Whilst in my local gaming shop last week a delivery of a new game (that I was blissfully unaware of) arrived; Star Trek Deck Building Game by Bandai. Being a fan of the show in all its incarnations I gleefully pulled out my wallet to purchase a copy of the Premiere Edition for The Next Generation Series (they also have the Original Series and a Borg themed addition to the Next Gen). I remember the days of my youth playing the customisable card game and felt like giving this a go.
So what do you get for your money? Well it all comes in a nice looking box that is about twice the size it needs to be to hold all of the contents, so if they are planning expansions it’s a good act of foresight, if not…why the big box? As for the inside; you have 300 cards to play with, all of which are of a good quality and contain footage from the show, 5 D20s that are used to monitor damage, and the rule book. The premise of the game to use the cards in the box to build up a deck to beat your opponent. There are three ways to play the game
1) Exploration: This is the ‘default mode’ of the game where the objective is to amass a total of 400 Mission Points to win. This is done by completing Missions, surviving Events and taking down enemy starships.
2) Klingon Civil War: Based upon a series of episodes within the Next Gen, the Klingon Civil War game is a team game (2 vs. 2) where the aim is to collect 200+ mission points and have more allied starships than the other team.
3) Borg Invasion: Rather unusual, this version of the game is a collective (pun intended) game in which 2-5 players team up to defeat the Borg that are drawn from the deck. Each player has a Federation starship with its own special ability, and you have to have enough Speed and Attack to complete defeat the Locutus Event. It should be noted that each Borg cube is stronger than any single starship (unsurprisingly) and that the longer the game goes on, the tougher the cubes get. This is also the only version of the game in which players can be knocked out.
Last week I got to try out the game with my friend ZombiePirate and we started off with the basic Exploration game to get a feel of things. When we played it, both myself and ZP found the game mechanic a little strange at first. Basically all players start off with the same 10 cards in a Starter Deck plus one very basic starship (Constellation Class if anyone was wondering). There are two other decks in play: the Space Deck and the Starbase Deck. The Space Deck contains all of the Missions, Events and Starships that you’ll encounter, whilst the Starbase Deck has all of the Characters and Manoeuvres etc. You start by drawing and hand of 5 cards from your starter deck and can play any number of these to your play area, know as the Bridge (very Trekkie). Some of these cards generate XP which allows you to ‘buy’ cards from the Starbase Deck, others will provide various bonuses to your ship. You can then perform 1 Explore (i.e. turn over a card from the Space Deck) and see what happens. Many will give you an additional Explore. If it is an Event or Mission you have to see if you can meet the requirements to succeed, if you do, you keep the card and add it to your victory points, if not then Mission cards are left in play for players to attempt in later turns, whilst other cards are placed back in the deck. Obviously you as a player aim to amass a decent enough deck to complete as many missions as you can before your opponent(s). What we found a little confusing at first was that you only have a hand of 5 cards each turn, regardless of how many cards are in your deck. You do however have the option of getting rid of cards, to reduce your deck size and make the better ones come around more often.
When you encounter a Starship from the Space Deck you can choose to either Diplomacy it (i.e. have a Speed & Diplomacy rating higher than it) or battle it. To win a fight you have to equal or exceed its Defence with your Attack. When fighting another player (which can happen if you turn over a War! Card) you only have the option of battle. Once you’ve played everything you want to play your turn is over and then play goes to the next player.
That’s the basic info for the game, so what are my thoughts? Lets start with some negatives. Not being a big card game player (Magic the Gathering is all I’ve really played since I turned 20) I found the game mechanic a little strange and it took a while for both myself and ZP to get use to it. Once you do though, it is simple enough. I also thing that the rulebook (though nicely made) could have done with a few more explanations. I appreciate that I haven’t looked at the online FAQs yet, so some of my questions may have answers on there, it was just that there were a few occasions where something comes up and you just kind of look and think “urm…I think it’s like this”, but this may change as I play it more. My only other real negative comment is that other than ending your turn there are now real consequences for having your ship blown up (except in the Borg Invasion were you get assimilated and are out of the game). This I suppose can be a good thing though as you can draw some rather powerful starships out of the Space Deck (Vor’cha attack cruiser, D’deridex warbirds and of course the USS Enterprise-D) which blast your puny little starter ship into atoms before you can say “lock phasers”. As you get better ships though, your survival chances improve. Another oddity I noticed is that you have starships for the Federation, Klingons, Romulans, Ferengi and Cardassians and characters for all of them except for the Cardassians…no spoonheads. In game this doesn’t matter as the races can mix & match, but it would have been nice to see.
Positives. The game has a lot of strategy in it. You really have to think about which cards to pick up and not just grab everything that you can as you’ll end up with a hand full of crap half the time. You also have to learn to deal with the hand you draw and sometimes it is not in the best interest to draw cards from the Space Deck. This I think gives it much replayability. The fact that there are 3 game modes to choose from also adds to this. The game is for 2-5 players and depending on the game mode, it can be a free-for-all or team matches, so you can involve more than just one friend and can have a group enjoying the game. One of the things we’ve found as a group here at 6 Inch is that sometimes gaming can get too competitive, and this can ruin the fun element. With the option of playing in teams you get a different dynamic on the night. I like how the aim of the game is not to blow each other up. It’s to explore the galaxy, boldly going where no man has gone before (insert which ever version of theme music you like). It’s not a game of ‘kill or be killed’ but rather ‘how am I going to overcome this challenge?’ From an aesthetic point of view the cards look great and are of a good quality, as I said earlier most are shots from the TV show which adds a lot to it. Having the different races and their ships in the game allows you to mix & match or try to stick to a single race (there are plenty of characters from the Federation, Klingons, Romulans and Ferengi to chose from), and most of your favourites from Next Gen are there. The cards staring everyone’s favourite omnipotent being Q, are entertaining. They can really screw things up a bit and usually favour the player who is currently losing… though not all of the time.
Overall I’d say 7 out of 10. If you’re into Star Trek and card games, you’ll probably enjoy this game. Will I be buying the other edition with more Borg…most likely. Set course for the nearest retailer, Warp 6. ENGAGE!