Tuesday, October 7, 2014

To boldly clix, part 2

The second Star Trek game from Wizkids Games, Star Trek: Fleet Captains has all the makings of an epic. Rather than go the route of a straight-up combat game, Wizkids delivered a surprisingly deep game about exploration and mission solving, with combat playing only a small part. Players draft fleets of ships and explore a cosmos made up of randomly sorted tiles. The ships you choose determine what types of missions you are given, anything from colonizing planets to scanning stars to conducting hit-and-run attacks into your opponent's territory.

As a player, you can tailor your tactics with the use of a semi-customized deck of Command cards, composed of characters, actions, and combat maneuvers. There are 10 mini-decks of 10 cards organized around themes such as engineering, warfare, or subterfuge; at the start of the game, each player chooses four of these to shuffle together, forming a 40 card deck.

Play centers around solving missions to score points, with bonus points available from random encounters as well as by doing things like building starbases. Play proceeds until one player reaches a number of points (10 in a normal game) determined by the size of the players' starting fleets.

The Star Trek universe is certainly well-represented. Each faction plays differently, with the Federation focused on science and exploration, the Klingons on battle, the Romulans on subterfuge, and the Dominion on brute force conquest. Ships and characters from the original series, The Next Generaition, Deep Space Nine and Voyager are all present, and there's even a Klingon ship from an episode of the animated series.

While it is very successful in terms of theme, the game itself is often bogged down by complicated game play. The game tries to be open-ended, but unfortunately that has resulted in a lot of rules that aren't always intuitive and are often difficult to remember. We have found that we have to refer to the rules very frequently, even after playing several times.

The Command deck is an interesting idea, especially with the ability to customize the deck a bit without spending time hand-picking all the cards. However, each of the mini-decks has too many cards that are only useful in very specific situations. You often find yourself with a hand of cards you can't use, which means you get in the habit of just ignoring them all together.

As with Star Trek Expeditions, the patented clix dial seems a bit out of place and tacked-on. Ostensibly it is used to track power adjustments to each ship, so more power to the shields means less power to the sensors, but the numbers on the dials are in a poorly chosen font that is very hard to read, and in any case all the numbers are also printed on each ship's card, making the dials pretty unnecessary.

Rating: 3 (out of 5) The incredible use of theme goes some way towards making up for some clunky game play, but not enough to make Fleet Captains a great game.

Date played: September 1, 2014

UPDATE May 12, 2015: Another look at Star Trek: Fleet Captains

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