Star Trek: Ascendancy Board Game Review & Ultimate Guide

Conflict, expansion, and exploration are the three main ingredients of Gale Force Nine’s foray into the world of Star Trek.

It’s a dark and unruly galaxy out there. And it’s your job to boldly go where no man has gone before, and take control of it.

Star Trek: Ascendancy
  • Contains 3 iconic races: Federation, Romulan and Klingon Empire...
  • Each race has 33 ships and 3 fleet markers
  • 45 card exploration deck

Brief Overview of Star Trek: Ascendancy

Star Trek: Ascendancy Overview

Star Trek: Ascendancy is a civilization game for up to three players that sees you battle to take control of the galaxy, either culturally or militarily.

Starting out on your Home System, players take on the roles of the United Federation of Planets, the Klingon Empire and the Romulan Star Empire to explore the galaxy. You’ll fight for control of new systems, mine resources, form trade agreements, build space stations, invade rival planets and battle in the stars as you look to complete your objective.

It will be a long and grueling war, with plenty of components, but each game will see you unearth an entirely new universe, forcing you to employ all sorts of tactics (sometimes even underhanded ones) to emerge the winner.

Versions & Expansions

Star Trek: Ascendancy Expansions

There’s a number of expansions to Star Trek: Ascendancy, most of which add a new civilization to the original game. This means you can play with more than the original total of three players, or swap in the new civilizations to try a new way of winning. These include:

There is also one other expansion that mixes the game mechanics up a little.

Star Trek: Ascendancy – Borg Assimilation

The Borg Assimilation expansion introduces a new facet to the game: The Borgs. They are a space menace, attacking ships and expanding their own influence throughout the galaxy. Players must decide whether to put aside their differences to defeat them, or take them on alone and harvest their technology for their own advances.

Star Trek: Ascendancy - Borg Assimilation Expansion
  • Borg expansion let you play the game with just one or two...
  • Contains 5 Borg spires and cubes
  • Contains 15 assimilation nodes

Unboxing Star Trek: Ascendancy

Star Trek: Ascendancy Unboxing

Star Trek: Ascendancy’s box, I’m pleased to say, is classic Star Trek. Dark blue without too much going on, it’s already whetting the appetite for deep space exploration. On opening it up, you’ll find:

  • Command Consoles
  • System Discs
  • Space Lanes
  • Space Lane Die
  • Warp Tokens
  • Turn Order Cards
  • Ascendancy Tokens
  • Advancement Cards
  • Fleet Cards
  • Fleet Markers
  • Starships
  • Control Nodes
  • Starbase Tokens
  • Resource Nodes
  • Resource Tokens (Culture, Production, and Research)
  • Command Tokens
  • Exploration Cards
  • Trade Agreement Cards
  • Player Turn Cards

Noticeably, there are over 200 plastic miniatures in this game, something it likes to boast about a little. I wouldn’t get too excited, though: the focus is on quantity rather than quality. The miniatures are small, basic plastic ships in various colors representing each Civilization, supplemented by a few Resources miniatures, too.

Aside from these, there are lots of cardboard tokens to pop out, too. I really liked the design of these. Sticking closely to the Star Trek brand, they feel very retro.

The rulebook is commendable, as well. It’s a little long, but it’s well written and I enjoyed that they included some of the classic Star Trek memes in there to add a bit of humor.

How to Play Star Trek: Ascendancy

Star Trek: Ascendancy How to Play

There are three Civilizations you can choose to play as: The Federation, the Klingon Empire or the Romulans.

To set up, each player starts with their own Command Center, which tracks your weapon and shield levels, resources and your Civilization’s special abilities.

You’re also given a tonne of ships and other resources to begin with, so you’re not starting from scratch.

Aim of the Game

There are two ways to win Star Trek: Ascendancy:

  • Ascendancy – establishing cultural dominance over the galaxy. This is done by controlling your Home System along with acquiring five Ascendancy Tokens. Ascendancy Tokens can be purchased at any time using five Culture Tokens.
  • Supremacy Victory – achieving military dominance over your rivals. This is done by taking control of three Home Systems.

Game Rounds

Each Game Round has three stages:

1) Initiative Stage players bid resources to seize the initiative in galactic politics (basically, this determines who goes first in the Execution Stage).

2) Execution Stage – players take their turns in the order decided in the Initiative stage. There are two stages to each player’s turn on this stage: Build and Command. 

In the first phase, you’ll build up your Civilization, research new projects/technologies and upgrade your weapons and shields.

The extent of what you’re able to do is determined by whether or not you have the available resources. To build a ship, for example, you need to have 1 Production resource.  Or, should you choose to colonize a new Sector, you’ll need to spend 1 Culture, along with building a Control Node on the planet and committing a Starship to orbit it.

Following the Build Phase is the Command Phase. Here, you’re able to order your Starships around space. You could explore new parts of the galaxy, initiate a space battle, or take control of enemy planets, among other things.

3) Recharge Stage – this is each player’s turn to generate resources from their trade agreements, refresh their cards, and resupply for the next Game Round.

Building the Galaxy

As you Command your ships to move through the Galaxy, you’ll build out the galactic map. This will be different every time you play the game. When you move a Ship to the end of an unconnected Space Lane, you draw a new System Disc at random. Each one comes with its own challenges and opportunities. 

For starters, every time you discover a new system, you draw an Exploration Card. These could be good or problematic. However, once you manage to colonize a planet, you’ll get to benefit from its natural resources.

