Task Force Games, £12
Designed by Leanna Cole
2-6 players, 30 minutes+
Reviewed by Mike Siggins
The Star Trek licensing train rolls on. Following the undoubted success in certain circles of Star Fleet Battles, Federation & Empire and other data heavy systems, Star Fleet Missions is a card game aiming to capture all the excitement of Star Trek in a simple vehicle. In keeping with Task Force's past form, the game is not cheap though nicely put together with clear, if rather misguided, rules.
I must admit I was quite keen when I sat down to play this one. The idea of despatching Romulan Battlecruisers or Federation Combat Tugs on 'exciting missions, negotiating treaties, raid enemy planets and fight desperate space battles' was quite appealing. What transpired was a major letdown and, I suspect, a memorable lesson in not believing what you read on the back of the box. There is a distinct danger here of criticising a game for not being what I think it should be (a trap I often fall into) but on this occasion I feel I can be completely vindicated.
Each player is dealt a hand of five cards, randomly chosen from the half-dozen nations represented in the Star Fleet universe. You thus end up with a mix of Federation, Romulan, Klingon, Gorn, Tholians and pirates. Each ship is rated between one and twelve for Space Combat, Marines, Diplomacy, Science and Cargo capacity. So far, it sounds quite good. So how does this link in to the 'exciting' mission cards and will we get some novel systems?
At the start of each trick, a player reads aloud a mission card which sets up a mission James T Kirk would be proud to accept; I paraphrase, 'Several galactic diplomats are meeting with The Bumheads at a planet on the edge of the Neutral Zone but some alien blobule is out to make mischief. You must send two ships to supervise the situation. Romulans cannot win this mission. Highest total of Diplomacy and Space Combat wins.' Each player selects his cards, holds them face down and you reveal simultaneously, compare to see who wins and then replenish. And that is how it works. You do this 37 times, and the player with the most mission cards wins. Great eh? Watch out Elfenroads, here comes Game of the Year '93.
Any tactics that you might consider, such as ducking tricks you have no hope of winning, or conserving large cards, are crushed by the short hand system which is so luck oriented that, seriously, you may as well not get it out of the box. The mission cards aren't too bad, given the material and space they have to work with; shame an equal effort couldn't have been put in on the game.
Oddly, as we all quickly spotted while playing, the way to improve it would be to give each player all the cards of one force and let him choose which ship to send, without replenishing, which at least gives you some resource allocation decisions. This is suggested as an optional rule but is the very least that should be changed if you are thinking about playing this one. Even that isn't going to help the futility of the card play.
This is really a card game on the level of Top Trumps Performance Cars (why did your opponent always seem to get the Wankel engine?), salvaged from the Snap category only by the very slightly flavoursome mission cards and the need for some mental arithmetic and rudimentary tactics in deciding which starship to send. How on earth they got a dozen people to sit down and playtest this without adverse comment is beyond me - they must have been either uncommonly polite or suffering from a particularly bad case of the Emperor's New Clothes. Otherwise, a game with next to no play value, let alone replay value, and an insult to the intelligence. Buy this at your peril.
On to the review of Banana Republic or back to the review of Dail Eireann and Aras An Uachtaran.
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