Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Ménage à Troi - "Star Trek: Fleet Captains – Romulan Empire"

I absolutely love Star Trek: Fleet Captains. As a kid I always wanted to own a board game that would let me dispatch a flotilla of individually-crewed starships out into the GREAT UNKNOWN, encountering bizarre anomalies, completing missions and eventually skirmishing with alien races over territory and resources. If it was set in the much-beloved Star Trek universe then that would have just been gravy.

It made sense that the Klingons were included in the base game since they were the Federation's main foil throughout the the Original Series as well as the movies up until Star Trek VI. Although I certainly dig the Klingons, I've always found the criminally under-used Romulans to be a lot more interesting.

Since their first appearance in the Original Series episode "Balance of Terror", I've always been intrigued by these Imperial space Romans. I know that their physical similarity to Vulcans was born from budgetary restrictions but it gave the writers a chance to explore the developmental path of racial off-shoots. Instead of being cold and logical like their Vulcan cousins, the Romulans were hot-blooded, opportunistic and decidedly shifty.

At first I was skeptical when the producers of Star Trek: The Next Generation neutered the Klingons but at least this forced the writers to develop new adversaries for the Federation. Finally my beloved Romulans came into their own! In stark contrast to the honorable, nigh-suicidal brute force often exhibited by the Klingons, the Romulans used bluff, bravado, subterfuge, espionage and deceit to try and win the day. What's not to love?

Needless to say, when WizKids released their Romulan expansion for Star Trek: Fleet Captains it was only a matter of time before I picked it up.


Quite a bit of time, as it turned out, 'cuz that fucker's almost as pricey as the base game. But don't let the sticker price deter you; as soon as you crack the seal on this bad boy and get a load of those gloriously-detailed lime green Heroclix starships, any buyers regret will surely melt away like a cloaking warbird!


So what's new here besides the obvious? I'll let the Praetors at Wizkids field that one:

"In Star Trek: Fleet Captains - Romulan Empire, the Romulan Empire expands its influence into the game of Star Trek: Fleet Captains.

"This expansion features twelve new Romulan ships molded in color and ten new Romulan Command Decks. A new game mechanism — Espionage — adds new Missions for your fleet and the new Saboteur crew members allow you to deploy secret agents onto your opponents ships! An updated rulebook includes rules to allow for three-player games.
"

If you wanna go all Tal Shiar, then just click on the following link to wring all of the intelligence out of this awesome expansion.
    
***
As soon as I got a free moment I decided to run of the game solo. This would give me an opportunity to capture all the minutia of an individual turn, hash out any rules questions and hopefully provide a resource for anyone out there who wants to learn how to play the game.

I was also really wanted to see how a three-player game would work so I went whole hog and set up the Federation, the Klingons and the Romulans! And since I'm all about the olde skool I decided to select Command Decks and ships representing the older, wilder, Frontier-era of Star Trek.

Here are the results of this mad experiment...

COMMAND DECKS AND INITIAL SHIP DEPLOYMENT

The Federation Command Deck consisted of "Starfleet Command", "Heavy Security", "Main Engineering" and the "Capt. Kirk" deck. The initial Federation ships included the U.S.S. Enterprise-A, U.S.S. Excelsior, U.S.S. Reliant and the U.S.S. Yeager.

The Klingon Command Deck used "Battleship", "Imperial Expansion", Code of Honor" and "Hidden Enemy". The first compliment of Klingon vessels featured the Gr'Oth, Rotarran, Ch'Tang and the Klothos.

The Romulan Command Deck compiled "Imperial Honor", "Balance of Terror", the "Tal Shiar" and "Pride of  Romulus". The starting Romulan fleet tabled the Vorital, Cadius, Deniath, R'Liria and the Talvath.


TURN ONE

The Reliant used an Action (1) to Scan one of the three sectors closest to their Command Post and discoverd an Inversion Nebula. The Yeager (which clearly fell through some sort of a space / time anomaly to arrive in the distant past) used an Action (2) to scan another adjacent system, discovering a Class Y Planet. With an up-and-coming science officer named Spock on the bridge, the Enterprise moved through this system, making sure to keep their Shields up to avoid any damage. During this operation there was no Encounter! She then used an Action (3) to Scan ahead, revealing a Class-L Planet. Finally the Excelsior began a "Warp Experiment", cranking its Engines up to the maximum setting of nine.

