The Good: Easy to learn, Decent images, Fun enough
The Bad: Requires very little in the way of strategy, Basic game construction makes little sense.
The Basics: Fleer/SkyBox, once upon a time, tried to compete with Decipher with an equally overproduced, even lamer gaming card set that focused on the original Star Trek.
Some games work out well because they make sense, they are fun and they require actual thought and strategy. With the rise of Customizable Card Games, like Magic, the Star Wars and Star Trek CCGs from Decipher and now such phenomenon as Yu-Gi-Oh, there came as many failures as there were successes. With the success of Decipher's Star Trek CCG, which focused on the Star Trek: The Next Generation time period with its "Premiere,” the trading card company at the time, Fleer/SkyBox decided they needed to compete. The result was Star Trek: The Card Game.
This unsophisticated game designed for two players only released two products, the premiere and "StarFleet Maneuvers." It is fairly unsurprising that the product did not create a greater player base and grow beyond its original concept; it was designed as a two-player game and it made very little sense overall. Take a look.
The debut set, the Star Trek: The Card Game, included 304 cards, with 7 core,120 commons, 90 uncommons, 59 rares and 30 very rares. This set introduced the concept of the game and presented a medium for players to play adventures of the U.S.S. Enterprise from Star Trek by presenting a game that focused primarily on the first season of Star Trek. The set introduced the six card types used to play the game: crew, episode (mission, plot, and discovery), challenge, effect, wild and permanent wild cards.
The Star Trek: The Card Game set included 7 Core, 46 Crew (Personnel from the Starship Enterprise), 87 Episode (29 each of Mission, Plot and Discovery cards representing one of each from each of the episodes of the first season of Star Trek), 87 Challenge (cards representing adversaries that the Enterprise crew faced), 17 Effect (cards representing ways to heal or harm crew or opponents like using phasers or a hypospray), 55 wild (cards representing sudden shifts of fortune like utilizing starship phasers) and 7 Permanent wild (cards representing enduring changes to situations, like a decloaking ship or the appearance of the massive ship Fesarius).
The basic game is designed around the first season of Star Trek, yet bafflingly, it includes challenges and wilds that represent actions from all three seasons. So, for example, Colonel Green and Genghis Khan appear in this set alongside the White Rabbit and Khan Noonien Singh from the first season.
The Star Trek: The Card Game is one of only two games that were so easy to learn out of the box that the rulebook was actually able to adequately prepare me to play it without any guidance from any current players. This is a good thing because I don't know the last time the Star Trek: The Card Game actually had players! Cards are clearly marked to tell what each one does and the rulebook is very easy to read and understand.
With a starter deck, one player is ready to play so starting the game requires - at least - two starter decks, two players and about thirty tokens or poker chips or something similar to use as experience counters. The basic game is very formulaic and the result is that it becomes exceptionally easy to play. Two players play a shared U.S.S. Enterprise and its bridge crew, which they supplement with their own additional crew cards and they oppose one another by creating episodes and challenging the crew members. The goal is to acquire 25 experience counters and have fun.
The game is played with decks of at least fifty cards and both players share the Enterprise, Kirk, Spock and McCoy cards which are exclusive to the starter decks. By assembling a crew, players increase the odds of defeating the challenges that come between the mission, plot and discovery cards that the opponents play against them.
The first player to twenty-five wins and the thing is that with the right cards, it is possible to get there ridiculously quickly. And the nice thing is, the rules are so straightforward that it is very easy to play, even if it is a bit pointless.
I say it is pointless because both players play with a common Enterprise, McCoy, Kirk and Spock. That means that any experience counters placed on any of those cards benefit both players. As a result, the current player can actually push the challenging player to a win by simply adding points to the common cards! As there can be only five XC on crew or core cards, it's possible for there to be twenty of the needed twenty-five points shared between the two players! Moreover, if the Enterprise is destroyed, both players lose.
Those more strategy oriented can see the basic fault of this game: in order to play you can't be ruthless. You can't play to win without hurting yourself. After all, if you want to win, it seems like as the challenging player, you'd simply want to destroy the Enterprise and eliminate the crew aboard that way. This would completely prevent the current player from getting their twenty-five points. But you can't do that or everyone loses.
