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Star Trek: Frontiers» Forums » Reviews

Subject: The Final Word on the Final Frontier for Those On the Fence rss

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The Mirror
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NONE OF THE FOLLOWING IS FACT EVEN IF I ASSERT MYSELF IN A WAY WHICH CONVINCES YOU THAT I'M EITHER RIGHT OR "KNOW WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT" IT IS ALL UNADULTERATED OPINION, ALSO YOU WILL LEARN NOTHING ABOUT THE RULES

I know, I'm kind of trolling with the subject line, but I just want to semi-objectively discuss this game in relationship both to Mage Knight fandom and Star Trek fandom, or rather, as fans of both, but not blinded by either, I'd like to put my thoughts.

Ok, so first of all, for those of you who are into Star Trek TNG/DS9/Voyager or any other iteration and are trying to understand whether or not to buy this:

1. This is a strategy game on the heavy side. Heavy both because it is a bit fiddly (bad, but not uncommon for those of you into Ameritrash games) and because the strategic and tactical puzzles for even the most minute action are deep. As a fan, if you look into Mage Knight and the actual gameplay itself doesn't appeal to you at all, pass on this game.

2. This theme (while in my opinion a superior fit than the original) is more or less pasted on to the already brilliant Mage Knight (with some notable tweaks), which does mean though that for those concerned with how the Prime Directive will play out, in a lot of ways, not so well. Personally, I couldn't possibly care less. So much fun playing as Sisko and bringing Dukat and Jem'Hadar onto my team to explore this region while blowing up Dominion space stations. Because...why not? That said, if that is just too distasteful to swallow, pass on this game.

3. If your a Star Trek game completist, word, that's your bag, do your thing, get this game.


For those of you who are active Mage Knight fans, own it and are considering getting Star Trek: Frontiers:

1. If you want a much different experience than you are getting from Mage Knight and already have all of the expansions, this is more or less a re-skin and you may want to just pass on this game.

2. If you are a Mage Knight the board game mechanics completists by all means, get this game now!

Now, for many of you, the above list may not apply, and that's what the lists below will cover...

What makes ST:F better (in my opinion, of course) than Mage Knight

1. The streamlining of the mechanics of the game relative to MK (eliminating artifacts, cutting down on one magic crystal/data chip color, I'm sure there are others that would fall into the category) are for the most part just better rules. Sure they cut down on the brain burn (good thing) a bit, but really most of that was just trying to remember what the slew of attack and defense variants do (fiddly waste of cognitive energy if you ask me).

2. All taste issues aside, the font and size of the cards is MUCH MUCH MUCH easier to read and as a result process, which is a good thing in hour 3+ when your brain is starting to get fried and your eyes dry from trying to parse through spells which you (I) haven't (and never will) memorize.

3. Star Trek is just fundamentally a more rich and interesting world than Mage Knight's porny fantasy garbage. Not to mention superior gender and race politics. Though as with most nerd culture, they both have their problems and limitations in that regard.

4. As I alluded to earlier, the game mechanics work incredibly well with the theme, and the additional feature of away missions is a fun mechanic, and because of the superior thematic fit, the rules seem to simply make more sense. There's not really a better way to put it. There's much less rule book referencing in comparison to MK for me. But I feel fairly certain that the opinion that this game is considerably easier than Mage Knight is in considerable (if not, large) part due to the clarity of text and how much more intuitively the theme integrates into the rule set. Though it does seem somewhat easier to attack a Borg cube than to beat a castle. Luckily the difficulty is scaleable and if you're anything like me, you'll never beat all of the final baddies at the hardest level anyway, so it's cool. Seriously, chill...

What makes ST:F inFERIOR????

1. The brain burn is a little less gnarly, and as a result the accomplishments are are bit less dopamine inducing. In other words, it doesn't feel quiiiite as good to win.

2. As of this moment, there are no expansions, so no chasing Janeway around the board trying to blow up the Voyager, or however they end up playing that one.

3. If you really really do like schlock garbage fantasy themes, you will find MK to be more appealing.


SO, who should consider getting this??????

1. Those who have been considering Mage Knight for a long time, but have had small problems with it for one reason or another, this is a superior gateway to the general mechanics. A bit streamlined, easier to access and really wonderful and quite fun and great.

2. Those who love Mage Knight and love Star Trek and want it. I'm personally considering getting rid of my copy of MK and Lost Legions now (if anyone's looking for the lot, DM me) because mostly it gets played solo, and the Solo Conquest is just fine for me. Only have one other buddy who knows the game well enough to not have me in a bored stupor every time we play, and he prefers ST:F.

