They traveled through vast, unexplored reaches of the cosmos, always exploring strange new worlds in search of new life and new civilizations. For more than 50 years, we’ve followed a cosmic journey of brave explorers from the United Federation of Planets both on the small and big screen. Over the years, brave men and women sat in captain’s chairs and commanded the most powerful ships in the whole Starfleet as they headed where no one had gone before. Thanks to Gale Force Nine, we’ll be able to share in in this trek among the stars. However, we will not sit at the helm of a single starship, but rather at the head of the empires that govern the galaxy. Our missionwill not always be the peaceful assimilation of the alien species encountered. What tools will we use to explore the galaxy? Learn this from reading further my unboxing of Star Trek Ascendancy!
You do not need to write much about the Star Trek universe. It is a brand known to most, if not every fan of space travel. The simple ideals of its creator, Gene Rodenberry saw the original series quickly gain popularity and now the brand encompasses numerous television and cinema productions. Thanks to many authors, the adventures in the far reaches of the galaxy have also been written down on the pages of over a hundred books. However, this is not all, because over the last fifty years numerous games and toys related to the adventures of the valiant crews of subsequent ships bearing the legendary designation NCC-1701 U.S.S. Enterprise have also appeared on the market.
In today’s article, I will take a close look at the contents of the box of Star Trek Ascendancy – the first board game in the Star Trek franchise to be a full-fledged game in the 4x genre (i.e. eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate). Embedded in the now half-century-old Star Trek franchise, which tells the story of space faring explorers of the United Federation of Planets who explore the cosmos between the XXIII and XXIV centuries. However, the Federation is not the only political force in the universe. On the contrary – the galaxy is inhabited by numerous other races, which form powerful interplanetary empires. While the action of the TV series focused mainly on the exploration of space and interaction with the discovered alien races from the perspective of captains of the individual ships, the board game will give us a wider perspective and let us manage a particular civilization on a scale of the whole known galaxy. Without further delay, I present you an overview of the contents of the box .
— Star Trek Ascendancy —
As befits a strategy game about building cosmic civilizations, Star Trek Ascendancy comes in quite a sizable package. The large, rectangular box is embellished with numerous illustrations of representatives of the three factions in the game: Klingon, Romulan and the United Federation of Planets. For each faction a few typical representatives of the specific race are shown, while the Federation in the central part of the box is represented by the busts of her four most famous captains: Katheryn Janeway, Benjamin Sisko, James Tiberius Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard.
The sides of the box, apart from the title of the game and Gale Force Nine’s logo, one will also find the depictions of spaceships of each of the three civilizations present in the game. They are the Klingon Vor’Cha class cruiser, a Romulaian Warbird and the legendary Enterprise-D – Starfleet’s flagship ship from the second half of the twenty-first century, commanded by Jean-Luc Picard.
Let’s now look at the details on the back of the box:
We will find here one of the better-made content presentations I had the opportunity to see recently on boxes of board games. A large portion of space is filled with a large illustration of the game. Particular attention has been paid to specific components with featured information on plastic models, cardboard planets or the consoles, with the help of which players will control their empires. There is also a clear list of components and a description of the game introducing us to the universe and briefly describing the mission to be fulfilled by players during the game.
I shall return for a moment to the box cover as the front of the box sent to me for review had a sticker with the Star Trek logo, informing that this edition of the game contains a limited set of exploration cards for the 50th anniversary of the Star Trek franchise. Thanks to these additional cards, during the game we will have the chance to experience the events and visit places known from the original series from the 1960s.
And this is how the contents of the box look when you open it. We first see the manual and two leaflets resting on four sheets of cardboard tokens.
The instruction manual is printed on smooth chalk paper and the rules of the game are layed out in it on 30 pages, richly illustrated with graphics. However, these are not ordinary drawings which illustrate a particular rule. On many pages we find photos from all of the up to dae TV series (because the game has been released in 2016, there are no references to Star Trek Discovery, thoguh). The publisher has also added two leaflets promoting future expansions to the game: the Cardassian and Ferengi empires, thanks to which additional players will be able to participate in the game. There is also a leaflet with a game code for Star Trek Online.
After lifting the sheets with tokens, we will see a plastic insert containing the rest of the game pieces: plastic ship models, cards, command modules and round planetary systems, which will be used to create the playboard during the game. At the beginning I was very happy that the publisher designed the wells in the insert to hold all the cards, even remembering to make special chutes for fingers, which allow the cards to be drawn out with ease. Unfortunately, the joy quickly passes away when we realize that after putting the cards with one’s favorite type of protectors, the slevved cards will not fit back into their designated places. This means that it is necessary to modify the insert. Personally, however, wanting to store the content of the expansions along with the contents of the basic game in the future, unfortunately I will have to throw out the insert. It’s a pity, then, that with such an expensive game, the publisher did not think about designing an insert in which there would still be enough space for future content, such as it is with i.e. Pathfinder Adventure Card Game or Chronicles of Crime.
