Thursday, September 2, 2010

Gencon Interview: Wizkids talks Star Trek

We had a chance to check out the prototypes for Wizkids' new Star Trek games (that's right, it's plural!) at Gencon 2010. Moreso, I got a chance to talk to Drew Nolosco, Product Development Manager at Wizkids! Drew was very kind to spend some minutes with us at the show to answer some of our questions about the high-profile property they're producing games for. A couple of quick things of note before we dive into the interview: David Welsh of and I hit Wizkids at almost the same time, so credit goes to him for part of the interview. Thanks David! Next up: because Wizkids was kindof the happening place the first day of the con, the interview just kind of died off at the end as Drew and the other Wizkids folks were bombarded with questions. A couple of things you'll read about, but we want to emphasize again:
  • The Star Trek games are not compatible with Heroclix or other 'clix games. They use dials, but that's where the similarities end.
  • Wizkids has a license to all of the Star Trek properties from the reboot movie line to classic TV and movies. They also have the expanded universe content if they want to use it.
  • Wizkids currently has no plans for pure character vs. character combat game. No Kirk vs. Picard (but you could see a match up of the Enterprise vs. the Enterprise-D!).
  • The pictures you see are of a 3d printer. They are not prototypes but simply tests to see how their digital sculpts would turn out.
Now that we've got that covered, Keep Reading for the interview itself!

The Hopeless Gamer (THG) : This is Paul Vogt with The Hopeless Gamer, we’re at the WizKids booth looking at the Star Trek stuff, brand new. It’s the first day of Gencon 2010 and I am with –

Drew Nolosco (DN) : Drew Nolosco, I’m Product Development Manager at WizKids.

THG: And it looks like we’ve got two different games? Is that true?

DN: We do. We have two new Star Trek games coming out in 2011. The first that you’re looking at is a cooperative 4-player Euro-style strategy game designed by Reiner Knizia; it’s called Star Trek Expeditions. The four players in the game play the bridge crew from the alternate universe created in the 2009 Star Trek movie, and the players play Kirk, Spock, Dr. McCoy and Uhura. The gist of the game is, the Federation received a communication from this particular planet, and the planet wants to join the Federation. The Enterprise is dispatched by Star Fleet to negotiate the planet joining the Federation, but when they arrive, the planetary government suddenly isn’t very interested in joining the Federation at all, and there’s a Klingon Battle Cruiser with them.

THG: Oh ho!

DN: So, the bridge crew must convince the planet to join the federation, mediate and stop the civil war that the Klingons have instigated, fix the planet’s ecology that has been damaged by their industrial revolution (because they are of a lower tech level), and the bridge crew must do this all the while duking it out in orbit with a Klingon battle cruiser that is trying to blow up the Enterprise. And also, get all of this done before the Klingon fleet arrives in 30 days. So, if you can the planet to join the Federation before the Klingon fleet arrives, the Federation can send reinforcements to the planet.

THG: Okay.

DN: The game is highly strategic, and it uses our patented Heroclix dial to keep track of many of the stats that you would normally keep track of in a Euro-style game. So instead of having long cards of lots of little counters moving back and forth, you just click the Heroclix dial to, for example, keep track of how the shields of the Enterprise are doing, or how Spock’s science skill is today.

THG: So it keeps components pretty efficient then.

DN: It does. Also, the game uses a branching storyline system, so as you attempt and succeed in missions on the planet, your degree of success determines what storyline you go down. And there are about sixteen different endings for the game, so there’s a lot of replayability. Lastly, the game comes in three difficulty levels. Easy difficulty is a good way to learn the game. Normal difficulty is pretty challenging – even good players don’t always win on Normal. And then Hard difficulty is really challenging. Even the designers don’t win on Hard difficulty all the time.

THG: And you know the math!

DN: *laughs* And I know the math.

THG: It’s interesting that you guys went cooperative.

DN: That really evokes the – well, the theme of the Federation: to seek out new worlds and explore. And the bridge crew, really, holding up their differences – you know, Spock and Kirk figure out how to work well with each other, and the players need to as well. Why don’t we take a look and I’ll tell you about the second game that we have.

THG: Sure!