3. Those who have a deep love and respect for the mechanics of Mage Knight but who were deeply embarrassed by the embarrassing theme and want a different theme.

4. Those just now considering Mage Knight for the first time. This is a better entryway, get it.

5. And many more...

I'm exhausted and apologies for the rambling, but really, this game is easily as good as Mage Knight and there's something about it that just seems easier to get to the table. I know I sound like a mad person, but I will not stop proselytizing here and on the Mage Knight forum until Star Trek: Frontiers surpasses Mage Knight as the 11th best game in the world according to Board Game Geek.

Sweet dreams and good night.

xo
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Warren Smith
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Thanks for the comments. I have all of MK but have trouble getting into it. Not exactly sure why, but perhaps the theme of ST:F will be enough to get me into the game more.
 
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Honestly, the game is quite similar, just a tad easier to engage. If you're psyched on ST in general it may be the nudge you need to play it, but only you know if that is true in your heart of hearts.

For me, both ST:F and MK are mechanics-first games. Thus why I've been able to enjoy it for so long despite the awful (imo) theme.
 
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wsmithjr wrote:
Thanks for the comments. I have all of MK but have trouble getting into it. Not exactly sure why, but perhaps the theme of ST:F will be enough to get me into the game more.


That's exactly what happened with me. I've had Mage Knight for a couple of years and it only hit the table once. I've already played STF 6 times and look forward to many more. The theme and all of the little changes add up to it being a much more enjoyable experience, like the OP said.
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Warren Smith
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mirror33 wrote:
Honestly, the game is quite similar, just a tad easier to engage. If you're psyched on ST in general it may be the nudge you need to play it, but only you know if that is true in your heart of hearts.


I don't have any issues with the theme of MK but being a long-time Trekker at heart, I think this just might be my ticket.
 
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Hello,

My gaming buddy owns Mage Knight but will only play in Co-op mode. He owns the Lost Legion and I understand that fleshed out Co-op quite a bit. Could you comment on the Co-op mode available in frontiers?

Thanks.
 
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arandomcanadian1984 wrote:
Hello,

My gaming buddy owns Mage Knight but will only play in Co-op mode. He owns the Lost Legion and I understand that fleshed out Co-op quite a bit. Could you comment on the Co-op mode available in frontiers?

Thanks.


There is only one fully cooperative variant in Star Trek: Frontiers, and it's the same cooperative scenario in the base game of Mage Knight. You can adjust length by reducing rounds (or I suppose adding them if you've feeling particularly mad), but one scenario and does not include any of the same gameplay mechanics/scenarios as the Lost Legion expansion.
 
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Eric Glimme
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I like this game. The game play itself is pretty easy to understand once you've grasped the rules.

My main issues are the misleading iconography, and rules that are not intuitive. Wrapping my head around damage types, resistance types and shield types all working slightly differently took some time. This would have been helped had the iconography been consistent. A photon pulse shield uses the same icon as photon pulse attack, UNLESS the icons are on a player upgrade chip in which case they share an icon with the ship's defense value. They certainly could have included more player aids in card form.

I like the game play, I like the components, I like the integration of the theme, but learning this game felt like I was back in the 20th century with the amount of references I had to make to the rule book.
 
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Zarel wrote:
I like this game. The game play itself is pretty easy to understand once you've grasped the rules.

My main issues are the misleading iconography, and rules that are not intuitive. Wrapping my head around damage types, resistance types and shield types all working slightly differently took some time. This would have been helped had the iconography been consistent. A photon pulse shield uses the same icon as photon pulse attack, UNLESS the icons are on a player upgrade chip in which case they share an icon with the ship's defense value. They certainly could have included more player aids in card form.

I like the game play, I like the components, I like the integration of the theme, but learning this game felt like I was back in the 20th century with the amount of references I had to make to the rule book.


There are certainly problems with iconography, and legibility in this game, as with Mage Knight. I would say however, that aside from the problems with legibility on the chips and cards where dark images are printed on dark backgrounds, this is actually a considerable improvement on Mage Knight. There are fewer basic rules exceptions and less to reference.