The Ch'Tang passed into Empty Space and then rolled a "5" so there was no Encounter. The ship then took an Influence Action (1) to place a Control Marker there. The Rotarran barreled straight ahead, discovering an O-Type Star and rolling a "4" to avoid any Encounters. She then used a Scan Action (2) to investigate the unrevealed Location next to the Klingon Command Post, revealing more Empty Space. Next the Gr'Oth passed through this sector, rolled a "1" for an Encounter and promptly discovered an "Abandoned Outpost"! She immediately performed an Influence Action (3) and placed a permanent +2 Shield Token on this newly-discovered Installation! This polished off the "Localized Survey" mission for 1 VP! The Klothos then spent one movement point to enter Empty Space and then three more to discover a highly-prized Class M Planet! On a subsequent roll of "2" the ship Encountered an "Iconian Outpost". So far, everything's comin' up Klingon!

After Dr. Telek R'Mor was appointed the Talvath's senior Engineer, the ship spent one point to move into the Nebula. Unfortunately, on a roll of "2", the Nebula prevented her from moving any further. Meanwhile, aboard the R'Liria, a Centurion rose through the ranks to distinguish himself as an Officer. Then the Cadius, Deniath, and the R'Liria all used Cloak Actions (1-3) to fulfill the "Caution" Mission Card for a Victory Point. The Torvath cruised into an adjacent location, discovering a Small Dark Matter Nebula and rolling a "5" to avoid an Encounter. The Vorital then discovered a sector of Empty Space and, thanks to a roll of "1", Encountered a peace-loving "Delegation of Organians". Fortunately, the Romulans weren't concealing any Combat Cards so they passed the Organian's test and scored another Victory Point!


TURN TWO

The Excelsior used an Action (1) to Scan the last unrevealed location next to the Federation Command Post, revealing a Class-J Nebula. She then moved on with Phase II of her "Warp Experiment". Still getting oriented to this new time setting, the Yeager spent a moment point to enter the Nebula and discovered an "Automated Station" when the Encounter roll was "1". This turned out to be a friendly Starbase for the Federation. Although the Encounter ended her movement, the Yeager burnt an Action (2) to scan the Location to the north east which was revealed as a D-Type Star. The Reliant then spent one movement point to enter the Class Y Planet and then used four points to cross through that system. On a roll of "5" she experienced no Encounter. The Enterprise drifted into the exact same system and then used the final Federation Action (3) to beam down an Away Team.

The I.K.S. Gr'Oth veered 315° to port revealing a Stable Wormhole. On a roll of "4" they Encountered a "Dead Colony", which seemed to be de rigueur by that point. Naturally the Klingons immediately seized control of the place! Even though the Encounter ended her movement, the Gr'Oth used an Action (1) to Scan the Location dead ahead which turns out to be Empty Space. The Klothos followed this up by spending a movement point to enter this sector, avoiding any Encounters with a throw of "4". With six adjacent locations now explored, the Klingons spiked the "Expansive Survey" Mission for 2 more Victory Points! The Klothos then burned the last three of her four movement points to explore the location dead ahead, right next door to Romulan territory! This also turned out to be Empty Space but the Encounter roll of "2" brought on a nasty "Plasma Storm". This forced the Klingons to perform an Engines Power Adjustment to 8, the highest possible Engine setting. A die roll of 6 was added to this for a total of 14 and with the challenge met this Encounter was claimed as a Victory Point! Next the Ch'Tang took an Influence Action (2) to place a Colony in the sector of Empty Space adjacent to their Command Post. The Rotarran forged on straight ahead, locating the other end of a Stable Wormhole. On a roll of "4" there was an Encounter in the form of a "Displacement Wave". In reaction to this, the Rotarran's Engines were cranked up to the maximum of six but her escape attempt would have to wait until next turn.

Perturbed by the close proximity of the Klingons, the Romulans dispatched the cloaked R'Liria and the Cadius into the same Empty Space sector to deal with the inbound threat. Upon arrival, both ships de-cloaked and then used two Actions (1-2) to Attack, thus completing the "Aggressive Negotiations" Secret Mission.


The combined Romulan Weapons value was 10 (5 per ship) with a +2 bonus added to Weapons and Shields thanks to "Battle Stations" giving a pre-roll total of 12. In response, the Klingons played "Battle of Honor" forcing the Romulans to discard "Battle Stations".

(Editor's Note: Looking back, I'm not sure if this was played properly. As the Aggressor, technically the Klingon card wasn't the "first" to be played in combat so this might not have been a legal play) 

The Klingon Shields were set at 7. The Romulans rolled a "4" on their attack and the Klingons scored the same, giving a final tally of 16 to 11 which inflicted one point of damage on the Klothos! Next up the Vorital took an Influence Action (3), placing a Control Marker in its spot. The Talvath boldly banked 315° to port, using one movement point to reveal a Class-K Nebula. The subsequent Encounter roll was "6" so nothing happened. She spent her remaining five movement points to forge on dead ahead, locating an M-Type Star. The Encounter roll was "5" so once again all was quiet. Finally the still-cloaked Deniath exhausted her movement to join the Talvath in the M-Type Star system.


