I don't write many reviews on BGG, but since this game has not a single one posted yet, and since I had the opportunity to read through the rulebook and observe the game being played last night, I thought I'd give it a shot.
This is a Star Trek trivia game at heart. If you're not a Trekkie, or don't like answering questions, you probably won't enjoy the game anywhere near its full potential. That being said, the best single-concept summary I can think of is "Battleship meets Trivial Pursuit".
One player takes on the role of Starfleet Command, while the other players attempt to navigate Starfleet ships through the known universe discovering planets. There are an unknown number of planets to be found (between 1 and 10), and the first player to report back to Starfleet Command the number and locations of those planets is the winner.
The components of this game consist primarily of the navigation consoles, which are essentially grids of the universe in which the game will take place.
The console boards are sturdy, glossy and well-made. The stands, on the other hand, are constructed of a flimsy plastic. They will probably hold up fine as long as they remain safely on the table, but if someone were to accidentally step or lean on one, they would definitely break.
There are, of course, plenty of trivia cards of adequate quality, with a wide variety of ST:TNG imagery, which should add a bonus for fans of the series. There are a very few other pieces - plastic pegs, small cards to write on, etc - but the consoles and the trivia cards comprise most of the physical elements of gameplay.
The only component of this game that are awful - and I mean awful - are the wax crayons used to mark the navigation consoles. Marking is an absolute necessity, and these crayons can barely even be seen on the boards. A possible alternative would be dry erase markers, but since we didn't have any to try out, it's hard to say how many colors would actually be visible on the dark-colored boards. (By the official rules, you only need one color, but as I hope to show at the end of the review, the game can potentially be made much better by requiring many.) Big negative on the crayons.
The Game Master
Firstly, it should be noted that whoever is playing Starfleet Command acts as a sort of game master in several respects:
- They do not pilot a ship like the other players.
- They are the only player who is aware of the location and movement of all entities in the game: the Borg, temporal fluxes and the players' Starfleet ships, which start at secret, predetermined locations.
- They alert Captains when their ship's sensors have picked up any of these other entities.
- They relay and receive confidential information that, if spoken aloud, would reveal to other captains the location of any of those entities.
- Between each player's turn, they choose a direction for the Borg. (A warp speed is chosen randomly via marks on the trivia cards.)
Play proceeds clockwise in individual turns. Each Captain states aloud the direction (one of the eight cardinal/ordinal directions) their ship will be going and a warp speed from 1 to 9. The warp speed is directly related to the distance traveled on the board: one square for each warp level. A movement of warp 6 means that the Captain's ship moves 6 squares in whatever direction they have chosen.
During this movement, one of several things can happen.
As noted previously, a single Borg ship moves secretly around the board between each player's turn, in a direction chosen by Command, at a speed determined by the trivia card just used. If a Captain's ship passes over or ends up in the same space as the Borg ship during its movement, it is attacked.
This is not as exciting as it sounds and takes about 5 seconds to resolve. If the Captain's ship has not fired its photons yet, the photon peg is removed from the stand. If the ship has already fired photons, the shields are damaged. If the shields are already damaged, the primary warp drive is damaged. If primary drive is damaged, the secondary drive is damaged. Strangely, if there is nothing left to be damaged, the Borg don't do anything, and the player's turn is over.
The only practical effect of these damages are that if a primary warp drive is damaged, the Captain can go no faster than warp 5. If the secondary drive is damaged, the Captain can travel no faster than warp 1, putting them at an extreme disadvantage.
Shields and warp drives can be repaired (and photons restocked) by returning to Starfleet Command near the center of the board, but this trip could take several turns to complete, especially if a Captain is moving at warp 1 and/or answering questions incorrectly.
Temporal Flux Encounter
If a starship passes over or ends movement on a temporal flux (the locations of which are known only by Command), the player is transported to predetermined coordinates somewhere in the universe. These coordinates are written down by Command and shown to the Captain privately.
The interesting aspect of temporal fluxes is that they remain immobile for the entire game and always transport ships to the same location. If a Captain accidentally travels through one, he may take note of its location and destination for efficient transport later in the game.
If a Captain's starship moves through the proximity of any a planet, another Captain's starship or a temporal flux (without actually passing over/through a temporal flux, of course), Command will notify them of this aloud. The sensor range looks like this:
This is an example of warp 4 movement, and even at this moderate speed, you can see that during the course of travel, the sensor range covers either 19 or 21 possible locations, depending on whether you're moving diagonally or hor/vertically. Practically, this makes it very difficult to determine exactly where the sensed item is, even with another turn to head back in the direction you just came from.
