What is it? A cooperative tower-defense game, only the tower is the Enterprise.
The Deets: 2-6 players, 45-60min
Designer: Justin De Witt
Publisher: Fireside, USAopoly
When you get a licensed version of an existing game, you never know if it’s just going to be a pasted on theme with entirely cosmetic changes, or if it’ll actually be substantively modified to capture the feel of the IP it’s now representing.
That’s the big question I had of Star Trek Panic, a retheme of the well-loved Castle Panic. Much of the setup is similar; you’ve got a central defense point (here the Enterprise instead of a castle) surrounded by walls (or shields) and three rings divided into six sections. Tiles are drawn randomly to add threats to the board which slowly move towards the tower/starship causing damage and other mayhem. Once the shields are knocked down after a couple hits, the Enterprise itself starts taking damage. On your turn, you must play your cards – with some opportunity to trade with other players first – in order to destroy enemies, but the cards limit which rings and which directions you can actually do damage to.
So far, we’re just talking a new coat of paint. The Enterprise itself is a beautiful piece of work, and the shields are glowy blue translucent plastic that look neat. Explosions slide right on, giving the game a somewhat cinematic flair.
But there is more. The Enterprise can be “maneuvered” – it doesn’t fly around the board, but it does change the position of enemies relative to the ship, and you can steer to protect your vulnerable sections where shields are already down. The types and variety of cards seemed quite different, drawing technology and characters from the original series to inspire new abilities and new ways of interacting with the game. (Admittedly, it’s been a while since I’ve played Castle Panic, so I’m not 100% sure it’s totally different. I can’t compare the cards directly, at least not yet. But I’m pretty sure).
The major difference, however, comes in the form of Missions. These additional sidequests add new threats – sometimes on the board, sometimes off. You’ll have to deal with these missions in addition to the waves of enemies on the board. From what I saw, these missions generally required collecting certain sets of cards or completing certain actions before the timer runs out. It’s not a real-time timer, but a limited set of turns.
You’ll see familiar faces, technology, and enemies as you play. I don’t know if the game has the competitive mode of the original, but I do know that Castle Panic was at least a decent game system. So, with the Star Trek window dressing and some new mechanics to change up the gameplay, Star Trek fans have a few things to get excited about this year.