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Star Trek: Fleet Captains – Romulan Empire» Forums » Reviews

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Sean Davis
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Okay, so here's a quick and dirty review of Star Trek: Fleet Captains- Romulan Empire Expansion. Having received my copy, I was, of course, unable to resist getting it out and playing asap...

First up, Components:

Overall, the components are quite nice, but let's look at them bit by bit to deal with the details, both good and bad.

I'll start with the miniatures. I'm sure this is one of the most drawing components of the game, so of course, it should be addressed promptly. Generally, the miniatures are well sculpted, and assembled. The clix dials on every ship in my set work marvellously, and the dials are a bit easier to read than they were in the core set. (I'm torn as to which mini is my favorite in the set, between the Valdore and the Bird of Prey, but that's just me...)

Unfortunately, the miniatures do have some issues, as one might expect. Make sure the check them for secure bonding to clix bases, for one thing. My Apnex came loose from the base as I was working on masking it off for painting.

The miniatures also include one of the most disappointing entries in the expansion. Without exception, the size 5 Warbirds in my set all had rather noticeable gaps where they were assembled at the warp engines, and the engines themselves look a little clumsily sculpted. Does this damage the game? Not really, but the flaws are worth noting. I actually found myself preferring the old Galoob MicroMachines version of the Warbird, but the preference isn't quite strong enough to convince me to trade them out, especially since I don't have four MicroMachines, and I don't want to buy more components for a game that works just fine out of the box. Besides, at any distance, the Warbirds really do look good. I probably only really picked up on the problems with the engines because I was painting them, so of course I was very closely examining every detail.

The various cards (ships, locations, encounters, missions, etc) are of good quality, quite similar to those found in the base set. The only issue is that the location tiles fit very tightly in their well, which can cause bending if they're not removed carefully. (I've read on another thread that they fit perfectly if they're correctly aligned, but it seems that Wizkids didn't ship any of them so well aligned... In any case, mine came out just fine, and its no longer a worry, as I just integrated the location tiles into the main deck in the core set.)

It has been noted on another thread that the copyright is printed on the backs of the new location tiles, making them distinguishable from those in the base set. I don't really see this as a problem. For one thing, you have to actually be looking for the date to see it. (Its printed very small...) For another, in practice, when playing the game, you're probably more focused on finding a good route to wherever you're trying to go, or you're trying to find particular types of location. In either case, if the tiles aren't explored yet, you can use a scan action to check out any tile you're considering moving to, so if someone really wants to limit surprises found throughout exploration, the rules make for a more sure-fire strategy than simply gambling that since the next tile comes from one set or the other, it will be better for you. Besides, with the exception of a couple of tiles here and there, you're more likely to run into disaster through an encounter than simply by finding a location type...

The ships all fit very nicely into their slots in the box, though it would have been nice to have some guide on what goes where. The Birds of Prey, particularly, don't fit exactly like the other ships, which I'm guessing was done to protect their nacelles and wings. In fact, both the Birds of Prey and the Valdore fit so that their back in toward the bottom of the box, and the front points up at you as you look in at them.

New Rules:

Not much to cover here; I haven't really had a chance to try the three player rules out, but as other threads indicate, it seems that they are in desperate need of some errata or treatment in a FAQ.

Emergency cloaking ROCKS!!! Spend five movement, and cloak without using an action. Simple, elegant, and very effective to saturate the game with Romulan flavor. There were several turns during play that I noticed that the only miniatures on the map were the Federation ships. The Romulan presence was only indicated by cloak counters and echoes, as well as Romulan influence markers spreading like crazy. (Of course, as per the core rules, the Romulans can't take any non-cloaking actions while cloaked, but its very easy to decloak at the start of the turn as a power adjustment, take an action at your starting location, then fade back into cloak as part of your movement, as long as you have enough movement points to allow it. The Federation (or Klingons, I'd imagine...) get rather nervous when there are unidentified cloak counters all over the map, and they have no idea what may be a ship, let alone which ship might be where. If you have some secret missions sitting in front of you, that just adds to the enemy's anxiety.

