StarTrek Ascendancy has been on my radar for quite a few months. It looked like it had it all until a number of reviewers talked about a LOT of downtime between player turns. Suddenly it was as popular as a dog with worms at Crufts.
After a considerable amount of humming and equal amounts of hawing we welcomed it to our humble table last Thur. Our humble table overfloweth with Trek. We’re going to need a bigger table.
I’ll get straight to it. This is a good game, a long game but a flawed game.
First and foremost downtime is not an issue. Not with three players. It whizzed along nicely but it’s a long game. My team went for a “quick” win after two and a half hours of play but failed and the game could have rattled on for another two and half hours I’m sure If we had them. We Did have a lot of fun playing it in that time. The theme is strong and some of the mechanics are excellent.
Three players no more no less take the roles of the Federation (sciencey, explorey), Klingons (warlikey, empire buildey), Romulans (fighty, sneaky). (Guess which one I played?). You start with a home world that produces culture (used for peaceful expansion), construction (building ships and bases), science (researching tech, upgrading weapons and shields). Each of the races are a little different and start with a basic Tech. There’s an interesting balance between the three and trade agreements give you a little boost in production. Alliances are fragile but with only three players forgiveness is key.
The exploration part is neat. Planets have a limited amount of space lanes that they can radiant out from themselves. These join onto revealed planets that they themselves have a limited amount of radiating space lanes and so forth. Players start 18 inches away (their homeworlds anyway) from each other and eventually join up with the space map looking very like a database schema after a bit. Planets are a mixed bunch allowing some or all resources to be gathered if you conquer/colonize then. They can also contain either a virgin world (good) or a ship worrying anomaly (usually bad). This bit was a bit random and you could wind up with a stack of dud planets near you with opponents drawing Aces all the way (Ive seen a rule variant on this I’ll use next time)
A game is won by either cultural advances (ascendancy) or military (conquer the other two players home planets). It’s a long haul.
Now for why it’s flawed. There’s something amiss here. The random planets I can get over, the slight imbalance of some of the races ditto. The number of players is just too little for a game like this and adding more players is going to slow it down too much. There are so many good conquest games out their. For the amount of build up and investment of time it doesn’t give back. The mechanics for movement and combat seem dated. It works but it doesn’t wow
This game needs to be better to wear Trek Cloths. You only have to look at what Fantasy Flight did with Star Wars Rebellion. If they had the Trek license they’d blow this game out of the water.
Having said that there is charm here. The game is crying out for a rules update but for the price this should already be in there. I’m going to play it again. I’m going to play a few variants and see how it works for me especially come the expansions.