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Subject: These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise... rss

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Robert Huffman
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This is a review of, "Star Trek Frontiers".


When I heard that Mage Knight and Star Trek was going to have a baby, I became quite excited. Furthermore, upon hearing that Andrew Parks was going to be help mold Mage Knight into this new game, I became doubly excited.

MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH MAGE KNIGHT:
Arguably one of my favorite games is Mage Knight. Even though it has one of the steepest learning curves in the genre, gamers who stick-with-it are rewarded with an amazing experience. Mage Knight's complexity, choices for it's players, rich world and a host of other incredible layers, I bought Star Trek Frontiers sight unseen because of my Love of Mage Knight(something I never do). I have played Mage Knight more than any game combined. Now with this new game, I have played this Frontiers about five times now...

FACTS:
Before I continue though, here are some facts from the table:
- Time: Hour and a half per player (more or less - this doesn't include learning the game)
- Art: Photos (not illustrations)
- Bits: Ship minis are REALLY small and fragile. Plastic tokens are REALLY small.
- Box: Awful folding cheap box that after one week is showing wear and paint coming off the top (mat finish). Cards are less quality than MG. Dice seem a bit smaller too.
- Rules: Some slight changes explained more below.

Videos: If you watch the YouTube videos, most will say they prefer this new implementation to the Mage Knight original. They seem to generally like it.

So let me start by saying I generally like the newest version of this game. Star Trek (not that J.J.-Abrams-wanna-be-Star-Wars-crap-movies) is one of my favorite TV shows and movies. So you'd think that I would be drooling all over this new game. But this game IS Mage Knight. The theme doesn't really work in the long run.

THEME?
I can't help but think that Star Trek is all wrong for this game. Yes Mage Knight is my mistress and Love, but Starfleet doesn't go around picking fights with other Empires, worlds or races. Starfleet and Star Trek is about science, exploring and learning. Defense is one of it's secondary goals, but it would never take on the whole universe. What would happen if the United States Navy would send out it's Destroyers and Carriers and start attacking Island bases/ports of foreign nations? You'd have something like Japan in late 1930's (the whole world against them). So it's hard for me to buy into this. Maybe if it was a generic Sci Fi universe it would be fine, but not Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek.

SPECIAL UNITS/CHARACTERS:
In Mage Knight you "recruit" special units to aid you in your conquering and pillaging. Here you recruit characters instead, and these are mostly recognizable people (like LaForge). However, I still can't figure out why you would have a Borg (or Romulan) on your ship as a special unit or special character? WHAT??? Has Andrew Parks even seen Star Trek? It would of been better to have a deck ONLY of Starfleet people.... or a deck of Klingons to make it much more thematic.

MISSIONS:
This is one thing that is a little different than Mage Knight. You can go down to a planet and use your diplomacy or fight to defeat it. However, One might argue, that in Mage Knight the heroes (player's main character) would go down into dungeons and fight monsters. So it isn't REALLY that different. This is just a tease in my opinion of what Star Trek Frontiers should have been. Those missions could of been a REAL amazing part of this NEW game (after all, so many episodes have missions where the characters "beamed down" to the planet to resolve or discover something. A real shame Andrew Parks didn't do more here and missed opportunity.

THE BOARD/TILES:
The space tiles in Star Trek Frontiers much too small with too many symbols on it. Not only does the board look too busy, but the board is not aesthetically pleasing at all. Space can be so beautiful, but we can't really see it here. Many will argue that this is Mage Knight's formula with symbols on hex tiles, but it is just wrong here. Andrew Parks didn't seem to try and change the old formula and that's a shame because he is such a board-gaming-God.

GAMEPLAY:
I would of preferred to have traditional exploring and scientific Starfleet missions instead of Mage Knights same-ol' conflict system. Game-play feels like the player is basically a rouge ship attacking JUST so you can beef up your action deck in order to take on the Borg. In essence, this is a summary of the game. Sacrificing other star-bases, ships etc.... so the player can beat the boss.

Many will mistake my "Hater-esk" words for being a game critic, but honestly something at the core is wrong with this game. The game has been simplified in small ways, such as no "day" and "night" rounds, and the player's ship token doesn't have to be ON a hex locale to attack it or to occupy it (because of "Transporters" and long range lasers). Also, the combat has been simplified (but these are trivial in reality).

