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Star Trek Online
Customizable Card Game

Decipher's first customizable card game
warps its way onto the Web.

* Star Trek Online Customizable Card Game
* By Decipher Inc.
* MSRP: Starter kit (one starter, two boosters): Free
* Boosters: $2.99-$3.29
* Starters: $9.99
* Optional Collective Membership: $9.95/month (members receive 50% off)
* Other prices vary

Review by Cory J. Herndon

U sing software from DigitalDeck, Inc., Decipher's Star Trek Online Customizable Card Game (STOCCG) offers the entire CCG experience in computerized form. Trek fans can purchase cards from Decipher's online store, open boosters and starter decks, build decks, easily sort and trade cards and participate in tournaments with players across the world.

Our Pick: B

To begin play, gamers simply go to Decipher's online STOCCG site (startrekccg.decipher.com/st/) to set up an account, then visit the card store to pick up the free starter kit. The Star Trek Online CCG store features most of the cards that have been released for the paper version (with the notable exceptions of the Fajo Collection and the more recent Trouble with Tribbles and Mirror, Mirror releases). There have been no changes to the game system for the online format--all of the rules and errata for the game are readily available on Decipher's main Web site, which makes the online game quite accessible to newcomers.

Once cards have been purchased and decks built, game play takes place through the STOCCG Web site. The DigitalDeck technology provides a flexible top-down view of the "table," and players can perform any number of normal game actions--flipping, shuffling, turning, peeking and so on--all through a system of intuitive mouse controls. A simple chat system allows the two opponents to communicate throughout the game, and many built-in features speed up the more time-consuming aspects of the paper STCCG (such as attribute calculations and seeding).

Paper has just been proven passe

Many seasoned players' initial reaction to the online CCG concept is skeptical: why would anyone buy cards that don't really exist when a massive collection of the "real thing" collects dust on the shelf? These veterans would be wise to give the online version a shot. A relatively modest investment will easily yield enough cards to field a competitive deck, and deck-building is a snap. The DigitalDeck software allows cards to be filtered according to type, affiliation, skills and, of course, by name. The skills filter is especially handy when matching personnel to missions. A few more options (such as sorting missions by planet or region) would be nice, but this is just nitpicking.

Gameplay impressively mirrors the original CCG, although getting the hang of the mouse controls definitely takes a few practice sessions. The simple series of mouse clicks used to manipulate cards quickly becomes second nature, and activities as simple as picking up a stack of cards at a single spaceline location or seeding a stack of dilemmas go much faster. Less time seeding, shuffling and sorting means more time playing, and that's a good thing. And with dozens of gamers online at any given time, odds are an opponent can be found at virtually any time of day or night (this Seattle-based reporter's first online match-up was actually against an opponent in London at 12:30 a.m. PST).

Decipher is still ironing out a few bugs in the system (which launched March 1, 2001). Servers tend to overload easily, and many games end abruptly when one opponent is booted offline by a busy network. (Decipher has already incorporated a feature that allows continuation of such interrupted matches.) Alas, a few other complaints prevent the STOCCG from getting an A grade. First, the software operates only on the Windows platform, meaning STCCG fans with any other operating system (such as Macintosh) must use a Windows emulator to participate--and even then, performance is an issue. It's also baffling that Decipher doesn't offer a way to save games outright--a game of Star Trek can sometimes take up to two hours, and it would be a boon to players if saving and resuming were possible. Hopefully this last feature is in development.

Once I got over the fact that I can't touch the cards, buy Locutus of Borg or avoid the occasional overloaded server, I found the Star Trek Online CCG improved on the original in almost every way. I've got only one question for Decipher: When's the Star Wars Online CCG coming out? --CJH

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