasha’s farewell message, an emotional scene for characters and cast alike, with a lovely musical score.

Theme and Episodes: One of the real strengths of First Edition (much more so than Second Edition), and a real reason why I’ve stuck with the game for so long and spent countless hours playing, writing and creating material for the game, is that it is SO thematic. It really does feel like you’re creating an episode of Star Trek on the table.

Take this episode and the cards that come from it as an example. We have a Mission to Save Stranded Crew that any Affiliation can attempt. In normal game if you played this Mission, you would probably also seed All-Consuming Evil and a few, now extra-strong, Armus Dilemmas too, keeping one back in your Q’s Tent to spring on an Opponent when needed. If you did seed the 3 Armus Planet Dilemmas here, it would really mirror the episode – especially if your Opponent played Security Sacrifice to save one of his key Personnel. It’s a slightly different set up in the solo game, but this mostly still applies.

Building an episode from cards isn’t the only way how the game has that Trek theme either. Each Affiliation has a different feel, with particular strengths and weaknesses, tactics and cards. The game maybe 25 years old, but I think current CCG designers owe much to, and can learn a lot from, Star Trek First Edition.

Class H Planets: This idea comes from an idea of mine to have more thematic seeding of Dilemmas and something I wish that designers could have incorporated, but it might have been too fiddly. It riffs on the fact that all planets visited by Star Trek are ‘Class M’ planets, that means planets with a breathable atmosphere – and which the directors and set designers could build or find a suitable filming location.

It’s well known that the rocky planet set that appeared in countless The Next Generation episodes was dubbed ‘Planet Hell’ by the cast and crew. My idea was to sub-divide the Planet Missions and Planet Dilemmas into either M or H (‘H’ for Hell!) categories so that we get a bit of variety. Currently you can play any Dilemma on any Planet which is beautifully simple but lacks theme as you can get wild occurrences – say a Male's Love Interest on an Advanced Combat Training Mission. If each Mission was either M or H and you could only play matching Dilemmas, you would get more appropriate combinations, but it’s much too late for this now, sadly.

Next time, I’m feeling the love with a discussion on romantic partners, that ‘love-shack’ of a Holoprogram, ‘Cafe des Artistes’ and the various ‘love’ Dilemmas in the game.

My re-watch of Star Trek continues and I’m currently about a third of the way through Season 7 of The Next Generation and also Season 2 of Deep Space 9 (and Picard starts this weekend too!). I Tweet my episode reviews on Twitter- so if you're interested in what I think about both these shows, Follow me - @DWSSG01.

“Make it so...”

Captain's Blog is a weekly series on Star Trek Customizable Card Game First Edition Solo Play. Read the whole archive here.