Friday, March 23, 2012

Star Trek: Expeditions Expanded

I'm reworking a previous post here to provide a little more detail and clarity. Sometimes the best blog posts (and that wasn't one of them) need a second draft to do them justice.

In 2011, a barbarian horde of Star Trek themed board games came gushing over the horizon, thanks to game publisher WizKids getting the official license and choosing to run with it.

Star Trek: Expeditions, designed by famous and sometimes infamous Dr. Reiner Knizia, was one of those games.

As you can see from the cover, Star Trek: Expeditions takes its theme from the characters of the modern 2009 reboot. We have Zoe Saldana as Uhura, Karl Urban as Bones McCoy, Chris Pine as James Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Mr. Spock.

Being a pretty decent Star Trek fan, I've finally put enough distance now between myself and the 2009 movie that I can make an objective assessment. They probably shouldn't have redone the original 60's characters. The decision was made by financially minded people who realized the biggest audience draw would be from the original characters. Of course, the movie would probably not have been made otherwise. But in a perfect world it would have been better to create a new bridge crew, in a new ship, in whatever Star Trek time period of your choice.

In the coming movies, these new versions of the classic characters are going to have to work HARD to establish their own identities and escape the shadow of their predecessors. Especially if they get handed a couple of cookie cutter Star Trek scripts for the next movies. Oh no, the Earth faces annihilation at the hands of malicious alien forces…AGAIN!

And while we are on the topic of cookie cutters, Star Trek: Expeditions takes the template of a classic Star Trek away mission script and makes a board game out of it.

A planet is petitioning to join the totally-awesome Federation. They are rich in "unobtainium" resources. Of course, the Klingons (the militaristic, scheming ones from the 60's) want a piece of that pie.

The Star Trek gang beams down to the planet and things quickly go wrong.

Very similar to a cross of Scooby-Doo and Clue, the various characters (Uhura, Bones, Kirk and Spock) must wander around the planet and collect evidence of what exactly the Klingons are up to. Each location is also home to a dice based challenge, where the different skills of the crew members (Communications, Medical, Diplomacy, Analysis and many more) will provide substantial benefits.

The actual difficulty of the game leaves a bit to be desired. Along with your innate abilities, further bonuses can be picked up from items and additional crewmates. Any combo of characters and items can easily huddle together over a spot to make the dice roll into an almost auto-win. Towards the end of the game, each player had developed a party of random ensigns, and there were rarely a challenge roll we couldn't make.

I, as Uhura, had a number of hangers-on including Security and Medical Officers. The Medical Officer is particularly overboard, since the game already includes the indomitable Bones McCoy as one of the main players…the guy who fixed the Horta with a bucket of quick-dry cement. A man who has the medical skill TWICE. I kid you not.

So the different characters wander around and solve challenges. The challenges are the sorts of things you would expect in this scenario. There's a rebel civil war. There's a sabotaged water system. There's something funny about the President, and also a High Priestess that needs saving.

Overhead, a Klingon Battlecrusier wages a constant cat-and-mouse game with the Enterprise, creating a refreshing new spin on the countdown timer for this cooperative game.

But the game is easy, even on its hardest setting. Just right to play while watching an episode of Star Trek, this is a variety of game they used to call "beer and pretzels." And easy is probably good, because most cooperative games with higher difficulty devolve into someone else telling everyone what to do.

Now that it's 2012, I see we are getting the inevitable expansion. While the single away mission you get with game has a bit of replay value, having a wider variety of adventures would certainly make this game more interesting. Unfortunately, the expansion is just 3 new characters: Scotty, Sulu and Chekov. If Scotty is anything like Bones, the Enterprise will have no worries whatsoever about surviving the cloaked Klingon ship encounters.

Beam up, beam down, fight the klingons, woo the space princess…this game is best played with good friends who've all seen the shows about 100 times. For a "brain burning" strategy experience you'll have to look to some of the other games.

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