DN: So the second game is called Star Trek Fleet Captains. Both of these games, by the way, are really rough demos, and I’ll show you – there’s a lot of cardboard pieces that we’re using to stand in as models, and I can show you the models right there. Fleet Captains is a pure starship combat game. Two players on a randomized star field – you choose your fleet of ships, and the Federation’s fans are going to be drawing ships all the way from the original series up through Star Trek Nemesis. We’ve got about 10-12 ships per side to start with. So you choose your fleet, and then your ships determine a couple of things. The main thing they determine is what kind of missions you need to engage in, in order to get points. You get points for blowing up enemy ships, but you also get points for winning missions. The Voyager is a science ship, so you’re going to get more science missions than combat missions. The Enterprise is primarily a science ship, but it also has a lot of other utility, mainly because it’s a larger ship.
As you move through the star field, you’ll reveal locations. Locations have a size that you have to have engine ratings high enough to move through. And then you roll to see if there’s going to be encounters. Any time a starship explores, there’s a good chance of it encountering something in it random or weird. So even though your primary goal is to defeat your opponent, you have to do that in the context of a Star Trek universe where there giant space amoebas, black holes, supernovas, Ferengi. All of the elements in the Star Trek universe are pretty accurately represented in the game.

David Welsh (DW) : So are these randomized, or are they always…

DN: The tiles?

DW: Yeah.

DN: So, this is, like, a compact version. Normally the game is played with five tiles between the two players and then five wide. But yes, it’s randomized every turn. And there are enough tiles to play something like a 50-tile grid with much larger numbers of ships on each side.
THG: So then is this going to be collectible?

DN: The product configuration for this hasn’t been determined yet.

THG: Okay.

DN: Come on over here, let me show you - these [the Fleet Captains models] are not to scale. What you’re looking at– these are 3D digital printer outputs that we use to test to see whether our digital sculpt is successful. And this is how we check the level of detail and accuracy on our digital sculpting process. So these are larger than actual size. But for example, this is the Enterprise, and this is the Negh’Var class Klingon battle cruiser.
THG: So then is the idea that they’re going to fit on the peanut double base? Is that the scale?

DN: Yes. They will be on a base; we’re not sure if it’s peanut or if we’re going to stick them on a single. It depends on the weight.

THG: Sure. All the details and everything goes into it.

DN: We’ve also got a whole bunch of other ships to show you.

THG: Oh, great!

DN: Now these [test models] are super fragile. Here’s a Kingon raptor.

THG: I’d imagine they’re really fragile.

DN: Yeah, these are basically powder that’s printed layer by layer and then heated – this is nothing like what a final ABS plastic model would be like. This is the galaxy class Enterprise.

THG: Looks great.

DN: When you’re posting these images, please indicate that these are not even prototypes of the models – these are digital printer outputs that we use to test detail.

THG: It’s interesting, too – is this because you guys are moving to the digital sculpting, too – is it tied to that?

DN: Yeah, we use digital [sculpting].

DN: So there’s about 10-12 ships on each side in the initial push. Here’s a Klingon raptor.

Bystander: Now – the box set will have twenty ships, roughly? On each side? I’m Federation, I’m going to buy this box set, you’re Klingon, you’re going to buy that box set?

DN: So I think we’re going to sell the complete experience in one box. So it’s going to be Federation and Klingon in one box. We’re still wrestling with price points and what that price of that box is going to be, so I need a little bit of wiggle room, but in general, I think we’re going to give you twenty ships and all the cards, and you can play your game. And there’s no blind – it’s not a collectible, per se. We’re not going to send you through the booster packs. But it might be expandable – you could buy, like, the Romulans.

DW: So if you want the Romulans, you buy the Romulans by themselves, you don’t have to try to get them out of a booster.

DN: Right, and that’s at a later date, but it‘s Klingon, Federation first. Not blind, you know what you’re going to get. Price point, I would guess between $60-$100 for 20-25 ships.

Bystander: Will the ships be sold separately?

DN: No.

Unfortunately at this point the bystander on out, but we hope you enjoyed the interview and al the information. Much thanks go out again to Wizkids for spending the time to answer our questions. Kudos also to The Gamer Wife for transcribing yet another of my Gencon 2010 interviews - she's kind of a super star.

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