Seeing Stars

One of the nice things about having to travel back to the desert for work occasionally is the opportunity to see my friends, Jonny and Hart, and do some tabletop gaming. During my most recent trip back, they introduced me to a couple of their favorites: X-Wing Miniatures and Star Trek: Frontiers.

Growing up as a nerdy kid in the 80s and early 90s generally meant that you were a fan of Star Wars or Star Trek. In my case, that meant both. And as you can see from the photo of my Comicon outfit from a couple years ago (DS9ers hat and Star Wars shirt), that fandom has continued into adulthood.

While I’ve definitely played plenty of video games over the years that have indulged my yearnings to take part in dogfights between X-Wings and TIE Fighters or battle the Borg, I hadn’t as of yet played any tabletop games that have scratched that itch. So when Hart and Jonny offered to teach me how to play these two games, I eagerly accepted.

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We started with the X-Wing miniatures game. And I’ll say this… It’s probably a good thing that my two friends were just getting into this game when Tiffany and I moved away. Otherwise, I’m fairly certain that there would be a chunk of money missing from my bank account and a number of starfighter miniatures adorning my office right now.

The game was super fun! I had never played a tactical miniatures game before. To me, they were the just the games on the large tables in the back corner of the comic book store that people played by measuring things with odd-looking rulers and delicately pushing plastic minis around the table, but I totally see the appeal now (at least with X-Wing). With some help from the guys, I was able to get my Tycho-Celchu-piloted A-Wing zooming around asteroids and taking shots at the Imperials and bounty hunters in no time.

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The next night, we ventured into the unknown reaches of space in search of the Borg with Star Trek: Frontiers. I had heard about this Next-Generation-era re-theming of the Mage Knight board game a while back and was initially super excited at the idea of zooming around the galaxy with Captain Sisko and the Defiant, but my enthusiasm was tempered a bit when Jonny (a big fan of the original game) had tried to explain Mage Knight to me once a few months earlier. The gameplay seemed a bit on the too-complex side of the spectrum for me and, with a fairly-high price point (about $60 – $70), my mouse-clicking finger was a bit more staid about just buying it online to try it out. However, when Hart mentioned that he had purchased a copy of the game, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to give it a try.

With the complexity of the game somewhat on the high side and the playtime on the longer side of not, I can definitely agree with the sentiment that this game is not for everybody, but I will also say that this game is crazy fun for a big Star Trek geek like me. The game comes with a great tutorial mode that incrementally introduces new players to the fundamentals of Star Trek: Frontiers. It’s set up as a scouting mission in search of a Borg cube ship and, along the way, you’re introduced to all the different things you can do in the game: encounter the Romulans, fight Dominion bases, recruit new crew members, do away missions on different kinds of planets and explore new areas of space (just to name a few). We only had enough time during my visit to play through that initial tutorial mode of the game (probably a good three-hour endeavor), but I could definitely see myself playing many more hours of it in the future. The Star Trek theme melds seamlessly into the Mage Knight game mechanisms and, for me, made it easier to understand than the fantasy theme. I can’t wait to get my own copy and try to convince Tiffany to play with me (good thing there’s a solo mode)!

Bottom line… Despite some initial unfamiliarity and preconceptions, I found both of these games to be super fun experiences that I’m eager to repeat!