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Star Trek: Ascendancy» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Star Trek Ascendancy - Overview and Initial Impressions rss

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Greg Syferd
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One of my three must haves for Gen Con 2016, was Star Trek Ascendancy(ST:A) from Gale Force Nine. When I saw the initial product announcements, I was excited that we were finally going to get a solid 'dudes-on-a-map' Star Trek game. With much excitement, I strolled over to my full play in the GF9 play area Saturday afternoon to see if my expectations would pan out.

Overview
First and foremost, the game I played included the Cardassian expansion, which won't be available for a few months. However, the expansion only adds more of the same, so mechanically everything is included in the base box.

In ST:A, you are attempting to explore the galaxy, bringing systems into your fold either through diplomacy or force. The game begins with none of the factions having encountered each other yet. Each home world is set 18" from each other, with the vast expanse of space separating them. Each faction also has a board used to mark weapons and shield strength. Finally, each ship has 3 fleet cards, used to mass your ships for movement and a special capability.

Each faction has a unique strength and weakness, making your strategy decidedly different. For example, the Klingons can gain resources by destroying ships in battle, but can never run from a fight no matter the odds. Each faction also has a different deck of upgrades they use to improve their capabilities. Thematically, each faction's powers felt true to the shows...the Klingons want to fight, the Federation wants to use diplomacy, the Romulans use 'scientific' research to obtain the upper hand, and the Cardassians use brutal force and espionage to grow their empire.

You win the game by acquiring 5 Ascendency token, which can be gained by spending 5 Culture (a type of resource)or by occupying 3 home planets, including your own. This later victory path seems difficult to do, something that was acknowledged by one of the designers at our demo session.

To gain resources, you will be moving down space lanes that connect systems with each other. The map is dynamically built from a random stack of disks that can be planets and space features (called phenomenon)such as nebulas. When first arriving at a planet, there is a deck of encounter cards to draw from, which tells you if the planet is habitable, has an existing civilization that must be dealt with, or has some type of event you must overcome.

As the map expands, eventually you will come in contact with another faction. This allows for the two factions to exchange trade agreements (providing resources to each) and eventually will result in conflict as factions run out of space to expand.

Gameplay
At the start of each round, turn order initially is determined randomly. Once factions have encountered each other, they may bid for turn order, with the other faction(s) being determined randomly.

A turn is made up of two phases. First is building, where you purchase ships and buildings that will help you extract resources from systems you control. There are 3 resources: production, research, and culture. Depending on the planets you've explored, resources can be tight as you must these resources in various combinations to place units onto the board or enhance your faction's shield and weapons capabilities. Again, you can also spend 5 culture to purchase an ascendancy token.

Once the building phase is complete, you move to the meat of the game, the command phase. At the beginning of the game, each faction has 5 command tokens, used to perform actions. Command tokens allow you to move ships, explore/colonize new systems, and fight the other factions. You can also draw from your advancement deck to improve your capabilities. A final action is building Starbases, which provide another command token and allow for the production of ships.

Building the Map
The map is the most difficult concept to grasp when starting. As previously mentioned, each faction's home world sets up 18" apart. The board "edge" is defined as 5" from the home worlds, so you are forced to expand towards to the middle of the table, and your opponents.

At the beginning of the game, most of your time will be spent exploring. Each planet will have a number, indicating how many space lanes can be connected to it (home worlds have 4). When a ship wants to explore, it will roll a die to check the length of a space lane (from 2-4.). Then, you can decide if you want to explore a new system (by placing a new system disk) or connect to an existing system if in reach.

The rulebook does a good job of explaining situations are likely to encounter and how to shift systems in order to make the map 'fit.' Everything is intuitive and did not cause any issues in our play.

A new system may be able to be colonized based on the exploration card drawn. Systems may also have a hazard, which could destroy ships that enter the system. Hazards can be mitigated or even negated by improved shield technology and advancements. Finally, phenomenon tiles (such as a nebula) are hazards that can provide valuable research tokens.

Combat
Eventually, you will need to fight either factions or civilizations that you encounter. Combat is straight forward, in which the attacker has a to hit number (based on their weapons strength) and applies any modifiers based on the opponents shield value (ex. A weapons value of 4+ with a shield modifier of +1, means that the attacker must roll a 5 or 6 to score a hit.). Battle is simultaneous unless the attacker has a cloaking device which gives them 'first strike' (which can be negated by technology advancements.) Planetary invasions work similarly. Combat continues until a side is destroyed or retreats.

