Star Trek Heroclix Tactics – Miniatures Game Review
Star Trek Heroclix Tactics. Miniatures game. Publisher: Wizk!ds. Starter set, $19.95; $5 per booster.
Passed Inspection: Beautiful maps and minis. Easy to play.
Failed Basic: Minis tend to break easily. Game rules lack starship-specific rules. Feels more like superheroes with starships then an actual space combat game. Only Federation and Klingon ships available at this point. Color codes can be difficult to distinguish. Miniatures are "ship" specific and not "class" specific.
"His pattern indicates two-dimensional thinking," commented Spock, in regard to Kahn’s starship combat tactics while commanding the hijacked USS Reliant in the film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn.
Heroclix has been a venerable game system that has been chugging along now for 10 years, simulating superhero combat like no other game on the market except for, in my opinion, Champions. But while Champions is a superhero role-playing game, Heroclix is a tactical combat system utilizing collectable miniatures. Wizk!ds (pronounced Wiz Kids) has experimented with other styles of miniatures games built around the Heroclix game system (Horror Clix, Battletech, Crimson Skies), but this new Star Trek franchise is the first time the system has been used to simulate large, multi-crew starships and it succeeds, but with mixed results.
As a long-time Star Trek fan (Trekkie, Trekker, Geek—I don’t really care what you call me), I have played other Star Trek-related games and, while I like FASA’s Star Trek ship combat game from the 1980s, my heart belongs to Task Force Games’ Star Fleet Battles. But I also understand that, like some other games I’ve reviewed, Star Fleet Battles is a "way of life" game and is not easily approached by new gamers who are intimidated by its 100+ pages of rules. Those same newbies will, I believe, love the simplicity and approachability of this new Heroclix game.
Enterprise vs. Reliant
Star Trek Tactics‘ base set includes fragile but finely detailed miniatures of the Enterprise – A (the upgrade to the original Constitution Class Enterprise as seen in the movies), the USS Rhode Island, a Nova Class Federation ship from Star Trek Voyager, and the Imperial Klingon Ships, the IKS Bortas, a Vor’cha Class Attack Cruiser and the IKS Rotarran, a K’Vort Class Bird of Prey Cruiser. Out of the box, the Enterprise‘s warp nacelles were not properly positioned. The second time I took the ship out of its packing, one nacelle snapped off and I had to Superglue it back in to place. I put the nacelle into a more accurate position and liked it so much, I snapped off the other nacelle and glued it into a better position. I was much more pleased with the Enterprise miniature after my impromptu engineering (Mister Scott would be proud) but the nacelle shouldn’t have snapped off so quickly to begin with.
How Heroclix Works
Players rotate the bases of the minis as the ships get "damaged" during combat in the game. The numbers and "powers" that are revealed in a little window on the base of the mini reflect not only the weakening of both the shields and the hull, but also reveal extra effects that the players may activate. Some of these effects include damage control, loss of thrusters and/or warp engines, loss of weapons, etc. One interesting affect is that as a Klingon ship gets more and more damaged, its captain and crew will fight harder to defeat their foes—so some of their attack values may actually go up!
Each mini has a card to go with it that explains many of the special attacks, defenses, etc. that the ship may use. Each ship is also given a point value for use in balancing a game. A 100-point ship against a 100-point ship is an exact match while a 100-point ship against a 75-point ship may be unbalanced.
Booster packs can be purchased in order to grow your fleet. Each box includes one starship but the purchaser doesn’t know what’s in the box until it is opened. In my booster was the USS Reliant from the film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn. Now I can re-fight the battle from the finale of that great movie! Regrettably, the only ships currently available are Federation and Klingon—they have not released any Romulans, Gorns, Borg, etc.
On the subject of point values, for some reason the starter set includes 200 points of Klingon ships but only 175 points of Federation ships; however, as played right out of the box, it seems surprisingly well balanced,.
