Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Wheaton Effect Part Nine - "Star Trek Panic"

When Castle Panic was first featured on an episode of Tabletop waaaay back in 2012 it took every ounce of my willpower (Wilpower?) not to rush out and buy it.

But cooler heads prevailed. Perhaps it was the game's "m'eh" art design. Maybe it was its limited simplicity. Perhaps it was the persistent rumors that a zombie re-theme was shambling down the pipe. Perhaps I was distracted by the metric shit-ton of other amazing titles that Monsieur Wheaton was constantly shoving in my face every week. 

Whatever it was, I managed to resist both Castle Panic as well as the accurately presaged "cabin-in-the-woods" re-theme Dead Panic. But when I heard that this new version was fun but kinda clunky, I let it slide once again.

But then, Warp Speed ahead a few years and I find myself contending with this:

Likely due to the subconscious influence of the recent 50'th anniversary, I've been on a monumental Star Trek kick lately, re-watching the original series and playing an unhealthy amount of Timelines. Still, even after my scanners detected a copy of Star Trek Panic sitting on the Board Room Game Cafe's retail shelf I didn't spring, Mugatu-style, on it right away. However, after digesting a few how-to-play vids and I put acquiring a copy of this one right at the top of my Five Year Mission's things-to-do list.

So what is it about this particular "Panic" that finally forced me to "bite the phaser", so to speak? Well, here's the game's supplemental log entry straight from Starfleet Command, I.E. Fireside Games:

"Star Trek Panic, is a new out-of-this-world ("Groan!") board game that merges the classic tower defense style play of the Panic series with the most iconic elements of the original Star Trek universe. Under license by CBS Consumer Products, Star Trek Panic boldly goes where no one has gone before as players join the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise on a voyage to defend the ship from enemy attacks and carry out five vital galactic missions.

"This cooperative light strategy game introduces new, never before seen,
Panic game mechanics, including Mission Cards, which feature unique challenges based on the original Star Trek series, as well as Character Cards, so players can assume the roles of Star Trek icons like Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. Star Trek Panic comes complete with a maneuverable U.S.S. Enterprise model ship, Shields, Damage and Destroyed Indicators, Mission Cards, Character Cards, Enterprise Cards, and more."

Wanna study every word of Star Trek Panic's Prime Directive? Then head on over to Memory Alpha and mind meld with the game's full set of rules.



As per the rule book's suggestion, what follows is a play through of the suggested first game, which requires the completion of only two missions, namely "Distress Signal" and "Outpost Defense", and then clearing the board of any remaining threats.

Also, in a deliberate effort to thumb my nose at Bill Shatner's inflated ego, I'm only gonna crew the ship with supporting cast members. All apologies to Deforest Kelly and Leonard Nimoy, whom I love dearly. Actually, who's kidding who, I love Shatner too but let's put the spotlight on the criminally under-appreciated minor players for once, m'kay? 

"Take us out, Mr. Sulu. Warp Factor One!"



Lieutenant Commander Montgomery Scott, as played by good Canadian boy James "Jimmy" Doohan, fires the "Multi-Range Front Photon Torpedoes", causing two points of damage to the Orion Raider. He then turns the ship 30° to port and fires the "Long Range Side Phasers" for another point of damage on the same target. The Tholian ship in sector one moves into medium range, as does the Romulan Battle Cruiser in sector three and the Klingon Battle Cruiser in sector five. The Tholian ship damages the starboard side shield, the Romulan Battle Cruiser hits the rear port side shield and the Klingon Battle Cruiser strikes the front port side shield, all for one damage apiece. Next a freakin' "Comet" streaks through sector three, destroying the Romulan Battle Cruiser and annihilating the Enterprise's rear port side shield! Then the ship is rocked by an "Ion Storm"! A "6" is rolled, damaging the front starboard side shield!

