Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Another look at Star Trek: Fleet Captains

I really wish Star Trek: Fleet Captains was a better game than it actually is. It has an incredible amount of potential to be a truly epic game, but is hampered by some clunky, overly complicated game play. A lot of this could be solved by a tiny bit of rules streamlining, but really the game just needs a reference card that clearly summarizes the rules and mechanics, so that players won't be forced to constantly refer to the overwritten and poorly organized rule book.

One of the core mechanics of the game is each player's assembly of a Command Deck of cards. For each faction (Federation, Klingons, Romulans and Dominion) there are 10 mini-decks of 10 cards each, grouped around themes such as "Way of the Warrior" or "Sensor Upgrades," or around particular characters like Captain Kirk or Worf. Each player chooses four of these to shuffle together, giving them a deck of 40 cards that they can use during the game. It's a neat idea in theory, and it adds a bit of CCG-style strategy to the game, but in practice I too often find myself with uninteresting cards that I can't use clogging up my hand. This could be solved by allowing players to further customize their decks by removing cards they don't think they'll use during the game.

An unfortunately under-utilized element of the game is the Encounter Deck, consisting of cards that represent things a starship might encounter while exploring space, such as Abandoned Outposts or Independent traders. Again, this is a wonderful idea that fails a bit in practice, since each unexplored location a ship moves into will only sometimes give up an encounter, and even then, only once per location. We've tried a few different house rules to make encounters happen more often, such as always having an encounter in a newly discovered location, and then checking for additional encounters each time the location is moved into again.

There are also a few superficial issues with the components, such as the unpainted ship miniatures, the poor font choice on the clix dials making them very hard to read, or the flimsiness of the cards and especially the location tiles, but these are easily fixed or ignored. The point is that there are just a few things stopping Fleet Captains from being a magnificent game, and I don't think any of them are insurmountable.

Most of the time I shy away from creating "house rules" or other improvements to commercial board games, my argument being that there are so many games out there that work fine without me needing to change them, so why should I spend my time picking up the game designers' slack? But in this case, the game is so tantalizingly close to being great, and there really isn't another Star Trek game like it...

Read the original review.
Original rating: 3 (out of 5)
New rating (pass or fail): PASS

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