Review: Star Trek Wave 2

Following up on their release of the Star Trek Adventures Core Rulebooks and its adventure anthology book, Modiphius Entertainment is working on the second wave of their (robust) product line set in the futuristic world of Star Trek. Coming up is two new books: the Command Division sourcebook and the Beta Quadrant sourcebook. Currently available as PDFs, these books are planned to be released in May as physical books (but given Modiphius is a small company, I would bet on June before they’re found in stores). In addition, there is a tile sets and more resin miniatures, which are forthcoming.

This blog focuses on the two sourcebooks.

What They Are

Both products are 128-page books. At the time of this review, only the PDFs are available, but the books are advertised as being hardcover. Both books are full colour with illustrated art rather than photos. The books have black backgrounds with coloured highlights resembling LCAR controls (the touchscreens in The Next Generation). So a head’s up for anyone who doesn’t like white text on dark pages.

(There is a print-on-demand white background version of the Core Rulebook available on drivethrurpg.com for those who cannot stand white-on-black. No word if these accessories will receive the same treatment.)

The Command Division book focuses on that subgroup of Starfleet officers, the commanders of starships (both captains and first officers) as well as conn officers (the pilot/ helmsman and navigators). The Beta Quadrant book is about that quarter of the galaxy, the region to the southeast. Despite most Star Trek shows referencing “the Alpha Quadrant” much of the action takes place in the Beta Quadrant, which is the home of the Klingons and Romulans. Hence why it was released before the Alpha book.

Command Division

The Command Division sourcebook describes the command structure of Starfleet, gives some rules for playing as a member of the admiralty, includes starbase/ space station rules, a few new talents for command & conn characters, and has sixteen new spaceframe for player starships: Daedalus, NX-class, Hermes, Oberth, Sydney, Centaur, Ambassador, Nebula, New Orleans, Olympic, Steamrunner, Norway, Saber, Sovereign, and Luna. The Constitution refit (aka the Enterprise-class) is described, but isn’t given stats (telling people to use the standard refit rules). The book also has a few medals and optional reputation spends to improve a character rather than giving them a promotion.

The Good

This ships in this book were much desired. There were a decent number of ships in the Core Rulebook, but there’s always room for more.

For a game advertised as being set in all eras of Trek, there was initially a serious absence of ships from the Enterprise era. That gap is corrected here with the Daedalus and NX-class along with rules for their weaponry (spatial torpedoes and the like). These rules are also useful for presenting ships in TNG era build by technologically inferior species. Additionally, there were a lot of classic ships that were previously absent from the game, which we now have official rules for, such as spaceframes for Enterprise-C and -E.

The rules for the Nebula-class’ mission pod are also very nicely implemented, being flexible and fitting the modular nature of that feature. Very nicely done.

There’s a surprising about of world detail crammed into the book, such as the descriptions of the command structure of Starfleet, the hierarchy/ chain-of-command in starships, as well as the default duty watches on starships (who starts work when). There was even some advice on standing orders. It’s a good book for the person playing the captain to skim.

The middle of the book really focuses a lot of attention on the Command and Conn departments, which are the focus of the book. There are at least ten new Talents for each of those Departments, which more than doubles the talents for characters focusing on those areas. There’s also examples of how characters might act with either a high or low Command and Conn score, as wells as examples of personality traits for characters with high score in Command or Conn and another Department. Such as what a character with a high Command and Science might act like, often paired with an example from the series. Similarly, there is a breakdown of sample Focuses, both explaining what they do and when they would apply. This is certainly useful for players might might be hazy on their Trek lore.  

The book features several alternate campaign ideas, including one where the players belong to the admiralty, including alternate position in place of bridge stations. There’s also rules for managing fleets (including some limited variant rules for fleet mass combat), as well as some description of Federation law that could serve as the foundation for a JAG campaign. There’s also a pretty length description of the Prime Directive, which should be a source of tension and conflict in a games.

There are a number of plot elements for Command and Conn stories, which could serve as adventure hooks for the gamemaster. Useful and it adds value for GMs. In addition to the plot hooks, there are a number of NPC statblocks, such as admirals, diplomatic NPCs (including Sarek and Lwaxana Troi!).