"OH MY!" it's George Takei, a.k.a. Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu's, turn! He spends a "Medium Range Front Phasers" card to deal one point of damage to the inbound Klingon Battle Cruiser. He then fires the "Long Range Side Phasers", polishing off the Orion Raider! That officially completes the "Outpost Defense" mission and, as a reward, the Enterprise crew gets to repair two damaged hull and / or shield sections. Sulu ops to repair one damage to the front port side shields and one damage to the starboard side shields. Next up the Tholian ship in sector one moves into short range and immediately snares the Enterprise in its web, immobilizing it! The Klingon Battle Cruiser also moves into point-blank range and fires, hitting the front port side shield for a point of damage! Two new threats appear: including a Romulan Battle Cruiser in sector three and a "Supernova" which blasts the Enterprise four facings clockwise!

Next up it's Lieutenant Nyota Uhura, played by the delightful Nichelle Nichols.


The "Disabled Ship" token appears at long range in sector four. First up, Uhura spends a "Dilithium" card to repair the damaged front port side shield. She then fires the "Short Range Rear Phasers", destroying the Tholian Ship and freeing the Enterprise in the process. Next up she uses her special ability to look at the top two cards of the Enterprise Deck, drawing "Multi-Range Front Photon Torpedo" and a "Security Team". She decides to keep the "Torpedo" and then places the latter back at the bottom of the deck. She then maneuvers the Enterprise straight ahead, which, in turn, moves both the "Disabled Ship" and the Romulan Battle Cruiser into medium range. She then fires the "Medium Range Any Facing Phasers", hitting the Romulan Battle Cruiser and destroying it. Next, the Klingon Battle Cruiser comes up against the Enterprise's shields. It stays put but also deals a point of damage to the starboard side shield. Two new threats then emerge, including a "Temporal Distortion". A roll of "4" would normally move the mission timer up one but since it's already at the maximum time it doesn't go any higher. The next threat is a Klingon Bird of Prey with cloaking technology which appears in sector five.

Next up is the delightful Walter Koenig's scream-tastic Ensign Pavel Chekov. He starts by playing "Tricorder" which allows him to look at the top five cards of the Enterprise Deck. He decides to keep the "Dilithium" card and then puts the rest of them back on top of the deck in order of preference. He then hits the distant Klingon Bird of Prey with a "Multi Range Side Phasers" card, while simultaneously triggering his special ability to inflict an additional point of damage, destroying the inbound threat in one shot! Next up he maneuvers the Enterprise one space ahead, pulling to within short range of the  "Disabled Ship" and then commits one "Dilithium" card to the Mission objective. During the next step, the Klingon Battle Cruiser bumps up against the Enterprise's starboard side shield so it just stays there and inflicts a point of damage. Finally two new threats appear, including a Klingon Battle Cruiser in sector three and another Klingon Battle Cruiser in sector five.


Next we're back to Scotty, who uses his engineering prowess to combine "Tritanium" and "Dilithium" to completely rebuild the starboard side shield! He then fires the "Short Range Any-Facing Phasers" to clobber the Klingon Battle Cruiser at short range. Next up he uses the ship's "Tractor Beam" to move the Klingon Battle Cruiser in sector three to sector four then uses his special ability to repair the front starboard side shield. Finally he commits one Command Credit to the objective. This completes the second Mission, the reward for which is the ability to repair up to two hull or shield sections or rebuild one hull section. Since there are no damaged shield or hull sections, this is ignored.


Now the Enterprise just has to mop up the remaining threats! Speaking of which, the Klingon ships in sectors three and four move one space ahead to medium range while the damaged Klingon Battle Cruiser at short range in sector five comes up against the Enterprise's shields. It can't move forward any closer so it just deals one point of damage to the starboard side shield. The other threats then fire, with the Klingon Battle Cruiser in sector three causing a point of damage to the front port side shield while the Battle Cruiser in sector four deals a point of damage to the front starboard shield.

Sulu begins his turn by maneuvering the Enterprise 30° to starboard. He then lights up the "Short Range Front Phasers", destroying the damaged Klingon vessel in sector five. He then uses his special ability to maneuver the ship once again, this time 30° to port. The Klingon ships in sector three and four both move into short range and fire, dealing a point of damage to the port and starboard side front shields, destroying both of them.