At the risk of being entirely unsophisticated as a reviewer: that's dumb. It lowers the playability when you can't engage in playing to win. Opposing another player means opposing them, taking them on and defeating them with your superior intellect, cunning and guile. In this game, however, players can only have so much of that. So, to reiterate: dumb.
The rule book for Star Trek: The Card Game is a surprisingly packed 40 pages (small pages, but with very small text as well). The basic rules are simple, though. After assembling decks, players sit opposite one another with their shared crew and they face off. The current player discards and then draws until their playing hand is seven cards. The current player then staffs their crew with any new personnel they wish to play. This would be wonderful if their crew were not just cannon fodder. In other words; it benefits one to have a large crew but it does not seriously matter as much as it ought because no one is going to kill the important characters because they are shared!
Once the current player is staffed, the Episode phase begins with the current player playing a Mission card. If the Default Mission is played, the challenging player can play a mission atop it and force the game into their control. The current player determines which crew to include in the landing party and those cards become in play for the allocation of Experience Counters (XC) from the power base. It's important to spend the XC in this phase because the Power Base may only have 1 XC after this phase.
The challenging player then plays a Challenge card. They pay XC from their power base and that brings the card into play. The challenge that is represented must be overcome based on actions printed on the card. If the challenging player wins, the challenge endures into the next phase, if not, the challenge is discarded. The current player then plays a plot card. If they have no plot card, the challenging player may force the game by playing one of theirs. They then get to challenge the current player again, assuming they have the cards and XC to do that. The Plot section is repeated until the current player runs out of plot cards, with the challenging player playing challenges for each plot card laid down until either the current player is defeated or the challenger runs out of XC or challenge cards. This phase ends when the current player plays a Discovery card.
When the Discovery card is played, the episode ends, with the challenger receiving XC for each Challenge still in play and each Mission or Plot card they played. The challenges are then resolved either by the current player defeating them once and for all or everyone in the landing party being lost through death, conversion or neutralization. Or the current player can forfeit that team, which costs them all their potential XC. The current player then gets XC based on the values indicated on the Episode cards and any bonuses on crew cards allowed.
The game then continues with the roles of current and challenging players reversing.
This set is weird as the cards that would traditionally occupy rare status in other games are common and uncommons in this set. So, for example, the U.S.S. Enterprise, Kirk, Spock and McCoy (arguably the most popular characters) are all present in EVERY starter deck! Thus, the rares are relegated to some of the more obscure supporting personnel and challenging characters.
There are some very interesting cards, like Yarnek, Nomad and the various Organians. For my money, though, I'd say that the one worth tracking down is the Khan Noonien Singh card. He's a decent Challenge and it's hard to find good images of Ricardo Montalban on a card from the original series and this has it!
This is the ultimate in uncollectable sets. Massively overproduced, Fleer/SkyBox created a true dud. When boxes of starter decks may be found for ten dollars or less and boxes of booster packs can be tracked down for about the same, it's a tough sell. With the Very Rare cards, it becomes a pain to complete sets without assembling a huge batch of kindling, er, extras. Starter decks are completely random outside the default seven cards, but the starter decks are essential to completing a master set.
Because most people simply do not want the bother of assembling the sets and they lack the patience to tear through enough product to make a set and deal with all of the leftovers, dealers are still able to get in the $100 range for sets and completists seem willing to pay it for the trouble of getting the set, but it had very low collectibility because the rarest cards are often of the lamest characters and situations.
Had it not been overproduced and it actually had some value, the Star Trek: The Card Game might have been a worthwhile collectible. Had it segregated the players so they could truly combat one another, the game would have been more playable and made sense. Had it found a player base, it would have endured. But it did none of those things.
As a result, starter decks are incredibly easy to come by and while it's possible to assemble a set using them, it is much easier to pick up a single starter deck for the seven exclusive cards and then invest in the booster pack boxes. You can't get a master set without starter decks, but you can't get there quickly with only them. And given the low overall value of the product and generally disappointing playability, it's hard to see why one would want to even bother.
This set culls images from Star Trek reviewed here!
For other games reviewed by me, please check out my reviews of:
The Lord Of The Rings TCG: The Hunters
Star Wars CCG Official Tournament Sealed Deck
The Lord Of The Rings Trivial Pursuit
For other card reviews, please be sure to visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!
© 2011, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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