Review by Rick Hudson
I’ve already spoken very highly of Modiphius’ Star Trek Adventures RPG, and how it not only serves as a great role-playing system, but also evokes the atmosphere of Star Trek rather than being just an SF RPG in superficial Star Trek dressing, so I won’t go through all that again, but will focus on this supplement itself. What we have in this book is fleshed out details and further information on the Operations Division of Star Trek’s Federation. What that means is information on the Engineering, Communications and Security wings of the organisation rather than the Command and Scientific branches.
The book includes a lot of colour text / lore/ fluff, call it what you will, on Operations Division and details on how you can create more detailed and specific characters who are from the fields of Engineering, Communications, and Security. We also have information on Star Fleet Intelligence and the rather sinister sounding Section 31: a particularly covert and morally abstruse element of Star Fleet’s intelligence service. This supplement also provides information on and for MACO characters: the Military Assault Command Operations… the army, in other words. The book closes with Red Alert, which is a set of miniatures rules to be use with Star Trek figures which can act as an alternative combat mechanic in the game, or as an independent game in itself.
Supplements such as this run the risk of being a whole bunch of fluff which while seeming to add colour and detail to the RPGs they support, have little positive effect on gaming experience. I will confess that my heart sank when I learned that this book gave us a whole load of new technological devices, but importantly this section does more than give as a load of pseudo-scientific flannel, it includes advice and information about how these devices can be utilised narratively and how scenarios can be built around technological and engineering issues. The strong point of this supplement is that it does add to the game itself rather than being a bunch of ‘lore’ accompanied by charts and colour illustrations. As such a GM can actually use this book to add to and create scenarios in a game where the ethos should be about technological, scientific, political issues rather than just be about fights with ray guns. However, just to speak briefly about fights with ray guns, I have to say that the Red Alert miniatures rules do work rather well and compare very favourably with other sets of SF miniatures rules such as Rogue Stars. Importantly, these rules can be integrated quite effortlessly within an RPG session or campaign without feeling forced or creating an artificial and awkward transition between systems.
The book itself is nicely produced, and up to the high production standards that Modiphius has established. Crucially it does appear that Modiphius is slowly resolving the principal problems it has with its rulebooks: the writing. Previously I have been VERY critical of the standard of writing in Modiphius books and the lack of clarity they display. I will nail my colours to the mast on this one and say that while – at times – the writing in this book remains as obfuscating and unclear as ever, overall there is a definite improvement, and the company do seem to be heading in the right direction on this point.
At £24.99 Operations Division is not an essential buy by any stretch of the imagination. And while it has many positive points, if you are in any way equivocal about whether to get this or not, then don’t. You will probably find it an attractive but superfluous purchase. You will be much better off spending your 25 quid on something else. However, if you want your Star Trek Adventures campaign to focus on more the resolution of engineering and technical problems, or feel that the inclusion of the more clandestine elements of the Federation will allow you to extend your games beyond your players just being ‘goodies in space’, then the converse is true. This supplement provides you with many valuable ideas and direction regarding how these things can be incorporated into your games and – most importantly – made exciting.