Star Trek Ascendancy – Borg Assimilation (Boardgame)

Star Trek Ascendancy is a civilization building wargame. Previously only a competitive affair, the Borg Assimilation expansion adds in a Borg race that runs rampant through the galaxy. Players can cooperate to defeat it, or risk being assimilated (and taking over the Borg race themselves.) The expansion now allows a solo play version of the game (win before the Borg takes over) but if more than one player is present the game remains a competitive one (although with a common enemy.)



Star Trek Ascendancy – Borg Assimilation
Designers: Aaron Dill, John Kovaleski, Sean Sweigart
Publisher: Gale Force Nine, LLC
Players: 1-4
Ages: 14+
Time: 90-180 minutes
(review copy provided by publisher)

While some Star Trek games have an option for cooperation, Star Trek: Ascendancy is primarily an all-out war like an elegant Star Trek version of Risk or Axis and Allies. The game comes with three races (Federation, Klingon, and Romulan,) each with their own strength and weaknesses. The Borg Assimilation expansion is not a completely new race. Rather, it is a way to change up the game by adding a common enemy to all players.


For those unfamiliar with the game, here’s a short-ish description:

Star Trek Ascendancy is a 4X game (involving eXploration, eXpansion, eXploit, and eXterminate) with a strong Star Trek theme. Players begin the game on their home planet and must use their starships to eXplore new locations. Planet discs are revealed and connected to other planets in a unique mechanism. Whenever a new planet is discovered, players are allowed to “swing” the “arm” of the space lane leading to it around the board to configure it however they want (barring some rules preventing overlapping lanes, etc…) Planets may contain hazards, discoveries, virgin worlds ripe for colonization, or planets already inhabited with a civilization.

After eXploring worlds, they are ripe for eXpansion. Each planet can produce one or more of the game’s three resources if a player builds a resource node. Production is used for constructing just about everything (ships, resource nodes.) Research is used to improve one’s abilities such as ship offense or defense to help during combat as well as race-specific special abilities. Culture is used to colonize new planets, “peacefully” take over occupied planets, and can be cashed in for Ascendancy tokens. Collect 5 Ascendancy to win a cultural victory. Not all interspecies interactions involve combat, and players can form trade agreements, giving both parties additional resources during their turns. Of course, these become null and void once either party turns around and betrays the other.

Betrayal arises from combat, and if you don’t want to win a cultural victory, eXtermination (and a supremacy victory) will have to do. Players build ships to explore but also use them in fairly simple combat mechanics between individual ships and/or fleets. Conquer and control three home planets (your own counts) and you win a supremacy victory.


Borg Assimilation Expansion


Unlike other expansions to the game, the Borg Assimilation does not add a new player race to the mix. Instead, the expansion features an independent Borg threat that attacks players’ ships and assimilates their worlds. The Borg start to appear in the game when the correct planetary system is discovered. From then on, the Borg will slowly spit out Borg Cubes for conquest, with each assimilated world adding to the Borg Cube construction. If left unchecked, the Borg will take over all the players’ planets and all players lose. In a fun side-effect, defeated players get to take control of the Borg Cubes to take revenge on their opponents, which is a nice way to keep all players active in the game.

Players can gang up on the Borg by mounting a combined defense. When a Borg Cube attacks, it will engage all players present. Combining defense is often required, as Borg Cubes are difficult to defeat – increasing their defense throughout the fight. Players willing to take on a Borg cube on their own, can gain special Borg technology cards that they can use to improve their game position (against the Borg as well as the other players.)




This is not a simple game like Risk, but the extra effort to learn the rules pays off in a dividend of a fun Star Trek style romp through the galaxy. The rules are somewhat complex, but are not very difficult to pick up. Its greatest weakness is its length, but there are options to speed things up by jumpstarting the beginning game. It is not easy to construct a 4X game that plays quickly and yet contains all the elements that make the genre popular. Star Trek Ascendancy does a good job providing a solid 4X style of play.

The Borg expansion adds a fun side-challenge to the standard game. Players simply must cooperate at times or face total assimilation. I particularly like adding in the Borg expansion to two player games. In a two player game, most interactions are a zero-sum game and players rarely cooperate. However, with a mutual enemy (the Borg) even players in a two-player game must cooperate from time to time. The solo mode (against the Borg) also plays well and gives gamers a chance to play even if they can’t find local opponents able to commit to a standard game. Personally, I’d have loved a scenario where the game was purely cooperative against the Borg threat, but the expansion is still a fun addition.

Whether you play with or without the Borg Assimilation expansion, players willing to put the requisite time into playing the game will find a very satisfying and (Star Trek) thematic game of galactic proportions.


Kid Factor:


No content dangers here, but the game does have a fair bit of complexity. The recommended 14+ age range is on the high side, you could go a bit lower if the child has experience with more complex games. There is a lot to manage, so a good maturity level is important. I like how the Borg Assimilation expansion allows defeated players to take over the Borg’s turn. This keeps the game fun even for weaker players since they get to do something even if they were eliminated during the game.

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