After movement, Command draws a trivia card and asks the Captain the question on the card corresponding to the warp speed at which they traveled. As previously mentioned, warps 1-5 are multiple choice questions, warps 6-9 are more difficult, single-answer questions.
If the player answers the question right, they get to take another movement turn. This means that players with substantial knowledge of ST:TNG will have quite an advantage over other players, and can potentially have lengthy turns.
If the Captain answers the question incorrectly, their turn is over. Next to some of the questions are icon notations corresponding to the following negative effects for an incorrect answer:
Warp Drive Damage
Photon Torpedo Damage
Attacked by Q
An attack by Q is also less exciting than it sounds, and is essentially identical to a temporal flux transport to a random location. (The destinations that Q hurls starships to are never repeated the way that temporal flux destinations are, so there is not a similar benefit.)
The object of the game is to discover the exact location of all existing planets on the board and report this information to Starfleet Command. The catch is that the Captains don't know how many planets there are to begin with, so heading back to Starfleet Command and reporting planet locations aloud without having discovered them all is just handing valuable information to the competition.
This game can be played with three different lengths, corresponding to how much of the navigation console the game will take place in, and thus how spread out the planets are. It can be played in one quadrant, two quadrants, or over the entire board. In an attempt to have a relatively quick first experience as we were learning the game, our group chose to try the single quadrant version.
After 30-45 minutes, no one had found a single one of the four planets. I can't imagine playing a game over the entire board and hoping to discover nine planets in anything close to a reasonable length of time.
There is none.
There is nothing to do between turns, nothing to plan. Unless you really enjoy listening to other people answer Star Trek trivia, it's possible for boredom to set in. This is especially true if several people actually know a considerable amount of trivia and end up with lengthy turns.
There is very little required. Players blindly send their ships through the universe, hoping for sensors to pick something up. There is no way to know what areas might be better to search than others, or any other strategic decisions to make. (On the plus side, analysis paralysis does not factor in.)
The Potential Fix
There is one fix to this game that I think would address all of these issues at once:
Starting Locations Known to All
In the standard rules, all Captains start out in locations known only to themselves and Starfleet Command. If everyone knew where everyone else started, or if everyone started in the same location, it would allow Captains to track the routes of all players' starships. This would require that players pay attention and make correct notations, which adds another element to the game in and of itself, and would improve the aforementioned negative aspects in the following ways:
- The length would be decreased because people wouldn't be unwittingly exploring the same areas of the boards, unnecessarily doubling (even tripling) efforts. Captains would naturally go their own ways, exploring their own portions of the available sector(s). This would allow players to know when most/all planets are likely to have been found without having to cover the entire board personally. Because temporal flux locations would be revealed to all, players could potentially also return to Starfleet Command to repair, restock and report planets without spending many turns doing so.
- The player interaction wouldn't necessarily be increased, but remaining conscious of which players are in what locations would at least generate the consciousness of a group game, rather than a blind solo exploration.
- The down time would be eliminated because players would need to stay alert to hear the directions, speed and sensor detections of all other players and the Borg, actively mapping them as the game progressed.
- The strategy would be increased by demanding assessments of the best territory to cover (which otherwise could just be systematic), which temporal fluxes should be used to reach a destination (since players would know when anyone found one), where the Borg is likely to be and to move (which otherwise is completely unknown), and so on.
This is a Star Trek trivia game. If you're looking for an interesting board game in its own right, there will need to be at least one fix. If not the one suggested above, then perhaps an increase in sensor range. If you find this at a low price somewhere, and you're into Star Trek, and you enjoy tweaking rules, this is for you.
Otherwise, play with someone who already owns it first.
Papa was a rollin' stone...
I literally just picked this up today, and came here to find a review of it. One of us has impeccable timing!
Thanks for the review!
I don't suppose anyone has both a scanner and a copy of the rules? My (used) copy is missing that rather critical component.
I have a pdf of the rules. Not sure what the bgg rules are on uploading scans... meaning I don't have "authorization" for the copyright or whatever-
- Last edited Thu Feb 16, 2012 12:22 am (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Thu Feb 16, 2012 12:21 am
I managed to get a physical copy, but maybe others would benefit. I've seen scans on other games, but never tried myself.
Back on thread topic: Great review, useful addition.
Nice review thanks. I had this as a kid and used to play it with my siblings. we ended up using the start from starfleet to allow other players to track movement.
For us though it took far too long and got boring. We took the boards and crayons and came up with a submarine game. Much more fun
1 sector map, 4 hours. Less trivia, more minutia. Wow. We used a shared map, played cooperatively and it was still insanely difficult. Most correct answers were guesses. You'd have to be a dedicated Star Trek historian to do truly well on this.