Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Too much like something else

With a feature film, 10 seasons on television, two spin-off series and two TV movies, you would be hard pressed to call the Stargate franchise anything other than successful. There was clearly an audience for the series and the stories it told, so it's not too difficult to see why someone thought a Stargate Trading Card Game would be a good idea.

In broad terms, the Stargate series tells the same kinds of stories that Star Trek does, with the Stargate itself taking the place of the Enterprise's transporter room as the device used to deliver the characters to the action. Like Star Trek, most Stargate episodes involve the characters arriving on a new planet and getting involved in some kind of plot there, with the occasional story taking place at Stargate Command, much like the ship-bound episodes of Star Trek. The point being that, like Star Trek, Stargate is about stories and intrigue more than it is about fighting and conflict, and the game's publishers seem to have understood that, to the extent that they hired several game designers who had worked on Decipher's Star Trek CCG to develop the Stargate card game.

The similarity between the two properties shows, but unfortunately so do Stargate's shortcomings. Faced with the relatively small number of underdeveloped alien cultures depicted on the show, the game designers opted for a setup similar to Decipher's Lord of the Rings Trading Card Game, with each player given control of their own crew of series regulars that exist independently of their opponent's crew.

The game play is understandably similar to the Star Trek CCG: a turn consists of a mission being played by the active player, which has a set of requirements, such as Culture, Combat, Ingenuity, or Science. The active player sends his characters to the mission, reinforcing them with gear and event cards, while the opponent plays obstacles and adversaries in order to make the mission more difficult. If the active player succeeds, he has the option to either keep going if he thinks he has enough unused characters to solve another mission, or stop if he doesn't.

When the active player's turn ends, the players switch roles, with the opponent now playing a mission and sending his characters to try to win out against the first player's obstacles and adversaries. It's a solid solution to the "good guys vs. bad guys" problem that faces game designers working on a licensed property, but in this case it combines with several other game features that are also taken from the Decipher Lord of the Rings TCG, such as a token based card cost system to balance the number and power level of the cards each player can play. Even the method of playing missions is very similar to the site path featured in Lord of the Rings. It makes for a game that feels very derivative and doesn't offer anything new other than the Stargate setting.

Rating: 2 (out of 5) This game would probably be fine for a fan of the Stargate franchise and trading card games, but we found it to be too mechanically similar to Lord of the Rings, and too thematically similar to Star Trek, with none of the depth or texture of either.

Date played: October 26, 2014

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