However, you can also sway a culture using the hegemony action during the command phase. This allows you to exert cultural influence in an attempt to sway a system to your side. Following a similar mechanic to combat, you will compare various modifiers, spend culture resources, and roll dice to see if you can influence the system to join your faction (preserving any structures that have already been built.)

What Did I Think?
Despite all that I've written, mechanically the game is not difficult. Each of the various actions makes sense and is easy to execute. The decisions are important, without inducing a large amount of analysis paralysis. As our game evolved, the theme came through quite a bit. As the Klingon player, I was hit by tribbles. The Cardassian player drew Bajor as their first system to colonize. There was a long lost Klingon colony in the middle of Cardassian territory that allows for an arrangement to be made between the two factions. Very similar to Star Wars Rebellion, a story emerges as the game plays out.

There is also a high amount of player interaction once you start bumping into each other. Do you make a trade agreement with them? Do you allow them to pass through your space to get somewhere else? When is the right time to strike?

My quibbles with the game are small. I'd prefer a tech tree as opposed to the randomness of the advancement deck. Secondly, skill wise I think players need to be close in experience as a person who knows what they are doing can run away with the game. Falling behind early can make the game painful for the person in last.

Overall, I highly enjoyed my first play and am looking forward to introducing it to my group. It's not as deep an experience as Twilight Imperium, but also takes half the time. However, it does deliver a Star Trek experience quite well and is beautiful to look at.

Common Questions
To address some of the concerns I've heard from others:

Game Length - Yes, it's long, not including learning time an hour per player is a reasonable expectation. There is also some downtime that can occur between turns, especially once factions start coming into contact with each other. Length can also go long if you each player takes a defensive posture and doesn't enter into combat. The game rewards combat in terms of satisfaction and play time.

Player Count - Can you play with two, yes? Would it be enjoyable? Not that I can see, since you completely eliminate the critical interaction pieces of the game. Due to game length, I would not want to play with 5 players (if that will even be possible.)

Cost - There is a lot of game in the box. The components are well done and there is plenty of variabilities to allow for multiple plays. When you add the Star Trek IP into the mix, unfortunately, $100 MSRP is what you can expect to pay any more for a game like this in terms of content and components. Also, if you need 4 players you will have to add at least one expansion pack, so bear that in mind.

Re-playability - Each faction plays very different, and will likely take 2-4 plays to get the hang of. Furthermore, the different map setup and encounter cards mean the map will differ greatly between games. All of this means a very different experience each play.

ST:A or Star Wars Rebellion? - Both games deliver a similar dudes on a map feel. Both also have a story arc that develops as the game goes on. ST:R has the deduction mechanic and variable unit capabilities, whereas ST:A has the exploration and variable technology capabilities that can be used to customize your strategy. While they feel similar, I think they scratch different itches and can be side by side in a collection.

My initial rating: 9/10

Minor grammatical edits
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Nik Degtyarenko
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Rebellion and this game has nothing in common. Comparing the is like comparing Splendor and dominon.
Advaacments have 2 mods. Random draw aor you can draw specific tech you want.
Cost is not 100 msrp, look at the preorders, Its way cheaper.

Rebellion is a asymetric strategy like war of the ring. Ascendency is closer to other 4x games.
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Angelus Seniores
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Wyrtt wrote:

Cost is not 100 msrp, look at the preorders, Its way cheaper.


the Msrp price IS 100$, but yes many sites offer it at a discounted price (discounted prices are always below the official msrp).
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Nik Degtyarenko
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If you can sell a thing below its price(70$) and still make profit than 100$ was never its price but a scamm.
Prices doesnt work that way.
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Chris J Davis
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Wyrtt wrote:
If you can sell a thing below its price(70$) and still make profit than 100$ was never its price but a scamm.
Prices doesnt work that way.


So all retailers should set their prices to 1p (or whatever your smallest denomination of your local currency is) above the price they bought the product for?

Unfortunately, in a capitalist economy, prices for a product are set largely by whatever the market is prepared to pay for them. If someone sets their prices too high, then fewer people will buy the product and they will make less profit overall.

So $100 isn't a "scam"; it's just higher than the $70 the other retailer is offering. Which of those retailers will end up making more profit from it is difficult to determine, but that is, I'm afraid, how prices work.
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Nik Degtyarenko
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nope. Setting up price 2 as much is not a capitalism. Its just a scamm and attempt to earn money from naive buyer. Thats any why any no savage country has a price regulation laws.
You cant open a shop and sell bread here for a 100$ with excuse that you can always go to another shop, Gauging price is a crime.
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Chris J Davis
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Wyrtt wrote:
nope. Setting up price 2 as much is not a capitalism. Its just a scamm and attempt to earn money from naive buyer. Thats any why any no savage country has a price regulation laws.
You cant open a shop and sell bread here for a 100$ with excuse that you can always go to another shop, Gauging price is a crime.


