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Subject: Kind of sort of a recommendation rss

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Dan Wells
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I am a huge Star Trek nerd, as my love letter to DS9 last year can attest. I keep my pens in a Worf’s-head mug, I own seven Star Trek roleplaying books, I own a TNG script ("The Offspring," which made me cry), and I have engaged in countless hours, if not years, of various forms of fan-wankery. I’m not the biggest Trekkie out there, but I’m a big one.

When I learned last year that WizKids had procured the gaming license for Star Trek I was pretty excited, though unsure what to expect. WizKids is one of my favorite gaming companies, thanks to the strength of HeroClix, but the Clix engine is pretty much the only thing they had going for them--their non-clix games were strained and short-lived, and even most of their clix games died. The best use of the engine was Mechwarrior, though the random distribution model totally didn’t work for it, and my favorite clix game was HorrorClix, which never took off at all thanks in large part to the lack of a recognizable license. Game after game, they proved that they had awesome ideas they couldn’t follow through on, and for an eager Star Trek fan that prospect was equal parts exciting and terrifying. And of course the main question through the whole process was the Clix engine itself: it’s primarily a combat system, and while Star Trek does have combat it’s nothing you’d call a major part of the IP. Could they branch out and do something new? Could they actually make it work? The answer is a resounding "kind of."

Their first Star Trek game, called Expeditions, was pure Euro, and a fairly number-crunchy one at that. The components look Star Trek, but by all accounts the gameplay never actually feels like Star Trek, so I never bothered picking it up. If I’m wrong, please let me know. Their third game, due to release in the next month or so, is a straight Clix game of ship-to-ship combat, so similar to Heroclix it’s actually compatible with it (by which I mean compatible mechanically--thematically it’s a raging disaster for everyone who hasn’t dreamed about Spider-man punching the Enterprise in the face). The middle game, however, gets so much right. It’s called Fleet Captains, and it manages to include just about everything you could ever want a Star Trek game to include: you have ships, you can put crew on them, they fly around exploring strange new worlds and seeking out new life, they can fight and talk and cloak and reroute power to the deflector shields and whatever else you can imagine. It’s a brilliant design with a great Star Trek feel, but it’s marred by some pretty serious flaws.

First there’s the production values, which wouldn’t be so problematic if you weren’t paying so much for them. For $100 you get a box full of flimsy cards, packed so poorly that they have an improbably high frequency of breaking loose during shipping and sliding all over the box, in the mildest cases looking messy and in the most serious cases actually breaking the plastic ships. The ships themselves are a mixed blessing: there’s a ton of them, and they look great, but they’re fragile, often poorly glued, not to scale with each other, and unpainted--which, again, wouldn’t be a problem except that you just paid $100 dollars for them. This from a company with almost 15 years’ experience producing cheap, prepainted minis. It is very hard to look at this game’s components and not feel like they were rushed to hit a street date, with little or no concern for quality assurance. Whatever portion of the $100 price tag was intended to pay for painting was used to pay for accelerated printing instead.

The game’s second big problem is thematic, and I haven’t actually convinced myself it’s really a problem a yet. Rather than focus on a specific series, or even a specific timeline, the game throws literally everything into the same pot: Kirk and Picard and Janeway can all be on the same crew, despite the fact that their stories took place in wildly different times and places. For the non-Trek nerds out there, imagine a historical wargame that allowed you to have George Washington, General Patton, and Napoleon all on the same team fighting ninjas. That makes for some good fan fiction, but it’s an inherently goofy idea that shows (dare I say it) a lack of respect for the IP. Now, there’s a lot to be said for the malleability of the Star Trek universe--there are enough temporal and spatial anomalies to explain pretty much anything you want, and I usually teach people the game by saying "just imagine Q did it." But the crazy mixed-up timeline should be a scenario, not the baseline, and Trek fans shouldn’t have to house-rule their game just to play what most people would consider the default setting.

