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, Terrible collation.
The Basics: "StarFleet Maneuvers" repeats the dismal failure of Star Trek: The Card Game with the first half of the second season, a mistake not repeated again afterward.
Decipher's Star Trek: The Card Game (reviewed here!) is one of those strange disasters on the CCG front. Overproduced and competing against a more adult game mechanic, the card game quickly floundered as it failed to find a market in the gaming community and collectors/investors recognized its lack of potential on those fronts. This was, however, not before it could release an expansion set, "StarFleet Maneuvers."
"StarFleet Maneuvers" focuses on the first half of the second season of Star Trek and on its own, the expansion does not have what it needed to play the game. 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.
The lone expansion, "StarFleet Maneuvers," included 160 cards, with 50 commons, 40 uncommons, 40 rares and 30 very rares. This set introduced the continued the concept of the game presented in Star Trek: The Card Game, which was providing 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 half of the second season of Star Trek.
The "StarFleet Maneuvers" set included 25 Crew (primarily Personnel from the Starship Enterprise), 39 Episode (13 each of Mission, Plot and Discovery cards representing one of each from each of the episodes from the first half of the second season of Star Trek), 33 Challenge (cards representing adversaries that the Enterprise crew faced), 15 Effect (cards representing ways to heal or harm crew or opponents like using an ahn-woon or quadrotriticale), 23 wild (cards representing sudden shifts of fortune like a rapid aging disease) and 25 Permanent wild (cards representing enduring changes to situations, like the Romulan Neutral Zone or the presence of a Deep Space Station like K-7).
The basic game is designed around the second season of Star Trek, yet bafflingly, it includes challenges and wilds that represent actions from all three seasons. So, for example, Captain Christopher Pike and other characters from "The Cage" appear 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. Unfortunately, for those picking up just "StarFleet Maneuvers," this set includes neither a rulebook nor the core cards found in the starter deck which are pretty much essential to play. Cards are clearly marked to tell what each one does and the rulebook is very easy to read and understand.
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.
The full rules are found only in the starter decks to Star Trek: The Card Game (I included the basics in my review, at the link above). There are no changes for the expansion set.
Like the predecessor set, "StarFleet Maneuvers" suffers because some of the most rare cards are some of the most obscure characters and situations, like Nurse Cheryl Thomas. And it is strange that in a set that includes rares like the Mirror Spock challenge card - which is a cool card - that the best card would actually be one that is not even associated with the second season. Beating out the Planet Killer Permanent Wild for the best card in the set is Captain Christopher Pike.
Pike is one of those characters that it is hard to find images of and the shot of Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Pike is an excellent one. Moreover, the card is a real boost to any crew and it provides some wonderful playing options that make him more useful in some circumstances than Captain Kirk!
This set is terrible in terms of collectibility. Overproduced, the cards were released in packs of packs of 15 cards, with boxes of 36 packs. The bear here is this: the Very rares averaged seven per box, so it took at least five boxes to complete one set with ideal collation. In the process, one chokes on the commons and uncommon cards.
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 completeists 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 "StarFleet Maneuvers" might have been a worthwhile collectible. Had it finished fleshing out the whole second season for the expansion, it might have endured and been something worth tracking down. Had it fixed the wacky gaming mechanic that weakened it from the beginning, it might have had a chance. Had it found a player base, it would have endured. But it did none of those things.
The truth, however, is that there are more fun customizable card games out there and there are better uses of your time and money than "StarFleet Maneuvers," a true CCG disappointment.
This set culls images from Star Trek reviewed here!
For other game reviews, please visit my review of:
The Rise Of Saruman The Lord Of The Rings TCG
Jabba's Palace Star Wars CCG
Betson The Phantom Menace Pinball machine
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© 2011, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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