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Subject: Star Trek: Expeditions: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly rss

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Brian Smith
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In the summer of 2009, a new chapter in the venerable (and some would say, creaky) Star Trek Saga was released. Entitled simply Star Trek, this new film from director J.J. Abrams was a 're-boot' of the franchise, and opened to great commercial and critical success. Although longtime fans of the franchise were divided as to the worth of the new film, its fresh take on the universe that Gene roddenbery had envisioned was very popular. Owing to the success of the film, it was inevtiable that a game company would seek to cash in on that success, and release a tie in game. If anything, it is amazing that it took til now for this to happen.

Star Trek Expeditions is that tie in game, and although I approached the game with trepidation, due to the problem that licensed games tend to be quite poor. I was deeply excited to get ahold of the game, due to its cooperative gameplay, and the strength of its designer. So it was with great joy that I marched up the the counter at my local FLGS and plunked down my hard earned money and acquired my own copy of this anticipated game.



The game is based of the world of that 2009 film, and contains imagery from that film. There are 4 different characters in the game: Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, DOctor McCoy, and Lieutaenant Uhura; each uses a photo from the film of the character. Each playing piece is represented by a nice, prepainted plastic miniature. There are also similar miniatures provided to represent the Enterprise and a Klingon Battle Cruiser, each sculpted int he new film's style. The premise of the game is that the ENterprise has been dispatched to the planet Nimibia, to negotiate their inducion into the United Federation of PLanets. However, shortly after arriving, the crew discovers that the planet is not as excited to be joining as they initially stated; the mission of the crew is to find out why.



I will attempt to summarize the gameplay here; the gameplay is somewhat more complicated than you would expect from a licensed game. At the beginning of the game, a series of cards, called "Captain's Log" cards, are placed in piles around the board, and the top one is flipped face up. these represent the various plot points that the crew will encounter as they explore the planet. A series of "captain's Log Supplemental" cards are distributed, face down, across the board, and represent the locatons and events that the crew will experience throughout the game. In addition, the surface has "Discovery Tokens" distributed face up around the board. These represent what the crew is able to discern form orbit. A track across the top of the board shows the relative positions of the enterprise and the Klingons as they battle back and forth, and there is a time track along the side of the board to mark the days that the enterprise has been active.

The gameplay essentially consists of the players traveling about on the surface, gathering recources to accomplish a series of challenges, which will, in turn, lead them through the main plot. Depending on how successful they are at these challenges, the plot can branch off in different directions. The challenges are essentially a dice roll, modified by the character's abilities and skills, against a target number. As in the show, characters working together are much stronger at this than they are alone.

A word on those abilities; this system uses the "Clix" system, first popularized my the collectable miniatures game Mage Knight. The abilities of the characters and ships are listed on the miniature's base, and the base has a turnstyle built in that can be turned (with an audible click) to represent changing abilities, due to damage to the ship, or the exhaustion of the characters.

Each turn, the character turns up a stardate card, follows whatever special events are listed there (which are all bad) then takes the listed number of actions, from 2-4. Players can spend their actions moving around the planet, beaming to and from the enterprise, attempting challenges, drawing special cards, and other things. As they acquire resources, other crewmen, and helpful items, they can take on the challenges that can lead them to the plot's conclusion. If they manage to accomplish completing all 3 plotlines, before the day track advances to the end or the klingons destroy the enterprise. then the players have 'won,' and tally up their score to see how well they did. If they do well, the planet will join the federation, but if they fail, the planet's ecosystem may collapse, the rebel forces may topple the government, or the planet might even align with the klingons!



The Good:
First off, the miniatures are simply beautiful. The scuplting and paintjobs are above par for this type of game, and they really help cement the theme. The artwork on the cards is functional, though not as much variety as I would like, and again, helps to reinforce the theme. The gameplay is deeper than you might expect, and will provide a challenge to even seasoned cooperative gamers. Reiner Knizia is often criticized that his games have pasted on theme, but in this instance, the component quality and the bits of plot information on the cards really add to the immersion, and help prevent this glued on feeling.

The Bad:
Reiner Knizia is also criticized that his games are all dry, mathmatical affairs, and unfortunately, he can't dodge the bullet completely on this one. Passing the challenges is the main meat of the game, and here is where the mathematician shines through, as the array of modifiers and bonuses can be daunting for a new gamer. This much math also detracts form the mainstream appeal of the title, as the learning curve can be rough for casual gamers. Hobby gamers and general geeks shouldn't have too much trouble, especially those with experience with Knizia's other titles. This is not helped by the rules, which although well illustrated and nicely printed, are not well laid out, and information can be difficult to reference. Well written game rules are a work of art; this company stumbled in that regard.

The Ugly:
The game can be rather disconcerting to those who follow the plot. For example; in one game, even though we were able to overcome all the challenges we faced, the planet still joined the klingons, the rebels still caused lots of political strife, and the ecosystem was still damaged permanently. It can be tough to accomnplish a "good" ending, even if you "win." This does motivate you to try again, to see if you can do better. In this regard, this game is like that other cooperative game by knizia; you don't so much as "win" as get a high score.