TURN THREE

On the third round of her "Warp Experiment" the Excelsior moved into orbit around the Class-Y Planet and then took an Influence Action (1) to place two Control Tokens there thanks to the "Command Support" Ops Card. Thanks to her current Shield value of 4 she took no Location-specific damage during this operation. The Reliant then used a Transporter Action (2) to beam up the Away Team, completing the "Planetary Expedition" Science Mission for one Victory Point. With the Romulans lurking just one sector away Lieut. Cmdr. Spock aboard the Enterprise initiated "Diplomatic Contact" via a Level 15 Sensor Test (3). After conducting a Power Adjustment which gave the ship a base Sensor Level of 10 Spock added his own +3 bonus to the effort. The subsequent roll was "4" for a total of 17...success! The mission was completed and the Federation scored one Victory Point! The Yeager then veered 30° to starboard and entered the D-Type Star system. A "3" was rolled so there was no Encounter of note. 

After General Chang took command of the Gr'Oth, he used one movement point to plow through Empty Space and three more to join the Klothos in battle against the Romulans. After a Power Adjustment gave her a 7 for both Weapons and Shields, the wounded Klothos joined her in a counter-attack against the R'Liria, which spent two Actions (1-2) in the process. Their Combat total was 7 for the Gr'Roth, + 6 for the Klothos, + 3 for "Heavy Armament" and + 2 for Chang's Captain Ability for a whopping total of 18 before rolling! The Romulan ship only received a paltry 4 for her Shields and another +1 for her "Opportunistic" trait. The Klingons then rolled a "6" awhile the Romulans scored a "4". The final totals: Klingons 24 vs. Romulans 9. The R'Liria was rocked for 2 points of damage so she dropped down to setting 11. Meanwhile the Rotarran tried to extricate herself from the "Displacement Wave". She had to roll a 6 but only got a "2" so the ship vanished into oblivion. The Ch'Tang then spent an Influence Action (3) to add another Control Token to the Empty Space sector next to the Klingon Command Post.

After their superficially-peaceful first contact with the Federation, Telek R'Mor initiated a Cloak Action (1) and then ordered the Talvath into the Class-L Planet sector unbeknownst to both the Enterprise and the Reliant. Meanwhile, on the other side of the galaxy, the wounded R'Liria joins the Cadius in yet another salvo against the Klothos, spending two Combat Actions (2-3) to do so. Their total is 4 + 5 (respectively) plus an additional 4 for a "Plasma Torpedo" bolstered by two discarded cards for a grand pre-roll total of 1l. At the time the Klothos Shield setting was still at 7. The Romulans rolled a "4" and the Klingons rolled a "3" so the total were 17 vs. 10. The Klothos took another point of damage, putting her into setting 12 of Red Alert territory. Meanwhile the still-cloaked Deniath moved into a sector of unexplored space adjacent to the Federation's Command Post. Responding to a request for assistance from the R'Liria and the Cadius, the Vorital warped into the fray and then adjusted her Power Dial to setting 3. 


TURN FOUR

While at his science station, Lieut. Cmdr. Spock detected what he thought might be a sensor ghost. Suspecting that it could be the Romulans, he attempted a Scan Action (1) searching for cloaked ships in the same sector. With the Enterprise's Sensor value of 10 and Spock's + 3 bonus the total was 13. With a roll of three the total was 16: a success! The secretly-skulking Talvath was suddenly revealed, initiating a rather tense and awkward stand off!

 
Meanwhile, the Reliant ventured into a Proto Stellar Nebula, becoming "cloaked" in the process. She rolled at "2" so there was no Encounter within the Nebula. The Excelsior completed an Influence Action (2) placing the third Control Token around the Class-Y Planet next to the Federation Command Post. She then finished up her "Warp Experiment", collecting two Victory Points in the process. The Yeager turned hard to port and stumbled upon a Class-K Planet. The resulting Encounter roll was "4" so nothing happened. Oblivious to the presence of the Romulan ship in the same sector, the Yeager crossed through this Location and entered the Class-L Planet sector. Still twitchy from their past (future?) encounter with the Borg, the ship's skipper immediately lashed out at the Talvath, expending a Combat Action (3) to so so. Her weapons were set to 7 and combined with an the attack roll of "2" the grand total was 9. The Talvath's Shields, currently dialed to 8, easily repelled this puny attack. For their final step, the Feds discarded the "Humiliation" Mission Card.

