The final frontier?
If you like trading and building structures in Catan and also like the lore and the characters in Star Trek, then this may be the box that you’ve been waiting for. But is this something that you necessarily need?
Star Trek: Catan is a reimplementation of the original Catan’s mechanics but now with a space theme and additional abilities based on various Star Trek characters.
Catan is already considered by many to be one of the best board games ever created, and all for good reason, with its easy to understand mechanics, and an accessible theme.
Players are constantly trying to gather up resources so that they can spend those resources later to build various roads, settlements, and cities across a small island, trying to develop a foreign land for glory and, most importantly, points, and the first player to get 10 points wins the game.
Turns are pretty straightforward: you roll two dice, and you get resources if you have settlements or cities adjacent to the space of those numbers, then you choose to construct buildings or get development cards if you have the required combination of resources to spend.
Building roads allows you to expand your network and build settlements, which would help you gain more resources and gives you 1 point, potentially turning them into cities, which are then worth more resources and now gives you 2 points, and both of these buildings also allow you to trade with any of the ports for a nice discount on the trading ratio, going from the usual 4 for 1 ratio to an incredibly cheap 3 or 2 for 1 ratio, depending on which port you choose to settle in.
Development cards are mostly Knights, which lets you move the robber around to potentially make the other players discard cards and steal resources from one of them, but also contains other kinds of cards, like hidden victory points, getting 2 resources or building roads for free, or stealing all resources of one kind from the other players.
And while all these sound like the farthest thing from spacefaring adventures, Star Trek: Catan actually trades the original’s agricultural theme to a more space-centered venture, changing almost everything about the original game’s theme into a galactic version of the game, which would be perfect for you if you love spacefaring.
A Parallel Universe
First, we have the resources, where the functionality of wood, brick, sheep, wheat, and ore are the same, but they’re all renamed to dilithium, tritanium, food, oxygen, and water, respectively.
If you’ve played a lot of Catan before, these changes might sound confusing at first, but Star Trek: Catan also includes a building guide to help you remember, especially since the buildings listed on the building guide are listed in the same order as the original’s.
Speaking of which, the buildings have also been renamed, going from roads, settlements, and cities to starships, outposts, and starbases, with all new plastic figures instead of the old wooden pieces, making for a prettier board if you like the look of plastic more than wood.
The funniest aesthetic change for me was the robber, who is now a Klingon battle cruiser, which means that whenever this spaceship lands on a planet adjacent to your starship or starbase, flavor-wise, you’d have an entire crew of Klingons travelling for how many lightyears to try and intimidate you with their big floating hunk of metal, which is a lot of work on their end to obtain a single resource from you.
The last aesthetic change of note that they did was that they turned all the spaces into planets, with the difference only being the colours, and the frequency markers, which are now of different sizes based on how frequent they appear in the dice as opposed to being represented by pips below the number, and while the size change may help with communicating the different frequencies better, the same can’t be said for the planets, because with the only difference between them being colour, this could potentially hinder colour-blind fellows from easily identifying the differences between each planet.
Star Trek: Catan
|Robber||Klingon Battle Cruiser|
Notable name changes between the two versions
There are a lot more visual changes that they did to the game, like the starting space for the Klingon battle cruiser depicted as an asteroid field, turning Knights into Starfleet Intervenes, changing the longest road bonus into the longest supply route, and basically turning the surrounding sea of the original game into the vastness of space with various outposts for trading, but all in all, the core gameplay of Catan remains the same…
…except that there’s actually one seemingly small difference that separates Star Trek: Catan with the original, and these are the Support cards, which would let you circumvent the normal rules of the game if you use them, with each player receiving one card each at the beginning of the game and potentially getting access to more of them as the game goes along.
Each Support card can be used once or twice before getting a new one, and some of these are really interesting, like Chekov forcing the Klingon battle cruiser to return to the asteroid field and netting you one resource of your choice, Chapel letting you steal a resource card of your choice from a player with more points than you, or McCoy letting you swap out one of the three resources needed to draw a development card for another so that you can draw three development cards and then choosing one of them instead of drawing a single one from the top of the development deck blindly.
And while these additions are somehow small, they do add a layer of strategy to the game, because these cards are drawn from a face up row of cards, which means that you would have more factors to consider when formulating your strategy.
As an added bonus for Star Trek fans, each card depicts one of the many characters of the universe, ranging from Uhura to Sarek.
Expanding the Horizon
With all that being said, though, is it worth getting Star Trek: Catan?
The thing is, if you already own Catan and can’t be bothered with Star Trek, you probably shouldn’t look for Star Trek: Catan, because while the Support cards are a nice addition, if you really want to add that aspect of the game to your copy, you can actually look for the expansion called Helpers of Catan for the base game, which are actually the same deck of cards as the Support cards but without the Star Trek characters.
That being said, Helpers of Catan is incredibly rare these days, being out of stock in the official Catan store, so if you feel like the Support cards are an absolutely necessary addition to the Catan experience, Star Trek: Catan is the way to go.
Unfortunately, that also comes with more cons than pros.
With Catan being as popular as it is, there are quite a lot of expansions for the base game, with there being 4 currently in print expansions: Cities & Knights, Explorers & Pirates, Seafarers, and Traders & Barbarians, and none of these are compatible with Star Trek: Catan.
If you’re looking to add expansions to Star Trek: Catan, there’s only a single one available for it: Federation Space Map Set, and as the name implies, it simply are two new maps for Star Trek: Catan with a few new rules for both, like only being able to build outposts on very specific spots, building a path of starships to gain access to victory point tokens scattered across the map, or building a starship in front of a trading post to gain its benefits.
The expansion also comes with a gorgeous rulebook that contains information about the various planets scattered across the maps, which are actual planets in the Star Trek universe, with detailed explanations and notes about each of them, making for a lovely bonus for Star Trek fans.
While both maps are actually great and is now my preferred method of playing Star Trek: Catan, the breadth of options when it comes to expansions are nowhere near as bountiful as the original Catan experience.