MORE ACCESSIBLE:
My wife played this with me and because of the simplified combat, the Star Trek Theme (everyone knows who "Data" is from the movies).... it appears to be more accessible to the average non-gamer and easier to get into. Most people don't care for Mage Knight and that includes most people in my gaming group.

SUMMARY:
In my opinion, this Star Trek Frontiers was a fail for Wiz Kids. From the cheap box, cheap components, pasted on theme, altering and simplifying a few rules to entice new players... the game is flat and feels wrong.

I'll be going back to my beloved Mage Knight and break out Star Trek Frontiers for my friends ONLY IF they ask for it.

Good luck and game on!
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Robert Leonhard
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I couldn't disagree more with your assessment. I too love Mage Knight and have played it many times. But I took on Star Trek Frontiers in its own right without obsessing how much this or that aspect mirrored the other game. In the end, who cares? If the game is satisfying, I don't care how much it does or doesn't match MK.

As for the theme fitting, I think it's a perfect fit. In fact, the game mechanic seems a better fit into the Star Trek genre than the fantasy genre of the original game. When I play it, I get the feel of commanding a huge arsenal--a capital ship of great power--into a quadrant that is confused, chaotic, and suffering an invasion by the Borg.

It makes perfect sense to me that your ship can recruit Romulans, Klingons, Cardassians, and all the rest. The idea is simple: the Borg invasion is such a severe threat that the old enemies are collaborating. I think it's interesting that you have the opportunity to fight and destroy Romulan ships and bases, but you can still recruit Romulan crew. This, to me, implies that the Romulan Empire has fragmented in the face of the Borg onslaught.

The components are gorgeous and functional. I have yet to understand why anyone complains about them. Love the still-shots from the show. Everything seems durable enough to me, as well as aesthetically pleasing.

Finally, I see great opportunities for expansions. Lots of directions that could go, and I'm anxious to see what they come up with.

Anyway, I felt compelled to respond to illustrate that there is a wide spectrum of opinion on the game. Personally, I couldn't be happier with it.
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Arthur Rutyna
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Robert Leonhard wrote:
I couldn't disagree more with your assessment. I too love Mage Knight and have played it many times. But I took on Star Trek Frontiers in its own right without obsessing how much this or that aspect mirrored the other game. In the end, who cares? If the game is satisfying, I don't care how much it does or doesn't match MK.

As for the theme fitting, I think it's a perfect fit. In fact, the game mechanic seems a better fit into the Star Trek genre than the fantasy genre of the original game. When I play it, I get the feel of commanding a huge arsenal--a capital ship of great power--into a quadrant that is confused, chaotic, and suffering an invasion by the Borg.

It makes perfect sense to me that your ship can recruit Romulans, Klingons, Cardassians, and all the rest. The idea is simple: the Borg invasion is such a severe threat that the old enemies are collaborating. I think it's interesting that you have the opportunity to fight and destroy Romulan ships and bases, but you can still recruit Romulan crew. This, to me, implies that the Romulan Empire has fragmented in the face of the Borg onslaught.

The components are gorgeous and functional. I have yet to understand why anyone complains about them. Love the still-shots from the show. Everything seems durable enough to me, as well as aesthetically pleasing.

Finally, I see great opportunities for expansions. Lots of directions that could go, and I'm anxious to see what they come up with.

Anyway, I felt compelled to respond to illustrate that there is a wide spectrum of opinion on the game. Personally, I couldn't be happier with it.


Solid rebuttal. I like Star Trek a LOT. But I can't say that many of the people I game with are as into it as I am. So the more generic fantasy theme of Mage Knight is a better fit for my situation.
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Roy Stephens
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I second Robert L's take on non-Fed crew on a Fed ship. There were several Next Gen episodes where adversarial species (Romulans, Cardassians) had members of their species on board Enterprise in a non-hostile way (at least for a while...). This, along with the warming relations between some Romulans (Donatra in Nemesis) toward the Federation as well as the Romulan/Fed alliance in the Dominion war, tends to put me in the direction of this game representing a fracturing of the Romulan government, with some wanting to maintain an alliance with the Federation (the crew cards) and some wanting to maintain the status quo of the Empire (the hostile ship encounters). Many current games involve mixed crews: Star Trek Deck Building Game: The Next Generation, Star Trek Deck Building Game: The Original Series, Star Trek Deck Building Game: The Next Generation – The Next Phase, as well as Star Trek: Attack Wing and even Star Trek: Fleet Captains in certain circumstances.

