It was just over a month ago that I was wandering the halls of PAX East and discovered Star Trek Adversaries. I was between appointments and looking for something small that I could check out in about 15 minutes. Little did I know that that quick stop would result in me putting dozens of hours into an early access card game.
Let’s set the stage even further. As a 30 something white male, I love Star Trek. Not so much The Original Series, aside from the movies, but The Next Generation was a formative experience for me. As I walked the halls of PAX East 2018 I was actually in the middle of a rewatch of the series, along with recently finishing Discovery (loved it) and was also in the middle of Deep Space Nine. Voyager is up next, by the way, while a TOS and Enterprise viewing will come later.
So, as you can see, I was primed for some quality Star Trek entertainment, and yet there was so little out there. This massive, globally recognized franchise just hasn’t had too many great video games, although Bridge Crew is certainly excellent. Star Trek Adversaries might not light up the sales charts and mark a turning point in Star Trek gaming, but it has scratched that itch quite well.
The game plays similarly to other collectible card games (CCG) out there, such as Hearthstone and The Elder Scrolls Legends. You have a set amount of energy, which you use each turn to play and use cards from your hand. In this case the cards are either ships, crew, or events, each with its own unique impact on the game. Ships attack each other and the enemy flagship, crew enhance the ships and have other effects, and events trigger various effects within the game.
This simple formula has worked so well for other games and it works once again for Star Trek Adversaries. But this isn’t just a Hearthstone clone, as I’d feared shortly after playing it the first time. Star Trek Adversaries simply drips with ST elements, making for a great experience for fans. For those who haven’t debated which captain is the best (Picard), the game plays well too, and with many unique elements of its own.
Star Trek Adversaries isn’t a game I should enjoy as much as I do
Your main goal is to eliminate the enemy flagship while protecting your own. Taking out the enemy’s ships is just a byproduct of this goal. To do this you will use your cards strategically, because each time you attack they can and will fight back. Each card has an attack and defense factor, so if I attack your 2 attack, 1 defense ship with my 1 attack, 2 defense ship then they’ll simply wipe each other out. This dramatically shifts the strategy of the game, especially once you factor in the keyword abilities.
Yes, each card you play can have keywords that modify either itself or another ship on the board. These include Guardian, which shield your flagship and other ships, as it is the only one that can be targeted. Jamming, which prevents the aforementioned return fire from the ships you attack (this is extremely powerful at the moment and is the key to my newly crafted deck that has been killing tons of Klingons). And Core Breach, which is an effect that only triggers once the ship is destroyed. Combine these and a few other elements, such as your flagship’s special and ultimate abilities that charge throughout the match, with hundreds of cards that have their own effect and you have a deep tactical experience within a CCG.
What truly makes the game fun though is how well in integrates its universe. When you first pick Star Trek Adversaries up it might feel like a ST paint job over a regular card game, but that paint job is incorporated very well within the gameplay structure. Borg ships, for example, can assimilate enemy ships, bringing them to your side of the battle. Q’s card makes everything easier, just as he always promised to do for Picard if he would allow it. And each faction, at this time you can choose to play as either a Federation or Klingon flagship with different sets of cards to choose from for each, plays like itself. Klingons are raw power, attacking with little regard for how long their ships survive. While the Federation uses more tricks like Guardian and Jamming to get the job done.
Things aren’t perfect in the world of Star Trek Adversaries though, and some of the issues with the game might mean you should stay away for a little while. The game is in early access, and it shows in a couple of ways. The biggest is the low player population, which makes for long wait times between matches, and often poor matchups. As a mid 100’s level player on the score board I probably shouldn’t match against players in the Top 10 as much as I do, and when they lay down Legendary cards that I’ve never dreamed of having access to, it does hurt a lot. Balance is still being fine tuned as well, and I’ve had some of my favorite cards get less useful as things have changed. The game is still taking shape, and the developer is very responsive to the community, which is great, but it also means the game can shift under you without much warning.
One thing Star Trek Adversaries is doing very well, even in early access, is its monetization scheme. Adversaries is free-to-play, which often scares me off, but so far I haven’t felt the need to spend any money on the game (though I did just to support it and jumpstart my deck). You earn Latinum as the free in-game currency, which can be used to buy anything in the game. Card packs and new flagships are on offer for Latinum or the purchasable Command Points. Yes, you can buy money for the game, but with daily and weekly goals plus the usual Latinum drops for wins, you won’t feel the need to unless you’re really enjoying your time with Star Trek Adversaries.
Star Trek Adversaries isn’t a game I should enjoy as much as I do. It’s early access, free-to-play, and a CCG which I’ve often tried to avoid. Yet I can’t stop playing. I’ve jumped on almost every day, if only to get my daily/weekly rewards. I almost quit after a row of losses, but instead hopped on the official Discord and talked to the community about deck strategy. After a few tweaks I’ve been on a roll, until I hit the wall that is the top player charts. All in all, I’ve been having a blast and am looking forward to how this game evolves over the coming months and years.