Both games emerge after quite a bit of a learning curve, not a strategic learning curve either, but a fiddly rules confusion/exception learning curve, which is unfortunate, because the game presents a really thrilling challenge once you've internalized the bulk of this stuff.
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"Mage Knight's porny fantasy garbage"
"schlock garbage fantasy themes"
"embarrassing theme"

Yeesh man! Hate fantasy much!?
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I enjoyed much of Mage Knight but became frustrated with it because it was overly hard to do simple things and there were so many possible ways to play ones turn that a player could take a really long time figuring out what to do. Is any of that diminished here?
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Redward wrote:
I enjoyed much of Mage Knight but became frustrated with it because it was overly hard to do simple things and there were so many possible ways to play ones turn that a player could take a really long time figuring out what to do. Is any of that diminished here?


Curious about this as well.
 
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Redward wrote:
"Mage Knight's porny fantasy garbage"
"schlock garbage fantasy themes"
"embarrassing theme"

Yeesh man! Hate fantasy much!?


Ha no I don't mind fantasy (though it's not my favorite)...think I was being intentionally hyperbolic
 
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Redward wrote:
I enjoyed much of Mage Knight but became frustrated with it because it was overly hard to do simple things and there were so many possible ways to play ones turn that a player could take a really long time figuring out what to do. Is any of that diminished here?


The thing about Mage Knight and Star Trek: Frontiers is that simple and not simple things are both equally simple and difficult no matter how you define them. Battle is mechanically very similar to movement or influence/diplomacy-based acquisition. Given that on every turn, there is what you want to do and what you can do, given your hand, the beauty of the game is in this constant puzzle of trying to accomplish the goal you set out for the turn or simply optimizing the hand that you were dealt.

Playing with other people (though this game really is excellent solo) will always include some substantial downtime and as a result I personally stick to playing with people who really know the game.

That said I think that because of the slight rules streamlining and the improved card legibility and the fact that ship enemies and planetary enemies are mechanically different and dealt with separately, a little bit of the dumbfounded sluggish time is regained when compared to MK. There are just a few less things (exceptions) to consider at any given moment.
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mirror33 wrote:
Redward wrote:
"Mage Knight's porny fantasy garbage"
"schlock garbage fantasy themes"
"embarrassing theme"

Yeesh man! Hate fantasy much!?


Ha no I don't mind fantasy (though it's not my favorite)...think I was being intentionally hyperbolic


Well it was humorous in a confusing way.
 
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Redward wrote:
mirror33 wrote:
Redward wrote:
"Mage Knight's porny fantasy garbage"
"schlock garbage fantasy themes"
"embarrassing theme"

Yeesh man! Hate fantasy much!?


Ha no I don't mind fantasy (though it's not my favorite)...think I was being intentionally hyperbolic


Well it was humorous in a confusing way.


Given your avatar, I'd assume that you'd appreciate that sort of humor-through-confusion thing...
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abrocker wrote:
Redward wrote:
I enjoyed much of Mage Knight but became frustrated with it because it was overly hard to do simple things and there were so many possible ways to play ones turn that a player could take a really long time figuring out what to do. Is any of that diminished here?


Curious about this as well.


Full disclosure: I was on the development team for Frontiers.

That analysis paralysis is still present in the game, because there are still lots of ways to accomplish things, and the more options one has, the more possibilities there are to consider. However, I think that that AP has been diminished somewhat in Frontiers for a few reasons:

1) Movement is a little easier, in that since you encounter planets and starbases from adjacent spaces, you don't need quite so much move to do so.

2) The removal of the siege attacks vs. fortifications mechanic makes combat a little less mathy and option-juggle-y.

3) The conversion from four basic mana colors to three basic data colors means that it seems easier to match an action card to its appropriate data type, which tends to create an optimal solution a little more often, and when one good option seems readily apparent, most players are less likely to dive deep looking for others.

I do love and will continue to play Mage Knight. I love me some crunch.
That said, while Frontiers is still plenty crunchy, it's a little less so, IMO, so I expect that you will see a bit less AP, after the initial learning curve, anyway.
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Manuel ODonnell wrote:
abrocker wrote:
Redward wrote:
I enjoyed much of Mage Knight but became frustrated with it because it was overly hard to do simple things and there were so many possible ways to play ones turn that a player could take a really long time figuring out what to do. Is any of that diminished here?


Curious about this as well.


Full disclosure: I was on the development team for Frontiers.

That analysis paralysis is still present in the game, because there are still lots of ways to accomplish things, and the more options one has, the more possibilities there are to consider. However, I think that that AP has been diminished somewhat in Frontiers for a few reasons:

1) Movement is a little easier, in that since you encounter planets and starbases from adjacent spaces, you don't need quite so much move to do so.

2) The removal of the siege attacks vs. fortifications mechanic makes combat a little less mathy and option-juggle-y.

