RogerBW's Blog

Thirsty Meeples August 2016 09 September 2016

Back to the boardgame café again. With images; cc-by-sa on everything.

Captain Sonar had just been released at GenCon, and I think we were the first people to play this particular copy. Like They Come Unseen it's a game of submarine hunting, though rather more stylised.

There are four roles on each team: the captain, who sets the course and fires weapons; the Chief Mate readies weapons and other systems; the Engineer tracks wear to the ship (which is accrued each time you move) and which systems are unusable; and the Radio Operator tracks the enemy submarine.

Yes, very stylised. Basically, the Captain calls his moves out loud, and the other team's radio operator plots them on a transparent overlay. Here's my own course (right) and my plot of the enemy's course (left).

And here's the enemy's own plot of my course.

It's all a bit synthetic at times, but it's a theme I like, and if I can use it to tempt people to play They Come Unseen or Harpoon then so much the better.

And we were playing with two on one team, and me alone on the other. With friction between gamers it should be even more fun though less efficient. This is going on my "buy" list when I have money and space for it. (Even though there's a mode in which you don't bother to keep turns synchronised, just have each team playing as fast as they can, which to me sounds distinctly lacking in fun. Still, I'll give it a try.)

We moved on to Star Trek Expeditions, which came out several years ago though I didn't really notice. It's a WizKids clicky-base game (gotta monetise that patent), designed by Reiner Knizia.

So, as you'd expect, it's not exactly pretty. It feels like what you'd get if you told Reiner Knizia to design Pandemic in the manner of his Lord of the Rings game, and then re-themed it to Star Trek.

The basic idea is that the Enterprise is sitting over a planet which has three separate crises going on, as well as a Klingon ship in orbit. Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Uhura (who doesn't seem an obvious choice, but I assume this is a desperate attempt to get a playable female character out of the source material) have to choose where to go, and when to pause and draw cards rather than charging in and doing stuff.

We played on the lowest difficulty level and got a medium-successful result, which is probably about right. But although it was quite enjoyable, in that Reiner Knizia way, it didn't feel as though it had much in the way of replayability.

Our last game for the evening was Vault Wars, which had a successful Kickstarter last year. You're a bunch of entrepreneurs bidding on the treasure vaults of fallen heroes.

Generally, you have some number of item cards, of which the players see some but not all, and have to decide how much to bid. (Each vault starts off "owned" by a player, so if you pay a lot to get the one you want you're letting that player bid high next time round.) Individual vaults change the rules, of course.

It is basically an auction game, and two of us were comprehensively outplayed by the third. Quite fun but I don't see myself buying this one.

[Buy Captain Sonar at Amazon] [Buy Star Trek Expeditions at Amazon] [Buy Vault Wars at Amazon] and help support the blog.


  1. Posted by Michael Cule at 11:05am on 09 September 2016

    Uhura is given a much bigger role in the 'reimagined' movies. She's Spock's girlfriend for one thing... No wait, that doesn't sound terribly feminist...

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 12:06pm on 09 September 2016

    Fair point. And this is dressed as Abrams Trek, not Original Series.

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