Plus, there are a couple art pieces in this book make use of the red uniforms from the original cast movies. There were overlooked in the Core Rulebook. I’m a fan of these uniforms and am happy to see them get more love.

The Bad

The first complaint may or may not be true of these books, but is true of the Core Rulebook. The black inked background of the book is sensitive to skin oils, and unless I meticulously dry my hands, I tend to leave fingerprints on the pages that linger.

The bookmarks on the PDF are terrible. Not every heading receives a bookmark and there’s a lot of curious choices. This makes navigating the digital product awkward. There’s also no hyperlinking in the index, which is unfortunate. There’s an attempt at hyperlinking on the chapter pages, but these are all dead links that just give me an error message.

There are a few typos and errors in the book. Thankfully, not as many as the Core Rulebook whose first first printing was especially bad. (They fixed most of the typos in subsequent printings.) The most noteworthy error is the Sovereign-class being given the wrong stats, copy the Attributes from the preceding Saber-class. (I have been told that the PDF will be updated to correct this, and fixed stats will appear in the print product.)

In general, the editing of both books is a little weak, and certain phrases and bits of information are repeated. There’s redundancy. Which hurts in a regular book, but is especially noteworthy in a book where every line matters. Because…

The book is small. At 128-pages, it’s small for a major gaming accessory. Because it’s also hardcover book, this also makes it very pricey for the content. A softcover might have been less durable, but it could be half the price.

Because of it’s small size and the number of different topics, this means there’s a lot of elements that only receive a cursory glance. Such as space stations, where there are only two examples. Additional reputation rewards and fleet maneuvers both only receive three pages, being given the minimum content. And even with sixteen new spaceframes there are a lot of starships that are not detailed. For example, there’s only a single new ship for The Original Series era.

There’s limited art throughout the book, including a few recycled pieces. There’s not even art for all ships, which is problematic for a few of the lesser known ships like the Deadalus, Sydney and Centaur.

Beta Quadrant

The core of the Beta Quadrant book is the histories and description of the Federation, Klingon Empire, Romulans, Gorn, and Orion Syndicate. It has new NPC starships for most of the aforementioned hostile powers as well as a few civilian ships. Also included are a bunch of “encounters” or mini-missions that include numerous NPC statblocks, including sidebars for designing Gorn, Orion, Reman, characters. The book ends with a description of the Shackleton Expanse that is the centerpoint of the Living Campaign. For players, there are Ardanan, Benzite, Bolian, Deltan, Efrosian, Klingon, Rigellian-Chelon, Rigellian-Jelna, Risan, Xindi-Arboreal, Xindi-Primate, Xindi-Reptilian, Xindi-Insectoid, and Zakdorn.

The Good

This book is much more focused on its topic than the Command Division sourcebook. It focuses on describing the major political & military powers in the titular quadrant, gives some new ships for those species, and then describes a few extra species for players. There’s not a lot of side topics, with the only divergence being the civilian ships, but this is a useful addition.

The history in this book is solid, covering the known history of the Federation, Klingons, and Romulans. This doesn’t just focus on the canon (which is often very limited) and builds on the lore when necessary. I imagine it’s referencing novels and past RPG products. These histories feel complete (to the extent the space allows) and even makes some references to Star Trek Discovery, which likely had not finished by the time this book went to layout. (It does have a few oddities, such as repeatedly mentioning the old beta canon that Klingons didn’t have cloaking devices until they traded with the Romulans, which was the assumption for decades prior to Discovery’s change.)

The last fifth of the book is a chapter on “Enemies & Adversaries”, which are basically a bunch of micro-adventures. These are just an adventure hook or two, a location, and a bunch of NPCs that can be used. Really, it’s just a way of having additional NPC statblocks, but providing a context. There’s some Orions, Romulans, Klingons, and a Reman or two. While not as easy to reference as a traditional monster book, they’re separated enough that it’s easy to find what you’re looking for, and there’s the added benefit of a few having a personality and proper name.