But then again...the game is just so good. Once you sort out your messed-up components and glue your ships back together and concoct an appropriate explanation for the narrative, all your concerns slip away and you’re playing the Star Trek game you’ve always wanted, boldly going where no one has gone before, matching wits with your Klingon opponents or scanning a sentient nebula or negotiating a peace treat between two alien species. And the possibilities for expansion are amazing: the game has Federation and Klingons, but nothing from DS9, the Borg, Romulans, Cardassians, or the Dominion. The rules are already set up to handle extra players, different modes (free-for-all, co-op, etc.), and more, all you need is the stuff (which is, admittedly, the hard part).

Do I recommend this game? Yes and no. It’s not worth $100, so I’ll tell you to buy it cheap somewhere, except then WizKids won’t make enough money to justify an expansion, so I’ll tell you to buy it full price. If we’re lucky, WizKids will fix some of the production problems and do a re-issue, but I don’t see that happening. How about this: find a copy you can rent/borrow/test, and give it a try. That will give you a really good idea of how much you like it and how much you’d be willing to pay for it. With games like this you have to remember the Boat Rule: if you want to go sailing you don’t need a boat, you need a friend with a boat. Find a Trekkie with more money than sense and start dropping hints.
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B. G. Kubacki
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Fellfrosch wrote:
Imagine a historical wargame that allowed you to have George Washington, General Patton, and Napoleon all on the same team fighting ninjas.


OMG!



BEST. GAME. EVAH!!!
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Bwian, just
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Fellfrosch wrote:
Their first Star Trek game, called Expeditions, was pure Euro, and a fairly number-crunchy one at that. The components look Star Trek, but by all accounts the gameplay never actually feels like Star Trek, so I never bothered picking it up. If I’m wrong, please let me know.

Well, you asked... I actually thought the game captured the feel of a TOS episode fairly well: you have a few main plots, a few subplots, and the President's wife might well make a pass at one of the crewmembers.

It's possible that it feels like the same TOS episode after a while; I haven't played enough times to figure that out. But the board is very generic, so a little creativity (or a mission pack expansion from WizKids) should solve that problem.

Fellfrosch wrote:
If we’re lucky, WizKids will fix some of the production problems and do a re-issue, but I don’t see that happening.

Given the number of replacement ships they were sending out, I suspect they are going through their backstock as we speak, and removing the offenders. ninja

Thanks for the review. Personally, I didn't have any problems with the production value (I got a set with no problems last week), and the theme didn't bother me much in practice. But those do seem to be the weak points. As long as they make the Romulans, though, I'll be happy.
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John "Omega" Williams
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irondeav wrote:
Fellfrosch wrote:
Imagine a historical wargame that allowed you to have George Washington, General Patton, and Napoleon all on the same team fighting ninjas.


OMG!



BEST. GAME. EVAH!!!


Riverworld... The Wargame? ninja
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Ethan Van Vorst
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I got this game for Christmas and really enjoy it myself. I relish every game I get to play and have a blast everytime I play it . The cards are, as you say, kinda flimsy, and the tiles themselves are to me the worst offenders...no matter how you set them up they never seem to line up right, and mine were cut a bit off kilter which means they don't line up right when you put them back in the box. Or it could be that I'm just OCD when I come to my board games whistle

My understanding is that they are going to be producing expansions, which this game, good as it is, desperately needs. Personally I'd love to see the Borg most of all, but I'd fully expect to see some Cardassians, Romulans, and all the rest. I wouldn't mind seeing a conglomeration of TOS races in a single box set either, like the Andorians, Gorn, Tholians, etc. to fill in the blanks too. The ships not being painted is a pain although my brother painted up mine pretty nicely so if you know someone who does figures they'll have a field day with these (the sculpts are quite nice).
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Wiedewiet
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irondeav wrote:
Fellfrosch wrote:
Imagine a historical wargame that allowed you to have George Washington, General Patton, and Napoleon all on the same team fighting ninjas.


OMG!



BEST. GAME. EVAH!!!

