Round 2: TOS Trivia: IN SPACE!

st_tos

It dawns on us early on, that instead of calling this one TOS Trivia it should be referred to as POS Trivia. But that’d be unfair. It has some positive elements… doesn’t it?

We convene at Starbase 101 after years of training, we three captains of our own special Mancala-bead-vessels destined for greatness. We’re told by the Admiral that our missions are the same; take a quick tour through the galaxy making pit stops at four different planets and answering exam questions along the way. When we return to the Starbase, there’s one last essay question that must be answered before we get command of an actual ship instead of a colored jelly-bead with no crew or systems on board.
“Fo’ Real?” I ask the Admiral.
“Blee-dat” She replies.
And Star Trek: The Game is underway.

Clearly this is a trivia game, so I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up. But when I opened the box and saw chits that said Forcefields and Impulse Engines I kind of perked up, maybe there’ll be some sweet ship combat or random encounters? I opened up the gameboard and it looked pretty cool as well. Maybe this game won’t suck after all?

Unpunched. I should've taken that as a warning about this game...
Unpunched. I should’ve taken that as a warning about this game…

 

My mom happened to be over tonight and, while reluctant, did agree to join in on the fun in the name of Science! My wife is actually the TOS aficionado in the family, so I felt like there’d be a decent competition going here. I grew up on TNG and while I did watch TOS, I didn’t really retain any of it.

Laying out the board, which at first glance looks like it could be fun.
Laying out the board, which at first glance looks like it could be fun.

I did a quick readthrough of the rules and explained them to my wife and my mom. They were unfazed. It’s a brutally simplistic game, with NO player interaction whatsoever. The goal is to visit the 4 planets on the board, answer a question successfully at each one, then return to Starbase and answer one final question. As you claim each planet, you move to the next difficulty of questions. Each turn is essentially roll a die, move that many spaces, answer a question. If you get it correct, you can move again. It’s theoretically possible that a TOS genius could win the game before the other players even get a chance to move. However, with the increasingly difficult and specific questions as the game goes on, we found that there was no way that could happen in a game.

I start off the game, and answer 5 or 6 “Warp 1” level questions in a row. I make it to the first planet and collect my “planet citation”. Now I have to answer “Warp 2” level questions, and they aren’t a walk in the park like the first level ones were.

My wife goes, and while she doesn’t string together quite as long a chain of successes as I did, she does admirably and moves close to her first planet. My mom goes, and has trouble identifying what division Spock belongs to. I can see this is going to be a problem. The game is beginning to feel like an SAT test in space. It’s not so much about exploration as it is studying in your dorm room for weeks before taking a prolonged exam.

I make it to my second planet and collect that citation. Now its “Warp 3” questions. Good god. All of a sudden I’m feeling the exam pressure as well. It’s Friday night and we’re no longer having fun, now we’re role-playing captains in command of gumdrops who are being tortured with a written test that doesn’t seem to end. I do end up getting to my third planet, but the difficulty of the questions is such that I end up spending the next 10 or so turns parked here re-attempting the exit exam.

Make yourself comfortable, you're gonna be stuck there for awhile...
Make yourself comfortable, you’re gonna be stuck there for awhile…

All of our eyes start to glaze over. I had to go grab more beer just to stay motivated. My mom meanwhile has collected her first and second planets, but we realize that there’s no way we can finish this game by sticking to the rules. We decide that my mom will use Warp 1 cards from now on, and my wife and I will use Warp 2 cards. Now, the game is moving again. I’m finally able to get my third planet, my wife gets her third planet only a turn later, and amazingly my mother isn’t far behind. It’s now a race to the finish.

“What gender is The Companion?”

My mom thinks it over, she’s convinced that because this is a Star Trek game that it must be some sort of trick question. She says it’s an alien mix. The answer is female.

There are many of these as the game presses on, with us all assuming the questions must actually be harder than they are, but in most cases no, they are actually that simple. It made the game pretty entertaining (That’s a relative term. It made the game MORE entertaining than it was, which was as entertaining as a root canal). (As another aside, root canals actually aren’t that bad. They just get a bad rap these days. Maybe that’s another blog post entirely..)

With the simplified rules, even my mom was close to finishing first-
With the simplified rules, even my mom was close to finishing first-

 

I enter the Starbase first, and just for fun I tell my wife that her and I should try to answer one of the “Docking” questions first. Yeah, another terrible idea there. The game went from exit exam to PhD/Masters board review. I felt like there was a council of experts sitting in a row before us, judging our progress and waiting for our answer. I actually felt compelled to go get some paper and pencils so we could write out our response in essay form.

My wife entered next, and I just said screw it, answer a Warp 2 question and be done with it.

“How many ships did the M-5 device destroy?” (Or something like that…)

She said 4.

The answer was 5.

Close enough, let’s end this shit.

Mechanics

It’s a trivia game. It is better than a game like Trivial Pursuit, but not by much. Aside from being able to move wherever you want on the board, there’s not much else to do. Move, answer questions, move some more. We played with 3 people, but you’re basically playing 3 solo games. It was very disappointing though that we had all these tokens for Phasers, Warp Drive, Impulse Engines, etc. and they never came into play. There are spots on the board that force you to lose one of the tokens, but they are so mind-numbingly easy to maneuver around that I cannot fathom how anyone able to count to 6 would ever land on a space that forces you to lose one of your system tokens.

Theme: Immersion into Star Trek

Well, I guess it’s Star Trek trivia so that counts for something. But it doesn’t count for much. Like I mentioned above, if the tokens that represent different ship systems actually acted like those systems in some way, then we’d have some immersion. But for the most part you’re never going to lose one of them, and they don’t actually do anything even if you do have them so they act as basic damage markers and nothing more. The game board looks pretty cool, but we aren’t commanding ships we’re commanding round Jolly Ranchers candies and that furthers the lack of theme in the game. The trivia questions themselves are really the only element of Star Trek in this one.

Do I Care?
TOS isn’t my ST series of choice, so I’d have to say this one will have to go back to its spot on my shelf and hibernate… forever. Only being two games in, it was hard to determine how to rank these. I think this is overall a better game than the VCR game, but this game lacks theme completely. Aside from the trivia questions themselves there’s nothing going on that really feels like Star Trek. You have “phaser” tokens but they don’t do anything. Amazingly, the VCR game is a better Star Trek game so it remains atop the leaderboard after Round 2.

Current Leaderboard
Overall ranking of “strength” of each as a board game. This does not factor in my overall desire to play each game. That assessment will come at the end.
BGG=How I’d rate on BoardGameGeek’s rating scale.
ST=How it rates as a “Star Trek Game” relating to the strength mentioned above.

1.
stvcr_t
Star Trek: The Next Generation – Interactive VCR Board Game – A Klingon Challenge
BGG: 3 | ST: 3.5 | blogpost

2.
st_tos_t
Star Trek: The Game
BGG: 4 | ST: 2.5 | blogpost