Star Trek: Frontiers vs Mage Knight

July 11, 2016 - 1:00pm
mknight02 Mage Knight the Board Game was released in 2011 by Wizkids. It was designed by Vlaad Chvátil (Dungeon Petz, Galaxy Trucker, and the recently released and popular Codenames). Mage Knight the Board Game was based upon the previously-released Mage Knight miniature war-game (also released by Wizkids). The board game, however, packaged the theme into a fun exploration game that combined elements of deck-building and dungeon crawling (although based in an outside terrain). There were various missions and play was primarily cooperative (also allowing for solo play). All-in-all, Mage Knight has been one of my favorite games and definitely a keeper. Wizkids has released several expansions to Mage Knight the Board Game to keep the game fresh and alive however only recently was a new “re-skinning” of the game introduced in the Star Trek universe. Star-Trek: Frontiers, announced last year, has recently been released and is available to purchase. One of the lingering questions has been whether this new release is worth the wait? Is it something that Mage Knight TBG players would want to pick up? Is it tailored to new players? Much like a previous article I did several months ago (comparing versions of the new Star Wars Risk games), I will attempt to illustrate the comparisons and answer, in my own opinion, the questions I raise above. mknight03 Right from the start, Frontiers is boxed quite a bit differently from your standard “box-and-lid” board game. It features fold-out flaps that sport a lid that lifts (rather than detaches). Whether that is to your liking, I’ll have to leave that up to your opinion. Me – I prefer a removable lid. That aside however, the insert for the game is similar to that of its predecessor and is, I must say, amazing. It has removable trays with some of the trays even sporting lids. I realize this may be a minor point, but I was really impressed by the warning label on the rules bag that stated “This is not a toy” and that it could lead to suffocation of little children. Being a father of 8 myself, I thought this was clever (See first image at very top) mknight04 The tiles are exactly the same in quality and thickness - with only the artwork, obviously, being different. That said, the artwork is amazing and the various elements (including the tile backgrounds) are intricately done. Unlike MK:TBG, where movement costs are based upon terrain of plains, mountains, forests, etc - ST:F movement costs are based upon things such as asteroids, planets, black holes, etc. mknight05 An early question I had was as to how they were going to replace mana crystals in the game. Well, they achieved that by using data tokens (pictured on left, above). This was a bit of a stretch for me, personally. White data is meant to represent the "Captain's Innovation" whereas purple data is meant to represent "risk and improvisation". Although they don't look as cool (IMO) to the crystals of MK, they suffice and are of good quality. That they represent "data" took a little getting used to but makes sense thematically and, at the end of the day, it's just the currency of spells (in this case skills) and such. Below is a picture showing the difference in die sides (Note: I realized, after the fact, that I had shown the blue mana die side twice) with ST:F on the left and MKTBG on the right. mknight06 Of particular interest will be the difference in miniatures. In lieu of the different knights, ST:F presents you with factions (each represented by a different ship and tokens - see below). Borg Cubes (which are an extremely nice feature) are added in lieu of castles/keeps. Players are captains of their own faction (Picard, Sisko, or either of two Klingons -represented by a miniature and associated tokens ). Missing in upper-right is the yellow Defiant/Sisko tokens. Each faction will be composed of both regular and special members (ie Federation officer vs William Riker). mknight11 Play is similar in that turns will be comprised of movement and action with actions being fueled (as mentioned above) by data. Diplomacy can be used to interact with other races that are encountered. Combat will occur with Romulans, the Borg, and various other classic Star Trek enemies. Leveling is similar (using tokens) that will grant extra actions and, bonus tokens, and crew - all based upon gaining experience for your captain. Reputation is gained and lost based upon your actions and all this is marked on the game board (pictured below). mknight12 There's much much more to this game than using the components listed above. Combat, moving around (flying around), encountering enemies and allies, recruiting members, leveling up - all this just scratches the surface of the depth of the game. I played solo as well as with three of my older boys (cooperatively) and had a blast - and all this after having played Mage Knight. Interesting to us was that, even though "mechanically" the games were identical - thematically, it felt like a completely different experience. So, should you purchase it? For those that are Star Trek fans - this is a no-brainer, regardless of whether you own MK:TBG. If you have neither and are curious which to pick up, I would suggest choosing whichever flavor of science fiction you prefer - space or fantasy. The big question that everyone's going to want an answer to is whether to pick this up if you already own MK:TBG. My suggestion would be if you're a big fan of the mechanisms used in the game, then yes, this is an absolute "have-to-buy". If you're more of a fan of the theme than the mechanisms in MK:TBG then this new re-skinning probably will not appeal to you (again, unless you're a die hard ST fan). In my opinion, this is a gorgeous game and doesn't, at all, feel like a slopily-pasted on theme just to make a buck. You can definitely tell a lot of time and effort was put in to this re-boot of the game and that cards, factions and enemies were carefully chosen. At first I thought that "Data Tokens" would be hard to swallow - but it really fits in thematically with the actions for which they are fueled. For me, this is a definite keeper. The game system is fantastic and beautifully mixes deck-building with action-point system with exploration. It will satisfy those that like coop, solo, or PVP gaming!