In conclusion, Star Trek: Expeditions is a fine title, and avoids mnost of the pit traps that licensed games fall into. The components are way above the grade, and the theme is engaging; you really get the feeling that you are playing an episode of the series. The rules do have some issues in terms of their learnability, and the game does bog down with math from time to time. The game can be quite challenging, and the game can be a let down when you still get a bad outcome of the plot, even when you accomplish all your goals. Overall, however, I quite enjoyed Star Trek: Expeditions, and look forward to further play sessions.
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Richard Dewsbery
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Great review. Although for me, Expeditions fell completely flat. Not sure why - burnt out on co-ops? The use of dice to generate tension/randomness? The feeling that if I played it three times, I'd have seen all that there was with the storylines?

opey2dope wrote:
It can be tough to accomnplish a "good" ending, even if you "win."


Not really. We got the second highest possible accolade on our very first game. I think that was with "normal" difficulty, but I'm not 100% sure. And I've been told that there is a way to play that pretty much guarantees a win every game - I'll not say what it is, but the person who told me that is very good at "breaking" games in this fashion, so if he said it, it's almost certainly right.
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There must have been a moment at the beginning, where we could have said no. Somehow we missed it. Well, we'll know better next time.
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Quote:
The premise of the game is that the ENterprise has been dispatched to the planet Nimibia


Nimibia (well, Namibia) is a country in Africa, so I thought it weird that they would name the planet that.
So I looked it up and it is Planet Nibia in the game.
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Christopher Dearlove
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RDewsbery wrote:
I've been told that there is a way to play that pretty much guarantees a win every game


Not if you play with the designer's original rules, as discussed in another thread and available on-line. (Without a copy of the game I'm unable to say if they just clarify, though someone has indicated that.)

There is something I think is most important to do as soon as possible, but that's within the design, and I'm not going to tell you that either.

Incidentally I think Richard played in the same game I did at Baycon. In which case his first, but my second (though first with real bits). Did well in that too mind you, at I don't know what difficulty level (may not even have been fixed then). The Baycon game was at the middle level.
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Lee Fisher
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Dearlove wrote:
RDewsbery wrote:
I've been told that there is a way to play that pretty much guarantees a win every game


Not if you play with the designer's original rules, as discussed in another thread and available on-line. (Without a copy of the game I'm unable to say if they just clarify, though someone has indicated that.)

There is something I think is most important to do as soon as possible, but that's within the design, and I'm not going to tell you that either.

Incidentally I think Richard played in the same game I did at Baycon. In which case his first, but my second (though first with real bits). Did well in that too mind you, at I don't know what difficulty level (may not even have been fixed then). The Baycon game was at the middle level.


So far, we haven't seen the significant difference between original and published rules. Unless it involves exploiting and reshuffling the deck which should not be reshuffle, but that just seems to not be mentioned in the rules one way or another and people might assume to reshuffle.
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John So-And-So
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lfisher wrote:
So far, we haven't seen the significant difference between original and published rules.


We sure have. I'll take a stab at guessing that game-breaking strategy.

In our game, McCoy drew Energize cards nonstop. Once he had about 4 "take 3 extra action" cards, he used them all to draw more cards. Soon, he had the entire deck in his hand. LITERALLY.

If you can reshuffle (we did), this works, and breaks the game. With +10 to all his skills, infinite actions and the ability to re-draw any discarded cards McCoy was a living god. While I enjoyed this for the old-timey Star Trek episode feel it brought, it wasn't any fun for the rest of us. We will be using Dr Knizia's original rule from now on.
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Steve Duff
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CapAp wrote:
With +10 to all his skills, infinite actions and the ability to re-draw any discarded cards McCoy was a living god.


Where are the infinite actions coming from?
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Richard Dewsbery
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Yup, John's got it. Burn though the deck and get a monster hand of cards and you're pretty much unstoppable.
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UnknownParkerBrother wrote:
Where are the infinite actions coming from?


When you have a "Take 3 additional actions" card in hand, and there are no cards in the deck, you can play the card, then use one of the free actions to draw it back into your hand. Repeat infinitely.

As for the negative comments above, I think they're somewhat off-base. So far we've found the game to be a lot of fun. If you hate Knizia's Lord of the Rings cooperative because it is too mathy, then you will hate this. Otherwise I don't think it shares much with an algebra problem.

I will admit that I think the single "Mission" included in the box will get stale after a half-dozen plays, so they're pretty much making expansions a must-buy. But I'll want the other bridge crew figs anyways, so I'm not too upset (so far).
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Lee Fisher
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CapAp wrote:
lfisher wrote:
So far, we haven't seen the significant difference between original and published rules.


We sure have. I'll take a stab at guessing that game-breaking strategy.

