STAR TREK: CATAN is a brilliant new design based around the cult television space opera. Its box art features the name of the Settlers of Catan author, Klaus Teuber, as well as the famous Star Trek banner heading and a wonderful action shot of the Enterprise backlit by a giant red gas planet. The components include all of the regular “Catan” pieces in the form of 19 interchangeable planet sector tiles, 6 part game board frame, 28 outposts, 16 habitat rings (for upgrading outposts to starbases), 60 starships, 1 Klingon battle cruiser, 2 special victory point cards, 10 support cards, 25 development cards, 4 building costs cards, 95 resource cards, 2 six sided star dice, plus the rules and almanac booklet.
If you were lucky enough to get your copy at its launch at GenCon 2012 Indianapolis (on the right day) you could have had it signed by Nichelle Nichols, Lieutenant Uhura on the original Enterprise. (this daft dunsel missed her). So Catan has entered the world of science fiction and what a much better game it now is. To begin with, instead of fields and quarries etc we have planets, asteroids and gas giants. These are randomly given numbers (for the dice rolls) but they do not produce Wheat, Wood, Sheep etc, the collection of which makes little sense for a building a road or house.
Here we have the famous Dilithium (sadly not Crystallised) on Green Planets, Tritanium (the major resource in many science fiction games and stories) is found on Red Planets, Food (Yellow Planet), Oxygen (White Gas Planet), Water (Blue Planet) and Nothing (Asteroids around Catan cannot be mined). Obviously you cannot build roads in space so instead you place Starships on the routes between interstellar intersections. It is on these that you can build Outposts and Star Bases.
Rolling a 7 brings the Klingon Battle Cruiser into play. This has the same annoying effect as the Robber, it stops production in the area it is placed, makes players with 7 or more cards lose 50% (rounded down) of them and allows the player who moves the KBC to steal a card from one player with a building next to the closed planet. The Robber is for me the most frustrating and annoying part of Catan game. It is not only me who hates this piece and its rules for in virtually every recent Catan game this is the one constant rule that has been adjusted, changed and revised. In the Star Trek version there are Starfleet Intervenes cards that allow the KBC to be moved as if a 7 had been rolled. The Starfleet Intervenes cards do not prevent the KBC effect but they at least mean you can move it away from your planet on your turn - if you have one - they are not discarded after use. They are laid in front of the player and make up the Largest Starfleet for 2 VPs - this means most players hold onto at least one so it’s a balance between having the Largest Starfleet and insurance against the KBC effect.
The main difference between this and regular Catan is the addition of the Support Cards. Each player has one of these cards which can be used twice and then exchanged or it can be exchanged after its first use. These cards feature main characters from early Star Trek (Kirk, Spock, Sulu, Scott, McCoy, Chekhov and Uhura etc, and have different special abilities that can be used in your turn. It’s weird really. I have never been a Star Trek “trekkie” and I have issues with the Catan game but put the two together and I have a game I really like to play.
So the engines can take it and the Dilithium crystals are in place. Kirk to Enterprise “Beam us aboard”.
The first thing to notice about Star Trek Catan FEDERATION SPACE the expansion is that the game remains a four-player adventure; there are no extra sets of pieces to add one or two more players to the game. You will also notice that there are no new cards and thus no new characters and no new miniatures. That sounds like a lot of negatives and indeed if you were hoping for any of the above then you are going to be disappointed. However, that disappointment should last just until you open up the two maps and discover that the new explorations are going to be bolder and take you to where man has possibly been before as they are based on the famous map found hanging on the wall in the quarters of one Captain James T Kirk - "The Explored Galaxy". This map has allowed Mayfair to push the Star Trek Catan game alongside the Catan Geographies games for as far as the science fiction fans of Star Trek are concerned the geography on this map is as real as it gets.
The rules booklet that comes with this expansion has an almanac of over 60 of the planets visited by the Enterprise during the 79 episodes from the original series plus a brief episode guide which therein contains spoilers if you have not watched the series and are intending to.
Players have a score track each, hexagonal cards marked 2 to 10 in the language of the planet shown in the central position. Each card is named, one after the Federation and the others after the most famous Star Trek planets, Vulcan, Romulan and Klingon. Most of the rules and pieces are the same as in the original Star Trek Catan boardgame, building Outposts and Starships on the dedicated spaces around the planets on the chosen board. There are some minor but important differences between the original (or standard) game and this edition such as Outposts can now only be built on spaces that contain the correct Outpost icon and you can build on any of these Outpost sites on the board as the distance rule doesn't count. On the board there are two types of space route, Red (Interstellar) and Yellow (normal) on which you can build Starships, but you must have Outposts in the correct positions to be able to do so - basically you can build Starships up to an empty Outpost space but not beyond it until the Outpost is built. Building Starships on Red Interstellar routres allows you to trade resources with the adjacent Outpost as per the standard rules. You can also gain VP tokens - placed on the board during setup - by building a Starship on the route next to the VP token.
Star Trek Catan: Federation Space doesn't make radical changes to the game but it will keep players coming back for more because it is good, it is Star Trek authentic, and it is helping to keep alive one of the greatest, if not the greatest science fiction universes in any Galaxy. As players who are not familiar with Star Trek (yes there are still many thousands of people out there just waiting to be inducted) get introduced to Star Trek Catan then they will almost certainly get into Star Trek itself and thus the game propagates the TV series and Movies and the TV series and Movies propagate the game.
Anyone who enjoys the Catan Geographies series will find that Star Trek: Catan and Star Trek: Catan Federation Space expounds the Catan game in a way that makes it a game that is the same but different (and in my opinion, way better) to the original Settlers of Catan.