Sounds like you'd like Heroscape!
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Keith Anderson
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I wonder if they have changed the internal packaging. My cards came in shrinkwrapped groups. It took enough effort to remove the wrapping that I'm wondering if it is different from what was used in those sets where the cards are loose. Or maybe I was just lucky.
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Jeff Dunford
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Excellent review and summary. I have a comment clarifying the part I've bolded:
Fellfrosch wrote:
The game’s second big problem is thematic, and I haven’t actually convinced myself it’s really a problem a yet. Rather than focus on a specific series, or even a specific timeline, the game throws literally everything into the same pot: Kirk and Picard and Janeway can all be on the same crew, despite the fact that their stories took place in wildly different times and places. For the non-Trek nerds out there, imagine a historical wargame that allowed you to have George Washington, General Patton, and Napoleon all on the same team fighting ninjas. That makes for some good fan fiction, but it’s an inherently goofy idea that shows (dare I say it) a lack of respect for the IP. Now, there’s a lot to be said for the malleability of the Star Trek universe--there are enough temporal and spatial anomalies to explain pretty much anything you want, and I usually teach people the game by saying "just imagine Q did it." But the crazy mixed-up timeline should be a scenario, not the baseline, and Trek fans shouldn’t have to house-rule their game just to play what most people would consider the default setting.

Note that Kirk, Picard, and Janeway can't be on the same ship... since they're all captains and you can only assign one crew member to a given position (captain, officer, engineer, specialist) on any given ship. I guess there isn't sufficient room for their egos on one ship. Similarly, Data and Spock can't be on the same ship... and you wouldn't want them to be, as they pretty much do the same thing - which is quite thematic, when you think about it.

Also, the deck-building and ship drafting phases allow you to avoid some timeline issues if you choose to. For example, you could choose for original series/movie timeline ships and crew, or just TNG/Voyager/DS9. Some of the decks cross timelines (e.g. Geordi and Scotty are both in the engineering deck; Sulu is in the security deck with Tasha Yar and Worf), but you could easily customize a scenario to include crew from one generation or the other.

Another way to think about both the timeline "issues" and the cost as this:
You get Star Trek: Fleet Captains - The Next Generation edition (~ 50 command deck cards per side; ~ 6-7 ships per side) for about $60.
Then, you get the Star Trek: Fleet Captains - Original series/Movie expansion (~30 command deck cards per side; ~ 3-6 ships per side) for about $25.
Then, you get the Star Trek: Fleet Captains - DS9 + Voyager mini-expansion (~20 command deck cards per side; ~2 ships per side) for about $15.

That's $100 MSRP for the base set and 2 expansions... all bundled together and they all fit in one box! Sure, they could have been released separately, but in all seriousness... who wouldn't go out and immediately get these expansions?! I doubt anybody would be complaining about "timeline" if they had to purchase the Kirk/Spock/McCoy/Scotty/Sulu with Enterprise A/Excelsior/Gro'th/Kronos One expansion separately...
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Jeff Dunford
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Wiet wrote:
irondeav wrote:
Fellfrosch wrote:
Imagine a historical wargame that allowed you to have George Washington, General Patton, and Napoleon all on the same team fighting ninjas.


OMG!



BEST. GAME. EVAH!!!

Sounds like you'd like Heroscape!


Sounds like Duel of Ages.

GamePlayer wrote:
I wonder if they have changed the internal packaging. My cards came in shrinkwrapped groups. It took enough effort to remove the wrapping that I'm wondering if it is different from what was used in those sets where the cards are loose. Or maybe I was just lucky.


Mine were shrink-wrapped in groups... except for the one group that broke out of its shrink-wrap and was scattered throughout the box, and was clearly the culprit that broke one of the ships (Rotarran - the Klingon ship closest to the cards). You could blame shipping and handling... but the problem was mostly preventable if there was a larger/stronger divider between the cards and ships.
 
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Keith Anderson
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iNano78 wrote:
Wiet wrote:
irondeav wrote:
Fellfrosch wrote:
Imagine a historical wargame that allowed you to have George Washington, General Patton, and Napoleon all on the same team fighting ninjas.


OMG!



BEST. GAME. EVAH!!!

Sounds like you'd like Heroscape!


Sounds like Duel of Ages.