Since the Rotarran vanished without a trace, the Klingons initiated a Reinforcement Action (1). Their current Fleet Size was 7 with a maximum of 11. The Rotarran suddenly returned, re-appearing back at the Klingon Command Post! She then entered the adjacent sector of Empty Space where the Klingons were attempting to place their third Command Token. Still locked in a desperate battle against the Romulans, the Gr'Oth and the Klothos spent one Combat Action apiece (2-3) in an attempt to finish off the damaged R'Liria. Each Klingon ship had their Weapons set to 7 for a total of 14 + 3 for General Chang's Captain Ability for a total of 17. With a current Shield setting of only 4, the R'Liria can't defend herself and is destroyed, killing the Romulan Centurion on board. This allowed the Klingons to complete the "Deathblow" Secret Mission and claim 1 Victory Point plus another 2 for the destruction of their first enemy ship! Meanwhile the Ch'Tang peeled off to starboard and discovered another region of Empty Space. The following Encounter roll was 6 so nothing happens. 

In a bold move, the Deniath drifted into the Class-J Nebula and immediately de-cloaked into the highest Sensor setting of 12. The Romulan Commander onboard then used an Action (1) to make a Sensor Test, adding an "Emergency Power" card to add +2 to the attempt. In reaction, the Federation dropped an "Orion Slave Girl" into the mix which nullified the Romulan's Ops Card effect. The following roll was a mournful "2" for a grand total of 14 which failed by one. Undeterred in their battle against the Klingons, the Vorital and the Cadius both spent Combat Actions (2-3) to gang up on the Klothos. The Vorital's Weapons were at 4 and the Cadius was at 5, totaling 11 with a roll of 2. The Klothos rolled a "5" which was added to their reduced Shield score of is at 4 for a total of 9. As a result, the ship was destroyed and the Romulans scored two Victory Points for their first kill. Meanwhile the revealed Talvath used the new "Emergency Cloaking" rule, adjusting to setting 5 for 6 potential movement points. She then used 5 of these points to Cloak and another one to flee back towards the M-Type Star.


TURN FIVE

The Reliant emerged from the Proto Stellar nebula, "decloaking" in the process. She immediately revealed a Pulsar and due to the system's immense size she couldn't clear the Location on that turn. She also rolled a 2 and Encountered "Sentient Nanites". Mercifully, since the Reliant was undamaged, the Federation scored an easy Victory Point! The Excelsior took an Influence Action (1) to build an Outpost. Still bombing around the galaxy half-cocked, the captain of the Yeager charged back to the Class-J Nebula and used an Action (2) to lash out at the now-revealed Deniath. Her Weapons were set to 7 vs. the Deniath's Shields of 4 (courtesy of an Emergency Interrupt). The Federation Combat Roll was 4 for a total of 11 versus the Romulan roll of 5 for a total of 9. After taking her one level of damage, the Deniath immediately Cloaked for free thanks to the Romulan Commander's Captain Ability. The Enterprise doubled back and discovered a region of Empty Space. On a roll of "2" she had an unpleasant Encounter with "The Nexus" but she avoided a close encounter with this anomaly by rolling a "1". She then used a Scan Action (3) on the nearest unexplored tile and turned up a Class-J Planet. Finally, the Feds chucked out the "Intercept Transmissions" Mission Card, which, in hindsight, was just a dumb oversight.

The Klingons moved "The Nexus" into the same sector as the Excelsior but with a roll of "3" the ship suffered no peril. With the loss of the Klothos, the Klingon's Fleet Size is once again reduced to 7 so they took advantage of another Reinforcement Action (1). At that point their maximum fleet size was 12 so they were quick to introduce the I.K.S. Maht-h'a. This newly minted ship immediately set course for the nearby Type-O Star. With her Sensors currently set to Level 5 she spent another Action (2) to attempt a Sensor Test. Unfortunately she rolled a lame-o "1" for a total of 12 which failed the test. Meanwhile the Gr'oth continued its assault against the Romulans, this time targeting the Vorital. Her attack value included 7 for her Weapons plus 2 for Chang's Captain Ability: a tally of 9 before the roll. This was compared to the Vorital's frighteningly-low Shield total of 3. The Klingons rolled a 2 and the Romulans rolled a 5, so it ended up being 11 vs 8. As a result, the Romulan vessel took one point of damage. The Klingons then played "Hit and Run" and immediately Cloaked. For their last step, the Ch'Tang moved into a new sector and discovered an Emission Nebula but on a roll of 2 there was no Encounter.

