I like games, all sorts of games—board games, video games, whatever. I always have, and since I’m also a Star Trek fan, those two hobbies have crossed paths many times over the years. While there are a good number of Star Trek games that are pretty forgettable, there also are plenty of others which remain fun to play no matter how long ago they were released or how long it’s been since I last played them.
With Star Trek Online going “free-to-play” and the recent release of two rather pricey—but gosh-darned fun looking—Star Trek tabletop games, and news of an ambitious new computer game coming late next year as a tie-in to the J.J. Abrams Star Trek movies, I figured now was as good a time as any to take a look back at some other games which have taken their cues from Gene Roddenberry’s endearing little brainchild. For the purposes of this column, I deliberately pulled a 50-50 split between video games and board/other games, and ordered them simply by their date of release. So, enjoy a look back at 10 of my favorite Star Trek games. Enjoy!
Star Trek Super Phaser II Target Game – Mego, 1976. No, this isn’t a video game or a board game, but how can I not include it here? And why is it called “Super Phaser II?” Because with this, you’re rockin’ an actual, somewhat less-than authentic recreation of a “Type II” phaser from the original Star Trek series, equipped with its own special light emitter. What are you supposed to do with it? Shoot each other! The idea is that you and your friend(s) each had one of these, and each wore the target badge that comes with it (and which even has a picture of a Klingon battle cruiser on it), and you run around trying to shoot your friends’ badges before they an shoot yours. That’s right, years before Laser Tag was cool, Trekkie kids were on it in the finest Enterprise landing party fashion (No, we don’t do “away teams” here.). What’s funny is that when I played this as a kid, I had no idea that 10 or so years later, I’d be doing the same thing as a “grown-up,” only with the light emitter attached to an M-16 rifle and me wearing a vest of little reflectors as our unit pretended to wage war on another unit. Everything I knew about small unit tactics at that point, I’d learned from Captain Kirk. Boo-yah.
Star Trek – Milton Bradley, 1979. Released in conjunction with Star Trek: The Motion Picture, this board game at first might be dismissed as just another quickie merchandising cash-grab, one of dozens of products produced as tie-ins to the first Star Trek film. Two to four players face off against one another, each getting assigned a series of missions they must accomplish. The competition comes in the form of each player having to do their thing while crossing paths with the other players, and also having to deal with “alien attacks” and other threats thrown into the mix from time to time. The missions themselves vary in difficulty, as does the layout of the game board itself, helping to keep things interesting from game to game. There have been more than a few Star Trek board games over the years, and this is one of the better ones. I still have a copy, which I bought a few years ago to replace the battered version I’d had since ’79 and which finally gave up the ghost.
Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator – Sega, 1982. Not just one of my favorite Star Trek games, but also among my all-time favorite arcade games. I played this thing with every quarter I could scrounge at the local arcades when I was a teenager. It’s a simple shooter, with you guiding the U.S.S. Enterprise as you defend varying numbers of starbases against ever-increasing numbers of Klingon warships while traveling from sector to sector. The game is augmented by music from the original Star Trek series as well as the voices of Leonard Nimoy as Spock and James Doohan as Scotty. The early 80s-era vector graphics retain a retro cool, and the game is one I still play every so often to this day. Why? Because I actually have one of the stand-up arcade cabinets in my home office. C’mon...you have to admit that’s pretty hardcore.
Star Trek: The Role Playing Game – FASA, 1983. Move over, Dungeons & Dragons! It’s time to take role playing into the final frontier! Players take on the persona of a character in the Star Trek universe, developing skills and experience as they move from Starfleet Academy to a starship or starbase, exploring strange new worlds and so on and so forth. The original edition of this RPG was something to behold, containing as it did rulebooks, scenario supplements, a playing map, counters and other playing pieces, and even complete deck plans for the U.S.S. Enterprise and a Klingon battle cruiser. Though firmly entrenched in the era of the original series, a handful of supplements and new rulebooks were released to bring the first four motion pictures as well as Star Trek: The Next Generation into the fold before FASA lost the license to continue producing the game.
Star Trek: The Kobayashi Alternative – Simon and Schuster, 1985. The first of a handful of games S&S rolled out over a couple of years, The Kobayashi Alternative boasts a script by Star Trek novel veteran Diane Duane. A text-based adventure, the game avoided the typical, straightforward scrolling approach common to such games of the period, with each character receiving their own pop-up box for dialogue, along with additional boxes to display status updates. You the player were Kirk, and each of the other characters responded to you with such authenticity that you almost could hear the voices of the cast. Of all the S&S Star Trek text games, this one was always my favorite.