So far, I haven't found much use for Transmission Interception, but I can see where it will come in handy. I envision it as especially useful on missions like Warp Test; just as your opponent is about to complete his multiple turns of test flight, scramble his orders, and force him to discard the mission, and therefore waste the last couple of turns of that ship. Its even more appealing on those missions that require the use of multiple actions, like the "Lunar Realignment"; few ships can do that on their own, so by a timely Transmission Intercept, you could make your opponent waste at least two actions, assuming he succeeded on his first attempt at scanning. (Just, don't let him get to the last turn, since Transmission Interception is not an interrupt, so you have to do it on your turn before your opponent can finish what he was doing...)

The Saboteurs are a delight, especially those who cause your opponent to really squirm, forcing them to refrain from initiating combat with a particular ship until the controlling player chooses to remove the saboteur, in exchange for gaining 2 VP, for example.

The increased VP for the first ship you destroy and first starbase you build encourages the Romulans to get into combat a little more, since they really have rather few combat missions, so its often in their best interests to avoid combat if possible. However, the temptation of 2VP can really draw one into the mood to kill something, especially if you happen to be looking at a Plasma Torpedo command card in your hand, that can give you one hell of a brutal strike against a target. (Theoretically, if you think you need it and have a hand you're not terribly attached to, you can use the Plasma Torpedo to add up to +6 to your attack.) The Plasma Torpedo proved useful in obliterating the Excelsior in my first game.

Theme:

As noted above, the new cloak rules really do a lot to add a Romulan flavor to the expansion, but not all by themselves. Attached to the Romulans, we also have the introduction of Espionage Missions. These missions often result in the Romulans cruising around the board, under cloak, creating echoes, and generally trying to mess with their opponent's heads as much as possible.

It seems to me that the Romulans also have a lot more specialized Command Cards. For example, there's the Romulan Commander who's ability only comes into effect when attacking installations, or Donatra, who really only reaches her potential if she's placed on a Size 5 or 6 ship. However, that being said, in their specialized roles, these cards can be very, very effective. The afore-mentioned Commander gains +15 to attacks against installations, and Donatra gains a FREE influence action. (Couple that with some of the cards in the Pride of Romulus deck, and theoretically, Donatra's ship could take a combat action, an influence action, and a cloaking action in one turn.) Of course, some of that is largely there to make up for the possibility that one could draft two size 5 Warbirds, and fill out their entire fleet roster, while three actions per turn, which would normally mean that they couldn't use one of the their actions every turn...

The only complaint I have on the thematic element is that none of the smaller Romulan ships have any combat missions. I'd have liked to have seen something like one of the three Birds of Prey set up with 1 Combat, 1 Espionage. After all, while the Romulans are very sneaky, they are also very warlike. (So said Spock, and who are we to argue with Spock?) But, really, that's not too much of an issue, since, again, the new rules make it much more tempting and worthwhile to destroy an enemy ship simply for the sake of it.

There is one other weakness in the theme, actually; why did they choose Excelsior for a Federation ship with Espionage Missions? So many of those missions require a cloak, meaning that the Defiant would have been at least a little more capable. (Even Defiant would be incapable of some. The first Espionage Mission my opponent drew for the Feds required placing 3 cloak tokens on the board; one Defiant + one echo would still only yield 2.)

Overall: I like this better than the core set, actually; the Romulans play very much more differently from the Federation than the Klingons, which just reinforces that one is not only playing with different models and a different balance of missions, but one is playing a faction with decidedly different values. The difference between the Feds and Klingons occasionally did just come down to flavor text and ship sculpts. I've had games where the Federation actually drew more combat missions than the Klingons, and so had to behave more like Klingons... The Romulans demand a different mindset from the player, and I think that is just awesome, and really adds to the flavor of the game.

Two thumbs way up!
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Chris
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Good review, I agree with most everything you point out.

A couple of things I'll add on here:

1) We LOVE the 3-player game - it's just so much more tense and flat-out interesting with 3 players all at odds with each other (especially on the medium-to-small maps).

EDIT: I removed the hyperbole about not being able to go back to 2P. It came off as denigrating the 2P version, which was not my intention (seeing as how the base game is still all kinds of awesome). We just love the 3P So. Much.

