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This shark, swallow you whole.
I'll catch this bird for you, but it ain't gonna be easy. Bad fish.
I'll start the review saying this: I'm a moderately big Star Trek fan (I've seen every episode of The Next Generation, every move related to the franchise and not more than an episode or two of the original series) and I'm a moderately big Castle Panic fan (it hits my table every now and then with Castle Panic: The Wizard's Tower and Castle Panic: The Dark Titan). Does that bias in regards to my opinion of the game? Probably. Yet here I am-row, row, rowing my boat into a review of the game.
There are many similarities to Castle Panic in regards to gameplay. Replace the castle with a starship? Check. Replace the walls with shields? Check. Replace catapults with comets? Check. Have three rings that enemies move between? Check. Have enemies with defense values that rotate as they are hit? Check.
Players draw cards, depending on the number of players, at the start of their turn. You may trade a card with one of your fellow crewmates. Players then can attack enemies based on the ring/location they are located at. Most threats generally move one ring per turn, and you draw two more threats at the end of your turn. There are a few common elements to the Castle Panic game.
However, there are distinctive differences between Castle Panic and Star Trek Panic. And some of those are:
Enemies shoot at you! Mostly Klingons! Also some Romulans!
Enemies usually attack you each round as they move closer to your ship-which adds some serious tension to overall gameplay. While some enemies, such as the Klingon Bird of Prey, cloak themselves (go invisible) and don't attack every turn, by and large it's something you have to continually account for. More damage is being done, but you have more defense (2 shield points and 2 hull points in six quadrants) so this changes things up a bit.
To start the game, you pick (or randomly choose) character roles from the original Star Trek television series. Seven of them, in fact. Each of these characters has a unique ability that incorporates their position on the ship. Scott helps repair the ship, Chekov increases attack power, etc. These abilities are extremely useful and, on harder difficulties, become essential to victory.
Instead of simply trying to kill every enemy in the grab-bag, players complete missions (and...well, kill enemies from the grab-bag) to win the game. There are 18 missions, each with specific parameters to complete. There are various rewards (and penalties) for completing a mission: the more missions you add, the harder the game gets.
A Moving Ship!
God doesn't need a starship to move-but for the rest of us not from Sha Ka Ree, how else can you travel at light speeds? Instead of being in a stationary castle ala Castle Panic, the Enterprise moves. You can rotate the ship-and you absolutely have to, in order to attack enemies in certain sectors. This adds more decision making to your turn, as often times you will have to rotate your ship to different quadrants in order to attack enemies/defend against enemies/work on completing missions. Also, you can move "forward"-how does this happen? By pulling everything you are facing forward one ring. While the ship doesn't physically move on the board, it gives you the feel of the ship moving in a particular direction in space.
Another disclaimer: I'm not as judgmental about components as others-I don't get as excited/bothered by them as others seem to. Gameplay is what matters to me by quite a bit. That said, I'll say my piece here.
Overall, I think all of the components are very well made for the price. The board and tokens are thick and sturdy and the graphics are appealing. The pictures on the enemy tokes and character role cards have the vintage Star Trek look that goes with the original series-I liked the stock photos on the character cards, as it goes well with the theme. The ship is excellent and easy to put together, which is surrounded by excellent translucent shield pieces that fit into the base of the ship.
But here's the thing: the ship doesn't really...fit....inside the shield pieces in the base. It kind of hangs over and is cumbersome. Also, putting damage tokens on the oversized ship can be a bit of a pain. It's not a major criticism, but it was a bit bothersome during gameplay.
Verdict: Resistance is Futile
This is a damn good game: I really have enjoyed playing it. I can't help but compare it to the recently released Star Trek: Frontiers and see how this game warps over all the traps Frontiers got sucked into. It takes a very good Castle Panic game and improves upon it by putting a new spin on an old formula. The new character cards, missions and movement dynamic all make the game feel more complex than Castle Panic and give it a new feel. Also, the game has a LOT of theme that works in a cohesive manner (as opposed to Frontier, where the theme comes across as much more disjointed).
Anyone who doesn't own Castle Panic should go out and buy this game immediately-it's an excellent light-medium weight game. Anyone who does own Castle Panic should go out and buy it as well-it adds a lot of new and enjoyable elements to an old favorite. This is the best Star Trek game I've played to date, and plan on bringing it out to the tabletop quite a bit in the coming months.
Thanks for the positive review, specific without bogging down.
Thanks, also, for confirming my "gut instinct" impulse-buy!
Haven't got the game quite yet, but I'm glad I pulled the trigger, or pressed the photon torpedo button, or whatever.