Space Battles and Planetary Invasion

In the Command Phase, you can attack ships adjacent to yours or invade planets. If there are ships on the planet you’re attacking, they must be defeated. 

Battles are fought by the roll of the dice, with each side taking turns to attack. The success of each attack is affected by three things:

  • The number of ships you’re attacking with determines how many dice you roll.
  • Your Hit Roll level is the number a die needs to beat to score a hit.
  • Your opponent’s Shield Modifier value is added to your Hit Roll. The better their shield, the higher you need to roll.

Trade Agreements

Forming trade agreements with players is an effective way to build up your resources. If you swap a trade agreement card with another player, you each get the resources on the card at every Recharge stage.

Cultural Hegemony

You can also take over the cultural Hegemony of a system, which is increasingly difficult as a System becomes more advanced. It works a lot like a space battle. To do so, roll the Ascendancy die and add this to the value of your Ascendency stats. The result must be higher than the value of the System’s Hegemony Resistance added to the value of its owner’s Ascendency. If you’re successful, you can spend two Culture resources to take cultural Hegemony of the System.

Progressing through the Game

There’s a huge number of other features to this game, but the very basics are outlined above. Turns progress as detailed, with the galaxy growing ever-bigger and players battling for control of Systems, either by force or by culture. Come the Recharge Phase, if any player has achieved a victory condition, then they win!

Your First Game of Star Trek: Ascendancy

Star Trek: Ascendancy Your First Game

The first thing to note is that Star Trek: Ascendancy works best with three players. The mechanics of the game, such as forming trade deals, and the strategic sides to the gameplay are much less complex when there’s only two of you. So I do recommend holding out for three players to get the most out of it.

Next, when setting up, keep in mind that the physical distance of your Home Systems affects the nature of the game. The closer they are, the sooner you’ll make First Contact and be able to form trade agreements. However, you’ll come into competition for Systems earlier, too. So, to avoid it getting too messy too quickly, I recommend sticking to at least five inches apart to begin with.

That said, you should try and form trade agreements as soon as you can. They’re one of the best ways to build resources and the earlier you start generating them the better!

This is particularly the case if you’re playing as the Klingons. Due to their focus on offense and battle, you’ll realize quickly that trade agreements will be vital for building up their resources. Don’t leave this too late or you’ll be left behind. This is not an easy game to win if you find yourself at a major disadvantage early on.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Explore a new map every time
  • Lots of variables
  • Don’t have to be a Trekkie

Cons:

  • Can be lengthy

My favorite thing about this game is that you get to build an entirely new galaxy from scratch each time you play. Starting out with a totally unexplored, sparse black hole in space, the network of Systems grows into a bustling galaxy of planets, dominated by Civilizations, oiled by trade agreements and peppered with the occasional space battle. The system discs are drawn randomly and players can choose what is connected to where meaning every game has its own quirks. But ultimately, it always ends up looking really cool on your game table.

I loved, too, how many ways there are to evolve and enhance your Civilization to achieve victory. There may only be two victory conditions, but there are many tactics you can use to reach them. For example, you could focus on upgrading your ships’ Weapons or Shields, researching new technologies, building new Star Bases across the galaxy, prioritising Culture Tokens to achieve Ascendancy… the list goes on.

All this is done really well, without being too over the top or complex.

Similarly, this isn’t a game that only Star Trek fans will understand. I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve barely seen an episode, but this didn’t hinder my ability to understand or enjoy the game.

Finally, the interaction among players is fantastic. There’s a lot of potential for arguments extending beyond the gaming table in this one. I don’t know why but I do love a game where I can strike up a trade agreement. Even more so when I can totally betray my opponent out of the blue and take over their Home Station in one turn. It’s called diplomacy.

The only drawback is that this is a game that takes a while to finish. You’ll be waiting a long time between goes as each player makes their mind up about how best to progress. A lot of people won’t mind this, but you will probably need at least four hours total game time, especially if it’s your first time playing.

TL;DR

Star Trek: Ascendancy is a civilization game for up to three players that sees you battle to take control of the galaxy, either culturally or militarily.

It will be a long and grueling war, with plenty of components, but each game will see you unearth an entirely new universe, forcing you to employ all sorts of tactics (sometimes even underhanded ones) to emerge the winner.

It’s incredibly playable and doesn’t fall into the trap of being overweight with nit-picky rules or processes just for the sake of it.

Conclusion: Verdict?

Star Trek: Ascendancy transports gamers to a whole new universe every time it’s played. If you’re a group of three with plenty of time for a long gaming session, then this could keep your crew utterly absorbed for hours.

There are so many great parts to this game. Whether it’s exploring and taking over new Systems, building trade agreements with your opponents, betraying those trade agreements, having space battles or researching new technologies… there’s a lot of cool things to do. Quite simply, it’s brilliant fun.

And yet, while there are a lot of features in Star Trek: Ascendancy, it never feels like too much. It’s incredibly playable and doesn’t fall into the trap of being overweight with nit-picky rules or processes just for the sake of it.

Trekkie or not, this is an engrossing experience.

Star Trek: Ascendancy
  • Contains 3 iconic races: Federation, Romulan and Klingon Empire...
  • Each race has 33 ships and 3 fleet markers
  • 45 card exploration deck

Have you tried Star Trek: Ascendancy? We’d love to hear what you think of this game or other sci-fi board games! Drop a comment below.

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Stats at a glance

Players: 3

Ages: 14 +

Medium

180 Mins

Publisher: Gale Force Nine

Published: 2016

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