2) Transmission Interference is FANTASTIC, though I think it's probably of more use in the 3P game - we used it a lot, particularly if one of the players started getting too far ahead in VPs. Our informal alliances let us take turns throwing the proverbial flies in the ointment of the person who was ahead, causing delays in mission completion and forcing him to use precious actions to cycle mission cards while we steadily caught up.

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Sean Davis
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Thanks for the info; not only is it informative for me, but it also adds the viewpoint of someone who's played the 3-player for the benefit of anyone looking for a thorough review.

All of my info on 3-player comes from reading the rules and looking at some of the other threads, where there seem to be some issues of confusion, particularly when it comes to things like breakaway. Nothing against 3P, but something that it would be nice to see an official ruling on, rather than have endless variations of house rule to address it.

As to Transmission Interference, I meant exactly what I said about it: I haven't found much use for it SO FAR; I anticipate finding it more fun to play with as I get more time in playing with the "new toys". As noted above, I can imagine places where it will come in handy, and what better way to a clear victory than to cancel an opponent's mission, then activate a saboteur who takes VP away from your opponent, and finish off with completing a mission that takes you up to victory; especially useful if you're the first player, so in need of some security against the second tying you, and gaining victory by default on the last turn.

Anyway, enough from me. I just wanted to thank you for adding in some points on elements of the game that I haven't had much time or opportunity to experiment with. (I normally only have one willing opponent at a time, so I expect it will be a long time before I get to try 3P...)
 
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Chris J Davis
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I've gotta say, Transmission Interference sounds like the most annoying, frustrating mechanic they could possibly have introduced into the game. You spend turns set up the completion of a mission, only to have your opponent go "oh, sorry - cancelled!" and suddenly your hard work is undone.

Add to that the fact that it would seem to make the problem of players just auto-cycling the difficult missions even *worse*. What on earth was the point of this new rule??
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Chris
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Well, it's an opposed Sensor test, with penalties based on range (-1 per movement point), and it costs the person doing it one of their actions. It also grants exactly zero VPs, so it's purely a defensive measure in cases where you don't want the other guy completing an easy mission.

So yeah, it's annoying and frustrating... and delightful, if you're the one doing it.

I can honestly say we've never had a problem with people just continually cycling difficult missions for the sake of getting easier ones - mission cycling happens, but rarely have I seen it done more than once or twice in a game by any given player - but perhaps we're in the minority.
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Tripp Ritter
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I found the new rule helpful in slowing down the leader. In my case, I managed to cycle what would have been the winning mission, while just barely escaping with my ship.

Of course, it was the third player who won, not me. Three player is really quite fun, btw.
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bleached_lizard wrote:
I've gotta say, Transmission Interference sounds like the most annoying, frustrating mechanic they could possibly have introduced into the game. You spend turns set up the completion of a mission, only to have your opponent go "oh, sorry - cancelled!" and suddenly your hard work is undone.

Add to that the fact that it would seem to make the problem of players just auto-cycling the difficult missions even *worse*. What on earth was the point of this new rule??

Why would that make the problem worse? You can TI their easy Missions, forcing them to settle for more difficult ones while you pursue your own agenda. You also have to factor the threat of a TI into your power allocation and ship movement, so all Missions have become harder. It is a balancing mechanism, you just haven't tried it yet.

The only thing I don't think I will like about it is that I think distance should subtract from your own sensors, not add to the opponent's. Otherwise, you can automatically succeed as long as one opponent's ship has disabled sensors. What kind of sense does it make to make it so easy to mess up a science Mission on one side of the board just because the Enterprise-E is in heavy combat on the other side of the board? Is the crew of the Enterprise really giving orders to the science vessels while in the heat of battle?
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Sean Davis
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Marlowespade wrote:
Well, it's an opposed Sensor test, with penalties based on range (-1 per tile), and it costs the person doing it one of their actions.


Technically, as I understood it, its not -1 per tile, its -1 per movement point between target and the "interfering" ship, so a size 8 location will create a great deal of difficulty with this, even it its the only tile between the ships, whereas the rare size 1 location won't be too much trouble for some of the science ships/larger ships.
 
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Chris
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You are correct - I misspoke. Will edit my response. Thanks!
 