Star Trek 25th Anniversary – Interplay, 1991. I’m referring here to the original DOS/Mac version, not the early Nintendo NES game with the same name. It was state of the art for 1990s-era computer gaming, and I don’t mind saying that I think the game’s graphics hold up pretty well today, all things considered. The story is certainly top-shelf, with its multiple adventures being challenging and fun to varying degrees and each feeling like a little lost episode of the original series. The original version of this game combined full-blown graphics and mouse navigation as well as a text interface, and a subsequent, “enhanced” version adds the voices of William Shatner and the rest of the cast reprising their original roles.
Star Trek: Judgment Rites – Interplay, 1993. Not just a great sequel to 25th Anniversary, Judgment Rites provides even more of everything I loved about the earlier game, and even manages to improve on just about everything that was done right the first time. Once again, Shatner and the gang provide the voices of the original Enterprise crew, and joining them this time are a host of guest actors giving voice to other characters throughout the game, including William Campbell returning as Trelane from the original series episode “The Squire of Gothos.” Boo. Yah. As with its predecessor, this game is divided into multiple episodes/adventures, and crammed with all sorts of little Easter eggs from Star Trek lore.
Star Trek: The Next Generation Collectible Dice Game – Five Rings, 1996. An early and largely overlooked entry in the dice game arena, this was tied to the release of Star Trek: First Contact. The game’s heart is the pair of “starter sets,” one each for the U.S.S. Enterprise-E and a Borg ship, with each set containing everything you need for two players to face off against one another. Each set’s 25 dice represent different aspects of game play relating to movement, weapons and defenses, repairing damage, and so on. A few booster sets also were released, with additional dice to add dimensions to the game, and other expansions were planned which would’ve allowed for more players into a game session, but the game itself never really took off. That’s too bad, because it’s not that far off from being an entertaining little diversion for 30-45 minutes. With other, simpler and more compact/mobile dice games like Zombie Dice, Martian Dice, Cthulhu Dice, and Bears!, I’d like to see somebody take a stab at creating a faster-paced, more light-hearted and fun take on a Star Trek dice game.
Star Trek: Voyager – Elite Force – Activision, 2000. Trekkies finally get a first-person shooter game in the general vein of Doom or Duke Nukem, but one that still manages to tell an interesting story worthy of the Star Trek label and ends up being a heck of a lot of fun to play. With the exception of Jeri Ryan (Seven of Nine), the entire cast from Star Trek: Voyager is on hand to provide the voices for their characters, and many of the ship’s interiors are recreated (or invented after only being referenced in dialogue) with painstaking detail. It was followed by a sequel, Star Trek: Elite Force II, which featured Patrick Stewart giving voice to Captain Picard, but to me the first game is still the better of the two.
Star Trek Scene It? – Mattel and Screenlife, 2009. If you know what the Scene It? games are, then you know what this is: a trivia game that employs a game board along with your TV and DVD player to help you get your Nerd On. Players advance their game pieces along the board by rolling dice and answering trivia questions either from a game card or else a video clip from the included DVD. The questions for this edition of the game cover all six television series (yes, even the cartoon!) and the first 10 movies. It’s a party game, of course, great for quick 20-30 minute sessions when you have friends over to your place*. The questions run the gamut from easy to “You’ve got to be kidding me,” which of course is a relative spectrum based on your Trekkie knowledge, and the video clips as context for questions can be fun in their own right. Not bad as trivia games go, Trek-related or otherwise.
(* = See? I could’ve said “parents’ basement,” but I didn’t. You and me? We reach. Yay, brother. Or, yay, sister, as the case may be.)
And there you go. As always, this isn’t meant to be my definitive “Top 10” list or anything like that. The purpose of these columns is simple entertainment and reminiscing, and I’m absolutely hoping you’ll add your favorites in the comments section. Along those lines, if you’ve got an idea you’d like to see explored here in a future “Ten for Ward” column, I’m open to suggestions!
The Ten for Ward backlist:
“Ten Favorite ‘Classic’ Star Trek Comics” – September 26, 2011”
“Ten Favorite ‘Old’ Star Trek Books” – June 30, 2011
Dayton Ward is the author or co-author of numerous novels and short stories, including a whole bunch of stuff set in the Star Trek universe, and often working with friend and co-writer Kevin Dilmore. He’s also written (or co-written) for Star Trek Communicator, Star Trek Magazine, Syfy.com, and Tor.com, and is a monthly contributor to the Novel Spaces writers blog. As he is still a big ol’ geek at heart, Dayton is known to wax nostalgic about all manner of Star Trek topics over on his own blog: The Fog of Ward.