Many moons ago, when Tony suggested these additions for review, I braved the requisite nerd jokes and Star Trek cartoons to back up my claim. I’m a lifelong trekker, so I’m always happy to explore the last frontier from my desk. These expansions focus especially on the races and concepts from the differences Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, which set the standard for seasonal story arcs and character development. Tony has already written a great review on base gamewhich contains the Federation, Romulans and Klingons, so I recommend checking it out to learn more about the basic mechanics of the game.
Star Trek: Ascendancy is a space-themed 4X game spanning an ever-expanding modular map where factions of classic Trek compete to become the most powerful civilization in the galaxy. The base game supports exactly 3 players, with each expansion adding the potential for one additional player. With experience, the game should last about an hour per player.
Overview of extensions:
Breen Confederation adds a new playable faction, the mysterious Bryn, to the game and increases the number of potential players by one. Probably the most obscure race available for Star Trek: Ascendancy, the Breens were introduced in Deep space nine as secret but powerful allies of the Dominion. Many enhancements provide special benefits when this civilization operates in Bryn Territory, which includes all controlled systems connected to the Bryn House System. The Breen are isolationists, so they can only exchange trade deals with players who control a system adjacent to the Breen Territory. Also, being an aggressive territorial, Breen can reroll failed rolls while in Breen’s Territory. So for this faction, it’s worth creating a well-guarded territorial stronghold from which they can slowly and methodically expand outwards, crushing opponents who dare stray into Breen space.
Dominion War is a major addition that not only adds the Dominion as a playable faction, but also introduces a new gameplay option that includes alliances. The Dominion was the Big Bad for most of the series Deep space nine, culminating in the Dominion War that has been going on for the past few seasons. In Star Trek: Ascendancy, the Dominion seeks to infiltrate and dominate rival civilizations. Their Ketracel-White ability allows the Dominion player to use commands to reroll failed rolls in space battles and planetary invasions. The latter will be the Dominion’s primary means of gaining control over enemy systems, as their Domination feature prevents attempts at Cultural Hegemony. Finally, the Dominion starts the game with Changeling Infiltrators on their Home System, The Great Link. These Infiltrators can be sent to any system in the galaxy to further the Dominion’s machinations. A number of improvements provide advantages in variable infiltrator systems.
This expansion also adds the Gamma Quadrant to the Ascendancy games. in Star Trek: DS9, the discovery of a wormhole near the planet Bajor connects the distant Gamma Quadrant to the Alpha Quadrant, home to familiar Trek civilizations such as the Federation, Romulans, and Klingons. This bridge between quadrants is represented in the game by a special dual-system tile that contains Bajor (in the Alpha Quadrant) and Idran (in the Gamma Quadrant) connected by a wormhole. Ships must warp out of one of these systems and then spend a command token to travel through a wormhole to another quadrant. When playing with this option, the Dominion player’s home system is located in the Gamma Quadrant. Any systems explored in the Gamma Quadrant originate from a separate stack of planetary systems and phenomena. Connection between the systems in the two quadrants is impossible, so the only way to travel between them is through a Bajoran wormhole.
Another addition to this expansion is the Dominion War variant, which introduces team play to Ascendancy. This mode requires at least four players and works best with an even number of players. Each civilization will be assigned to an alliance, meaning players on the same team must work together to achieve shared victory. The setup is significantly different for Dominion War, as each Home System begins the game connected to four colonized systems containing pre-constructed resource nodes. Each player’s network will then be connected to the networks of their allies and opponents, forming a ring of colonized and unexplored systems. Alliances follow an alternative set of rules, prohibiting combat against your team members, but allowing cooperation during space battles and planetary invasions against opponents. In addition, alliance cards give players access to powerful new abilities and one-time effects. A game of Dominion War is won by the alliance that defeats all opposing Home Systems.
