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Star Trek: Super-Skill Pinball

We featured WizKids' Super-Skill Pinball: Ramp It Up! on Board's Eye View a few months back. Now designer Geoff Engelstein is back with a Star Trek-themed version of his surprisingly effective roll & write analogue of pinball. Like Super-Skill Pinball: Ramp It Up! and its predecessor Super-Skill Pinball: 4-Cade, this is a standalone game with four sets of double-sided dry-wipe boards, a pair of standard six-sided dice, the requisite dry-wipe pens and flat-bottomed markers that look for all the world like silver pinballs. And if this were merely a Star Trek themed reskin of those earlier Super-Skill Pinball games - this time with sparkly-speckled dice - it would've been enough to keep us satisfied. With Star Trek: Super-Skill Pinball, however, Geoff Engelstein has used his evident love of Trek to further expand the game play, including the problem-solving aspect of this engrossing roll & write.

The 'learning game' within this set of four is set, appropriately, in Starfleet Academy. It's a relatively simple board but its challenge is the Kobayashi Maru: a supposedly 'no win' scenario that Trek lore records was only beaten by Jim Kirk, and that by cheating. The Kobayashi Maru track on the Starfleet Academy board requires a 7 to hit, yet you're only taking the value rolled on a single six-sided die and you're not allowed to 'nudge' a die to a 7...

The Trouble with Tribbles board draws this iconic episode from Season 2 of the original series of Star Trek. Tribbles are cute furry critters except that they reproduce exponentially and so consume vast amounts of food. As you play this board, you'll accumulate Tribbles and they will initially boost your score, but as the numbers increase they increasingly hamper your ability to score and will shorten your game. The answer is to use the board's Transporter Bumpers to erase Tribbles from your table and send them to the table of another player. This turns an otherwise multiplayer solitaire game into a highly interactive 2-4 player game.

Lower Decks is an animated cartoon series set in the Star Trek universe around the time of Star Trek Next Generation. It's set not on the flagship USS Enterprise but on the USS Cerritos, which is usually tasked with more mundane activities (tho', to be fair, Kirk's Enterprise in 'The Trouble with Tribbles' was sent to guard a grain shipment and missions don't get much more mundane than that). As the title suggests, it focuses on the lives of junior crew members rather than the ship's senior officers. Tho' it's remarkably true to Trek lore and canon, it's a wacky comedy that's not a million light years from Rick & Morty, on which Lower Decks creator Mike McMahan was a writer and producer. For the Lower Decks pinball table, you are playing with just a single ball; there's no second round - when your ball goes out of play, it's the end of your game. The trick here is that you can manipulate gravity at the end of your turn - rotating the table so that the descent of your ball will represent an ascent on your next turn. This can potentially result in quite a long game, tho' if you score too well on a turn your table will rotate twice and so you won't see the benefit of the Cerritos' malfunctioning gravity generators...

One of the highlights of Star Trek Next Generation's run was its introduction of The Borg. Fittingly then, Borg Attack makes for an epic table in Star Trek: Super-Skill Pinball. Again tho' it shakes up gameplay because it's played over three rounds. For your first two balls, you're playing a fairly regular pinball game, notionally evacuating civilians ahead of the Borg onslaught. You'll be earning ships, photon torpedoes and weapon modulations that you'll be marking up on the table's backglass. For the third round, however, you ditch the table altogether and gameplay moves to the backglass where one die represents your attack on the Borg Cube and the other the Cube's assault on the armada you've managed to assemble on the previous two rounds. It's no longer pinball at this point, but it's certainly climactic!

If you already have the previous Super-Skill Pinball games, there's more than enough that's new and different here to justify adding this Star Trek iteration. If you're coming fresh to the game, it's worth reiterating that, with the exception of the Tribbles table, you will be playing multiplayer solitaire: each playing on your own individual tables and only competing with other players to get the highest score, just as when playing solo you'll be trying to beat your own previous best. That's not in any way a criticism tho' of this great package with its surprisingly varied game play and amazingly successful recreation of the excitement of real-life pinball.

(Review by Selwyn Ward)

PS: The Lego minifigures are not part of the game. Given that Star Trek: Super-Skill Pinball is published by WizKids, it would probably have been more appropriate if we'd recruited Star Trek Heroclix figures. We'll have to get hold of some for their next Star Trek-themed game!

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