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Star Trek: Ascendancy» Forums » Sessions

Subject: Star Trek Ascendancy: The First Three Games rss

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Jon Snow
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STAR TREK ASCENDANCY GAME SESSIONS

By Chas

(The following summary was posted to the other players who would be in the Second Game a few days later).

Game One

The new game is most like Fleet Captains in the exploration, where anything can happen, and you have to deal with it. As the Romulans I ran into a "Phenomenon" (space terrain other than planets), and Matt managed to roll two sixes, destroying both my ships This very bad luck would plague me the entire game. When I rolled up a "lost Klingon colony" on the border near his Klingon territory, I noted how whenever that happens in a SciFi game (likeTwilight Imperium) the person whose race it is insists on claiming it, rather than letting it go. Whereupon, ignoring my warning, Matt connected our territories and sent ships there, offering peace and a trade agreement.

I accepted, but then immediately betrayed him on my turn, as I had the initial advancement Cloaking Device/First Fire, and blew his two ships away with my two. At this point he had no ships on the board, and should have been set far back, and away from me. But he built a star base because he controlled the Lost Colony planet (I had missed that possibility), and therefore built more ships there and wiped me out on his following turn Whereupon we made peace and never bothered each other again. My own territory was now very small and poor.

My only piece of good luck was finding The Horta, who boosted up my Production Nodes on her planet (this was probably one of the 50th Anniversary TOS cards). Another flavorful thing that happened in our first STA game is that the Organian Intervention Exploration Card showed up on the Sherman's Planet system disc. This surprised me, as it exactly followed the scenario created in the TOS episode "The Trouble With Tribbles," where no one was allowed to take over the planet unless they reached a high Ascendancy Level! So the game did “feel” like Trek, but at a strategic 4E level.

Meanwhile Nick as the Federation was using his culture boosting abilities and having good luck exploring, which gave him even more. Matt meanwhile kept finding civilizations so advanced that he couldn't Invade or Hegemony them. Not connecting to our territory at all, Nick as the Federation was looking to run away with the game. By the time we connected up to him, it was almost to late. Nick had even developed an Advancement which negated my Cloaking Device! (Yes, that's the kind of luck I was having--he'd only checked out about 4 of his 15 advancement cards, and that's one he got! Go figure!)

Then my only fleet,desperately trying to hook up my territory with the Federation, ran right into The Neutron Star, possibly the worst hazard in the game (its been duly noted on bgg as such; equivalent to the Black Hole in Star Fleet Captains). There went my fleet, with Matt rolling fatally as the neutral hazard once more, and so I lost my only outside chance of stopping Nick. Meanwhile the Klingons had connected to the Federation also, on the other flank, but not where Matt had his Klingon Fleet. So Nick, with three Fleets on the board (maximum faction fleet strength) proceeded to hand Matt's single ship their walking papers with one of his fleets.

Matt now had to leave unexpectedly, and we awarded Nick the game. The Federation had three Ascendancy out of the five he'd need to win, but we only had one each. We could have had two each, but needed the culture tokens for more mundane building uses. Nick also had a large three culture node income each turn, and we were both left too weak to do much about it over the next three or so turns he'd need to win.

We all enjoyed the game and would play it again. The rules went down pretty easily; we'd all looked at them before game day. There are many elements such as Exploration cards and faction Development (tech) cards we haven't begun to examine yet, so each game should be very different. I have a two page player aids for you someone just posted on bgg, and a bit of FAQ that came in handy. I also did a Table of Contents for the rules book, which proved so essential for Star Fleet Captains as well.

We played from 1:30-4:15 PM (Nick was late), and estimated that the game would have gone about 3 hour 45 min total to finish. 21 of the 30 systems were on the board when we broke, so only five were left. There was just about enough table space (using a 3' x 2' central play area) to put all the systems on the board, since you also needed room to place the sizable individual pIayer component areas! Nick was actually about to run out of table space on which to expand further! I note that in the back of the rules book there are a number of rules to shorten game length; but we wanted to try the standard game first.

Looking forward to Wednesday, when, with your permission, I'll try playing the Federation myself! Although Victor couldn't make Saturday as an extra player, we'll soon have a trained cadre of five players including me.