If anyone tried to sell bread in their store for $100, no one would buy it and the shop would very quickly go out of business.
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Steve O'Grady
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Wyrtt wrote:
nope. Setting up price 2 as much is not a capitalism. Its just a scamm and attempt to earn money from naive buyer. Thats any why any no savage country has a price regulation laws.
You cant open a shop and sell bread here for a 100$ with excuse that you can always go to another shop, Gauging price is a crime.


MSRP is not a scam, it is a maximum suggested retail price point. Retailers build their pricing on whatever they feel the market will bear and still be profitable to stay in business. If you don't like a price, skip that product or skip that retailer. But if you think that product is worth that much for you, than buy it at that price. Nobody forces you to buy. So you are not scammed. You make the decision to buy. Only you. The retailer or manufacturer will not be in business long if their business model is to set prices too high. Pure market economics. Go into business yourself...you'll figure it out.

And gauging is a crime. Selling gasoline at $35 a gallon after a disaster is gouging. Selling plywood for $100 a sheet or water for $50 a gallon just before an oncoming hurricane is gouging. But Selling a game with a costly TV/Movie license is not gauging.

BTW, to the OP, good overview. Pretty much sums up what I saw when I saw it demoed at GenCon.
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Nathanael Robinson
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Wyrtt wrote:
Rebellion and this game has nothing in common. Comparing the is like comparing Splendor and dominon.
Advaacments have 2 mods. Random draw aor you can draw specific tech you want.
Cost is not 100 msrp, look at the preorders, Its way cheaper.

Rebellion is a asymetric strategy like war of the ring. Ascendency is closer to other 4x games.


Rebellion and Ascendancy are the two new epic space opera games based on major IPs that are coming out this year. There is a good chance that many who would be interested in one game would likely be interested in the other, the comparisons are relevant. Indeed, given that the MANUFACTURER'S suggested retail price (MSRP), which is a good measure for understanding how they will be prices in any given market, for both game IS above $99, it will be useful for those who might only be able to afford one, but not the other.

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Ian Kissell
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Bad Thoughts wrote:
Wyrtt wrote:
Rebellion and this game has nothing in common. Comparing the is like comparing Splendor and dominon.
Advaacments have 2 mods. Random draw aor you can draw specific tech you want.
Cost is not 100 msrp, look at the preorders, Its way cheaper.

Rebellion is a asymetric strategy like war of the ring. Ascendency is closer to other 4x games.


Rebellion and Ascendancy are the two new epic space opera games based on major IPs that are coming out this year. There is a good chance that many who would be interested in one game would likely be interested in the other, the comparisons are relevant. Indeed, given that the MANUFACTURER'S suggested retail price (MSRP), which is a good measure for understanding how they will be prices in any given market, for both game IS above $99, it will be useful for those who might only be able to afford one, but not the other.



BGG has a very low threshold for what makes two games too dissimilar to compare. "The box sizes are different, so you can't really compare them."

I am not a ST fan, but was briefly tempted by this. However, I feel like it might be another Firefly, which I felt had a good game in there that took too long to develop. Good 3 player games can be hard to come by, but I'm afraid adding any more players might make this game drag too much.

Thanks for the review. Looks like one I'll be passing on for now.
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Greg Syferd
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Glad I could help.

Yes, the game does take time to develop. You start off producing a small amount of resources and have to take some time to build up your forces and how you plan to deal with the other factions. While I like the feeling of building up, it certainly isn't for everyone.

Interestingly enough, I picked up Firefly after finding a great deal at Coolstuff.
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Angelus Seniores
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Wyrtt wrote:
If you can sell a thing below its price(70$) and still make profit than 100$ was never its price but a scamm.
Prices doesnt work that way.


you dont seem to understand the distribution chain that is involved before a game (or any other product) reaches the final shop where you buy it.

every distributor along the way that handles the game wants to make profit on that same product which makes a game in the shop relatively 40-60% more expensive than the production cost for the designer/publisher.
it accounts for all the transport costs, the cost of storing facilities, the personnel of the shop, the lighting/decoration/rent costs of the shops etc which are all factored into the msrp.

online shops like coolstuffinc are just a warehouse and as such dont need to pay for vendors/fancy shop decoration etc. and probably can cut a few middle distributors as well and buy in bulk which allows them to sell that same game for less as their operating costs are quite lower.
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Nova Cat
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Wyrtt wrote:
If you can sell a thing below its price(70$) and still make profit than 100$ was never its price but a scamm.
Prices doesnt work that way.

