Tag Archives: Star Trek

Space Oddity – Star Trek: Deck Building Game, The Next Generation review

Star Trek COVER

Star Trek is WAY better than Star Wars. Just putting that out there. For me, if it comes down to a fight between what are arguably the two biggest sci-fi franchises out there, I’ll always plump on the side of the Federation over the Force. Of all the various shows, my favourite is undoubtedly The Next Generation – it was first on when I was a young teenager and showed me that there was such a thing as decent space-based television. Whether it was Picard being all badass against the Borg or The Q Continuum screwing about with the laws of space and time, it was great – even the slightly dodgier episodes where they were trying to push A Message.

When I heard the news that Bandai were working on a deck building game based on the property (Star Trek: Deck Building Game: The Next Generation) I have to admit I was a bit reticent. They didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory with the Resident Evil game, though it does have its fans, so while I was interested in how they’d handle Star Trek: TNG, I wasn’t holding out a huge amount of hope.

Thankfully, the game isn’t too bad. It’s not incredible but it’s far from terrible and will certainly keep fans of the series entertained. You could probably best describe it as “functional but a bit clunky”, the kind of game that could’ve done with a little more time to stew in its juices before being released. A little refinement to shear off the roughness would’ve been welcome, but we have what we’re given so let’s get into the meat of it.

The game follows the usual deck building 101 format with a few interesting twists – you start off with a hand of not-so-good cards and are looking to add better ones while removing the dross. Rather than coming with a single ruleset, ST:DBG:TNG (there must be a better acronym than that) there are actually three different ways to play, each one offering a slightly different experience. Exploration is a free-for-all race to score a set amount of points, Borg War is co-operative with all the players facing off against the game, and Klingon Civil War is somewhere between the two with a focus on pairing up with another player. In reality they don’t actually feel that different when you’re playing – after all, they’re all using the same basic engine – but at least Bandai have made an effort in supplying a range of experiences.

So many famous names! Everyone remembers XXXX, don't they?

So many famous names! Everyone remembers Tam Elbrun, don’t they?

It actually works in quite a straightforward manner. Beginning with that slightly crappy deck staffed with a few vaguely competent crew members, you’re “exploring the universe” in a bid to pick up characters from the show. In other words, you use Experience shown on your crew cards to buy from a selection of those available in the middle of the table. These cards are drawn from the Space Deck, a set of cards that are put together at the start of the game that represent the scenario you’re working through. Managing to get more recognisable faces into your deck gives you the chance to use their Diplomacy skills – in turn, these will let you pick up better ships and equipment. If you’ve ever played any deck builder ever, you’ll pick it up in no time at all; everything is really straightforward despite the frankly bobbins rulebook.

And perhaps that’s where the game falls down a little. Seriously, most of the rulebook focuses on setting up the game but fails to really explain how it functions in a clear way. Before you even take to playing you’re going to have to battle with the rules; not exactly what you want when you’re looking for a quick game. Once you’ve got the rules down (and frankly, it’s not that hard to understand) you’ll be grand, but man… those early games really do drag and could well be enough for some people to dismiss ST:DBG:TNG from the start. Frankly, I’d say bin the rulebook entirely and watch the videos that are over on boardgamegeek – it’s a much better way of learning to play. The straightforward nature means that you’re not really getting anything new though… it’s far from an innovative game.

From a production standpoint, again it’s not awful but far from wonderful – the cards are of a decent quality and all information is clearly presented. Unfortunately a lot of the imagery looks a little blurry, which seems to be down to the fact many photos are lifted directly from video of the original show. Others look like they’ve been taken from headshots to promote the programme when it first came out – and Wil Wheaton has never looked so young, forever immortalised in that fetching Starfleet jumpsuit. There’s also a LOT of air in the box when you first crack it open – of course, that’s down to the plans for future expansions, but I don’t think there’s a single gamer out there who’s a fan of the concept of perceived value. Give us a smaller box first, then when you make an expansion give us a bigger one that everything can fit in… doesn’t that make sense?

Bandai have also made the slightly odd decision of using d20s to track damage taken in battles. Sure, they do the job just fine, but I think that tokens would’ve done a better job (and would probably have been a bit cheaper. This may be down to the fact that I’ve knocked the table a few times and it’s annoying when you send the dice flying. I’m as clumsy as the rulebook.

Still, it’s an entertaining wee jaunt, especially for an avowed Star Trek watcher like myself. Where many deck building games care criticised for a lack of theme, this one is positively overflowing with Starships and Birds of Prey all over the place. Again, you may run the risk of people turning their noses up at it – it is Star Trek after all, and some crazy folks aren’t into it – but that’s their loss. If you’re a fan of the series you’ll be willing to forgive its faults. If you’re not, you’ll undoubtedly be a bit pickier, but there are many worse ways of whiling away your gaming hours. Now, who do I talk to about a DS9 expansion?

Star Trek: Deck Building Game: The Next Generation was designed by Alex Bykov and was originally released back in 2011. Published by Bandai, games will normally take you about an hour and play with between two and five. Should you fancy a copy of your own, visit Gameslore today – they’ll get you sorted for £22.49.

