Back to the Borg: A Return to the Star Trek Deck Building Game – Re-Review

With our regular game nights currently on hold, it’s been difficult for me to get new games to the table. Due to this, this week I’m going to take a look at and update another classic game review. This time it’s a review of The Star Trek Deck Building Game from Bandai.

I originally checked out The Next Generation Next Phase Edition of the Star Trek Deck-Building game back in June of 2013.

Below you will find the text from this original Star Trek card game review,  with only very minor editing. I want to keep the feel and tone of the original post. I will, at times, insert comments or corrections, and you will find these in [square brackets]. I have also included the original pictures. After the original post, you can find my current thoughts on the game.

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My original review of the Star Trek Deck Building Games from 2013

My thoughts on the Star Trek Deck Builder:

The version of the game that I picked up is the Star Trek Deck Building Game Next Generation Next Phase Edition. From what I can tell online all of the Star Trek Deck Building Games are compatible but can be played stand alone as well.

[There are multiple versions of the Star Trek Deck Building Game. There is an Original Series version, The Next Generation version, and The Next Generation Next Phase Edition. Each of these games features some slightly different rules and completely different sets of cards. The various sets are designed to be played separately but you can combine any of them together as well.]

The rules in this game are some of the worst I’ve ever read, and due to this, I’m not even sure we played right. The game comes with a bunch of different cards with different colours on them. They also come in a box that wins the “the most wasted space possible” award. I’m assuming this was done so that you could fit any and all expansions released into one box, but man I’ve never seen so much extra space in one box. [I think this award now goes to Splendor.]

To play Star Trek the Deck Building Game you pick a mission type, which determines which cards go into which decks and which cards are set aside. Some cards are common and used every game, no matter what mission you are playing. That’s right, you don’t use all the cards every game, you swap out what cards you use based on what scenario you want to play. [This is much more common now, I own many games where what cards or tiles are in play are based on what scenario you choose to play during the game. At the time this was a new thing for me.]

It took some work to figure out what which cards were which and which we needed to use and which we needed to set aside but I think we got it right in the end. For our first game, we played the standard Exploration II scenario which is player vs. player. The game also includes a cooperative Borg scenario, a team based Romulan Unification scenario, and a team based Klingon Civil War scenario. 

Similar to almost every deck builder ever published every player starts with the same ten cards. You use those starter cards to buy better cards from The Starbase which has nine random cards up at all times. [Note this is a changing market with cards drawn from a deck and replaced as they are bought and not a set market like in games like Dominion] This is all standard deck builder stuff, with ways to buy new cards, change what cards are up available for purchase, etc. Each card has a lot of stuff on it making the game much more complicated than most deck builders [I had played at the time] with some cards having a paragraph of special rules. You really have to read them all and that takes a long time the first time through.

The cool bit about The Star Trek Deck Building Games is that added to your standard deck-building system is a space exploration system. Each turn you can choose to explore the Space Deck. In it are ships, missions and events. Ships you have to fight. Events affect all players, and in the games that we played often meant we all fought each other in a war. Missions give you tasks to complete. By ‘beating’ these things you get victory points that range from 25 to 100. The goal is to collect 400 of these points to win. [Note that’s for the Exploration II scenario, other scenarios have other victory conditions.]

The mission system reminds me of the excellent, much older, decipher Star Trek collectable card game.  During missions, you see things like needing a ship with speed three and two characters with a diplomacy of at least one, or needing a total attack value of six or more on your starship. If you fulfil the mission requirements you receive a bonus. Some of the missions also do horrible things if you fail. 

This part of the game really feels like Star Trek and many cards and missions reference specific story arcs. The first time someone found Lor and failed to impress him and he summoned the Crystalline Entity which then went on to destroyed the player’s flagship, it made for a very epic moment. 

Ship combat is pretty simple, you add up the stats on the bottom of all your cards (crew, equipment, etc) and add that to the stats on your flagship. Ships with the highest speed attack first and do damage equal to their attack value. Shields soak some of this. When facing a ship from the space deck you can choose to ‘diplomacy’ it instead (yeah that’s what they call it in the rules, you diplomacy a ship). If you are fast enough and your crew has high enough diplomacy skills you can take the ship. Then you can either just cash it in for points or swap it with your existing ship and use that new flagship going forward.

The game was easy enough to teach to a group of players who were already familiar with deck-building mechanics. Our first games took a bit under two hours with later games getting quicker. 