Game Two

Terrible luck continued to dog the Romulan player, even when it wasn't me. For most of the game, almost all of the systems discovered, mostly planetary, turned out to be hazardous, and rolling as the neutral AI I destroyed his ships entering them upon exploration with great frequency! His territory remained unconnected for most of the game, and the number of ships he deployed minimal!

Meanwhile, after a promising start using specialized Colonization and Diplomatic fleets, my first game as the Federation saw me expand nicely, with the only bad patch failing two attempts at achieving Hegemony in a Warp Capable Civilization. My own troubles began on the other side of my territory, when the Klingons quickly connected to me with a Marauder fleet. Although I had my own fleet and a Star Base prepared, (knowing that his first Klingon play would prove fierce and aggressive from many an old game of Star Trek Fleet Captains), he proceeded to annihilate fleet after fleet of mine, whether Colonizing or Battle Fleet, with some of amazingly good battle die rolls against my astoundingly bad ones. We've all seen days like this, but that it happened three times in a row over several turns sealed my fate. After the initial disaster of Tau Cygna V where we Feds lost three ships and the control of the planet and Star Base, things continued in a total rout until we actually lost Planet Earth!

Our Romulan said he had made a bad mistake when my Lost Colony had shown up in his territory early in the game. Offering a Trade Agreement, I asked for his two vs my one, as he would take the system, but he refused me, and we both lost the extra income we would have gotten from an agreement for the entire game: “I should have bargained you down” quoth he. He finally commissioned a couple of fleets, one closer to Klingon territory and one to mine. He thought about going for the Klingon Homeworld, which was not garrisoned, but realized he wouldn't be able to hold it.

Desperate, my last fleet, representing my last ships on the board, tried finally to warp out of my territory and connect to the Romulan's space so we could battle him together. But in Exploring, I found The Planet Eater, and it wiped me out! The Last Fleet became The Lost Fleet. With no Star Base or Home System, I would not be able to build any more ships unless he somehow was able to pull my chestnuts out of the fire by retaking Earth! At this point we realized that there was no mechanism for one ally liberating a Home Planet. If the Romulan took Earth, only he could own it, not me, because I had no ships left. So I was out of the game, even though techincally at this point I actually controlled three systems! Bummer.

The victorious Klingons then connected to Romulan territory, but did not offer any Trade Agreement, for some reason. They went on to take Romulus and get a Superiority Victory by controlling all three home systems.

Game Three (Two Player)
.
After Game Two, one player went home. So we decided to experimentally break the GF9 Prime Directive which says the game must be played with Three Players, and try some forbidden fruit! Ironically, while the publisher GF9 and all GenCon demo runners had said the game wasn't designed for two and wouldn't play well with that number, and despite the misgivings of theorists who haven't played the game yet on boardgamegeek, everyone who has tried it reports so far that it works just fine!

1. Although we wanted to play a shorter than usual game, we did not use any of the Accelerated Rules, or push the Home Systems closer together. We figured that the game would automatically be shorter than any Three Player, and this proved correct, in a game that took only perhaps two hours (only ten systems were explored).

2. Most people have suggested suspending the Trade Agreement Rule, but we decided to keep it, although we did not use it. Its possible that early on both sides might want to boost their incomes in this manner for future conflict.

3. We left Superiority Victory in (taking the enemy home system). This is much easier to do in a two player game, since there is only one Home System to take. This is in fact how the Federation beat the Klingons. However, should be left in as a victory option, since it can lead to a runaway victory and very short game?

It only happened because of an odd exploration, which saw the Klingon fleet played by me running from the Exploration Crisis card"Neutronic Wave Front. "This lead me to connect to soon to the Federation territory than I should have done, wherupon they whipped me in a battle. From which I could not recover.

As the Klingons for the first time, I started out being non violent, experimenting with a new expansion strategy, which is (Classified). It only worked partly. I also found the requirement not to retreat from a battle to hamper me considerably after bad battle die rolls left me after round one with only a single survivor. I was unable to build a Star Base. The cost of upgrading weapons is high, but I figured out that the trick was to save some research token production from one turn and carry it over to another to combine with the production that next turn. In the fact, I was never able to upgrade weapons due to other pressing necessities. I note that no one in these first three games upgraded their weapons more then once, and never their shields. Both have a pretty high cost, unless there is some artificial card or event that boosts them up that we have yet to discoverer. Oddly enough, where in the first and second games an unusual number of hazardous planets and phenomenons came out, there were none for most of the game in this third outing.