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The New Year – Nurnberg 2012’s Big Games

Another month, another big games show in Germany! This time around it’s the Nurnberg Spielwarenmesse – International Toy Fair for us non-natives – a trade show that is less about getting in there and buying stuff and more focused on things that will be out over the next few months. It has a bit more of a presence for games than something like the London Toy Fair (although that is definitely improving – this year’s event was infinitely better than 2011 for boardgamers) which can be simply put down to the cultural difference; German people play more than British families. Thanks to that, it’s a good place to discover some of the new Euro hotness that will be hitting our tables in early 2012.

I’m not there (sad face – too busy working on Secret Projects which are soon to be revealed) but I’ve been keeping an eye out on some of the titles that have captured my interest. Here’s a few highlights that we’ll hopefully be covering here on The Little Metal Dog Show in the near future.

Wurfel Bohnanza

One of my not-so-guilty little pleasures is the rather splendid little card game Bohnanza, an explosion of trading beans and making cash money. It’s a gloriously simple little affair, plays quickly and works whether you’re new to the hobby or an old hand. It’s all about making deals, though if you can’t do that, you’re allowed to force your crap on other players. AMIGO  Spiel are releasing a dice version this year – in fact, it may well be out in the stores already – where players are given certain sets to collect. Some are easy and worth a little, other more valuable ones are trickier to get – and other players are allowed to steal dice you’ve rolled. It could well be a great little addition to the franchise.

Kaispeicher

An expansion to Stefan Feld’s The Spiecherstadt, this adds a wealth of new elements to an already excellent game. By adding new buildings, ships, actions and orders, Feld has increased the opportunities for players to gain advantages while making life tricky for their opponents. Auctions aplenty and loads of chances to screw over your fellow gamers? What more can you ask for?

String Railway

After what seems like ages, String Railway is finally getting a reprint! This Japanese game is now seeing a wider release thanks to FoxMind, though I reckon they’ve missed a trick by changing from the original packaging… A simple game of connecting stations using different lengths of coloured string, it’s a matter of just getting more victory points than the other players. It’s an interesting concept, ridiculously quick to play and well worth trying to get your hands on a copy. Good call by FoxMind to get it out there again.

Carcassonne Minis

There’s going to be a total of six new mini expansions for everyone’s favourite tile laying, castle building, meeple placing gateway game released at Nurnberg under the catch-all title of Carcassonne Minis. They’re cheap (3 Euro a go) and range from interesting to just plain odd. The full list is as follows:

The Messages: a second meeple on the scoring track potentially allows players to get bonus points.

The Ferries: adds new rules for roads by bringing in little boats!

The Flier: allows for movement of a meeple to a new area at the risk of losing it on the throw of a dice

The Goldmines: more bonus points are available by collecting gold bars placed on tiles

The Robber: scupper your opponents’ progress by having a Robber meeple steal their points

Mage and Witch: Add a point per tile with the Mage, halve the points of a feature with the Witch

Every time a new expansion comes out for Carcassonne there’s always cries that the game has jumped the shark… what’ll happen when these six hit the stores?! Personally, I really want to get my hands on Mage and Witch and The Robber – both look like they could add some interesting elements to the game. English language versions will be made available through Rio Grande in March or April of this year, but as the game’s pretty much language independent anyone could use these.

Star Trek Catan

The ultimate expression of nerdiness, surely? Yes, it’s just a rebrand of the regular Settlers of Catan, but it’s all Star Trekked up! Based in The Original Series universe, there’s all new resources to collect (including Dilithium, of course), building space stations around planets and a Klingon vessel swooping in on the roll of a seven – excellent! There’s also a new element introduced in that players are given characters at the start of the game granting them special abilities during their turn. While some folks are complaining about the Monopoly-isation of the Catan brand, I reckon this one’s a fun addition to the series.

LEGO: Star Wars: Battle of Hoth

On the other side of the geek spectrum, this is one I’ve actually managed to try out – there’ll be a full review to come soon. LEGO have made a great effort in recent months to get into games, most notably with the rather ace Heroica game system. Battle for Hoth is another one from their game range that has a slightly more mature vibe about it despite having the cutest AT-ATs in the history of mankind as playing pieces. It’s a very light two player strategy game that could easily act as a way in for younger players to something a little more hardcore, requiring a bit of forward planning and a willingness to take the odd risk. A very nice use of the Star Wars franchise that will hopefully spur LEGO to keep on trying something different with their games.

Wallenstein

The big reprint so far for 2012 has got to be Wallenstein, Dirk Henn’s much loved game of area control during the Thirty Years War. The fantastic combat system using a dice tower and incredibly balanced gameplay has had gamers clamouring for a new version for years, and now Queen Games has stepped up and produced something a little bit special. This remake also includes two expansions that allow for special actions and bonuses that can be claimed through the game, adding yet more to the Wallenstein experience. It’s a tightrope of a game where you need to work to increase your power while ensuring that your people are well cared for. Ignore the peasants and you could well have a revolt on your hands…

There’s plenty of other games available (as well as those still to be announced) as the event continues over the next few days up the 6th of February. After that… well, it’s the New York Toy Fair from February 12th to 15th. Who knows what we’ll see there?

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