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Paul DeStefano
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bleached_lizard wrote:
What on earth was the point of this new rule??


To have a way to counter the other dude getting a whole bunch of really easy missions and you having no recourse.
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Roy Stephens
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As far as Excelsior-B being the only Fed espionage ship, it doesn't have to be the one to complete the espionage mission. Defiant, or any other ship, is allowed to complete any mission. It is an odd choice, but, thematically, it kinda makes sense like it is the last ship the enemy would expect to be spying instead of doing stellar cartography or analyzing nebulas or something.
 
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Geosphere wrote:
bleached_lizard wrote:
What on earth was the point of this new rule??


To have a way to counter the other dude getting a whole bunch of really easy missions and you having no recourse.


I agree with bleached_lizard on this point. A lot of the really easy missions will be revealed and completed before the opponent even has a chance to attempt an interfere action, and thus TI doesn't really seem like a counter for it. Those are the same missions everyone is power-cycling for anyways.

The missions that are more difficult (and as such are already attempted far less) are the ones that are likely to be on someone's queue for more than a single turn and are thus more prone to interference, especially if progress towards them is a piecemeal, multi-turn investment.

I'm sure as Shatner not going to bother with multi-turn missions now, since the opponent can wait until I've invested several Actions/turns into it and then just try and interfere it away before I could complete it. Even before TI, it was hard to justify pursuing rather than just cycling those missions, and now they are even less tempting.
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"The increased VP for the first ship you destroy and first starbase you build encourages the Romulans to get into combat a little more"


What is the increase, and is this a rule change for the whole game, or just a goodie for the Romulans?
 
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Chris J Davis
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Geosphere wrote:
bleached_lizard wrote:
What on earth was the point of this new rule??


To have a way to counter the other dude getting a whole bunch of really easy missions and you having no recourse.


Then the solution to that is to make the missions harder, not to give a second mission-cycling rule to the opponent. *facepalm*
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Chris J Davis
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RogueThirteen wrote:
Geosphere wrote:
bleached_lizard wrote:
What on earth was the point of this new rule??


To have a way to counter the other dude getting a whole bunch of really easy missions and you having no recourse.


I agree with bleached_lizard on this point. A lot of the really easy missions will be revealed and completed before the opponent even has a chance to attempt an interfere action, and thus TI doesn't really seem like a counter for it. Those are the same missions everyone is power-cycling for anyways.

The missions that are more difficult (and as such are already attempted far less) are the ones that are likely to be on someone's queue for more than a single turn and are thus more prone to interference, especially if progress towards them is a piecemeal, multi-turn investment.

I'm sure as Shatner not going to bother with multi-turn missions now, since the opponent can wait until I've invested several Actions/turns into it and then just try and interfere it away before I could complete it. Even before TI, it was hard to justify pursuing rather than just cycling those missions, and now they are even less tempting.


This, exactly.
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Paul DeStefano
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You guys must play a different game than I do.

Cycling missions has never been a problem for us in the slightest. Its part of the game. It's like throwing out a scan if you have nothing better to do after moving. You choose what to invest in. If a game is 8-12 turns or so and you cycle missions say 5 times, that's 5 turns you're not attempting to get those VPs. But you know what? You're probably not attempting to get VPs on all 3 missions per turn anyway. Might as well invest in a future turn.

Cycling is part of the overall strategy.

Now, if you can convince the other guy your secret mission is awesome and about to be completed, and he wastes resources tracking you down and trying a TI, well, you've effectively slowed him down.

TI happens super rarely. BUT it does make lame science ships a bit cooler as those sensors can now do something if you don't have a scan mission.

I'm thinking TI is attempted maybe 1 in 5 games. Its really not a big deal, just a touch of flavor.

The pesky thing is, if you're in range to execute it, that means you're in range as well...
 
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bleached_lizard wrote:
You spend turns set up the completion of a mission, only to have your opponent go "oh, sorry - cancelled!" and suddenly your hard work is undone.


We rate this high on the awesome meter.
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Geosphere wrote:
bleached_lizard wrote:
You spend turns set up the completion of a mission, only to have your opponent go "oh, sorry - cancelled!" and suddenly your hard work is undone.


