Round 5: The Deck Builder

I can't wait to go DIPLOMACY some ships in their faces!
I can’t wait to go DIPLOMACY some ships in their faces!

 

-Captain, things have changed here at Starfleet Command. We’re no longer going to commission officers to ships. Instead we’re switching to a pro-sports style draft. Don’t worry, there’s no salary cap though..

-Ha, good one Admiral. When can I put in for repairs and upgrades on my crappy Constellation class ship?

-Well, out there on your exploration mission, you’ll encounter many things. Sometimes you’ll even encounter other ships. Enemy vessels and Federation ones. You may have to defend yourself, or you can always Diplomacy them.

-Er, uh, Diplomacy them? You mean engage in Diplomatic relations?

-Whoa there Captain, there’s no engaging in any sort of relations while on duty. And no, I mean you DIPLOMACY them. Hard. That’s how you acquire a new ship. Even if it’s Federation. Just take it from them and dump that heap that we issued you.

-Copy that sir. I will jettison redshirts and draft brand-namers in the name of peace throughout the galaxy.

-You’ve got a plan, I like that. Good luck out there Captain, and watch out for typos.

I’m not one who has really gotten caught up in the deck-builder craze. Dominion doesn’t really interest me, and my buddy has tried on many occasions to get me into Ascension and I just can’t do it. When the first Star Trek Deck Building Game: The Next Generation came out I was interested and I thought, maybe this is the one to get me into deck-builders. Then I saw two major issues for nerds like me. “Sheilds” and the pic of the Enterprise firing phasers out of the torpedo launcher. Now the second one can be forgiven, that’s the show’s producers/directors/vfx artists all blowing it. The first one, a typo in the card title… Dude. If THEY (Bandai) don’t care about their game, then I’m not going to care.

Sooooo then this second one came out. What the hell. Let’s give it a shot.

The card grid is bad enough, now this ridiculous table cloth!
The card grid is bad enough, now this ridiculous table cloth!

First order of business is to draw your starting cards and start dumping no-name rookies to pay for some name-brand officers. I love that you have generic bridge crew. I don’t know why, it just feels right. Adds to the idea that there are more contributors to starship operations than just Captain P. Stew and Billy T. Riker. Since my buddy and I are for the most part reading the rules as we go, we both decide to push our luck and explore on our first turns. Wow, what a mistake that is. Without a proper crew or ship in place, you’re doomed to fail if it is a hostile event or ship. We both suffer damage on our turns, but we continue on now having decided that we’ll skip the exploration for a few turns.

Go get 'em rookies!
Go get ’em rookies!

I had played Ascension before, and I thought it was dumb that you could play a couple cards at a time when really you are just going to put your whole hand down anyway. At the end of your turn you discard everything, so why not just dump them all on the table right away? This game is the same way (mostly). In both games there are some cards that you want to hold back, and actually I think in this one there are more cards that have text effects worthy of holding in your hand than in Ascension. But don’t take my opinion seriously, I’ve only played this once and Ascension a few times.

Anyway, we start building up our deck with some good effects and crew then begin exploring. My friend lands a new ship first, the Enterprise-C, and is excited. At first glance that would seem to be a great catch, but as we find out later that ship is probably best served by just defeating it and taking the points. Which leads me to another thematic issue I have with this game, the idea that you encounter ships in space and either diplomatically commandeer them or militarily destroy them and claim them as your own. Eh, ok whatever it’s a card game.

The pride of... Starfleet?
The pride of… Starfleet?

I wait a few turns and get lucky and score a Voodieh class Klingon Warship. I thought about taking the points, but with stats like this it’s hard to turn down. This turns out to be the turning point in the game. Going forward we start hitting some events in the exploration deck, and one of them causes my friend’s ship to be destroyed. Sweet! He’s going to have to go back to the crappy Stargazer clone, right?

Nope.

ADD a generic crew to your deck and heal your ship.

What? You get a generic crew, which is the only way to get more XP for purchases, AND you get your ship back? WTF is this shit? I mean I understand that losing your ship mid-late game could be disastrous, but wouldn’t that be motivation to protect your ship in the first place? One of the actions you can do on your turn is to repair damage to you ship. You’re telling me that by neglecting that damage, I actually get rewarded?

My buddy Gio tries to tell me that adding that generic crew member is weakening his deck by adding junk. I’d believe you if you were forced to swap out one of your unique crew cards, but you aren’t. I do not believe adding one generic crew is really that detrimental since you’re gaining spending money because you got your ship destroyed. That’s like rewarding Janeway for getting lost in space!? Oh wait, THEY DID by promoting her to Admiral. Ridiculous. Typing this up is making me angry.

Anyhow, the following turns follow a similar pattern of exploring and completing missions while Gio struggles with the Enterprise C. He later upgrades to a more powerful ship but by then it’s too late and I reach 400 first.

Mechanics star_yellowstar_yellowstar_yellowstar_whitestar_white

I’m pretty inexperienced with deck builders, but I would guess that this game doesn’t introduce anything revolutionary to the genre. It is however pretty fast-playing and enjoyable. I REALLY wish there was more player interaction since most of the game boils down to the players playing solo in a race to 400 points. That’s really unfortunate because I’d love to see some crew vs crew battles to see who has done a better job in their recruiting. The rules and some card text are poorly written but if you’ve played other DBG’s then you can easily interpret what the intentions are.

Theme: Immersion into Star Trek star_yellowstar_yellowstar_yellowhalfstar_whitestar_white

Well, I’m generally pretty lax on theme in card games. Cards are obviously all going to have some sort of thematic card art, but what it really comes down to is whether or not the game plays thematically. STDBG doesn’t really feel like Star Trek. Recruiting Romulans on my ship to “Diplomacy” a Klingon vessel doesn’t play like the show would. I like having no-name crew to start off and building up a ship of unique characters, but thematically the rest of the game just barely gets by.

Do I Care?

Truth is, we both actually enjoyed this game quite a bit. It’s not a Star Trek game so much as a deck builder with Star Trek flavor, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In this quest for the one true Star Trek game it falls flat, but in my friend’s quest to get me to play a deck builder with him I think we’ve got a winner. Now there are MANY little nitpicky things that bother me about Bandai’s rulebook and card wording, things that make me think they really didn’t have anyone on staff who had ever played card games before, but once you establish some rulings on word interpretations then the game starts to flow pretty well. I think this particular flavor of the STDBG “The Next Phase” is a little lacking in main characters in the form that casual fans would recognize, and that was particularly confusing for Gio. Picard is in his Blue uniform from Tapestry, Riker, Worf, Data, Crusher, etc. are taken from All Good Things and so on. I would rather have the premiere version of this DBG, but misspelling card titles is a killer.

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.
st_st3_t
Star Trek III

BGG: 6 | ST: 6 | blogpost

2.
st_dbg_t
Star Trek Deck Building Game: The Next Generation – The Next Phase
BGG: 7.2 | ST: 5.5 | blogpost

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

4.
st_tng_t
Star Trek: The Next Generation
BGG: 4 | ST: 3 | blogpost

5.
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Star Trek: The Game
BGG: 4 | ST: 2.5 | blogpost