3) The conversion from four basic mana colors to three basic data colors means that it seems easier to match an action card to its appropriate data type, which tends to create an optimal solution a little more often, and when one good option seems readily apparent, most players are less likely to dive deep looking for others.

I do love and will continue to play Mage Knight. I love me some crunch.
That said, while Frontiers is still plenty crunchy, it's a little less so, IMO, so I expect that you will see a bit less AP, after the initial learning curve, anyway.


Great and succinct way of articulating the mechanism changes that reduce the complexity of the puzzle. Though I really do feel like the font clarity really helps too. I just feel like I'm seeing the cards more easily, though conversely the attack and defense modifiers are a bit too similar and as was noted above, the base icons on the away team cards are a bit difficult to see on such a dark background.

I love this game as I love Mage Knight but even a more obtuse but visually more clear iconography design like Race For the Galaxy would improve play.
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JR
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I REALLY like a game that was designed with quality solo play in mind and so Mage Knight has necessarily been near the top of recommendation lists I've consulted in recent history when shopping for new titles to add to my collection. It has received a "pass" from me every single time I've put it up for consideration largely because of the fact that I can in no way connect to the fantasy theme and looking over the rules it felt to me that the game was designed first and a theme was painted on afterwards. That isn't in itself necessarily a problem, but in this case it really seems like a sloppy and low-effort pairing of mechanics and theme.

Amusingly, ST:F first crossed my path recently and without even realizing it was associated in any way with Mage Knight, I had a few looks at pictures and thought "hey, this looks interesting!", so I started looking into it a bit more and decided it seemed like it might be something to add to the library. It was only after looking a bit more in depth that I realized it was just a re-theme of MK and for me it appears to be *exactly* what the Doctor ordered. Your review has cemented my belief and I now have a copy on order from bliss.
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jrebelo wrote:
I REALLY like a game that was designed with quality solo play in mind and so Mage Knight has necessarily been near the top of recommendation lists I've consulted in recent history when shopping for new titles to add to my collection. It has received a "pass" from me every single time I've put it up for consideration largely because of the fact that I can in no way connect to the fantasy theme and looking over the rules it felt to me that the game was designed first and a theme was painted on afterwards. That isn't in itself necessarily a problem, but in this case it really seems like a sloppy and low-effort pairing of mechanics and theme.

Amusingly, ST:F first crossed my path recently and without even realizing it was associated in any way with Mage Knight, I had a few looks at pictures and thought "hey, this looks interesting!", so I started looking into it a bit more and decided it seemed like it might be something to add to the library. It was only after looking a bit more in depth that I realized it was just a re-theme of MK and for me it appears to be *exactly* what the Doctor ordered. Your review has cemented my belief and I now have a copy on order from bliss.


Glad to hear! I've really enjoyed both my co-op and solo plays of this as I've continued to play. Now maybe you can help me to understand what 18xx games are all about and what a good point of entry is.
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Best entry into 18XX? That's a big can of worms! There are thousands of discussions about the series here, but I'll give you a couple quick paragraphs and if you're interested in looking into it further there are lots of resources here. Look at the 18XX family on BGG.

What are 18xx games all about? They're about players competing to be the most successful (wealthy) investors in railroad corporations. There's a track laying/route building element to the game combined with stock buying and selling. One of the major elements of all 18XX which is rather distinct from other games is that with very very few exceptions, players can't affect the game directly. Players can't build track, they can't place tokens on the board, they can't buy or sell trains. The ONLY actions that players take directly for themselves are (again with some rare exceptions): buying and selling stock certificates. Stocks are bought and sold during stock dealing rounds. Between stock dealing rounds, the corporations take their turns. Only corporations will lay track, place tokens, buy trains, etc (sometimes they may even buy and hold shares!). When a corporation is operating, its actions are chosen by the president (the majority share holder) but the actions are taken by the corporation. At a given time, a player may control several (or zero) corporations. Usually the control of some corporations will change hands during the course of play.

When the game ends, the only thing of any value to you for your score is your cash in hand and the stock value of all the shares in your portfolio. Being the director of a corporation that holds thousands of dollars in assets or has the best routes or shiniest trains on the board is of ZERO value to you. The really important thing that new players often have to spend time getting past is the instinct to nurture or care for their corporations. A good rail baron is only out to extract as much personal wealth from a corporation while minimizing the potential liabilities that might introduce later in the game. The separation of player interests and corporation interests is at the heart of the 18XX.

As for where to start? Many people recommend 1846, and it's surely a good choice since it's going to be released as a GMT reprint very soon. If you have any interest in the series, you can't go wrong making that purchase because it will be as cheap as an 18XX game ever gets and it will be easily resellable because it is very popular.