We rate this high on the awesome meter.


I guess this is where we differ, then - I rate it extremely low. An excerpt from an article I wrote regarding different types of balance in games:

Quote:
Active balance is probably one of the most important forms of balance involved in game design, and yet it often seems to be overshadowed in discussions by its more superficial big brother, external balance (i.e, balance between the players having a relatively equal chance of winning). It concerns how well the game proportionately rewards players based on their actions during the game. A game that gives a player a large advantage for performing something that is relatively easy to accomplish has a low level of active balance. Likewise, a game that allows you to undo your opponent’s progress disproportionately easily compared to the effort they had to put in to achieve that progress would also be a sign of a game with low active balance.


ST:FC has absolutely terrible active balance, due to the fact that there are so many missions with the same VP reward but with wildly varying difficulties, compounded by a factor of 10 by the fact that players can often cycle a difficult mission for free only to receive one that they've already completed and end up scoring points for for basically doing nothing. And the TI rule only makes it that much worse.

Sorry, don't get me wrong: I love ST:FC and think it is, on the whole, a great game. But the mission cycling rule has always struck me as just smacking of extremely lazy game design; rather than going to the effort of ensuring that all the missions are relatively well-balanced, we'll just introduce a rule that allows the players to screen the missions "on the fly", which means that 1/3rd of the missions just automatically become discard fodder. Now the expansion introduces a rule that allows your opponent to do it as well! Well, excuse me while I completely house-rule that out of existence!
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William Cunningham
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I came storming onto BGG to voice my annoyance with how easy transmission jamming was...especially for the Romulans and their high sensor rating ships.

Then I saw this:

Quote:
its not -1 per tile, its -1 per movement point between target and the "interfering" ship


{backs out of thread slowly...never making eye contact with anyone}

whistle
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Eric B.
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bleached_lizard wrote:
Geosphere wrote:
bleached_lizard wrote:
You spend turns set up the completion of a mission, only to have your opponent go "oh, sorry - cancelled!" and suddenly your hard work is undone.


We rate this high on the awesome meter.


I guess this is where we differ, then - I rate it extremely low.

...


ST:FC has absolutely terrible active balance, due to the fact that there are so many missions with the same VP reward but with wildly varying difficulties, compounded by a factor of 10 by the fact that players can often cycle a difficult mission for free only to receive one that they've already completed and end up scoring points for for basically doing nothing. And the TI rule only makes it that much worse.

Sorry, don't get me wrong: I love ST:FC and think it is, on the whole, a great game. But the mission cycling rule has always struck me as just smacking of extremely lazy game design; rather than going to the effort of ensuring that all the missions are relatively well-balanced, we'll just introduce a rule that allows the players to screen the missions "on the fly", which means that 1/3rd of the missions just automatically become discard fodder. Now the expansion introduces a rule that allows your opponent to do it as well! Well, excuse me while I completely house-rule that out of existence!




Yes, exactly. I'm in bleached's camp when it comes to game balance.

I think I'm also sympathetic to your position Geo, in so far as I think even with cycling and TI this game can still be fun and rewarding and, since every faction has access to those mechanics, it's not necessarily tipping the scales of balance between factions. At worst, it's tipping the scales of balance toward whomever can draw the most easy and fast 1VP missions (especially the auto-completed conditional ones), since those are now even better than they already were when compared to the slow, time-consuming 3VP Missions which are now at risk of TI before final completion. And Mission skewing is variable and mostly independent of one's faction, so the game doesn't favor Feds over Klingons inherently, for instance (and my play experience has certainly been one of surprising balance between the Feds and Klingons -- haven't had enough chance to play the Romulans but I assume we'll see balance there as well, and I think that's a great point of success for this game).


I love this game and am always happy to get it on the table, but I would certainly love to see more "active balance" in the sense bleached is talking about, as it would only make an already good game even better. The best way for this to be accomplished would probably be an updated "Version 2.0" Mission Deck that had a more consistent investment-to-reward ratio and made less Missions simply discard fodder.

