Hi all. I found it a shame that there is no topic about this great 4x game. I am sure I am not the only one that has played this classic game from the same people that gave us Master of Orion. I wanted to have this topic to tell the new players about this game and share fond memories with those that did play it.
General info about the game can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Trek:_The_Next_Generation:_Birth_of_the_Federation
What that link does not tell you is that each of the 5 races play differently. While Federation is focused on peace, diplomacy and good relations with minor races, Ferengi like to trade and build HUGE fleets as a result, while Cardassians will subjugate planets and weaken their enemies with sabotage. Klingons and Romulans possess Cloaked ships that easily wipe out unprepared foes. While Romulans also excel and spying and sabotage, Klingons get bonuses when in war but also prefer honorable behavior.
As a result each side get certain flaws and bonuses.
Federation has the easiest time getting minor races into their "empire" and also get a best research bonus, while each turn of war reduces the morale of its people and subjugating other planets is not something you want to do often. Its ships are a good mix of good armor/shields, speed and firepower.
Ferengi excel at trade, and get most trade routes and money from it, as well as can trade with anyone they are not at war. This coupled with their cheap ships get them a huge fleet earlier then others. Their ships are arguably weakest in the game and excel at attacking slower moving ships at longer ranges.
Klingons are fearsome in the game. Their ships pack the most punch. Coupled with certain ships having cloaking and having one of the faster ships they can decimate any fleet that is not big enough to survive first strike. Bad side is those (especially cloaked ones) ships are not that resistant and Klingons are not rolling in cash or defense against sabotage. Most of the minor races do not like them so they have harder time getting them into their empire peacefully.
Romulans are just like in the series, secretive and paranoid. Most of their ships can cloak (only colony ships and troop transports cannot) and their Intel strength is almost as powerful as those of Cardassia. Their ships are not that fast or resistant but carry huge numbers of torpedoes and destroy whole fleets from long range as they uncloak. Some of the minor races like them, some do not. Their research is second to Federation.
Cardassians are arguably the hardest side to play, and the biggest challenge. Minor races do not like them, and some (like Bajorans) will attack them on sight and even try to hunt down their ships They do not get most money like Ferengi, or most Research like Fed and Romulans. They do not have stealth ships or fast ones. But they have the most armored ships, slow but powerful is the best description. If you let them get close you are dead Their Intel is the most powerful and they have special buildings that let them get bonuses from subjugated systems and are able to most easily control rebellions and unrest. They got best morale producing structures.
UI of the game is really great and everything is one right mouse click away (also keyboard shortcuts exist for everything). Each race has a different graphical UI that fits with them.
This game asks you to micromanage your systems (each system is one producing colony no matter how many planets there are in it), and although the game has an autobuild system it is not very smart or better to say you cannot specialize it for certain tasks (game is from 1999 ) so it best to not let is do its thing for long or in important systems (it tends to build a bit of everything while you will almost always want to specialize your systems).
Ships do not have fuel but have max range they can travel (that range is enlarged by owning systems with shipyards, having allies with shipyards, building outposts/starbases and researching Propulsion tech), and to build them you need dilitium. Each dilitium you have lets you build from one shipyard per turn so as you can guess if you want to get a huge fleet out in short time you need to find many systems that have them and colonize them. Other global resource are credits and morale. Moral above the certain (or under) number affects all your production. Is is counted separately for each of your systems so making sure your main ship producing systems have good morale is important.
In addition to that you also have Intel points and you can choose to put them into security, espionage or sabotage (you can even sabotage one race and frame another for it or they can do that to you ) and even choose which area you want to attack (if your Intel is much bigger then your targets you can basically win wars without a bigger fleet). This is something that you need to have strong during the game even if you do not plan to attack anyone as it can happen that all of a sudden your huge fleet of high tech ships starts getting smaller while your attacker is now their new owner
Research points is another thing you have and you can choose to research from 6 different fields (you do not research specific tech but you get multiple stuff when you get for instance Energy from lvl 4 to lvl 5). For many things you need to have multiple areas at certain level to unlock new ships or buildings (although each lvl of each field of tech will always give you other bonuses even if they are only passive ones).
Unlike many other games you cannot customize ships, which some people will not like. Personally I didn't mind as the game has a really well developed diplomacy and espionage/sabotage system as well as planning out the growth of you colonies is fun. Meeting minor races and trying to get them to join in certain order or trying to stop them from joining some other side is fun. But the good side to not customizing ships is that each side has unique ships (in looks and fighting capabilities) and has plenty of them to get access to through research (Federation has the biggest number of them).
Tactical combat is turn based but in a such a way that each side decides a tactic and targets and then one combat round is executed simultaneously. Trust me, there is a lot of tactic involved in this combat and it is a lot of fun as well as translates well into fun MP games. Tactical combats can last from 1 combat round up to 10ish (extremely rare). Game has a ram maneuver for your ships which is so great for Cardassia and Federation as their ships have lost of armor (as ram ignores shields). The combats last until there is only one side left standing or until one side decides to retreat. I must note that retreat gives the other side one combat round of firing on your retreating ships while they do not shoot back or use maneuvers. Also each ships that survives combat gets experience and gets levels. They start at novice level and can progress max 5 level to Elite. It is so much fun to have Elite ships in later parts of the game that can even defeat high tech ships
And if you can get Defiant class ships to elite status you can basically defeat any fleet without loses (you can even almost defeat the Borg with a loss). Just do not try to bombard planets with them, they will not survive.
Oh yes, the BORG. If you have random events on they will arrive to this part of the galaxy eventually. They bring with them either ultimate destruction of ultimate fun combats and huge numbers of XP for your ships (those few that survive). They come with one Cube and travel from system to system and kill anything in orbit and then in a few turns turn systems into Borg colonies. If you do not stop the Cube as early as possible soon more start to come (this is connected to the number of systems they assimilated). Unfortunately AI does not know how to deal with the 1st Cube if it comes to their area too soon so they will be fun to fight against for a while but later you will probably turn them off so you can finish your opponents without the Borg help
There are other cool random encounters you can come in contact with including a galaxy wide warp anomaly that disallows warp travel for a few turns, as well as cool map features are different Nebulas that either disable shields (really cool place to put your star base into as star bases get about two combat rounds of free firing until ships get into weapon range and can destroy whole shieldless fleets especially if those are Ferengi, Romulan or Klingon ships) or Sensors or damage ships. There are also Wormwholes that can get your ships from one part of the map to another in one turn or destroy what you try to send through
Multiplayer is another thing I want to mention. It is fast and fun. This game really is a competitive game and can be played with different tactics against other players. Combats are really fun against other players (and fast, unlike SotS for instance or Sins). But you need to have the game updated as they fixed disconnect problems in one of the patches. I probably spent almost as much time playing this game in MP as I did in SP. It is that much fun and I consider myself the SP kind of gamer.
There is a huge modding community and lots and lots of cool mods (including one that lets you play as The Dominion or Borg). Also there are unofficial patches and also multiple project that want to make BotF2 (or something very similar) as Microprose is dead and nobody decided to take over carrying the torch.
Unfortunately the game has problems working on certain machines. Even on WinXP it took some time to get it to work and not crash on occasion. I think there are some unofficial patches that were supposed to fix this. For Win7 there are some people that say it does not work for them and others that say it works normally. I would guess WinXP compatibility needs to be turned on.
And for the end I must mention that finishing the game will get you a different SWEET ending cutscene with cool pictures and voice so finish them. I was very disappointed with Civ games as well as SotS who didn't give us anything.