One of the benefits of attending GenCon is that you can pick up copies of games before they’re scheduled to be in retail stores. I walk through the aisles very carefully, trying not to be lured in by something that I can simply buy as soon as I get home. Star Trek Fleet Captains, by WizKids, is not due on store shelves for at least 6 more weeks so it fit my requirements and was therefore carefully transported back with me at the end of the convention. Yesterday, I was thrilled to have a chance to play it through for the first time.
What struck me about it just while watching the demos was that ships and characters from different shows and movies were on the table together. Star Trek Fleet Captains lets you create a fleet made up of the Enterprise A, Voyager and even the Enterprise E, which is just plain fun if you’re a Trekkie. In all, you’ll get 12 Federation and 12 Klingon ships, each with a Clix dial on the base that let’s you adjust shields, weapons, sensors and engines as you battle each other to accomplish your missions.
You can choose to bump up your shields in anticipation of your opponent’s attack, but that may also cause a huge reduction in your engines or weapons. The choice is up to you and will be completely dependent on the cards you draw and the battles you fight. There’s also a reference card for each ship, so you can see exactly what you sacrifice and gain with each turn of the dial, as well as showing your limited options after minor damage (Yellow Alert) or major damage (Red Alert).
The board itself is made up of hexagonal tiles that are shuffled and then placed face down to create the space between the two factions. As you move across the board, tiles are flipped revealing the details of that location. It could be a Class-M planet that you choose to control so you can build an Outpost and have a place to repair damaged ships. It might be a Class J Nebula or even just Empty Space which also comes with the quote “Space….the final frontier.” Depending on the speed of your ship, you can move several tiles a turn, but be wary. There are unfriendly tiles out there that will cause damage to your ship if you remain on them at the end of your turn.
As each tile is flipped, a die is rolled to determine if you must draw an Encounter card. If you do draw a card and win the encounter you earn precious Victory Points which are needed to win the game, but if you fail then there’s trouble. I ended up with tribbles on one ship after a failed Encounter. Silly things disabled two of my systems and wreaked havoc on my ability to complete my missions. I got rid of them by increasing powers to my sensors, playing a Masterful Bluff card to avoid a Klingon ship, and then transporting the tribbles over to the unwitting Klingons before warping out of that sector. That kind of moment, when you get to do things that feel like they’re right out of the show, makes this game a heck of a lot of fun.
An incredible number of cards and tokens along with the twenty-four ships in this box make this game infinitely replayable. You get 76 mission cards, some revealed so you have a chance to thwart your opponent but others a secret so you’re left guessing. There are also 50 Encounter cards and 200 Command cards that can enhance the abilities of your ship. Each is perfectly themed to the people and items they represent.
Command cards give you crew members like Wesley Crusher enhancing engines and shields, Quark adding influence, Spock increasing sensor power and Kirk letting you do the impossible. It’s exactly what you’d expect of these characters! Then there are the Encounter cards with the tribbles I mentioned earlier, as well as Dilithium crystals to increase engine speed, Tachyon Pulses to mess with cloaking and Ferengi traders that offer you deals you can’t, but should, refuse.
The gameplay is fun and really gets moving once you’ve had a chance to run through the rules which can be downloaded direct from WizKids before you even make the purchase. The box says it takes ninety minutes to play and we went just over that on our first time out. It can be played with 2 or 4 players, ages 14 and up, who form up into teams and retails for $100. Yes, that’s a steep price, but consider the number of ships alone, then add in all the cards and tokens, and it’s not unreasonable. Also, the huge number of card combinations means this is a different game every time you play and won’t sit in your closet neglected after a few tries. The replayability and spot-on theming make Star Trek Fleet Captains a great game to add to your collection.