There have been many takes on Star Trek games over the years. As a popular, expansive franchise, there are many different ways to tackle the material. Some have been more successful than others. One that I was not initially aware of until it was gifted to me is Star Trek: Expeditions from WizKids, based on the characters in the 2009 movie. It is a cooperative game using WizKids’ Clix dials. It supports 1-4 players and takes about an hour to play. The best experience is with 4 players.
This cooperative game attempts to replicate the feel of a Star Trek Original Series episode. Each player is one of four characters—Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Uhura—each of whom have a unique character ability they can use on their turn. Your ultimate goal as a team is to investigate and solve three different problems on your away mission to the best of your ability, while also staving off a potential attack by the Klingons. To achieve this, each of your characters, acting in order have a number of actions that they can spend to move around the planet (or to/from the Enterprise), complete objectives, gain resources, and more.
The board is set up with a random assortment of Captain’s Log cards facedown. As a player moves to each location, the Captain’s Log card at that location is revealed. Some will be the primary mission objectives that you need to complete (Politics, Energy, and Rebels), and some will be random events that either help or hinder your efforts to complete the main storylines.
Both can be completed in the same fashion, by matching up your characters’ skills with the ones the mission calls for and making a skill check (rolling two special Federation Dice), with various ways to influence/boost your result. Your degree of success (or failure!) on the main story missions creates a branching path for each of the three objectives. The better your results on the earlier missions, the more points you score when completing each final mission in the chain.
Additionally, while you are attempting to solve the planet’s issues, the Klingons are working against you, and may attack the Enterprise, so some of your time must be spent returning to the Enterprise to repair it and/or fight back. Spending too much time on the Enterprise and not the planet though leaves insufficient time to complete the objectives. Once time runs out, the Klingon fleet arrives in force and you lose!
The gameplay is very simple. Some turns you will spend most of your allotted actions simply moving around the planet to get yourself into position. Still, each turn can be a puzzle to figure out the best way to set your team up for success. Thinking about the team effort is important. As Scotty says in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, “the right tool for the right job!”. Some characters will be better at certain missions than others, since each have different inherent skills.
For example, Kirk has skills in Combat and Diplomacy, while Spock’s are in Analysis and Engineering (each character has two). Therefore, Kirk tends to be better suited for the Politics missions, and Spock for the Energy missions. Figuring out how to get the right characters in the right positions as the board is revealed is therefore your primary point of decision making.
This process is made a bit more difficult in a couple of ways. Firstly, at the start of every character’s turn, you draw a Stardate card. These cards give you negative events (no beaming! Klingons attack!), advance the time, and determine how many actions you get on a turn. This means you don’t know exactly how many actions each player has to work with until their turn. Sometimes you get unlucky and only get two actions.
Secondly, the challenges themselves are a roll of the dice. Sometimes, they just go against you, despite your best-laid plans, though there are some ways to mitigate that randomness. There are items scattered around the locations on the planet that aid in your success at certain missions, and there is a deck of Energize cards representing crew from the Enterprise and special skills that can give additional increases to completing missions.
If you succeed in completing all the main story missions before the Klingons arrive or the Enterprise is destroyed, you win! If you win, your degree of success at the main story missions contributes to a Victory Point board that flavorfully rates your win, and gives you a score to beat in future plays.
What this game does really well is capture the feel of a Star Trek episode. It is very reminiscent of putting in an Original Series DVD and watching Kirk and company solve the problem of the week. Of the other Star Trek games I have tried, none of them do better at this than Star Trek: Expeditions. That alone does make it a pretty enjoyable game.
That said, it certainly is not perfect. The mission structure (branching paths for the main story missions and a random assortment of other side missions to fill things out) does help the replay value. Adding in the three levels of difficulty on the Stardate cards also helps in this regard. However, it would definitely have benefited from additional main story mission sets. At least a second set would have been very refreshing to switch the game up. While the replay value is there, the core mission being ultimately the same every time detracts a bit.
Additionally, using the Clix dials on the player pieces and the two ships detracts from the rest of the game. Having to switch the dials when you take damage or otherwise need to click up or down takes you out of the turn a bit, and your actual skill values being on the dials makes them hard to see at a glance. It is the primary thing I could have done without in this game.
Overall, Star Trek: Expeditions is certainly worth playing if you like simple cooperative games, the above considerations aside. If you like Star Trek, then you will enjoy the thematics as well. There are a few issues with it from the difficulty in planning turns due to the random Stardate deck to the somewhat tedious Clix dials, but at the core, Star Trek: Expeditions is still an enjoyable game that does hit the right notes. For additional variety, there is a single expansion available that provides the final three Original Series main characters (Scotty, Sulu, and Chekov).
Final Score: 3.5 Stars – A solid cooperative game with top-notch thematics with some key flaws that keep it from being great
• Thematically on-point. Feels like a Star Trek away mission.
• Strategic decisions about how to complete each mission based on each character’s inherent skills.
• Each character’s unique ability contributes to their theme
• Easy, simple and effective set up.
• The Clix dials are annoying to use and make it hard to read your current skill numbers.
• Hard to plan your turns in advance due to the randomness of available actions.
• When playing with fewer than 4 players, using 4 characters is still recommended which can be harder for some to handle.