Sunday, November 6, 2011

Star Trek Fleet Captains- Pricey Nostalgia

I was a Star Trek fan growing up and suffered at the time from feeling like only myself and twenty other people knew how great Trek was. I would search through issues of The Monster Times or Creepy magazine for any mention of the show and once made it in to the Federation Trading Post in Manhattan- the first store dedicated to Trek and one that would fit into my living room today. So let me tell you- Kids These Days just don't know how good they have it. You can barely throw a stone in a game store now and not hit a Trek related product. But how many of these products are worth a look?

Star Trek Fleet Captains (FC) is a new game from Wizkids. I got a chance to give it a go a week ago. In the game the players control Klingon or Federation ships and cruise the galaxy having Trek-esque adventures. For example, you might have to prevent a civil war, add a new race to your stellar empire, or test a new warp drive. Success gets you victory points. You will also have a set of ongoing missions which can be finished at any time during the game for extra victory points. Some missions are combat oriented while others involve exploring a certain number of areas or some other peaceful task. Players can attack other player's ships and that may fulfill a victory condition or simply prevent your opponent from completing one of theirs. The winner player or team is the first to accumulate a set number of victory points.

On the positive side the game manages to include missions and characters from all the Trek series' very well. It's almost like you're playing out lost episodes that were never broadcast but could have been. I think the writers really grasped what makes a Trek adventure and that comes through beautifully in the game.

On the negative side I found the degree of luck in the game to be a bit much. Unless you spend valuable time "scanning" before moving you stand some risk of driving into a black hole while adventuring and losing a ship. Many of the encounters are also so difficult as to be close to impossible and may result in the loss or crippling of one of your ships. Finally, players may have special cards in their hand which can drastically alter an encounter which you may have spent some time in setting up.

This last issues touches on the heart of the problem with FC. The game has miniature spaceships and there are space battles but it's really not a miniatures game. I wouldn't tolerate a minis game with the amount of randomness that FC has. On the other hand, boardgames like Talisman and even Race for the Galaxy have a good amount of chance and are still lots of fun. One approach to FC is to keep on repeating "Not a minis game" to yourself as you play and instead see it as Talisman version of Star Trek.

That being said, the game is quite expensive because it does include lots of plastic miniatures and a modular space playing board. You end up spending a good amount on minis for this non-minis game. And, as with Talisman, you have to decide if you can tolerate lots of chance in a game. The rules could be a bit less ambiguous as well and players may have to make some on the spot decisions regarding gameplay.

Star Trek Fleet Captains has some good things going for it. It's terrific fun as a Trek simulation and fans will recognize the affection and care that went into it's design. The rules are simple and the game is playable by new gamers and teens alike. At the same time it's expensive and minis gamers may want to consider one of the many alternate Trek miniatures games available. I think a player who doesn't love the show will find it a pleasant diversion but this game is clearly aimed towards the fan.

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