As far as Fed ships being more aggressive, that is a bit more out of character (although not so much for Sisko as opposed to JLP), but almost every current Trek game features a more aggressive option to play as the Federation, just because you are dealing with a game and conflict and confrontation is a game element that has to be addressed, especially in a game where players are competing factions. Star Trek: Fleet Captains Can be played as aggressively as you want... the Feds can go stereotypical and never fire an offensive shot, or they can play nasty. Star Trek: Attack Wing is ALL combat. Star Trek: Ascendancy has conquest elements to it as well.


A follow up since having now played it; The Federation, and Picard in particular, is not keyed toward getting violent/conquesty when encountering new planets. It is in an away teams best interest to keep things diplomatic... Away missions that turn violent are often very bad news for the player.


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Ken Mulekats
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Having always wanted to pick up Mage Knight but being a huge TNG fan this was a no-brainer, sight-unseen purchase for me.

After digging into it a bit I was also a little concerned about the feel of the well-established Star Trek universe/theme versus the game's mechanics of basically blasting everything you come across for the experience points. Yes, I understand diplomacy is an option, but playing as the Enterprise I was surprised that my diplomatic points (even with Picard's stats) seem much harder to come by than the attack points. Almost to the point where I'm wondering if I'm doing something wrong with the diplomacy resource.

But back to the THEME, I think there's one pretty simple thing they could have done to perfectly marry the attack-everything nature of the MK mechanics with Star Trek... Set the game in the MIRROR UNIVERSE where you've got the warlike Starfleet out to subjugate/intimidate the universe! The Klingons are warlike enough anyway, so they still fit within the mirror universe just fine. As for drafting non-starfleet personnel, I like to look at it as the evil Starfleet "Empire" using forced labor/conscription on the other races.

I'm eager to give it another couple of playthroughs in the coming week, but I also agree with the thought that the theme feels less like exploration and more like looking for any opportunity on the board to juice up your experience points. Knowing that's what you're out to do somewhat pulls you out of the immersion a bit, but I get it, that's the game we've got instead of the one we may want.

In conclusion, I'm a little mixed at the moment... hoping once I internalize the rules a bit more I'll more appreciate the mechanics which everyone raves about.

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Axel Prewi
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Thanks for these open words! I watched a few reviews, because I was thinking about getting this game, and everybody seems to be totally like "Wow, it's awesome!"

I was hoping somebody will recognize, that it's just: Take a franchise and weld it to a mechanic kind of thing. The Design is bad: Mixing factions, symbols, whatever... The mechanics might work, but really: I'm going against the Romulans and the Borg and can have "Crewmembers" belonging to those races? What? Why against both? Why mixing timelines with the romulan ship-tokens (and equipping the least powerful ship, that would be blown out of the stars with a single low power phaser blast by the defiant, with bioweaponry)? Why mixing timelines with the symbols? What's "Friendly Data"? Data Core? They could've easily replaced the Romulans with the Dominion I suppose. What an awesome opportunity to explore strange new assimilated Dominion-Ship-Designs... Why not call it Isolinear Chips or programs instead of data? Running in the ships "computer core" to support working crew members or tasks.

It just "doesn't feel right". I had this Impression with Attack Wing, though I somehow have the opportunity to pimp it the way I like it.

IMHO this game is for people, who buy everything containing the words Star Trek and who just like the mechanics (deck building strategy bomb). But I can't imagine it's a game for a Star Trek Fan, the other answers show, that might not be the case, whatever... I can totally understand how this mechanics will work out Fantasy-wise, but I think they fail miserably in this particular application to the Star Trek theme (would have been fine in some unknown SciFi setting). I won't even try playing this thing after viewing those three reviews and reading your text. I'm not a die-hard-trekkie, but a solid Star Trek Fan and I'm feeling just being pushed to the wall by some bullies: "Here is the Star Trek stuff you wanted, now give us the money!" I'm sorry for the ranting and raving, I just wanted to say thank you, that I'm not the only one seeing this.

At least, finally, there is a mini of the Defiant which is acceptable in scale of Attack Wing :-). And I will take a close look at Ascendency.

