Back in 2012, while I was on leave with my newborn baby, a couple of friends came to visit and brought Arkham Horror. Six hours later, when they left, our gaming group had been born. Needing something that played faster than Arkham Horror does, someone picked up Castle Panic from Fireside games. For the next year and a half, we got together about once a week after work to play Castle Panic, adding in Castle Panic: The Wizards Tower a few week into the binge. I then picked up Dead Panic and we played nothing else for three months. After that we slowly started adding games to each of our collections, and now I have over 75 games to choose from just at my house. With the Panic style games root so deeply in my nostalgia for what started me in this
obsession hobby, I was very excited to hear that USAopoly and Fireside Games were releasing Star Trek Panic.
In Star Trek Panic, each player take on the role of one of the original crew members of the Enterprise to complete their five-year mission. Players must work together to complete five missions while defending the Starship from incoming threats to avoid being destroyed. If you’re not interested in the rules, skip it [here].
In the middle of the board, is the ship, with six Hull sections, each protected by a shield section. Around the ship are three circles each one bigger than the last. These circles make up the short range, medium range, and long range areas of the board. The area around the ship is also divided into six wedges (like a pie) that make up the front, rear, and sides of the ship.
Cards can be attack cards (called HIT cards) like phasers and proton torpedoes, or action cards granting special actions like drawing additional cards, moving a threat, repairing the hull or shields, and defending against boarders, among other benefits. Hit cards are labeled with a range (long, medium, and short) and a direction (front, rear, side) and may only hit threats in that section. Some cards may also be played to commit teams to the mission. It will say commit as SCIENCE credit (or command, engineering, medical, etc).
Threats include Tholian, Klingon, and Romulan ships, comets, temporal anomalies, and other exciting space themed horrors. The ships are placed in a random, long range section, other threats are resolved as soon as they are drawn.
Mission cards all have set up instructions, which may contain tokens, use of the time track, commitment requirements, and others. There is also usually a reward for completing the mission.
Play moves around the table with each player completing a seven phase turn.
- Draw – Active player draws up to a full hand (differs depending on player count)
- Reveal Mission -If there is no current mission, reveal mission card and setup based on given parameters
- Trade – Active player may trade one card with any other player
- Play Cards/Maneuvers – The Active player can play any number of cards from their hand and perform one maneuver (either rotate one space either direction, or move one space forward)
- Check Mission Status – Check to see if current mission is complete, and follow next steps printer on mission card
- Threats Move/Fire – Threat tokens advance on and fire at the Enterprise. Cloaked ships have special movement rules
- Draw 2 New Threats – Active player draws 2 tokens from the threat bag and place them on the board or resolve them immediately
The rule book suggests that you start with an introduction game, containing only two specific missions. I’ve played dozens of games of both Castle and Dead Panic, and although it has been close, I’ve never lost a game. As a Panic style game veteran, I had no need for an introduction game, right? I suggest we jump in the deep end from the get go, and my wife goes along without a complaint, but remembers it was my suggestion later.
Cortnie and I started by randomly selecting roles; I got Captain Kirk,while she was Scotty. Scotty can repair damage to a shield or hull section once per turn. The first time Kirk commits a card to a mission, he gets to draw two cards from the deck.
The game starts with one ship from each enemy (Tholian, Klingon, and Romulan), each in a long range sector. The mission that we drew first was a ship in distress, needing to be rescued before mission time, and their life support ran out. The ship was placed in a random long range sector, and fortunately for us, it was placed in front of us. We didn’t need to turn to rescue it, just move forward.
Every time a player maneuvers the ship forward, all of the tokens (usually threats) that are in the front cone move one range closer. To complete this mission, all we had to do was move forward twice. Since there were few enough ships, and we were lucky to have the correct range and direction phaser cards, we completed the first mission easily enough, and Scotty was able to keep repairing the damage to the shields. Upon completing the mission, we rolled on a reward chart from the mission card. SPACE PIRATES! It was a trap and Cortnie and I each had to discard a trilithium card, which is used in destroyed shield/hull section repair.
At least we had one of the five missions complete, and minimal damage to the shields. Next up was a missions that we just had to commit the right teams of cards to, and we could complete it. After three turns, we were able to successfully complete the mission and still had minimal damage. The problem was there were more ships than I was comfortable with on the board.
Before the end of the third mission, almost all of our shields had been destroyed. Cloaked ships move about randomly, so it’s impossible to plan for where they were going to be uncloaked and vulnerable. The Romulan Warbirds were especially tough, as they did two points of damage per hit, which destroys whatever they blast.
At this point we only have one shield section remaining, with two destroyed hull sections. It was my turn, and Cortnie was admiring the thick plastic components that represent the shield sections that were in front of her. “I like the shields,” she said as she idly played with the removed sections, “it might be because I’m an engineer, but they are nice.” (remember, she’s playing Scotty).
I the ship is attacked, and the section of hull being attack is already destroyed, instead of taking more damage, you take one card from the deck and remove it from the game for each point of damage you take. After three sections are down, you can no longer maneuver your ship. We have four of our six hull sections destroyed, and still hadn’t completed our third mission, and now couldn’t move around.
Finally we had a mission we could complete without moving. There was an assassin on board, and a ship firing on us from long range. We had to destroy the ship and find the assassin before time ran out and he killed the ambassadors on board. After destroying the ship, we needed to play a security team card and roll a 4 or higher. Cortnie had drawn the last card in the deck, so we needed to shuffle the discard pile and replenish the deck.
I looked through the discard pile before shuffling. We only had one security team left. The others had been removed from the game from excess damage. I told Cortnie this tidbit, and she asked if I was stacking the deck. My negative response was returned with narrowed eyes and an icy glare. When was the last time you were in trouble for not cheating?
We eventually completed a third mission, but it was too late. There was no way for us to fend off the icy vacuum of space. With one undamaged hull section, and 5 destroyed sections, we removed the final card from the game, and lost.
In the threat bag, there is one good token. Its a starbase, that gets placed in a random long range sector, and never moves. If the crew can maneuver to reach it, they can repair their ship. This was the last token to leave the bag during our game. It taunted us as we drifted through space to our death.
All of the Panic games will forever hold a special place in my collection, because they helped me down the path into the board game community. That being said, I have overplayed them so much that I rarely want to play. Unless there’s new expansion, or someone who’s not played Panic games before, they don’t see my table any more. Star Trek Panic on the other hand, feels fresh. This is something that I think will come out from time to time (being careful not to over play it, since it’s so closely related to Castle Panic). The missions change things up from game to game, and the unique player powers also add to the replayablilty. I think fans of the Original Star Trek Series should at least give this a try, but even experienced players shouldn’t think it’s a cakewalk.