“In a galaxy far, far away …” – no hang on, that’s not right.
“The year is 1987; NASA have launched the last of America’s deep-space probes …” – nope, that’s not it either…..
Okay, I admit it, I’m not a “Trekky” (“Trekker”?). But I am a fan of Mage Knight, and this is a re-implementation of Mage Knight with a Star Trek theme. As I understand it, the theme centres around “The Next Generation” series, so you’ll see the likes of Picard and those Klingon characters. Here’s the thing though, as a boy I loved Star Trek, with Kirk, Bones, Scotty et al. so I was still keen to see this new game.
There rules have been streamlined in a few minor but significant ways, removing a handful of the rules that tend to slip up new players, making this game slightly more approachable.
Let me highlight some of the changes for you:
1. There is no day/night board. It’s always night-time in space (or is it always day?!) There is still the same board, called the “Core” now, rather than the “Source”, but it has only one side. I found it a little tricker remembering which round I was on as a result, but just use a separate tracker, or check the crystal count in Dummy player’s inventory if you are playing solo/co-op.
2. Black dice can be used at all times (I guess it is always night-time in space!). It’s now “Data”, not “Mana”. Gold is no longer the wild-card. Instead White becomes a special data source, which can be used at all times, and can represent any of the other 3 basic colours of Red, Blue and Gold (just like Gold did in MK). Notice there are only 3 basic colours in Frontiers.
3. There is now a new data type, Purple (replacing Green), which can be used as a data type of its own (“improvisation & risk“) to power some rare cards, or it can be taken from the Core and re-rolled in the hope of gaining one of the other 5 colours. This also means that you might be taking a die from the Core that you are unable to use, something not permitted in MK. You do, however, have to return any unused Data Dice to the Core, unchanged, at the end of your turn.
4. There is no artefacts deck – spells and artefacts are merged into a single deck called the “Undiscovered”, representing the mysteries of space.
5. The “Mage Tower” is replaced by the “Dominion Starbase” and rewards you with an Undiscovered card (the equivalent of the Mage Tower’s Spells). They do still continue to add Advanced Actions to the unit offer. i.e. Mage Towers effectively remain unchanged. However, the “Class-M Planet” replaces MK’s Monastery, and instead of giving you artefacts, they now give you the same reward as the Dominion Starbase when you decimate it (the equivalent of burning down a Monastery).
Here’s a quick list of how each location has been re-themed:
Village -> Outpost
Magical Glade -> Drydock
Crystal Mines -> Research Station
Keep(Fortified) -> Romulan Starbase
Mage Tower(Fortified) -> Dominion Starbase
Monastery -> Class-M Planet
Monster Den -> Class-L Planet
Dungeon -> Class-K Planet
Ruins -> Class-H Planet
6. Recall how in Mage Knight, if you wish to assault a site, such as a Keep on a hill, you would first move into the space? Remember too, that if your assault fails you are forced to withdraw? Well, you don’t to do that in Frontiers, which simplifies the whole process. All you do now is just announce you assaulting the location from an adjacent space as your action for the turn, with no need for additional movement. This means there is no forced withdrawal either, since you are always assaulting from an adjacent space. If you conquer a Starbase then you immediately move to its location for free.
7. There is no equivalent of “Fortified”. Instead, you can no longer use your Crew (what MK called “Units”) to soak up damage (i.e. “wounds”) when fighting these enemy space-craft (the rampaging enemies and “fortified” sites). They can still be activated for their abilities, but your ship is going to take the fall brunt of an unblocked attack. However, in the same way MK doesn’t let you use your units when you try to burn down a Monastery, Frontiers will not let you use your Units when you try to decimate a Class-M Planet. To make up for this, and here’s the best part….
8. During a space battle, you can partially block an attack with your shields! In Mage Knight, blocking was an all or nothing affair. Now, your shields can soak up some of the damage before you suffer the effects of an attack – i.e. only the unblocked attack amount will make it through and damage your ship. e.g. you play Shields 2 on an enemy Attack of 5, so you only need suffer 3 damage. If you have a Defense Value of 3 then you’re only going to take 1 Damage Card instead of 2!
9. I’ve already shown you that MK’s Unfortified sites have been re-themed as planets. With the exception of the Class-M Planet (which is like MK’s Monastery, and so is undefended), you can beam down to a planet from an adjacent space, taking one or more crew with you as well as your “captain”. Your captain and ship together form the equivalent of your Mage Knight. More on that in a moment…. These excursions down to a planet’s surface are called “Away Missions”. You do not have to take your captain with you an an away mission, nor do you have to take any crew. However, you will encounter local enemies, and this is where your captain and your crew might get wounded, just like combat in MK. The change, though, is that now you can overcome these enemies with Diplomacy (the equivalent of Influence in MK), which will allow you to succeed in your mission, claiming its rewards, without having to do battle. The bad news is that you cannot use any Shields to block these attacks – your Captain and Crew are going to take the full brunt of those attacks unless you can use Diplomacy to avoid it.
10. Your captain and crew can be “wounded” and “healed”; your ship can be “damaged” and “repaired”. i.e. there is a new type of “wound” and now two types of “healing”. Ship damage will be added to your hand and discard pile, so are the equivalent of wounds in MK. However, wounds are now tokens/chits in Frontiers, which are placed on your Captain and Crew. You can repair your ship and/or heal your Captain & Crew at Outposts; at Docking Stations you can throw away damage from your hand or discard pile, just like at a Magical Glade.
11. Wounded crew cannot be activated, just like in MK. However, a wounded captain is a very bad thing! A ship with a wounded Captain cannot use Skill Tokens, and you cannot use your deck’s specialised basic action card (you’ll recognise it, as it has a portrait of your captain on it – e.g. Jean-Lic Picard, captain of the Enterprise-D). Worse than that, your ship gets a reduced defence of 1 during space battles – this is very nasty, so think twice before sending your captain on an away mission with no crew to back them up.
12. Finally, you always get +1 Experience (the equivalent of MK’s “Fame”) when you explore. Use it to level up quickly during the early stages!
With those changes in mind, let’s take a look at the play-through. I hope you enjoy the series !