Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Game Review - Wizkids Star Trek Tactics

The buzz around GenCon 2012 is already starting and my thoughts are turning to what I want to play and do when there. Yes, I'm a geek, but I embrace that openly. A few games I want to play are not out yet. The two biggest are Leviathans by Catalyst Games and Fortress America - a FFG reboot of the Milton Bradley Classic (sans the Saddam Hussain image on the cover…dang it!) I did some of the background work on Leviathans and my son Alex and I were playtesters, so I'm really hoping it will be out by this GenCon because I enjoyed the thing so damned much.   I have to admit, FFG is probably going to pry some cash out of my wallet for X-Wings too.  If I can I'm going to squeeze in Wings of Glory WWI, BattleTech, and Flames of War. Okay, on Flames of War, I say it every year but honestly I never seem to make it. Maybe this year will be different.

Another game I was looking forward to playing was Wizkids Star Trek Tactics. I've been a Star Trek fan since my youth. I loved playing FASA's ship combat game (I was writing Star Trek sourcebooks for them at that time and the game was eloquent and easy to play). I tried, I really did, to get into StarFleet Battles but let's face it, that game system is just massive and the two times I played, it was slow, ponderous, and painful.

So, when I saw Wizkids was coming out with Star Trek Tactics - ship-to-ship combat in the Star Trek universe…I was really looking forward to it.

In fairness, I have a predisposition in that I like the click-system mini's of Wizkids. For my kids at the time, it was a great way to get into playing because you didn't have to paint the minis, the tracking of damage was done on the miniature base, and the rules were mostly simple. Rather than wait for GenCon I jumped the gun and ordered a copy.

My review is as follows:

The Minis:
Okay, they are not proportional. A Bird of Prey is bigger than the Enterprise A. I can cope with that. If you made them proportional, then the Defiant would be the size of a pencil eraser.

In the starter you get four ships, two Federation, two Klingon. The paint colors are a little inconsistent, but that's marginal. I've heard from friends that the nacelles of Enterprise might be crooked but mine were just fine. Wizkids has made the click-bases a little thicker than back in my Mage Knight/MechWarrior days and these are nice to use.

My biggest complaint was the mix of miniatures. The Star Trek universe covers various generations. So you have the Enterprise A from the movies, the USS Rhode Island (from 20 years in the future after Voyager's return), the Bortas from The Next Generation and the IKS Rotarran from DS9. Only the Klingon ships are from the same time era - and would never face either of the Federation ships in battle. The Federation ships included are 80+ years apart time-wise. What does this mean? It means buy the booster packs if you want to get ships from the same time period.

With this initial release - only Klingons and Federation ships. If you want the Rommies or Cardies, you have to wait for future releases…I hope.

The Maps:
Two two-sided maps. Nice. Wolf 359 (site of the Borg battle), the Kobayashi Maru, DS9, and the Mutara Nebula. I wish one had just been a plain space map. The "terrain" features are a little goofy - because it is space and you could conceivable fly around obstacles. These maps are smart, but lack experience. They represent two dimensional thinking - as does the game play.

The Game Play:
When I saw the rules at first I thought it was a mistake. These were Heroclix rules for superhero combat. So was the quick reference card. Then, it dawned on me, these are the rules for the game. Oh…this is intentional.  Two words came to mind quickly - not cool. 

I pieced it together myself from the cards that came with the minis. So Energy Explosion becomes Photon Torpedo; Regeneration becomes 'Give us a miracle Mr. Scott' There was no documentation to guide me through this realization.

Wizkids dropped the ball on this. They should have reprinted the quick reference card with the Star Trek game powers and abilities. At minimum, a sheet explaining how to adapt the game to Star Trek would have been nice. Perhaps they should have just done a two hour edit on the rules to make them Star Trek-ish.

Some of the rules like "knockback" which is when a superhero knocks another across the board…just don't seem applicable to Star Trek. I had a Bird of Prey knock an Enterprise Class ship back eight squares and that just didn't seem right. Ultimately this is a minor nit. Oddly enough, the game system works! In fact, it's almost fun once you make the conversions to the ships included. Some things I noticed quickly in my first run, the Klingons become more powerful as they get battered down. Nice.   

The reference cards for each ship are important but are very ship specific.  In other words, if you are looking to pilot an Enterprise-Class ship as opposed to the USS Enterprise A, you're kinda hosed.  (Yes, I know the original Enterprise was Constitution Class.  This is the refit which was Enterprise-Class.)

Missing:  Transporters.  Come on guys, we all saw that episode of DS9 when the Klingtons sent armed boarding parties about the station.  Boarding parties seem like they should be in the game in some way. 
If you are looking for a 'historically' accurate Star Trek simulator, this is not it. What it is, is a great beer and pretzel's Star Trek ship combat game. If you want the detailed game, shell out the bucks and wade into StarFleet Battles. If you want something you can play, play fast, and just have some fun with - Star Trek Tactics is your new default.  I'm ordering a USS Reliant on eBay just to fight The Wrath of Kahn engagement all over.  My overall rating is B- but bear in mind, I have been wanting an alternate game to SF Battles for some time now, so my rating is slanted upward.  Your results may vary.   

1 comment:

  1. I haven't played HeroClix in years, but I still expected more than that. I guess it means that I can put Hulk versus the entire Enterprise--which is cool--but I was hoping they'd put more work into it. I don't mind if the battles aren't historically accurate and I can get over the scale, but just reskinning HC is disappointing.

    Thanks for the review.