Game experience with add-ons:
Aside from the asymmetry created by Breen’s special abilities and playstyle, there are no new rules or mechanics to shake up your Victory games. And that’s normal. Breens are quite fun to play as they favor a more contained playstyle that tends to maintain tight boundaries and gradually expand. After the Breen player has created several advancements and fleets with devastating consequences, opponents will think twice about entering Breen’s Territory. This home field advantage can make quick surgical strikes on nearby systems quite profitable for bryns, who can retreat to their own territory to withstand any potential retaliation. However, the Brin don’t have great ways to generate culture, especially if they’re unlucky enough to come across many systems that can support culture nodes during their initial explorations, making Victory potentially difficult to win. And since the Breen fleets are the most dangerous on home soil, it can be expected that they will easily win the Supermacy by taking control of the rival Home systems. So, new players should keep in mind that the Bryn Confederacy is likely not going to be the easiest faction to start with.
The Dominion are very combat oriented, with numerous abilities and enhancements that make them dangerous foes in combat. Similar to the Vulcan Ambassador mechanic, Dominion Infiltrators allow the player to seed competing systems with non-combat units that can provide multiple benefits and advantages. Learning how to send changeling infiltrators to the far reaches of the galaxy and orchestrate events to their advantage from the Gamma Quadrant can make a Dominion player feel quite powerful.
The Gamma Quadrant engine itself is a good addition to the Star Trek: Ascendancy games, further increasing the modularity and variability of the space exploration system. The appearance of this galactic bottleneck prompts players to adapt their expansion strategies to account for the threat of allowing a Dominion player into the relative safety of the Gamma Quadrant. While the presence of an opponent in one of the systems bordering the wormhole does not prevent ships from passing through, control of Bajor is likely to be a major challenge in a game involving the Gamma Quadrant. This relatively simple change to the way the galaxy map works in Ascendancy is a fresh change to the core game mechanics.
But it’s the Dominion War variant that offers the biggest difference in gameplay and has the most potential to bring innovation to your Star Trek: Ascendancy game. Dividing players into teams dramatically changes your approach to the game. As part of an alliance, you are tasked with cooperating and pooling resources with other players to achieve a common goal. Personally, I like the addition of this extra game mode, and it’s certainly thematic in the context of Star Trek, where alliances such as between the Federation and the Klingons or the Dominion and the Cardassians heavily influence multiple storylines.
Aside from team dynamics, this option also significantly changes the overall playstyle that Ascendancy will likely develop. Since all Home systems start the game connected to each other, exploration tends to be somewhat reduced (especially if you’re short on table space). Each player’s home system will already be connected to at least four colonized systems, so there’s no need to spread out early to build your empire. Overall, Dominion War is a combat-oriented game mode. For those players who prefer the intense battles of Star Trek: Ascendancy, this option encourages you to shout “Havoc” and let the dogs of war slip away as quickly as possible.
Dominion War may be bogged down in the Conquest mechanic, which introduces a lot of peripheral rules and debris into the gameplay. Obviously, the developers needed a way to deal with the possibility that eliminating players could make the game quite one-sided when an alliance successfully exits one of its opponents. This would probably be a doomsday problem for the team that lost a player, and no one would have fun, especially the player that was out. However, I’m not convinced that the convoluted rules governing how the defeated faction should subsequently play the game was the best choice. In any case, playing as a conquered civilization is pretty uninteresting, as you can’t engage anyone in battle and your production is severely hampered. You’ll just play the Resistance cards and hope you get a chance to break free through the Rebellion.
Both expansions bring a lot of variety and potential for new experiences in your games Star Trek: Reign. For fans of the game, there’s no reason not to get both, especially if you’re a completionist and/or just want to have as many faction options as possible for your party to choose from. for DS9 In particular, these expansions are must-haves as they allow you to traverse the Bajoran Wormhole, explore the Gamma Quadrant, and play Dominion War.
If you just want to add another extension, then it’s more about what you want from a new purchase. Obviously, Dominion War has more to offer in terms of additional gameplay options. So, if you want to spice up your Ascendancy games, add this expansion. But if you just want to play another race or need components to add another player, then Breen Confederation has everything you need at a slightly lower price. And for all you Breen fans out there, it’s a no-brainer, right?
Expansion of the Breen Confederation
• More: new faction and another player
• Rewards a militaristic, territorial style of play
• Cloaking devices and energy absorbing weapons!
• Trek’s more obscure races may not appeal to everyone
• Can be a difficult faction to play
Expansion of the Dominion War
• More: new faction and another player
• Introduces interesting new game options
• Changelings, Vorta and Jem’Hadar!
• Dominion War conquest rules seem clunky and uninteresting