The final five pages of the above chapter are devoted to the Shackleton Expanse, which is the region far to the galactic East—prior maps denoted this as Federation territory, but it has been retconned in STA to be an explored region of space with generically mysterious anomalies. There are some more NPCs and some new space hazards rules, so it doesn’t feel entirely superfluous for people skipping the living campaign. I do like that they’re trying to inform people of the living campaign, as joining that does net you a couple free adventures every few months.

Modiphius reached an arrangement with Cryptic Studios, the creators of Star Trek Online to use their designs for Gorn ships. This is pretty cool, and I hope they can do more work together, providing more ship designs or species (such as their Tzenkethi). I quite like how much Modiphius and Cryptic seem to be coordinating and hyping each other’s products: it’s nice to see licence partners working together rather than competing for fan dollars.

There’s also a picture of Andorians playing hockey against Klingons, and I love it so very much.

The Bad

Only a few planets are described in the book. It details Earth, Andoria, and Vulcan as well as Benzar. Which is a curious choice, not being featured on the show and Benzites only having a couple speaking roles. A related problem is that only planets associated with the big factions are described. There’s no list of miscellaneous unaligned world and their inhabitants, such as the Yridians or El Aurians. This also leads to the weirdness of the planet Nausicaa is listed in Federation section while the planets of the Deltans, Bolians, and Efrosian are not. Of course, as they lack an empire, this also means Nausicaan bodyguards or pirates & their ships aren’t described.

A few of the species could have used a little more lore and description. Such as the Xindi who are a nice addition but how they fit into the 24th Century only receives the briefest mention. Also, none of the Xindi recieve art; this is unfortunately common: of the fourteen species, only four have an illustration.

Of the new species, Ardana is a very curious choice. These were from a single late season The Original Series episode that was unremarkable, and one where the original author of the script was critical of the final product. They’re a super rando inclusion, especially in place of Nausicaans, Suliban, Romulans, El Aurian, or Axanari.

While the book details Nerendra Station, no stats are provided. (Or even a reference to which statblock from the Command Division book that it would use).

While statblocks are provided for many members of other hostile species, there are no Gorn NPCs in the book. Thankfully, there is a brief racial write-up so you can adjust existing NPCs.

Final Thoughts

I quite like Star Trek Adventures and the system, which really allows you to focus on the science and investigation as much as the combat. And I’m happy to see additional content. But, man, this game really leaves you wanting more. Each book feels like an appetiser of content rather than a feast or full meal. Following these books, it’s going to be a long wait for the follow-up Alpha Quadrant book, let alone the Sciences Division book I’d like for my character. As far as complaints go “I wish there was more” is a good one.

However, while more species will be coming, the species overlooked likely won’t be included. And it’s likely there won’t be many more spaceframes in the future. The content missed in these book will remain absent from the game.
I can’t help but wonder if the game would have been better served with a single 250-page Department book followed by a starship & starbase book. Or a galaxy guide sourcebook with an aliens and adversaries sourcebook. Four larger and comprehensive books rather than seven smaller books. Or, as I mentioned earlier, softcovers.

But I have to judge the books we have not the books I’d prefer we have.

The books are a solid read with lots of good flavour that really demonstrates authors that know their Trek and did their research. This is especially noteworthy in the various in-character sidebars, which are occasionally pretty deep cut Easter eggs. And the focused nature of the books make them easy to recommend: if you’re playing a helmsman or command officer or want to know more of the organisation of Starfleet, the Command Division book is a good choice. It’s also good if you want some more ships, especially if you want to set a game in the 22nd Century. If you want more history of the Federations and some new species, then the Beta Quadrant book is your best bet. If you’re a GM more than a player, the Beta Quadrant book is also a better choice with the extra adversaries. However, if you’re a chief engineer or doctor, or playing a game against the Tzenkethi or set in the Dominion War, there’s little here for you. You have to wait for future books. 

(And if the included content still isn’t enough for you, there’s the Continuing Mission fansite with lots of resources, tools, as well as homebrew species and spaceframes.)

 

 

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