The Romulans moved "The Nexus" to the empty Class-K Planet System. After Nanculus was appointed as the ship's Weapons Specialist, the Talvath received a distress call from the Denieth and immediately moved to assist. She came out of warp in the Class-J Nebula and then used a "Cloaked Scan" card to attempt a Sensor Test by using an Action (1). Added to the ship's base Sensors of 8 was + 5 for the ship's special ability plus another 5 for Telek R'Mor's Engineer skill. Since the total was 18 this counted as an automatic success! This, in turn, fulfilled the "Fearless Surveillance" Secret Mission for a whopping 3 Victory Points. At the same time the fleeing Deniath uncloaked to discover a Stable Wormhole in an unexplored sector. Unfortunately on a roll of "4" there was an unexpected Encounter with a Temporal Loop. She's trapped! Since the R'Liria was destroyed, the Romulan Fleet Size had been reduced to 8 with a max of 11. The Romulans then proceeded to take a Reinforce Action (2) to bring out the Apnex, her Engines initialized to 8. This new ship used one Movement Point to enter Empty Space, two more to cross into the Class-K Nebula and another 5 to navigate past that. She arrived at the Stable Wormhole, broke the Deniath out of her Temporal Loop, and scored her tenth and final Victory Point for the victory.

The Romulans win!

Final Victory Point Tally:
 
Romulans...10
Klingons...7
Federation...5

***

While talking to Mike about the Romulan expansion at Cabin Con I started to regret my decision to buy it. It's his stalwart belief that many of the Romulan ships are grossly underpowered and a lot of their Missions are really hard to complete. Although I can certainly see his point here I also know that the Romulans need to be played radically different from both the Klingons and the Federation.

Some tips for the prospective Romulan player:
  • Don't get suckered into an extended toe-to-toe space brawl with someone like the Klingons since they will surely kick the Romulan's asses up around their pointy ears. Use hit-and-run tactics to dissuade rivals from your holdings and don't be too precious about incursions into your own territory. 
  • Stay cloaked. Like all the time. Concentrate on moving your ships into position to complete Missions. Take advantage of the new rule governing Emergency Cloaking.  
  • Don't be afraid to cycle through the tougher Mission cards to cherry pick what you need.  
REVIEW

PROS
  • The game is so fun and thematic that mishaps feel more funny then frustrating. The variable Locations, familiar characters, famous starships, tense Encounters, tactical Combats, Sensor Tests and colorful Missions all evoke feelings of "boldly going where no-one has gone before".
  • Each faction really does play very different from one another. The Feds are all science-y, diplomatic and peaceful, the Klingons are all up in yo' grill and the Romulans are a bunch of sneaky l'il gits.
  • The Romulan expansion adds a lot of new stuff without troweling on a ton of extra complexity. There so many new strategies to explore! Hell, I didn't even draw any Saboteurs! Hopefully the next time I'll be given an opportunity to seed a few of these annoying bastards on my opponent's ships and then just sit back and and giggle as they gum up the works!
  • I discarded the "Intercept Transmissions" card 'cuz I completely forgot about the new "Transmission Interference Sensor Action" rule. Speaking of annoying, I think it would be great to force your opponent to discard a Mission just as they're on the cusp of completing it!
  • The Heroclix system is a perfect fit for Star Trek, simulating ship damage and Power Adjustments with elegance. 
  • The miniatures really make the game pop on the table. The tokens and cards are also top-notch.
CONS
  • The coaster that your Romulan Ale is sitting on is probably ten times more durable and stable then those piss-poor Location "tiles". 
  • Sadly, I found myself referring to the rules very frequently, like once every turn. I have to tilt my hat to designers Ethan Pasternack and Mike Elliott for trying to replicate the vast Star Trek sandbox in board game form. If anything they deserve kudos for taking what could have been an unwieldy mess and delivering something that's quite playable. But due to a lot of nebulous wording and a pretty-but-dumb rule book you'll often find yourself pausing the action to look something up or scratching your head in an effort to puzzle out the designer's intent. Let's just say that a more-detailed second edition rulebook would be worth its weight in gold-pressed latinum. 
***

Overall, Star Trek: Fleet Captains - Romulan Empire scores five pips outta five with a tilt up towards Romulus and Remus!


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Wanna play Commander Tomalak to your opponent's Captain Picard? Then click on the photo below to learn more about this expansion and bring glory to the Blogulan Empire! 


1 comment:

  1. I'm super glad you got this, and more glad for hints! Time to dust this puppy off!

    ReplyDelete