This is one of those games that has an instant wow factor as soon as you open the box. Published by Wizkids, it comes with a dozen well-moulded Federation and a dozen Klingon ships. Each one is different and has its own Heroclix base with stats on it representing the ship’s various capabilities. As anyone who has played any Heroclix game will recognise, the stats are on dials so that they can be modified when a ship makes power adjustments or when it takes damage.
Fleet Captains is the nearest you’ll get to Star Trek in a box. You don’t have to be a Star Trek fan to enjoy this game but, if you are, you’ll be in seventh heaven.
There’s a lot in the game but it’s not unduly complex: you can be up and playing in less than 20 minutes. In Star Trek Fleet Captains, players each control a number of star ships. They will scan, explore and move through neighbouring sectors of space. They will build outposts, colonies and starbases, and they will try to complete missions. They are likely also to come into conflict with each other...
At the start of each game, players draft ships to form their fleet. They then choose which four out of the ten decks of command cards they will play with. These each have a different slant, so the decks a player chooses will affect the way she plays the game.
Much of the game involves running ‘system tests’, so that, for example, a ship encountering a phenomenon that requires a sensor test of 12 will need to pass a system test against the ship’s sensors, adding a die roll to the level currently showing for sensors on the ship’s dial. Players can also make use of the command cards they have at their disposal, which may also modify the system test demanded. When ships come into conflict, the weapons of the attacker are tested of course against the shields of the defender.
If you are looking for a space exploration experience that really evokes Star Trek, you’d be hard put to find a better game. Fleet Captains really is dripping with theme. The numerous cards in the game draw on images and plots from the Original Series, Next Generation, Deep Space 9, Voyager and the original cast movies. The one quibble you might have if you are a die-hard fan is that the game tends to push towards more combat than goes with the grain of the show. That feels right if you are the Klingon player drawing aggressive Combat Missions but may feel less appropriate for the player representing the Federation.
The rules include an option and set up for playing Fleet Captains as a team game, with two players representing the Federation and two Klingon players. Often four-player versions of essentially two-player games come across as doomed afterthoughts, but four-player Fleet Captains does work. Nevertheless, if you want to play this game with more than two, your better option will be to add the Romulan and Dominion expansions… Check elsewhere on Board's Eye View for a brief look at them.