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Apr 26

Play Long and Prosper: A Review of Star Trek: Frontiers

 Quick Board Game Reviews That Pack a Punch. No Rules, Just Opinions. 

From the Publisher:WAM Header - 2

A contested region of space accessible through a known wormhole has drawn the attention of powerful forces throughout the galaxy. Both the Federation and the Klingon Empire, who share a delicate alliance at this time, have recently built outposts in the region — but now news of grave troubles brewing in the region has prompted both the Klingons and the Federation to investigate immediately.
Command your ship, recruit new crew members, earn experience points, and use your skills to confront the challenges of the Star Trek universe. Explore and face a variety of challenges on a randomly built space map using the venture tile system first introduced in the award-winning game Mage Knight.

Star Trek: Frontiers is designed for 1 to 4 players with multiple competitive, cooperative and solo scenarios. Work together to defeat hostile ships or compete to explore and uncover hidden mysteries. Players need to overcome obstacles to expand their knowledge and use their leadership as they adventure in order to be victorious in their exploration!

 

The real value of this game is in its port of the Mage Knight system. Because of that, Star Trek: Frontiers has an ability to handle solo and co-op play really well. Admittedly I have no interest in the competition play, but I like having all the different options. The challenge of finding an optimal path with hand management and risk taking, while trying to explore the region, fight back the Borg, recruit the best crew, and create diplomatic solution makes for a very satisfying adventure.
Figuring out what you want to do on your turn is the easy part. Figuring out how to accomplish that with the cards in your hand can be brutally tough. Star Trek: Frontiers is a meaty, brain-burning puzzle that evolves as you level up. A variety of map tiles means you'll explore a different corner of the galaxy every time you play. Every game is an epic space adventure where you’ll encounter cranky Klingons, reticent Romulans, populous planets, and ultimately face a Borg cube or two.

Everytime I play Mage Knight, I forget a host of situational rules, so I am glad to see Andrew Parks streamline some of the fighting mechanics and get rid of night phase. The downside to this is that the game may be much easier to play. So instead of the complexity making for a more challenging experience, you up the levels of the Borg Cubes for a more tense finale. With elements of deck building, hand management and 2 of the 4Xs (explore and exterminate) it makes for a great balance of mechanics just like in Mage Knight.

Hand management is key in Star Trek: Frontiers. You have a limited number of turns to accomplish your goals so choosing how to spend your cards is key. Along the way, you'll have the chance to acquire new cards that grant special abilities, doing a bit of deck building. This allows you to tune your hand to, for example, really kick butt with long-range attacks, or double up on diplomacy to you can sweet talk some Federation officers into joining your crew. There is a bit of randomness that can thwart your long-term schemes, so you’ll need to keep a backup plan close at hand

Ah to boldly go where...well... where all the different licensed products have gone before. Be an iconic captain finding the best crew, exploring space, doing away missions and turning back the onslaught of the Borg. I like sci-fi themes and regardless of it being Star Trek, I like being in space. It inspires a story of adventure, and draws me into the game.


The exploration elements fit the Star Trek theme well. Discovering new corners of the galaxy and sending down away teams to new planets is the stuff I love. However, the combat, by gameplay necessity, is a little more aggressive than I prefer. To level up, the game requires you to blow up a lot of stuff, and that doesn’t seem very Trek-y. Fortunately, some conflicts can be resolved via diplomacy, but it still feels a bit too zap-zap-kablooey thematically.

And then there is the art or what little they decided to include. I guess stills from the show could be artistic? The miniatures are nice enough, but overall it’s pretty meh. It’s fine.



The whole thing feel a bit like a cheap licensed cash-in. Unfortunately, this is a disservice to such a solid game. The ships and Borg cubes are pretty nice, but the map tiles are a little blah. A lot of the colors used are analogous to Mage Knight, which makes it a quick learn for veterans of that game.

I don’t think you get quite enough for the $79.99 MSRP. The quality of the cards are OK and after a handful of plays are chipping a little. The insert is very functional, but I don’t think there will be room for expansions. The dial on the Borg Cubes minis are pointless because you can’t read it. I think the production is not impressive. That being said there is a great solo mode and I love the coop play. The theme plays on my nostalgia and the Mage Knight system adaptation is good.

Because of its play length and rule density, you’ll probably play Star Trek: Frontiers less than other games in your collection, but you’re still getting a lot of bang for your buck. The randomness of the tiles and cards adds a fair amount of variety, not to mention the pile of included scenarios to play through. Whether you have a play group that likes to blow each other up, or prefers a more laid back, cooperative adventure, or even if you just want to kill a few hours with a solo play on a rainy afternoon, Star Trek: Frontiers has you covered.

My struggle with this game is in the missed production opportunities and the kludge of the IP into the mechanics. I am glad to own it, and it will be a game I want to play more. Also, I am excited to add The Return of Khan expansion to my collection in August 2017. I give Star Trek: Frontiers a high 4, and look forward to more content.

I’m an easy mark for Star Trek: Frontiers. Built on the bones of one of my all-time favorites, Frontiers delivers a nice thematic experience with the meaty puzzle action I enjoy. For me, it’s an enthusiastic 5. I’m dinging it for the cheesy photos and the amount of redundancy with Mage Knight. If you already own Mage Knight, I would only recommend Frontiers if you are a huge Trek fan
The Dukes of Dice Rating System
1 = Poorly designed but playable. Not necessarily fun.
2 = Game has some merit but has significant detractions.
3 = Game is okay, not exciting. Will play in the right situation.
4 = A good game. Worth playing, just not all the time. Belongs in the Duchy.
5 = A great game, will rarely turn down a play of it.
6 = An all-time favorite that is a contender for the top 10

If you want to connect with us you can find:

Matthew on Twitter as @uncouthtooth or matthew@dukesofdice.com

Matt on Twitter as @matosowalker

Join the discussion in our Board Game Geek Guild on this review HERE

 

2 comments

  1. Andrew M

    Really enjoying the format of these reviews.
    I really enjoyed Mage knight and I bought frontiers hoping the Star Trek theme will be more appealing to my wife. Even if it doesn’t I’ll enjoy playing through this game on my own.

    1. Matthew Ward

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I really have enjoyed my plays. I am considering buying Mage Knight too. I think they are different enough experiences to justify that.

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