RogerBW's Blog

Star Trek Ascendancy: first game 18 September 2018

I bought Ascendancy (and the three currently-available expansions) at UK Games Expo, and I've just got it to the table.

This is by the same designers as Firefly, and it's similarly a long and sprawling game. More experienced players can apparently expect 60 to 90 minutes per head, plus another 60 if the (NPC) Borg are involved; we played with just the base game contents (Federation, Klingons and Romulans), and took rather longer. We'd all read the rulebook beforehand, but it makes rather more sense with the components in front of one.

You begin with a fair bit of stuff: three separate resources (Production, Research, Culture), a starting technological advancement, some race-specific rules, and lots of things to build.

Play is in a defined area (I used the three-foot mat I bought for X-Wing), because the map is flexible. I've played a lot of 4X games over the years, and this is the first one I've met that does something really interesting with the "Explore" side of things. Until a system has two warp connections, it can be pivoted round the system it's connected to. And that's how you can get into contact with other powers…

We quickly started to expand (and missed the rules about fleet limits). There is some risk of very different early worlds and contacts knocking a player back and relegating them to a kingmaking role, but I think that stacking the decks may fix this.

When you reveal a new world, you take a disc that describes the type of resource the world holds, and an exploration card that may tell you what sort of civilisation is there (or may provoke some other event). The combination of the two tells you whether it's worth invading, colonising, or simply inviting them to join your civilisation (the Federation is particularly good at the last). Planets can have resource nodes; resource nodes produce resources; you spend resources on building stuff, on research (you have a deck of advancements specific to your race), and on getting Ascendancy tokens which are mostly what win you the game (though conquering and holding enemy homeworlds can also do it).

First contact between Klingons and Romulans. It went fairly well, ish.

And between Federation and Romulans. (An awkward rule is that you can't move into a sector with another player's ships unless you have their permission, though you can attack from an adjacent sector. We kept wanting to move into the sector before doing the space battle or negotiation or whatever was going to happen.)

The map nearly complete. Things got fairly intense at this point and I didn't take any more photos for a bit.

At one point the Romulans took over the Klingon homeworld, and in order to get it back the Klingons bombed it to extinction. Which seemed quite appropriate, really.

End game. We each reached the winning condition (five Ascendancy tokens and control of one's homeworld) on the same turn, and tie-broke on systems controlled – where I was a distant third. But I still had a very good time playing the game, and I'd definitely like to give it another go.

The rules are fiddly and not always well written. (The unofficial composite rulebook on boardgamegeek runs to 72 pages, though quite a bit of that deals with the Borg expansion that we weren't using in this game.) We got the hang of it by the end, though.

I'm not a great fan of Star Trek, but I do like this kind of space 4X game where you colonise worlds, gather resources, and build ships – and while I'd prefer a more generic setting, I can always play it as though it didn't have all the branding, since while the card titles can give some flavour you don't need to recognise names to work out how to play them. This game fills the hole that Twilight Imperium used to take before I sold it on.

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog.


  1. Posted by Michael Cule at 11:05am on 18 September 2018

    I won! First time!

    I'm ever so impressed with myself!

    But to be fair it was only because the Klingons left their right flank open because he was so focused on beating you up.

    One rule I missed at the time (which would probably have meant I went for the Klingons earlier) was that my warp speed was affected by sigils on the tech advance cards. There may have been others we missed.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 11:36am on 18 September 2018

    I know I saw (and turned down) various advances which would e.g. "block an enemy's Espionage card" - because the other players didn't seem to have developed any. In fact that was a card type, on the right hand edge near those warp sigils.

    Next time I'll use the unofficial corrected and integrated rules from BGG - and I'd like to try the Borg.

  3. Posted by Nick Marsh at 08:01pm on 24 September 2018

    Oh I wish I had the time to devote to games like this, I'd love to have a go. Why did you get rid of Twilight Imperium? I have a fantasy of having a whole day to play through this. Maybe when I'm retired!

  4. Posted by RogerBW at 08:33pm on 24 September 2018

    Well, most obviously because it's a great big box (and you've seen how much room I have for game storage) and I wasn't playing it much, and it seemed like a big investment in time for the amount of fun I got out of it.

    But the more significant question may be: why did I buy this even though I'd got rid of Twilight Imperium? Well, hope springs and all that. But this does things TI doesn't: genuine exploration, really big racial differences rather than just a few special rules, and diplomacy mostly being left to the players rather than being tied up in voting rules.

    For me it's a better game. (I realise that many people will feel differently, and that's fair enough.)

Comments on this post are now closed. If you have particular grounds for adding a late comment, comment on a more recent post quoting the URL of this one.

Search
Archive
Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio audio tech base commerce battletech beer boardgaming book of the week bookmonth chain of command children chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup covid-19 cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi economics espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 essen 2018 essen 2019 existential risk falklands war fandom fanfic fantasy feminism film firefly first world war flash point food garmin drive gazebo geodata gin gurps gurps 101 harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo 2018 hugo 2019 hugo 2020 hugo-nebula reread humour in brief avoid instrumented life kickstarter learn to play leaving earth linux lovecraftiana mecha men with beards museum mystery naval non-fiction one for the brow opera perl perl weekly challenge photography podcast politics powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha quantum rail ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans smartphone south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel type 26 type 31 type 45 vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1