Caveats: there are almost no 18XX games that play fewer than 3 players well at all. For all intents and purposes, expect 18XX gaming to require at least 3 players. If that limitation is a big problem, then the series might not work for you.
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jrebelo wrote:
Best entry into 18XX? That's a big can of worms! There are thousands of discussions about the series here, but I'll give you a couple quick paragraphs and if you're interested in looking into it further there are lots of resources here. Look at the 18XX family on BGG.

What are 18xx games all about? They're about players competing to be the most successful (wealthy) investors in railroad corporations. There's a track laying/route building element to the game combined with stock buying and selling. One of the major elements of all 18XX which is rather distinct from other games is that with very very few exceptions, players can't affect the game directly. Players can't build track, they can't place tokens on the board, they can't buy or sell trains. The ONLY actions that players take directly for themselves are (again with some rare exceptions): buying and selling stock certificates. Stocks are bought and sold during stock dealing rounds. Between stock dealing rounds, the corporations take their turns. Only corporations will lay track, place tokens, buy trains, etc (sometimes they may even buy and hold shares!). When a corporation is operating, its actions are chosen by the president (the majority share holder) but the actions are taken by the corporation. At a given time, a player may control several (or zero) corporations. Usually the control of some corporations will change hands during the course of play.

When the game ends, the only thing of any value to you for your score is your cash in hand and the stock value of all the shares in your portfolio. Being the director of a corporation that holds thousands of dollars in assets or has the best routes or shiniest trains on the board is of ZERO value to you. The really important thing that new players often have to spend time getting past is the instinct to nurture or care for their corporations. A good rail baron is only out to extract as much personal wealth from a corporation while minimizing the potential liabilities that might introduce later in the game. The separation of player interests and corporation interests is at the heart of the 18XX.

As for where to start? Many people recommend 1846, and it's surely a good choice since it's going to be released as a GMT reprint very soon. If you have any interest in the series, you can't go wrong making that purchase because it will be as cheap as an 18XX game ever gets and it will be easily resellable because it is very popular.

Caveats: there are almost no 18XX games that play fewer than 3 players well at all. For all intents and purposes, expect 18XX gaming to require at least 3 players. If that limitation is a big problem, then the series might not work for you.


Wow, can of worms for sure! I'm at this point where I feel like I understand the heavy Euro landscape fairly well and have my tastes but aside from Dominant Species I'm not looped in to the GMT paradigm, let alone 18xx.

I listen to the heavy cardboard podcast and hear a lot about war games and 18xx but they assume that listeners know more about them than I do, so this is a perfect summary for my needs. And they actually sound super interesting!

Many thanks
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If you're comfortable with heavy euro games I would definitely recommend that you try to have an introductory play to 18XX to see if it works for you. If possible, it would be really good to be able to join an existing 18XX group for a game or at least be introduced to it by an experienced player so that they can help keep the game flowing smoothly and enjoyably without new players having to frequently consult the rule book.

The complexity of 18XX games is somewhat over-exaggerated, IMO, but it's not unreasonable because the rules books are long and wordy (must keep the rules lawyers at bay when you're making a game that loosely simulates the very corrupt business practices of the late 19th century railroad industry). So reading a rule book the first few times can seem like a massive hurdle, but the reality is that they have been refined for so many years that while they are long, they are usually very concise.

Another thing that offsets the rules complexity is that all 18XX games share a number of common traits and MOST 18xx games share MANY traits. Once you've learned a couple of 18XX games, learning a third becomes a very simple matter of learning how that game differs from "the norm" (the 1830 rules set is considered the norm by most). When we play a game that no one in my group has ever played, we literally teach the game by simply talking about which rules are different from 1830.

Anyway, if you ever have more questions feel free to look me up directly or open up discussion in one of the specific 18XX game forums or in the 18XX family forum. There's also a pretty active Yahoo Group (mailing list) which has been the historical hub of 18XX players to communicate. Over the years a lot of activity has grown from within BGG, but the mailing list is still probably the most central way that enthusiasts and designers communicate. There's often discussion about prototypes in development as well as announcements of upcoming 18XX conventions and so forth.
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18XX well good try at getting others interested in railroads and heavy euros. ninja Definitely kills this thread goo
 
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Starman54 wrote:
18XX well good try at getting others interested in railroads and heavy euros. ninja Definitely kills this thread goo


Ha. To be fair, I did ask him about it.

Wanna chat ST:F?
 
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