Regards Axel
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Jon Ryan
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Hmm - I guess I'm one of the (few?) people who don't seem to have a problem with the theme on this. I haven't yet played either this or Mage Knight, but the Trek theme combined with the generally favorable opinion about Mage Knight has this at the top of my wishlist (seems like it's out of stock now?). Not that I don't see some of the disjointed-ness in there, but in the many videos I've seen of this, including some play-throughs, it looks really interesting and cool to me. I like the characters on cards, ship minis, and building your crew vs what seems like much more of an abstraction in Ascendency (despite the theme being stronger overall, just not the part of Trek that is as interesting to me personally). I guess that's part of why Trek is so popular - it encompasses so many different aspects that can hook you onto an episode, series, or in this case, game.
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Andrew Parks
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Regarding the game's "out of stock" status, I know there was a second print run arriving on the boat imminently. Those copies should be in stores soon.

Andrew
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Roy Stephens
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Andrew Parks wrote:
Regarding the game's "out of stock" status, I know there was a second print run arriving on the boat imminently. Those copies should be in stores soon.

Andrew


And any word on expansions, hmmmm?? HMMMMM???
 
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Andrew Parks
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hockeyjedi wrote:


And any word on expansions, hmmmm?? HMMMMM???


whistle
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Roy Stephens
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Andrew Parks wrote:
hockeyjedi wrote:


And any word on expansions, hmmmm?? HMMMMM???


whistle


Oh don't you play coy with me.... laugh

I mean, by looking at the expansions for MK, one can kind of predict the type of content that would hypothetically be in an expansion... so... you know... you can tell us.... how about one little specific tidbit? Pretty please??
 
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Mark Campo
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i think mage knights theme just clicked..originally i disliked mage-knight as i didn't feel like a hero... pillaging conquering.. finally attacking a city or 2 or 3

something in this post..now im thinking Conan.. level up take revenge! make sense! but none of the characters in mage knight seemed conan like..so i never made the connection till now i mean norawas was the only goodish looking guy 2 evil things and a monster...glitched my generic fantasy programming.

ah well sold mage knight and ordered this now..i like the idea its simplified time will tell..

think ive made peace with losing rep at this systems monasteries with starfleet




 
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Jan Probst
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Milarky wrote:
originally i disliked mage-knight as i didn't feel like a hero... pillaging conquering.. finally attacking a city or 2 or 3

Makes sense. I tend to describe Mage Knights as a crossover between Fantasy Stargate and Sailor Moon villains when explaining the theme to someone; certainly not your run of the mill fantasy heroes. arrrh
 
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David Griffin
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I have to agree with the original poster. As far as materials go, I like the Mage Knight box better but the plastic insert is a little bit of an improvement over the MK one. Though I bought inserts for both. I don't have major problems with the ships or the Borg cubes.

But when you get to the game, it seems obvious that Mage knight just got a pretty skin deep treatment to turn it into Star Trek. I wasn't a big fan of Ascendency but they did attempt to give the Federation the ability to use diplomacy INSTEAD of fighting in a way this game did not. Also as the OP said, I can't see the Feds grinding up Romulan warbirds and Romulan starbases (and even Dominion ones) just to generate some upward lift on power (and you HAVE to do this to play the game). There should be better diplomatic cards to convince the starbases and the ships to allow basing privileges and perhaps even bring Romulan warbirds over to their side. Perhaps the Klingons wouldn't have this capability but would have more firepower.

To me, it just doesn't feel like Star Trek. It's fun, but even if you ignore the theme, I think Parks missed a bet in that he could have streamlined the rules much more, provided a better rulebook, and made the game accessible to many more players (because let's face it, this game is really complex to play, full of serious AP). It's a fun game but it could have been SO much better.

As an example, the number of terrain types could have been reduced (it is SPACE after all). ALL the counter types could have been laid when discovered face up (which would have simplified the special case placement rules and also the game strategy slightly). Hmmm... do I lay a counter here or when I go to the tile? If I lay the counter, do I lay it face up or face down. Hmmm... face up for this one and face down for that one and no tile at all for these. Then I attack when adjacent? Ok, but if I win in case A I go into that space, where for that other tile I stay where I am. sheesh!

Thematically, being able to draw from your own faction (Klingons or Federation) would have been more thematic, with someone from the other faction being 1 point more expensive to simulate the unlikelihood that that character would be available on a ship of another faction. The Klingons could have a special combat ability while the Feds could have special diplomatic abilities. The marauding ships could have been Dominion or even a new faction where the lore would make them believably hostile. The Tiles for Borg Cubes could have been special assimilated tiles.

Anyway, a good play but if you buy only one, I'd go with Mage Knight. The problem is that everything that is really good about this game is from Mage Knight. Except for the elimination of the day night cycle, Star Trek really added very little to the game.
 
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