The Final Frontier….A Review
Game Name: Final Frontier
Publisher: Victory Point Games
Designer: Tom Decker
Playing Time: 40 – 80 Minutes
Retail Price: $40.95
One 8.5” x 11” mission board
28 Crew cards
24 Challenge cards
Eight Special Event cards
60 color, die-cut 1/2” square mounted markers
40 color, die-cut 5/8” square mounted counters
54 color, die-cut 3/4″ square mounted game pieces
One 6-page, color Rules booklet
Polybag packaging and component storage
From Victory Point Games:
You command an intrepid starship crew, venturing onto new worlds and charting the unexplored quadrants of deep space!
Boldly go where no one has gone before in Final Frontier, where you command a vaunted starship crew of humans, aliens and robots, venturing onto new worlds and charting the unexplored quadrants of deep space to face fantastic challenges in the best storytelling traditions of episodic space operas.
While engaging in heroics and daring-do, relationships can form between your crew-members even as they win fame and experience, so only the best leader managing all of the skills and personalities aboard will triumph at the Final Frontier!
I believe that every game company worth its salt needs to have a Star Trek type game in its repertoire. At least, I think so. Of course, I’m a big Trek fan. Final Frontier seems to be VPG’s homage to the original series, without actually mentioning anything copyrighted.
It is an outer space adventure game for 2-4 players. The goal is to complete missions and earn victory points, the player with the most victory points when the final challenge card is overcome is the winner.
The components are as per all VPG games. The rules are fairly well written, and there are examples plus an extended example of play included. The rules cover both a basic game (Academy Training) and an advanced game (The five year mission) Let’s take a look at how the game works.
Starting out the game, you will need a crew. Each player gets 7 crew cards, which are grouped by icon shapes in the basic game but are dealt out randomly in the advanced game. Players then select a captain, first officer, medic, engineer, a red shirt, and 2 ensigns. Each of the cards have four stats including strength, intelligence, willpower, and dexterity that vary from card to card.
The challenge deck is shuffled and the “Space Anomaly” card is placed somewhere in the final six cards. When that card is drawn, the game is over.
After the crew is selected and the cards shuffled and the board is set up with the various mission counters and player tokens, the game is ready to go. Each turn the players determine what type of mission will be attempted. There are four selections that need to be made. So the first player would choose whether it will be a planetary or a deep space mission, the next chooses whether it will be hostile or exploratory, the third player chooses whether one or two crew members must be part of the mission, and the last player chooses which one crew member must be included in the mission. Next turn, the first player token rotates so that everyone gets a chance to make the different decisions.
The players indicate their selections by placing tokens in the appropriate box, then each player selects one or two crew members to go on the upcoming mission. Each mission type lets you know which skills are the most important when going on that type of mission. So a Deep Space – Hostile mission will usually require high intelligence, sometimes a high strength, and occasionally a high willpower. Choose the crew members for the mission based on these hints.
Then the challenge card is flipped over. It has a different set of numbers for each of the four mission types. For example, one card says “Repel Trogg Invasion” for the Deep Space – Hostile mission type. For a single crew mission the difficulty rating is 9, for a two crew member mission the difficulty rating is 15. This particular challenge is based on strength. Holy moly! You selected your First Officer for this mission because you thought it would require a high intelligence. His strength is only 4, which means you’ll have to roll a 6 on your challenge die roll in order to get a combined score of 10 to pass this challenge.
The odds are too great, so you decide to toss in a last minute substitution and, luckily, you can always use the Red Shirt crew member to replace the original crew member you picked. His strength is 5, but you’ll get a -3 because he is a replacement. You just don’t want to risk losing your esteemed First Officer. Red Shirt Crewman Jones boards the shuttle and launches into deep space to repel the invasion which the rest of the crew handles some other emergency that keeps them occupied. He launches the specially equipped torpedoes as you roll the die. You roll a 4, add Crewman Jones strength to this and you get 9, but after subtracting -3 you end up with a status of 6. Not high enough to beat the challenge rating of 9.
The torpedoes bounce harmlessly off the shields of the Trogg Cruiser. The Troggs fire back, so you roll the die a second time to see if you can get equal or over that challenge rating of 9. Unfortunately, you roll a 2. Added to your previous score of 6, that gives you an 8. Still too low to pass the challenge rating. The Troggs score a direct hit, the shuttle disintegrates into a cloud of particles that include the former Red Shirt Crewman Jones.
Saddened but relieved that it wasn’t your First Officer, you promote one of your Ensigns to the position of Red Shirt Crewman.
Ensign Smith nervously shifts his feet as you tell him of his new promotion…
As you complete missions, you earn victory point tokens. After successfully completing a basic mission you can move on to an advanced mission. The advanced missions have several parts that are progressively more difficult. Once you start an advanced mission, it is yours alone in which to succeed or fail.
There are also bonus victory points or bonus skill points for your crewmembers for various things, like an unbreakable team, or surviving dangerous missions.
The game is over when the Space Anomaly challenge card comes out. Whoever has earned the most victory point tokens wins.
It is a fun little game. It took a while to grow on me, but this was mostly the difference between playing the game by myself and actually playing with a group as is intended. I was able to explain it in a few minutes and once we had the hang of it, it was fairly fast paced and was over in an hour. There is a lot of luck involved, as it all comes down to a die roll each turn. Serious gamers might not enjoy, but fans of the show should get a kick out of it.
A couple of suggestions I would make. I’d like some blank crew cards included so we could create custom crew members. Basically, the regular artwork with blanks next to the skills so you could write in your own numbers. You could take say 12+1d6 points to split up as you see fit on the card, plus a space to put in a name. Also, a way of earning experience, maybe 1d6 skill points goes to the winner to split up among their custom characters. Of course, once they got to be too good they would be forced into retirement. Maybe a deck of advanced mission cards that have some nice flavor text included rather than just the tokens. I’m probably pushing it.
A fun quick game where each turn is like an “episode” of the original show.
A lot depends upon the luck of the die roll, so it’s not a deep strategy game, although there are definitely strategic decisions and moves that can be made.