In brief, Last Starfleet is a light-weight card-driven cooperative game with a good sci-fi theme, that plays quite well, and whose main and relatively minor faults are a bad rulebook, too little art, and being somewhat overpriced for what in essence is few hundred of artless text cards. Still, I am quite fond of it, and award it an overall 7.5-10. Now, in more detail:
Decent quality, but not much art and relatively overpriced
The components: the game comes in a small but sturdy box, and is composed of few hundred (~400) cards, some card-like ship playmats, a small foldable but sturdy game board (double sided) and money-like people tokens. You can see most of the components on this image:
Now, the component quality is fine, but one of my two gripes about them game is its price: during the KS the core game was offered for the fair price of $20, but the Deluxe version, which more or less doubles the number of cards (from ~200 to ~400, I may be off by as much as ~100 on the counts) was $50, and I don't think the extra cards should add that much cost. They are very useful, and hence my dilemma: I think anybody picking this game should opt for the Deluxe version, but IMHO it should not be sold for more the $30-35. Perhaps this was due to the developer's inexperience/inability to obtain a better deal, small print run, Deluxe subsidizing regular, I don't know, but the bottom line is that the game was, IMHO, a bit overpriced. However, it should be noted that the developer made most of the components available to people on the PnP basis, and also - the game does not appear to be sold anywhere, so you should be able to pick it up on the second hand market for the more reasonable price, courtesy of KS subsidizers like myself.
My second gripe about the components is artwork, or rather, lack of it. Well, each planet and ship has a picture (ships have technically two, one for the ship, one for the captain). And that's about it. Forget about different images on all the cards - they are purely text based. In the era were most card games are expected to have good and varied art, this one stands apart. Sure, art would increase the costs, but nonetheless I think that for $50 you can get many other games with much better art and numerous components.
Of course, if anyone is unhappy with the price, keep in mind the publisher does provide a PnP for the pay-as-much-as-you-want price, so there's that.
It is short, but unfortunately - pretty bad.
I had to read it several times to figure out how the game plays, and then check the forums here for some FAQ. The game is simple, but the rulebook doesn't make it appear so. For just one example - there is no "winning" or "game end" section, the game end is hidden in the section discussing difficulty. Worse, there are rule omissions - what happens when the player or planet deck runs out of cards? Intuitively, you should probably reshuffle the discard pile and draw from it, but the rulebook does not say anything on that (note: the "new" KS edition rulebook does not say that, but I did find such a sentence in the old rulebook available here... as someone noted, the "new" rulebook is not an improvement). Or there is a card that allows you to move one planet docked card to an adjacent spot. What if that spot is not empty? Well, the rulebook covers what happen when a card is to be docked in a place where another card already exists (discard the old card), but never explains what happens in the case of the move (the old rulebook is less ambigious, stating that a new card will always push an old one out). Fortunately, the gameplay is simple enough that an experienced player(s) can figure things out after a play or two, or houserule it, but the rulebook could be better. That said, I'll note that it was available in pdf during the KS campaign (the link is dead now), and it was (and still is) a pay-what-you-want PnP, so people could have suggested fixes. Clearly, not enough people complained about the rulebook, so... shrug.
The theme is the strong part of this game, even without much artwork. Instead, cards have cool names and flavor text, much of it is pretty good. Not all - there is a bit of missed opportunity with maybe 20% or so cards which are very generic and forgettable - but others reveal interesting tidbits about the universe, ships or planets. There is enough to make the play fun for groups which want to do a bit of roleplaying; the game is certainly easy and fluid enough that you can make each play feel like a movie.
Now, despite my small rant about the price and the rulebook, I am still happy with that game, because it plays well. At the beginning, chose one planet and orbit decks and mix them for the "enemy", and one ship (with its card deck) per player. Then it is a simple "play 1, draw 1 card" mechanic with few twists (the planet NPC plays roughly one card per player, etc.). The goal is to get down as many people as possible (well, technically it's a set number per difficulty level, but there is nothing to say you cannot keep going after you meet the earliest one, or stop at any point and do something else). If a ship ever runs out of people, you have to reshuffle your player deck and can only use your ship ghost ability.
There is a luck factor, after all it is a card game, but it can be mitigated by strategy and experience, the game seems chaotic but in a good way - the players do have a feeling of having some control over a rapidly spiraling events. Just like in a good movie or a TV show. There is a feeling of co-op - discussing each players abilities, deciding together whether to use some resources, etc. I can see how groups of more experienced players may have little need to discuss most things, but hey - that leaves more room for role-play/tabletalk
Replayability : 8/10
The ships and planets are noticeably different, which ensures replayability - at least one game for each planet, and possibly one for each ship.
One problem that I see is that once you figure out which planet spots are more likely to be hit by the planet cards, you can try to strategize and put the people at the safest spots. The earlier you figure that out, the better, and if a player knows those numbers due to previous games, well, that can drastically affect the game difficulty. At the same time, given that for higher difficulty you will need to reshuffle the deck once or twice, figuring that out as you play and adapting is a key to success, at least if you want to win on your first playthrough. Well, if anyone wants a more challenging and perhaps random game, you can always use a d8.
The game is easily expandable, if the publisher ever decides it is worth their time. Frankly, the game could use more cards - not only new ships/planets/orbit decks, but also more cards to add variety to the existing planets (the ships are probably fine).
Suggested house rules
For more variety, I suggest changing the orbit deck after each reshuffle of the planet deck.
- Last edited Thu Aug 25, 2016 5:07 am (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Wed Aug 24, 2016 5:04 pm
Ciudad de la Costa
Thanks for the review. I agree with you in every aspect.
I also found a good point counter was needed. I designed one and made it available in the files section: here.
I hope, someday, Sam will make a new rulebook available to download.