In all three of my first games, wild luck in both Exploration and battle die rolling shaped the games into Alternate Universes that “should not have happened.” The good news is that it showed how variable a game can become with only the core game components. As in Fleet Captains, one must therefore accept the story telling aspect that the AI provides. And remember to pray to The Great Bird of the Galaxy, Gene Roddenberry, before setting out. And only explore with a single ship or a Science Fleet!

Two more game sessions are now being planned. I hope to play this game for another six weeks as is, until Round Two in October, when the Cardassians and Ferengi expansions become available. My four other 'experienced' pals are up for it too. While some like to look through their Expansion Deck when they start the game, I've managed to refrain from exploring the Exploration Deck, so that it will continue to surprise us. “These are the voyages...”
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Alex Almond
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Great reports but it seems strange your losing lots of ships to exploration.

It's rare to come across a lvl 3/4 Hazard, 75%+ are lvl 5 or 6.

Just upgrading your shields to lvl 1 makes you immune to many hazards and reduces lvl 5 to a 1 in 6 chance. I suspect shields is probably the best thing to upgrade first in the game.

It sounds like your throwing large numbers of ships into systems you don't know.

Your homeworld has 4 connections you should hit something really easy in the first 4 explorations (2 turns).

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Angelus Seniores
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shields indeed go a long way to improve your survival vs hazards and rivals.
i feel the weapon and shield upgrades are generally more important, even though tech may give nice options, as they drastically improve the chances in battle.

are you using the bonus research from phenomenons? the romulan/federation science fleets are good at collecting these, hopping from one phenomenon to the next.
 
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Barry Kendall
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Good reports. I especially appreciate your observations re two-player, which is likely to happen with some frequency once my copy arrives in this universe.

Sounds like a wonderful game . . . though I'll pass on the Feringhi, who we always found far too annoying even to watch with any pleasure, much less play.

I do hope GFN continues to support "Ascendancy" with additional refinements/expansions in '17. Looks like they've struck gold with this release.
 
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David Jones
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chas59 wrote:
In all three of my first games, wild luck in both Exploration and battle die rolling shaped the games into Alternate Universes that “should not have happened.”


I have to say that this is the part that scares me the most about Ascension. While I have to give credit to GF9 for producing thematic games, I am constantly bothered by how much their games can swing based on luck. I recently played a game of Spartacus where I was set to win the game, but effectively lost because of 1/6 die roll didn't go my way, and then the winner was chosen not by skill, but by a kingmaker. I similarly share many of the dislikes that most eurogamers have with Firefly that I won't bother to repeat. This game is still a blind buy for me when it finally hits my retailer, but I just had a feeling while reading the rulebook that this game might not be a good fit for me and comments like this make me weary. I'm really hoping that either the theme or some other element of the gameplay is going to help overcome this.
 
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Pat Doyle
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Luck can certainly play a part and sometimes its a valid gripe. However, I believe people notice the times they were unlucky more often then when they they were lucky. When people get lucky, most people just assume that the outcome is what should have happened.

There are things that can be done to minimize bad luck, but those can come at a cost. Exploring with a science fleet improves your success in exploration, but requires you to use 3 ships to explore 1 system, so must of us take the chance and send ships out solo. We have accepted the risk because risk is our business, to quote Kirk.

When exploring in you first turn, I think you need to explore 2 planets (4 commands) because those are guaranteed not to be Phenomenon. Of course the exploration card could always suck and you might lose a ship or encounter a Civ. The 5th command can put the other ship into warp or take advantage of an opportunity.

The other way to reduce variability of exploration would be to increase the number of systems that go on the top of the system deck or improve the quality of the systems (i.e. Put 3-node systems at the top of the system deck. This could simulate the fact your early colonies will represent your core worlds, while the smaller planets will be out on the frontier.

I've got a copy from Gencon and have played about 10 games. I love it. Simple house rules can alter the variability if you don't like it. There is a section in the rules for optional rules.

I did play a game last night where we started without any resources and at ascendancy zero. It really had an affect on the game in that we had a fully explored galaxy by about the same time as we reached Ascendancy level 1. It altered the way the game turned out, so I recommend experimenting. I prefer a slightly longer game.
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David Folksman
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Great session report!!

Is it just me or does Sta remind anyone of "Birth of the Federation" the pc game.
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Jon Snow
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goo Games 4-9 are also up.
 
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