Overall Impressions:

I’m not disappointed at all with this purchase especially at the price I found it for. I will be heading back out to one of the Entertainment Deals locations sometime soon to see if I can pick up the other two boxed sets to add to the options in the game.

[This is an important thing to note for this review. I managed to find a copy of this game for $5 Canadian and back in 2013 I was reviewing this game trying to determine if it was worth that $5. Unfortunately, you can’t find the game for that price now.]

Star Trek The Deck Building Game is not the best deck builder I’ve played but it’s good. The Star Trek theme is done well and really does add to the fun. I’ve already received Facebook messages from a couple of the players who played with me and they want to play again or are picking up their own copies of the game. [Again note it was available for $5 right here in Windsor at the time]

An update after a few more plays, including trying the cooperative version:

After playing The Star Trek Deck Building Game a few more times, my opinion on the standard Exploration mode of play hasn’t really changed. Overall the standard game is a bit slow, mainly due to how much text is on the cards and how much reading there is. I do really enjoy the Star Trek theme.

I also got to try out the cooperative Borg Scenario and I’ve got to say that was a lot of fun! The Borg scenario is much more intense than the core game. It also played much faster than the Exploration mission.

When playing cooperatively each player’s ship has an ability that can help the other players and this really helps to increase the feeling of teamwork. In addition some characters like Data who are only so-so in the regular game really shine in the co-op game.

The cooperative play mode of The Star Trek Deck Building game has changed this game from “worth it at the cheap price” to “worth it at full price.” Our group had a great time playing cooperatively and I have to say I found it to be one of the best co-op games I’ve played. This didn’t have the ‘multiplayer solitaire’ feel that I find many other cooperative games like Pandemic and Forbidden Island have

If you dig Star Trek and like cooperative games, I can really recommend The Star Trek Deck Building Game, The Next Generation Next Phase Edition. In addition to a great cooperative card game you also get a decent competitive game.  

My Current Thoughts on the Star Trek Deck Building Game Series.

Back in 2013 after falling in love with the cooperative version of the Star Trek Deck Building Game, a version that only exists in The Next Generation, Next Phase Edition, I went and picked up the other two Star Trek Deck Building Game boxed sets. 

Of all of different sets and scenarios, the cooperative Borg mission from TNG Next Phase was by far the best way to play the game. The second best experience came with The Original Series using the original Exploration I scenario. The Original Series version of the games had different flagship rules that were much more balanced than the other two sets.

One of the problems we found with this series over more plays was that if a player was able to get a better flagship early in the game, it had a snowball effect with them then going to to be able to complete harder missions and get even better ships while the other players got left behind. This wasn’t a problem in The Original Series version of the game and didn’t matter in the cooperative version. 

Due to this runaway leader problem, I strongly don’t recommend The Next Generation version of this game at all. Along with that I also don’t recommend playing Next Phase with the standard Exploration rules either. For competitive games that leaves us with The Original Series edition of this deck-building game and that one I would say is okay. It’s a decent enough deck-building game but it isn’t anything special. 

I still stand by what I said in the original review and that is that the best way to play The Star Trek Deck Building game is to pick up the Next Phase Edition and stick to cooperative rules only. 

That said I have sold off all of my versions of this game. I did hold onto the Next Phase the longest but eventually let that go too. To me, all of these games just feel dated and less fun than more modern deck-building games. While I dig the Star Trek theme I think a game like Tyrants of the Underdark is a better competitive deck builder and I think Legendary Encounters Aliens is a better cooperative experience. 

What I would actually love to see is an update to these classic deck-building games. Something more modern and better balanced without the runaway leader problem. I still think the combination of space exploration and mission based goals was a great concept, but it could have been implemented better.

The biggest bias my original review suffers from was the fact that, at the time, I could get all three of these Star Trek Deck Building games for $5 Canadian each. Right now if you could get these games that cheap I would still recommend them solidly. They are great games at that price point, especially the Next Phase version with its cooperative rules. The thing is you can’t get them at that price now. 

I honestly don’t think any of this series of Star Trek games are worth full price at this point. But, if you are a Trek fan and see a good price on The Next Generation The Next Phase Edition, you may want to pick that up and give it a shot. It is the one version, I would be willing to sit down and play again myself. 

Have you played these Star Trek deck-building games? What did you think? Let us know in the comments.

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