In one game I played, my IKS Rotarran was pummeling the USS Rhode Island. The Rhode Island‘s shields were failing as I engaged in a close-in knife fight against the Federation cruiser. Suddenly, the player of the Rhode Island remembered his tractor beams and locked onto my ship. He then followed up with a double attack of phasers and photon torpedoes, which crippled my cruiser. Since I was tractored, there was little I could do as the Federation ship hit me with another salvo and my Klingon Bird of Prey exploded!
The rules are well presented but the book itself is written specifically for the superhero game. Therefore, there is no Star Trek ambience to the rules. In fact, some of the superhero rules do not seem to apply at all to this game. A Star Trek-specific rulebook would have been much more appropriate to the game. In conjunction with the rulebook, the minis and the minis’ data cards is a Heroclix Powers and Abilities chart. This chart (once again just reprinted from the superhero game) explains each of the color-coded powers found on the starship bases and the starship minis’ data cards.
The two double-sided maps are beautiful. Each one is overlaid with squares and "terrain" notes for play. One map features a stunning rendition of Deep Space 9, a star base featured in the Star Trek TV show of the same name, while the other side represents the Federation cargo vessel The Kobayashi Maru and a mine field. The other map features the devastated Federation starship graveyard of Wolf 359 after the Borg attack, while the other side of the map represents The Mutara Nebula and the Genesis planet from the The Wrath of Kahn film.
Game Play in Star Trek Heroclix Tactics
Game play is fairly simple. Each player puts a ship on the maps in specific starting areas. Initiative is rolled. The players take turns moving or attacking with their starships. A starship can move a number of squares up to its rated speed value. A ship has a certain number of actions in can take each turn. Some ships, like the Enterprise-A, can both attack and move as one action, while others cannot attack if they have moved.
The attack strength on the mini’s base is added to a die roll and if the amount is over the defense value of a target mini, the attack hits and the target’s dials are twisted a certain number of clicks (hence the name of the game). As the dial on the base of the mini rotates, the ship may lose attacks and other special abilities. A ship may use special attacks or other actions to help influence the attack. When the dial shows "KO" the ship is destroyed. There are other rules, which add more complexity to the game, but this brief explanation pretty much sums it up. Star Fleet Battles it ain’t, cadets.
Specific effects of fighting in space are never covered in the game. There is no X, Y, or Z axes to keep track of, so some tactics of fighting in zero-g, open space are never accommodated. There are no rules for attacking specific shields of the starship, thereby making a popular tactic for starship combat moot. The affects of planetary masses are never dealt with, and there are no rules for asteroid fields or other astronomical phenomena. In fact, it is this grounding in two dimensions that hurts the game so much.
When we played, it just didn’t really feel like a space combat game—more like a superhero game in which the minis happened to look like starships. Extra attention to the special conditions of space combat should have been given. An extra handout could have added so much detail to what is, truth be told, a fairly bland combat game. Maybe later they will come out with more Star Trek-specific rules, but that really should have been part of the mix from day one!
Another problem with the game is that each mini is a specific ship and not a "class of ship," so it will be up to the player to work out what a generic ship of the Reliant class would be like.
The colors used to determine what a ship can do can be somewhat confusing. On the mini a light brown may look like yellow or orange. Several times during play, I and my other players had to hold the mini up to the data card to figure out what powers we could use.
Aside for the fragility of the minis, the bases don’t always rotate easily which increases the chance of twisting the base too hard and damaging the mini.
Overall, there is much to recommend this game but, as with Wizards of the Coast’s Star Wars Starship Combat Game from several years ago, it seems to miss the mark—or as Capt. Kirk told Khan, "Like a poor marksman, you keep missing the target."
Game developers need to realize that good minis do not a good game make. A developer needs to also pay attention to the rules and ambiance.
Armchair General Rating: 80 %
Solitaire Rating: 2 out of 5 (5 is highest solitaire suitability)
About the Author
A college film instructor and small business owner, Rick Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer who can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!