Sunday, August 15, 2010

Wizkids planning two new Star Trek games

A revitalized Wizkids was at Gen Con last week showing off some new and upcoming games. Drawing the most attention were a pair of prototypes for two very different, very interesting Star Trek games planned for 2011 release.

Star Trek: Fleet Captains is a competitive tactical game of space combat. Each player selects a fleet of ships, then uses a deck of mission cards based on ship type. Pick a science vessel and you'll take on "scan the planet for life signs" type missions. Pick a Bird of Prey and…you know.
They weren't demoing the game itself, just showing off the components and describing it, so I'm not totally sure how you use the gameboard, move around or engage other ships.

I can, however, tell you that the game will ship with scale models of various Star Trek vessels. On display were prototypes. Almost as interesting as the game itself is the fact that they're using 3D modeling and 3D printing to create and test their ship designs. The level of detail was amazing, far beyond what I've seen with 3D printing in the past. It's almost like they're making a Star Trek game using actual replicators.

The ships will use the familiar Wizkids click bases, but this game isn't just HeroClix with starships. Each ship's click dial has three sections based on Star Trek alert levels - yellow, orange and red. You can move your ship's dial to any position within your current alert level to take advantage of different capabilities, much like diverting power to the shields or the sensors, as the situation demands. Damage eventually moves you to the next alert level, and the higher alert levels have fewer dial slots to choose from. So as you take damage, your options become fewer. This particular mechanic is a nice simulation of captaining your own starship, and it also shows how the new Wizkids is using their primary gaming innovation (click bases) in even more innovative ways.

Star Trek: Expeditions is a cooperative game. It follows a classic Trek episode plot: a planet has requested entrance into the Federation, so the Enterprise is sent there to guide the process. When they arrive, they find that a Klingon warship is parked in orbit, threatening to obliterate the planet. Meanwhile, civil war is breaking out on the planet itself, and their leaders are trying to withdraw their application to join the Federation. It's a tangled mess, and you get to take on the role of a crew member trying to sort things out. See the four colored tokens near the top of the photo? Those will be fully painted heads representing four Enterprise crew members (J.J. Abrams movie version).

You'll have to negotiate multiple plot threads and competing priorities with the help of your fellow captains. Gameplay borrows from "choose your own adventure" books - there are decks of cards, and choices the players make (or whether they succeed or fail at an action) will lead them to different cards and different choices.

Expeditions is designed to be a narrative game that leaves the players feeling like they just created their own Star Trek episode. Without seeing the game in action, I can't say if it will be successful, but some of my favorite games have that same narrative feel. If they pull it off, this could be an really fun game. It was designed by gaming legend Reiner Knizia.

Both games are non-collectible - you'll get the whole shebang in one box. However, they are expandable, so expect future add-ons if they sell well. Expeditions should be out early in 2011 with a $49.99 retail price. Fleet Captains is planned to come out three months later, but the price point hasn't been settled yet.