Regardless of whether we decide to keep the insert or not, the delicate disappointment associated with the fact that it is impossible to store sleeved cards gives way to the fact that in the end the insert is very well designed in terms of the amount of space needed to store other components of the game.
Speaking of components, there are quite a lot of them, starting with four sheets which hold numerous cardboard tokens. They comprise of hyperspace corridors, ascendancy tokens (which serve as victory points) and numerous order tokens, raw materials or tokens which symbolize fleets moving at Warp speed. The execution of cardboard elements is at a high level. The cardboard is relatively thick, the surface of the tokens smooth and I did not find any offsets to the printing die. Everything as it should be, and in addition the tokens separated easily from the sheets, thanks to which I did not get any delamined or otherwise damaged pieces, which sometimes happens in games, if the cardboard is not properly perforated during the production process which can be a source of frustration.
As befits aa Ameri-style board game, the visual side of the components is kept in the convention of the TV series. The players' game boards resemble command consoles that could be found on the ships of civilizations presented in the game. In the case of Klingons, the immersion is so deep that the descriptions of functions on the board have been translated into Klingon (how cool is that!?). Command panels also have grooved tracks in which players place plastic sliders for statistics, but I will write more about this in the upcoming review.
The last component made of thick cardboard are the round tiles depicting planets. It is through them that the players will create a game board by combining the newly added systems with the above mentioned subspace corridors. Fans of the series probably recognize such planets as Janus VI, Deneb V or Rura Penthe. To the delight of the fans, both the planet tiles and the exploration cards discussed below contain places and events from all previous TV series. Therefore, I am very happy that the authors of the game took full advantage of the entire welth of the Star Trek universe, including the less popular shows such as Enterprise.
In Star Trek Ascendancy there are also many components made of thinner cardboard – the cards. Among them, you can distinguish several types of cards in different sizes, i.e. trade agreements, player turn cards or exploration cards, all of which are in the Standard CCG size. Smaller, technological advancement cards or the largest of them all – the player fleet cards. Again, all types of cards are made with the utmost attention to detail. Color saturation is appropriate, I also did not find any printing errors or offsets with the die. Everything looks just right.
In the game, we will also deal with many plastic spacecraft miniatures. For the Federation, these will be models of the Galaxy class ships (Enterprise-D), Klingons will travel across space in Vor’cha cruisers whilst Romulans shall sow fear in their cloacking-capable Warbirds. The models are relatively small, but for convenience, as well as for the performance of specific functions during the game, you will be able to combine them into fleets, marked on the board with a slightly larger model of a given ship, placed on the base with a digit denoting a specific fleet. The models themselves are characterized by a large number of details for their small size, so more talented hobbysts will be able to successfully paint the ships to increase the visual experience, and thus the satisfaction drawn from playing with painted ships.
Players will mark their presence in a system not only by means of ships present there. Control of systems is indicated by means of control nodes that can be put on an uninhabited system with one of the actions available in the game. In subsequent rounds, we will be able to build appropriate nodes which produce raw materials in the systems we control. These are presented with transparent markers in red, yellow and blue. Each of these nodes produces a different type of raw material, which come in three types in the basic game.
The game could not go without dice! The box contains a set of 10 standard, blue-colored six-sided dice and one slightly larger, used to determine the length of the warp tunnels. These cubes do not stand out as anything special, but the publisher has also sent me three sets of dice intended for particular factions. In addition to the color corresponding to each faction, the cubes also have the symbols of their empires. Thanks to this, each of the participants of the game has their own set of personalized dice to play with, which will not only affect the aesthetic value, but will avoid the need for players to share and re-roll the dice during combat. These dice are just one of many accessories that you can enrich your copy of the game with. The publisher’s offer also includes plastic sets of space stations that will replace the cardboard tokens in the game. You can also buy additional sets of spacecraft, with the help of which we will be able to build larger fleets (especially useful in games which involve higher player countss), not to mention more dice sets for each of the races found in the expansions.
In summary, everything indicates that the Star Trek universe finally got a true civilization game. In addition, the sheer scale of the game allows one to think that it will be a title that will challenge other popular games, such as Twilight Imperium, Burning Suns and Forbidden Stars. Collectors and hobbyists will certainly be happy with the valorization sets in the form of additional dice or models as well as the expansions which add other civilizations which we all know from the television screens. Thanks to the latter, you will be able to play the game with a larger group than three players, as in the case of the basic set described here. I will share my impressions with you in the review soon, as hopefully I will be able to test the game and post the review on my blog before the end of the year!