Star Trek Catan
3 or 4 players
Almost a year ago (already?) I wrote up a review of Settlers of Catan. In that review, I said that Catan was one of those games that was good for breaking up friendships. I would like to retract that statement. Yes, it is possible that someone’s feelings can get bruised playing this game, but really, it all depends on the people you play with. So, it is a lot of fun, and you won’t go get a divorce afterwards just because your spouse wouldn’t trade you those sheep that you know perfectly well he has.
In addition, it should be no secret by now that there are multiple sets of Catan out there. Of course, there are various printings (mine has thinner cardboard… You know what? Just go read the old review…I’ll wait. You back? Cool.), as well as different map sets that depict different regions across the world. There is even a version known as “Starfarers of Catan”, but as that is out of print, I do not know much about it.
So it should be no surprise that they created a Star Trek themed set. Everything you know about Settlers of Catan is the same for Star Trek Catan. The differences are cosmetic. Where you build roads, you are building shipping lanes with miniature starships. The robber is a Klingon. Instead of sheep or wool, you trade oxygen. Starfleet Intervenes are the new knight cards, and yes, having more of them in play than anyone else gets you the Largest Starfleet card and two victory points.
The game still ends when you reach ten points, and you still have to roll for resources, and trade resources with your opponents to get there. Plus: It’s Star Trek. As you can see in the picture, the pieces are gorgeous. The set is fantastic to look at. The cardboard frame is sturdier than the one in my regular set, and the pieces actually fit in it properly. So kudos to them for getting it right for this set.
However, there are two downsides to this set:
1) The game is only for 3 or 4 players. Like regular Catan, you cannot play it well with two players. Also, where you can buy an extension set for regular Catan to allow up to 6 players, there is none for Star Trek Catan. There are hints in the set that they left the option open for themselves, but no word that they are seriously thinking about it.
2) The plastic ships are fragile. I have played three games. In those three games, one warp engine is broken, and one starbase broke off it’s peg. I’m sad to say it, but I do not let people play with my STC set. It’s just too easy to break.
And that is really the biggest disappointment. I don’t like having games on my shelf that never get played, but this one (because it’s Star Trek) I won’t be getting rid of. It has been added to my Star Trek collection.
There is one major difference, though, between this version and regular Catan, and I’m told it’s based off an older German expansion that didn’t make it to the states: Crew.
Each player is given a crew card at the beginning of the game. Each of these crew cards can be used whenever appropriate for a specific benefit based on which crewmember it is. Kirk, for example is immune to the Klingon. If you have the Kirk Crew card when the ’7′ is rolled, you don’t have to discard half of your cards.
Uhura allows you to force players to trade with you, when you are having difficulty getting that last resource card you need to upgrade. There are ten crew cards, and each does something different. This changes game play a bit. No longer can you count on delaying an opponent from meeting one of his goals by not trading with him. Your opponent may use McCoy or Scotty to change the build requirements for a turn, or you may find Sulu has re-routed a road you thought you had blocked off.
To balance these special abilities, you can only use them at most twice before you have to give them up. The first time you use the ability, you flip the card over. The second time, you have to give the card up, and put it back in the pile with the unused cards. Then you draw a new one. The use of the crew cards is good, and a nice addition.
This is the entire reason I have Star Trek Catan. I mean a Star Trek themed set was cool, but I already had Catan, so I didn’t need another. Then they released the Federation Space expansion, and suddenly, it was something I had to have.
And that is because now, the map represents Federation Space, and all of the planets you might remember from the TV show. The rules are the same, aside for modifications you need to make to play on a fixed map. There are various places on the map that give you a bonus victory point if you build a spacelane to them, but otherwise, it’s regular Star Trek Catan.
However, the expansion is not designed to bring the number of players up to 6, nor are you supposed to play with both map boards at a time. This is a disappointment for me. A small one, and kind of irritating. But, if I took a couple of sets of regular Catan pieces from the other box and could get over the visual disconnect, ignore the rules saying you can’t use it with both boards at once, I could play a 6 player game of Star Trek Catan by using both maps. But then, four of the players would be using plastic space ships, and two would be using wooded blocks…
One cool bit that was added with the expansion are the four scoring tracks. Those hex shaped boards represent the home world for the Federation, Vulcans, Romulans and Klingons, and if you can remember to keep them updated, you don’t need to recalculate your score every so often. In practice, though, you end up doing it about the same, as you tend to forget to update the scorecard.
Another added goody is the Almanac, which lists each of the planets on the gameboard, and gives a brief discussion of the planet and some of the events that took place there during the show. It is a nice touch.
Obviously, this is only really going to appeal to fans of the original series Star Trek. But for what comes in the box, it is well worth the money.
Just be careful of the plastic pieces, they are a bit on the frail side (or maybe my crew is just too rough on them…)
I’ll see you here next time!