Next up Uhura uses her special ability to draw two additional Enterprise Cards. She keeps the "Short Range Rear Phasers Card" and buries the "Medium Range Side Phasers" card at the bottom of the deck. She then combines "Long Range Rear Phasers" with "Direct Hit" to destroy the Klingon Battle Cruiser in sector three. She then fires the "Short Range Front Phasers" to deal one point of damage to the Klingon Battle Cruiser in sector four, finishing it off with a "Multi-Range Front Facing Photon Torpedo". With that ship destroyed, the Enterprise crew handily wins the day!



  • Of all the Panic games this is the definitely the best-looking one by far. The card quality is amazing and the images are stellar. The star-field board is gorgeous and the designers deserve bonus points for printing some of the more obscure rules right there on the margins. The threat tokens are made of thick cardboard and the character / mission cards are composed of slick-looking high grade card stock. And, hey, kudos to Fireside Games for giving us an actual 3-D Enterprise, replete with high-density clear blue plastic shields. Now, some people have bitched that the components will prematurely wear out and the game is slowed down by putting the damage tokens on and taking them off again but nothing says that you can't just rest them behind the shields and then either pick them up or remove the shield as additional damage is repaired or worsened. What can I say, sometimes people have to stretch to find something to complain about. 
  • The rules are clear and concise with plenty of examples. Even oddball exceptions involving Klingon Command ships and Cloaking technology are relatively straightforward. The intuitive design means that you won't be delving back into the rules constantly.
  • Thematically it's spot on. Sure, it doesn't make sense that McCoy is physically shooting weapons and flying the ship but I just tell myself that Sulu is still at the helm and Chekov is firing the phasers while the good Doctor is puttering around, doing his own thang and complaining constantly. Speaking of flying, the ability to maneuver the freakin' ship adds a ton of theme to the game. Also if the whole thing was just about plowing through the threat bag, it wouldn't be nearly as good. Mercifully, designer Justin De Witt gives us a slew of cool missions to accomplish, all based around classic episodes of the original show. Add in some thematically-appropriate character powers, a nice variety of threats (Klingons and Romulans and Tholians...oh my!) and cool Enterprise Cards such as "Tricorder", "Dilithium" and space geisha "Janice Rand" and you've got yourself a genuinely rich and immersive Star Trek experience!
  • Like any good co-op, the game promotes a lot of spirited, collective table talk centered around maximizing everyone's turn. And you really, really need to work together when you play the standard game which tasks you to complete five missions before you can clear the board of threats. I played a three player standard game a little while ago and we barely survived with one hull left intact!  
  • Given the wide variety of missions, Enterprise Cards and special abilities, there's bound to be some conflicting / fiddly stuff that you just have to make a ruling on and then roll with it. For example, does the "Supernova" card move a Tholian-webbed Enterprise? Does "Temporal Distortion" move the Mission Timer back beyond the starting value? It's by no means a deal breaker but it virtually guarantees that there'll be plenty of active rules threads for Star Trek Panic on Board Game Geek.
  • Because of the game's open nature, "Temporal Distortions", I.E. going back to course correct a previous play will be a constant temptation. To address this you can make a house rule which states that once you take a specific action or series of actions you can't then retroactively go back and correct something you missed.
  • I've already noticed some scratches in the center of my game board. Now, I don't know if that's because someone jammed a shield in too far in and a rough edge caused the damage or if it was just a piece of grit on the board, but constantly pivoting the Enterprise will definitely cause premature wear on the center of the board. My advice: whenever you need to move the pride of the Federation, just physically lift it off the board, rotate it as needed and then set it down in its new orientation.

All told, this is, by far, the best Panic to date. It's fun, interactive, tense and thematically relevant. If you're a Star Trek fan, pick it up and, if not, I still suggest you give it a whirl.

Star Trek Panic rates four pips outta six with a major tilt up towards the Final Frontier!


Wanna fricassee some Tholians? Then click on the image below to learn more about Star Trek Panic and help this blog go where no blog has gone before!