How much of a markup is required before a price becomes a scam? 10%? 30%? 80%?

Would you like to know the markup on the average fountain drink? It's something like 2000%. Is that a scam?
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John Peterson
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GeekDadGamer wrote:
Wyrtt wrote:
nope. Setting up price 2 as much is not a capitalism. Its just a scamm and attempt to earn money from naive buyer. Thats any why any no savage country has a price regulation laws.
You cant open a shop and sell bread here for a 100$ with excuse that you can always go to another shop, Gauging price is a crime.


MSRP is not a scam, it is a maximum suggested retail price point. Retailers build their pricing on whatever they feel the market will bear and still be profitable to stay in business. If you don't like a price, skip that product or skip that retailer. But if you think that product is worth that much for you, than buy it at that price. Nobody forces you to buy. So you are not scammed. You make the decision to buy. Only you. The retailer or manufacturer will not be in business long if their business model is to set prices too high. Pure market economics. Go into business yourself...you'll figure it out.

And gauging is a crime. Selling gasoline at $35 a gallon after a disaster is gouging. Selling plywood for $100 a sheet or water for $50 a gallon just before an oncoming hurricane is gouging. But Selling a game with a costly TV/Movie license is not gauging.

BTW, to the OP, good overview. Pretty much sums up what I saw when I saw it demoed at GenCon.


MSRP = Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price

Gauging is measuring. I think you mean GOUGING.
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Marco Fregoso

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I wonder if choosing wich tecnologies to develop instead of picking them randomly would be a good house rule.
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Destrio Dai
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OP informative review but you didn't go into much detail on the command tokens. I am imagining a mix of Forbidden stars and eclipse rather than star wars rebellion. Do you just play the token when it is your turn or do you place it somewhere?
 
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Nova Cat
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Destrio wrote:
OP informative review but you didn't go into much detail on the command tokens. I am imagining a mix of Forbidden stars and eclipse rather than star wars rebellion. Do you just play the token when it is your turn or do you place it somewhere?

When you spend a command token to perform an action, you turn it face-down. Command tokens remain face-down until the end of the round, where they are "refreshed".
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Greg Syferd
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Destrio wrote:
OP informative review but you didn't go into much detail on the command tokens. I am imagining a mix of Forbidden stars and eclipse rather than star wars rebellion. Do you just play the token when it is your turn or do you place it somewhere?


Command tokens basically represent how many actions you can take a turn. You start with five. You can gain more by building Starbases and from some of the technology cards.

That help?
 
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Destrio Dai
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Interesting to note. Thanks. Not a huge fan of the IP but am always open to looking at a new 4x game.
 
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Mel Primus
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Agzaroth wrote:
I wonder if choosing wich tecnologies to develop instead of picking them randomly would be a good house rule.


In the Advanced Optional Rules section, this is listed as an option for experienced players.
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Doug Hawes
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Angelsenior wrote:
Wyrtt wrote:
If you can sell a thing below its price(70$) and still make profit than 100$ was never its price but a scamm.
Prices doesnt work that way.




online shops like coolstuffinc are just a warehouse and as such dont need to pay for vendors/fancy shop decoration etc. and probably can cut a few middle distributors as well and buy in bulk which allows them to sell that same game for less as their operating costs are quite lower.


FYI
CoolStuff has a few stores with lots of fancy decorations. It's not just a warehouse. It's my Local Friendly Game Store. My group has been playing there for 9 years. We play at the main location with the warehouse. Yes I am lucky.

 
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Bru Ticus
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Price gouging is only a crime for those who charge for necessities, such as gas or milk, in a time of crisis, such as after a hurricane. Board games are not necessities.
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Mark Ramsey
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bruticus wrote:
Price gouging is only a crime for those who charge for necessities, such as gas or milk, in a time of crisis, such as after a hurricane. Board games are not necessities.


Exactly. Board games are luxury items. If you don't like the price, don't buy it.
 
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Steve Stanton
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bruticus wrote:
Price gouging is only a crime for those who charge for necessities, such as gas or milk, in a time of crisis, such as after a hurricane. Board games are not necessities.


Which apparently doesn't include life-saving drugs.

Just got word that my copy has been shipped, although it'll take about a week to get here.
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Ned Meier
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Gregor1863 have you played it since GenCon? I'm interested in either this or Frontiers but am worried this will be too long of a game for my group.
 
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