A good analogy is probably the game Power Grid, where a cheap alternate deck of updated "power plant" cards was put out to bring better balance into the game since many of the first-run power plants were either too efficient or too inefficient -- there were obviously great ones to go after and ones that were simply ignored. The game is certainly playable and enjoyable with the original power plant deck, but most fans seem to agree that the updated power plant deck makes the game even better and offers more balance and meaningful decisions to the play experience.


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Eric B.
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Geosphere wrote:

If a game is 8-12 turns or so and you cycle missions say 5 times, that's 5 turns you're not attempting to get those VPs.


This is the big point where we disagree, though, I think. If Mission Cycling had some kind of restriction on its timing, then sure I'd agree.

But you can cycle right at the start of your turn and you get a new Mission immediately, so you can then immediately start pursuing it (or, if you're lucky, you might even auto-complete it by meeting the conditions). [unless I've missed some rule regarding cycling]

So I'm not giving up anything on those 'five turns' by cycling.
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So, Bleached... what is the house rule that you would use? I don't think the "free" VPs occasionally gained (especially late-game) from mission cycling are THAT bad... although, i have seen games won with it more than once. However, i can say that it is more interesting when a win is accomplished from completing an assigned mission rather than being assigned a mission one has already completed. The cheap VPs do, however, tend to keep the game close.. especially for Klingons when the UFP has gotten out to an early big lead via a few safe science missions.

I am honestly curious as to how you would house rule it. Not being snarky.
 
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I use a bunch of house rules in regard to this game (you can find them somewhere in the forums), so can't remember if there are any dependencies on other house rules I use, but the ones directly relating to mission cycling are:

You can cycle missions by spending actions. How you cycle the mission is dependant on how many actions you spend:

1 Action: Return 1 of your missions to the bottom of your missions deck, then draw a replacement off the top.

2 Actions: Discard 1 of your missions, then draw a replacement mission from the top of your missions deck. Add a mission to the bottom of your missions deck of the same type as the one that was discarded.

3 Actions: Discard 1 of your missions, then draw a replacement mission from the top of your missions deck. Add a mission to the bottom of your missions deck of any type.

EDIT: Actually, one of the "dependencies" I spoke of would probably be that I re-valued a bunch of the missions. So for example, the easy science sensor test missions are now only worth half a VP in my games.

Full list of variants here:

http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/713941/bleached-lizards-supe...

And some of my revised mission cards (I really need to get around to creating more tidy versions of these one day):

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The most controversial thing about the game (besides physical component issues) is, at least onsite here, the Missions Deck. Some people like cycling missions as a tactic, some hate the very idea. I am in the first category, but do admit that too many missions seem to be too difficult to attempt. On the other hand, one could always void the rule that allows one to have already completed a Conditional Mission, for the ones that are "too easy" in certain situations. Unless there are changes, I'll probably continue to cycle right out of my original missions deck, grab lots of Influence Missions from the main deck, and hope for the Conditional best!

It would be good if the designers weighed in on their thoughts and goals on why they did what they did.
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Roy Stephens
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San Jose
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bleached_lizard wrote:
I use a bunch of house rules in regard to this game (you can find them somewhere in the forums), so can't remember if there are any dependencies on other house rules I use, but the ones directly relating to mission cycling are:

You can cycle missions by spending actions. How you cycle the mission is dependant on how many actions you spend:

1 Action: Return 1 of your missions to the bottom of your missions deck, then draw a replacement off the top.

2 Actions: Discard 1 of your missions, then draw a replacement mission from the top of your missions deck. Add a mission to the bottom of your missions deck of the same type as the one that was discarded.

3 Actions: Discard 1 of your missions, then draw a replacement mission from the top of your missions deck. Add a mission to the bottom of your missions deck of any type.

EDIT: Actually, one of the "dependencies" I spoke of would probably be that I re-valued a bunch of the missions. So for example, the easy science sensor test missions are now only worth half a VP in my games.



I like the actions to cycle missions, but, what about this as a simple fix: Use the mission cycling rules as printed... but, if you pull a mission you have already completed the requirements for, you cannot immediately claim the reward, but, have to hold it through your opponent's turns to your next turn to get the reward. Thematically, you are sending a subspace transmission back to Starfleet/Klingon High Command/Romulan Imperator. This way, your opponents have a chance to intercept the transmission and force a discard.
 
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