Review: Star Trek Expeditions Board Game

Guest post by Dave "The Game" Chalker (editor-in-chief of Critical-Hits.com)

With a Star Trek franchise that is now 45 years old, there have been games of all sorts made featuring the crew of a ship called Enterprise. From choose-your-own adventure-style games to complex war games to roleplaying games to disc-flipping games to my personal favorite: a game that required a VCR so a Klingon could yell at you while you played. Simply put, the gaming industry has run the gamut of styles as well as quality. Star Trek: Expeditions is one of the newest in the series, but it boldly goes where no game has gone before in three important ways:

  • It's based on the new movie reboot
  • It's designed by prolific, award-winning game designer Reiner Knizia
  • It uses "Clix" base figures like those also used in HeroClix and other games

Are these elements enough to make an interesting game, worthy of the crew of the Enterprise? Read on to find out.

Just The Facts:

Players: 1-4

Playing Time: 60 minutes

Age: 14 and up

Publisher: WizKids

MSRP: $49.99

Release: June 2011

The Gameplay:

Each of the players assumes the role of one of the crew members: Captain James T. Kirk, Mr. Spock, Doctor McCoy, and Lieutenant Uhura. (Sorry Simon Pegg fans, you'll have to wait for an expansion to play Scotty.) As a co-operative game, the four players work together to beat the challenges thrown at you (with three different difficulty options available.) So it happens, the Enterprise's latest mission on the planet Nibia involves several issues that must be resolved in order to consider the mission a success: convince the Nibian government to join the Federation, prevent a violent civil war from breaking out, and solve a potential ecological disaster. To further complicate things, all of these issues must be resolved while trading shots with a Klingon battle cruiser in orbit, and before the rest of the Klingon battle fleet arrives. No problem for the intrepid crew, right?

In order to accomplish all of these, the crew must complete a series of missions on the planet by beaming down and exploring spaces on the board. Each crew member has unique skills to help accomplish the tasks that come up while exploring, and an interesting branching system to the missions important to the story create a new experience depending on what stages are success and failures. Recovering helpful pieces from the planet, and recruiting other crew to help (from the draw deck) assist in these challenges. Also, as the crew becomes more exhausted, their statistics change (but not their skills) as you turn the "Clix" base.

Every turn, a card is drawn that determines how many actions the crewmember is going to get that turn, how much the stardate advances (getting closer to the fleet's arrival and the end of the game), any effects on the current turn (like transporter troubles), and if the Klingon battlecruiser attacks this turn or not. The Enterprise and the Klingon cruiser sit on a track opposing each other, with the Klingon ship attempting to advance and drive the Enterprise back while also trying to blow it up. Dice rolls for the Klingon ship and the Enterprise, modified by what condition the ships are in and the range of firing, determine how much damage is inflicted to each ship. Again, the "Clix" wheel at the bottom shows what current stats are, which change as the ships take more damage.

So that's pretty much it: go on missions, battle the Klingons, conduct repairs, get resources. However, like many cooperative games, the decisions come in choosing what priority all the different challenges take. Since you don't have all the actions to do everything, you'll have to work with your fellow crew to figure out where to go and when and with who, even if it's not always performed by the crew member best for the job.

The Components:

  • 6 Highly detailed, fully painted HeroClix miniatures
  • 14 Stardate cards
  • 42 Energize cards
  • 21 Captain's Log cards
  • 25 Captain's Log Supplemental cards
  • 15 Regular and 5 Major Discovery tokens
  • 4 Away team cards
  • 4 Turn order cards
  • 3 Custom dice
  • 1 Game board
  • 1 Score tracker

The components are top-notch all around. The Clix versions of the Star Trek characters and the starships are excellently sculpted, as to be expected from WizKids. The cards, board, and tokens are all sturdy and well made. The art for crew comes primarily from movie stills, and the graphic design flows with the aesthetic of the movie.

Simply put, this is a great looking game with well-made pieces, and gives me high hopes for all the new board games coming out from WizKids, proving that they can do more than miniature games. With the characters and ships especially, keep an eye out for future Star Trek games for hopefully the same quality pieces.

The only drawback in the components is the rulebook. While it's as nice-looking as everything else, the design itself has some issues. A relatively simple game is spread out over the entire book, giving each section a lot of distance from each other that makes it difficult to easily reference while learning and during play. The writing is OK as well, there were just a lot of strange organizational choices that also make the rules seem much heavier than they actually are.

Final Thoughts:

There's a lot to like about Star Trek: Expeditions. The pieces are great, the theme is great if you're a fan of any Star Trek (not just the movie), and the rules flow well once you've gotten through a game of it. So why am I not shouting its praises over subspace?

Simply put, the rules aren't anything you haven't already seen elsewhere if you're experienced with other co-operative games. As a big fan of Knizia's Lord of the Rings co-operative game, I was hoping the gameplay would stack up with another geek-favored theme. Unfortunately, it just doesn't ever feel like it's as tense as some of the great co-operative games, nor do you have as many options for what to do on your turn. I'm also not sure in the few plays I've given it that there's a lot of long term re-playability: yes, there are plenty of random elements and a scalable difficulty (both good things) but neither of them really changes how I play the game. Plus it shares a common issue with many co-operative games: one player could just run the entire game.

If Star Trek: Expeditions is one of your first co-operative board games, you'll probably get some good mileage out of it. If you're a Star Trek fan and OK with it only being at its best for a few sessions (or if you really do care about getting a high score and not just beating a game or failing), it's great for that too. With all that said, I really enjoyed running around a planet as Doctor McCoy, solving missions, and trying to survive a Klingon onslaught. But for serious co-operative game fans, you might want to give someone else's copy a play first.