Review: Star Trek Catan – Federation Space / Designer: Klaus Teuber / Publisher: Mayfair Games / Release Date: Out Now
One of the surprise hits of last year was Star Trek Catan, a branded version of the popular geek classic, The Settlers of Catan. For those of you who don’t know it, Catan is a resource management board game that is all about building roads and cities by trading and collecting cards. The Star Trek version swapped roads for starships and cities for starbases, but stayed true to the spirit of the original game. It also added additional depth to an established classic by providing ‘support cards’, each one named after a character from the Original Series.
Star Trek Catan – Federation Space is the first expansion for the game, and it takes a great idea and improves on it. The set comes with some extra counters, an almanac and two new boards. In the core game, the planets you built starbases around were simply anonymous worlds that looked vaguely Trekky. In this new expansion, each planet on the board is based on a world Kirk and chums visited on the show. The set also comes with a thick almanac that handily tells you which world is which and why it’s included in the game. (Such information is not required to play; it’s just a bit of geeky fun.)
The boards are much better designed than the set-up in the core set. For a start, the larger the planet is, the more likely that world is going to pump out resources on a turn. This is a handy visual guide for new players, and makes one of the game's core concepts very easy to grasp. In the core game, starbase placement is a bit of a free-for-all and it’s very easy to put a marker in the wrong place; in this expansion, those problems are solved as the places where you can build starbases are clearly shown on the board. Areas that can be used for trade (a crucial part of the game) are also made understandable at a glance. In addition, certain key locations on the board can be captured in order to make winning more likely, and this drives conflict forward quite neatly.
This results in the game playing faster and much more smoothly even with new players; as everything is marked out, there’s less delay from slower players. Some of the randomness is lost in the process, but as it makes the game speedier and more fun, it’s a reasonable sacrifice to make. Overall, this is a great little expansion for an already very good game.