Category Archives: Gaming with the Boys
Stardate 5027.3: Captain James T. Kirk has ordered the crew of the USS Enterprise across the Neutral Zone and into Romulan space, his reasoning unclear. Eventually, the ship is surrounded by two Romulan Battle Cruisers and a single Romulan Bird of Prey, the flagship of this small fleet. Kirk and Commander Spock beam aboard the flagship to have a conversation with the Romulan Commander who happens to be a woman. Spock seemingly betrays Kirk, the latter having some sort of psychosis when he tries going through a force field which contains him inside a Romulan brig. Dr. McCoy arrives, checks out the captain and finds him mentally broken, discusses prognosis with Spock, Kirk snapping and calling Spock a traitor and attacks the Vulcan. Kirk receives a Vulcan Death Grip and dies. Bones takes Kirk’s body back to the Enterprise.
Meanwhile, Spock and the female Romulan commander make eyes at one another, a lot of fingertip to brow and cheek touching takes place, and the Romulan commander goes and changes into something less military and more loungewear-like. On the Enterprise, we learn, via a startled Nurse Chapel, that Kirk still lives and the subterfuge is revealed: It’s all been a plan to get a hold of a Romulan cloaking device. McCoy performs a little facial reconstruction on Kirk and turns him into a Romulan, and the captain beams back aboard the Bird of Prey, sneaks around, Kirk-fu’s a few Romulan security guards, steals the cloaking device and escapes. Spock’s dubiousness unfolds, and just as he’s about to meet the Romulan House of Pain, he gets a beam-out rescue once Chekov manages to isolate his DNA from his Romulan distant kin-folk. The Romulan commander throws herself on Spock as he’s dematerializing and ends up in the Enterprise transporter room with the Vulcan.
Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott, charged with wiring the cloaking device to the starship, has a tough time, at first, Kirk bugging him about needing the device running yesterday, Scotty yelling, “I’ma doin’ the best I can!” The three Romulan vessels go to battlestations mode, Kirk demanding that Sulu “Get us out of here, warp factor nine!” A brief chase ensues, but finally the cloaking device kicks in and the Enterprise disappears and escapes back over into Federation space.
It’s an awesome episode from the third season of the Original Series.
It also happened to be the second mission we drew in our first game of Star Trek Panic. Needless to say, we weren’t as lucky as Captain Kirk and his legendary crew.
The latest game which utilizes the Castle Panic engine, this particular iteration is steeping with the Star Trek theme and is much more difficult than the original version. It’s a cooperative game, each player taking on the role of one of the characters from the Original Series. Kirk, Spock, Uhura, Sulu, Chekov, Bones, Scotty, are all available, and each has a special ability which will help during crucial phases of a game turn.
Each player gets a turn which is divided into phases. First, you draw a number of cards until you reach the hand size limit based on the number of players. Cards can be useful items, phaser targets, specialty cards, and some of them have small insignia along the bottom of the card that denotes whether it is a command, science, medical or engineering card. More about that is a moment. Next, if necessary, you reveal a new mission.
Revealing a mission is simple: there are 18 missions available, each on a card which details the specifics of the mission and how it needs to be accomplished, including how many turns you must complete the mission within for success. There are different kinds of missions; for The Enterprise Incident, you need to manuever into short-range with a Romulan Bird of Prey, and commit four cards out of the players’ hands, two each of command and engineering–the latter use the cards with the appropriate insignia on them. So, a new mission is only drawn on the player’s turn if a mission is not currently underway. Also, to beat the game you need to complete five missions.
Third phase of a player turn allows for the trading of one card between the current player and another. Fourth phase is when the player uses the cards from his hand to either damage the enemy starships, or use them for the special ability they confer, or to commit towards mission victory. The player may use as many cards as they have in their hand, and in any order. Likewise, during this phase, the player may manuever the Enterprise one sector, right or left, on the board, or move forward towards some target. To replicate moving forward, all of the pieces in the two forward arcs are moved one range closer to the ship.
Fifth phase is where the player checks the mission status, and whether or not victory has been achieved or if a another turn on the mission turn board has been used. If the turn marker is moved to the zero spot before the mission is completed then the mission is a failure.
The sixth phase is where the game can get extremely nerve-wracking. This is the point when all of the Klingon, Romulan, or Tholian starships on the board move one range closer to the Enterprise. There are only three ranges, long, medium, and short. Then each enemy gets to fire, causing a minimum of one damage per hit. Your shields can only take two hits, as well as your hull. Ship damage can quickly become catastrophic if you cannot manage to destroy the enemy vessels during the fourth phase.
The seventh phase is when new threat tokens are drawn, two each player turn. The player draws them one at a time, and if it is an enemy starship a d6 is rolled to determine which arc the ship is placed within. The ship will always be placed in the long-range of that arc. Some of the threats are immediate, random events, like a comet or ion storm, whereas one of them is a starbase that offers the player help if they can get the Enterprise within short-range in order to dock.
What can happen quite quickly is the game escalates from a manageable combat situation, like that pictured above from the television episode, to something far, far worse. Every player adds two threat tokens to the board at the end of their turn. We had four players and, granted, not each token was an enemy starship, but they quickly added up.
We lost when our Enterprise took its sixth and final hull damage, the left warp nacelle blasted into oblivion by one of the nine enemy vessels surrounding the weakened Federation ship. There was no hope of repairing, we had lost maneuverability several player turns earlier, and still onward they came, Romulans, Klingons, and the pesky Tholians.
Was the game fun? Yes, and no. I think it’s much more manageable with fewer players or, maybe, better skilled players. We played as a family. It was late when we started, and all of us are used to the semi-casual nature of Castle Panic. However, I believe we were just starting to get the rhythm down when all hell broke loose and our ship was overwhelmed.
Still, it wouldn’t be a Panic game if it weren’t overwhelming at some point. And it certainly was, but in a good way. There’s a lot of fun, even in defeat.
Live long and prosper.
Star Trek: The Original Series pictures used are copyright CBS.