In our game, McCoy drew Energize cards nonstop. Once he had about 4 "take 3 extra action" cards, he used them all to draw more cards. Soon, he had the entire deck in his hand. LITERALLY.

If you can reshuffle (we did), this works, and breaks the game. With +10 to all his skills, infinite actions and the ability to re-draw any discarded cards McCoy was a living god. While I enjoyed this for the old-timey Star Trek episode feel it brought, it wasn't any fun for the rest of us. We will be using Dr Knizia's original rule from now on.


OK so exactly what I said in my second sentence, that was not quoted
Quote:

Unless it involves exploiting and reshuffling the deck which should not be reshuffled, but that just seems to not be mentioned in the rules one way or another and people might assume to reshuffle.


But as far as I could tell, the rules don't say to reshuffle, so it was just more of a clarification.
Anyway it seems we agree!
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mark horneff
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Hi Richard ,

Is this available in the uk?

Rgs

Dec
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Richard Dewsbery
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Not yet. There was a pre-production copy at Baycon and at the Expo.
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Can anyone who has played both compare this with West End's old Star Trek: The Adventure Game?
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BradyLS wrote:
Can anyone who has played both compare this with West End's old Star Trek: The Adventure Game?


I haven't played this one yet but I would assume they are totally different entities, the awesomness of Star Trek: The Adventure Game was in the paragraph books that you would read your opponent as the both of you explored a large number of worlds in the Organian Treaty Zone. This is on one planet and has no awesome paragraph book.

I'm sure it won't make it less awesome, but quite different
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superflypete wrote:
Whomever thought it would be a good idea to give Reiner Knizia a shot at creating a minis game should go back to whatever they do well, because making executive decisions is clearly not thier strong point.

Star Trek is about action, adventure and exploration, not math. If this was the Spock game, Knizia might have a shot.

WTF is all I can say. When I see "Star Trek" and "Math" in the same sentence, my mind boggles. Add "Knizia" to the pile and now we're near a Scanners-level head explosion.

Pair that with the upcoming 24-ship, 99$ space-based game with the phrase Kinglogs in the press release, instead of Klingons, and now they have the full gamut of epic failures.

Good luck, WizKids, you're gonna need it.


Wow. I won't touch the other issues, but the math was simply adding a few numbers together to hit a target. Very taxing...
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Dearlove wrote:
RDewsbery wrote:
I've been told that there is a way to play that pretty much guarantees a win every game


Not if you play with the designer's original rules, as discussed in another thread and available on-line. (Without a copy of the game I'm unable to say if they just clarify, though someone has indicated that.)

There is something I think is most important to do as soon as possible, but that's within the design, and I'm not going to tell you that either.

Thank you for giving fair warning without spilling the beans, Christopher. I truly appreciate it when people are thoughtful enough to do that. Time for me to stop reading ST:E threads until after I've played a few games!
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My GB&U:

Good:

Solid gameplay, cool figures, reminiscent of Knizia's earlier works, expandable, quality theme, fun decisions & discussions.

Bad:

It might be too easy to win on Hard.

Ugly:

Waiting for the Ecology track to be errataed - it should be the Energy track, with a completely different storyline.
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Doug Adams
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Quote:

Ugly:

Waiting for the Ecology track to be errataed - it should be the Energy track, with a completely different storyline.


The Ecology track has been acknowledged in the FAQ.
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dougadamsau wrote:
The Ecology track has been acknowledged in the FAQ.

Which is not the same as corrected. They still need to give us the right text.
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superflypete wrote:


Pair that with the upcoming 24-ship, 99$ space-based game with the phrase Kinglogs in the press release, instead of Klingons, and now they have the full gamut of epic failures.

Good luck, WizKids, you're gonna need it.



I requested a review copy of that one, and hope to get one. It looks very promising. I wouldn't bash them to hard on the typos, maybe their admin sucks, who knows.... I do agree though, that a 99$ game better be AWESOME in what it does, and deliver components above and beyond what I would expect, or it would be epic fail.
 
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superflypete wrote:
Star Trek is about action, adventure and exploration, not math.


Well, if you're looking for a game of Shirtless Kirk there's always Starfleet Battles, GURPS Prime Directive, The Star Trek CCG, the *other* Star Trek CCG, etc. IMO, ST:E does a good job capturing the *Federation* Star Trek, in which the ST:E crew aid a planet UN-style, only to uncover Cold War-style Klingon shenanigans.

Unlike OP, we caught on pretty early that you're not supposed to just pass the missions. You're supposed to do *well* on them. We managed to save the ecosystem and bring the rebels to the negotiation table with the government. Unfortunately, the planet ended up mildly siding on the side of the Klingons.

Considering how hard we worked, I wanted to carpet-bomb the ingrate planet with photon torpedoes. But that wasn't in the ruleset.
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For me, if you have to wonder how you got from point A to point D, that's when I start searching for another game.
 
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