Posted by: Zach Smith | December 14, 2011

Star Trek: Fleet Captains – Review

For those waiting for a stellar Star Trek game, your stardate has come!  Star Trek: Fleet Captains captures the feel of the Star Trek shows and movies, and it also has an excellent rule set to complement the theme.

Theme – obviously the theme is an important aspect to this game, and it has polarized gamers in my experience.  While fans of the series are drawn to this game like a tractor beam, others seem to steer clear because of its overt geekiness.  Star Trek fans will find much to love here, and I advise those who don’t like the theme to give it a tryanyway – you might be surprised at the fun gameplay.  The theme is superbly explored through both the components and mechanics.  The ship models are attractive, and the cards contain numerous characters, events, and locations from the shows and movies.  Furthermore, the gameplay invokes the exploration, action, and humor of Star Trek.  A game of Fleet Captains plays out a narrative similar to a season of the TV show.

Components – This is a very expensive game, but there is a lot contained within the box.  The quality is hit and miss, though.  There are two dozen ship models on Clix bases, each with unique stats and most with unique molds.  I find the models sturdy, though I would not put them in the hands of children.  There are hundreds of cards, and while some have complained about the quality, it will take some time for me to determine how they will hold up.  I personally like the feel of them.  The artwork on the cards is screenshots from the shows and movies .  There are also many tokens.  The two dice are incredibly small and cheap, and I imagine most gamers will replace them.

Gameplay – A game of Fleet Captains involves each player drawing a fleet of starships, then choosing 4 decks of cards to construct a play deck.  Each faction (Klingon and Federation) has ten decks to choose from.  Players also have a deck of mission cards which the player will complete to earn victory points.  The number of ships, size of the universe, and victory point total are all customizable.  The game is quite variable and replayable.  On a given turn, players move their ships and explore locations, encounter all manner of aliens and events, engage in combat, establish political control, make scientific discoveries, etc.  If it’s in Star Trek, it’s in this game.  Mission success is determined by ship statistics, card play, and a dice roll.  However, it is not overly luck driven because most mission attempts can have guaranteed success with the right ship and crew, making the die roll irrelevant. The Klingons and Federation seem distinct yet balanced. The game is designed for  2 or 4 players, though it can be done with 3.   Overall Fleet Captains is fast, fun, and competitive – with a nice mix of tactics, strategy, and luck.

Playing time and complexity – The game may look and feel epic, but standard game length is around 1 to 1.5 hours, and that can be shortened or lengthened based on player preference.  This is a complex game, but while there are lots of rules, they are all simple, logical, and everything just makes sense within the theme.  One playthrough is enough to easily grasp the rules, even if you are not a Vulcan.

Summary – This was the first game that I ever pre-ordered, and that was based on the theme, components, and some pre-release reviews.  I have not been disappointed.  I do not consider myself a Trekkie, but I enjoy sci-fi and Star Trek, so I really get into the theme.  Furthermore, I have been pleased by the exceptional gameplay – this flashy sportscar has a solid engine under the hood.  Or should I say this beautiful starship has a powerful warp core?  I certainly anticipate expansions for other Star Trek factions.  As mentioned previously, the theme or complexity will turn some off, but I think many who try it will be surprised how much they like it.  I encourage you to “make it so!”

Rating = 9/10

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Responses

  1. Sounds like a fun game, Zach. Please bring it to game night so we can give it a try.

  2. Star Trek: Fleet Captains is an experience game first, drenched in flavor text and Clix minis. But there’s also a fast-moving game of exploration and conflict in that big box, and it meshes with the Star Trek universe quite nicely. Some messy design choices and a massive rulebook make this harder to learn–and teach–than it should be. Setup and takedown are significant. But the game engine is solid, making this my favorite experience title. (7/10)


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