GamePlayer wrote:
I wonder if they have changed the internal packaging. My cards came in shrinkwrapped groups. It took enough effort to remove the wrapping that I'm wondering if it is different from what was used in those sets where the cards are loose. Or maybe I was just lucky.


Mine were shrink-wrapped in groups... except for the one group that broke out of its shrink-wrap and was scattered throughout the box, and was clearly the culprit that broke one of the ships (Rotarran - the Klingon ship closest to the cards). You could blame shipping and handling... but the problem was mostly preventable if there was a larger/stronger divider between the cards and ships.


Okay. I was wondering if they had attempted to get by with paper bands around the cards or some such. I do wish the holder for the map card/tile/thingies was deeper. The discussion about broken ships and card/tile quality in other threads did delay my purchase but in the end I could not resist buying it. I've been wanting a heavily thematic adventure game and this fit the bill.
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Matt Smith
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If I may attempt to summarize this review:

Pros
- Gameplay mechanics
- Ship sculpts (when they're not broken or mis-assembled)
- Alignment of mechanics with theme (appropriate blend of exploration, science, combat, influence, encounters)

Cons
- Component quality (thin cardstock, broken ships)
- Cost
- Blending of multiple Star Trek timelines in a single game session

Obviously, all of the Cons are what could keep someone from buying the game. Only the third Con would be a reason to not try the game. I agree with the OP - you have to find a way to try this game. Once you do, you will want it. Then you only have to get past the other two Cons:

Component Quality - While I sympathize with those who had issues (I did not have any), I think this site magnifies the perceived impact of the issues. By that I mean the people who had an issue will be more likely to post to this site than those with no issues. So, to readers of this site, it will seem like nearly everyone had issues. I suspect it's a very small percentage of buyers who had an issue. And Wizkids has a very easy-to-use replacement website. Also, since the cards get shuffled a lot, it was a no-brainer for me sleeve the cards. I used Mayday premium sleeves and they now handle great.

Cost - This is a personal decision. I thought the online price was reasonable, considering the immense enjoyment I get each time I play.

So, while I agree with the OP that it's best to try before you buy (because of the cost), by all means TRY THIS GAME! I think you will be hard pressed not to buy it after trying it.
 
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I agree with all of the above(especially the cat).
For me this is a game which I have got a lot of great enjoyment out of, as my brother and I are both big trekkies. That being said as an avid board games fan and miniatures gaming mentalist, star trek fleet captains is some of the worst value for money I've seen in a while, and the quality control for this product is shocking, I had three ships broken when I first opened the box and have had to do little fixes to almost all of them since then.

This problem is highlighted when I look at other games over the £50 mark like gears of war, super dungeon explore, and Dreadfleet. All of them have an hugely higher level of quality and all of them have a lower rrp, I would also go so far that I have spent a similar amount of time building pieces from Dreadfleet as I have repairing pieces from Star trek.

Regardless of this, I don't regret buying Star Trek fleet captains because of how much fun it is (when every things fixed and ready), But when Gears of war and super dungeon explore release expansions I will get them strait away but with star trek I will wait and shop around for the lowest price.
 
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Joseph LaClair
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I agree wholeheartedly with your assesment about theme. Although I don't have a problem with all the different timelines, I think Fleet CAPTAINS was a poor choice for a name.

I thought I'd be captaining a ship with an appropiate captain in command. Half the time there isn't even a captain on your ship and many times he's just a card to be used and discarded.

For all of the complaints about Expeditions being mathy, I find Fleet Captains to be equally so. Both games consist of a bunch of tests against certain skills or systems. Both games have you looking for the best way to improve those skills or systems with modifiers (cards or items).

I actually find Expeditions does a better job on the story, although it's the same story every time. Fleet Captains never felt like I was developing a story so much as just a bunch of random happenings.


I never felt like I was playing a character from any of the trek shows in ST:FC. At least in Expeditions I feel like I am playing one of the characters.

I would say ST:FC has a better replayability factor but personally I found it a bit dry and certainly no where near as good as all the hype.


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