How to Play Trek on BSD

Klingons from Star Trek III

Note: This was an old post I wrote about 2 years ago that was lost. I was finally able to recover it and have decided to post it here. Today will be a double-post. Expect another one soon.

Since I got a virtual instance of NetBSD working on my Mac at home with Virtualbox, I’ve been playing with certain classic games. One of these games is the original text-based game trek, which comes by default in NetBSD (and other BSD flavors presumably).

Trek is a tough game, make no mistake. It’s an homage to the original series, and was written when graphical interfaces were not very feasible. However, the original designer managed to make it a game that is both engaging and challenging.

The only trouble is that it’s hard to figure out how to play it now because the documentation is kind of scarce and hard to read. In the case of NetBSD, it comes with instructions in the form of a .me file, but I haven’t yet figured out how to read that file apart from seeing the raw formatting with less.

So this page is a tribute to this classic game, and also helps share some of the basics on how to play. Because the game has been ported multiple times, there are slightly different versions out there, each with their own style of control. So, this post is focused on the BSD port of Trek. Since I am still new at the game, there are plenty of newb mistakes, but I’m trying to write things down as I learn them. Please be patient. 🙂

Starting the Game

The game begins with a humble screen like so:

Trek title NetBSD

According to the docs, the rule of thumb is that shorter games are harder, while longer games are somewhat easier. This is because you’re given a fixed period of time to destroy all the Klingon ships, and with a shorter window of time, this is pretty hard.

Next you can choose the difficulty level. Hitting ‘?’ here will give you several obvious choices.

Finally you’re taken to the main screen for Trek. The E is you, the Enterprise. The * are stars, and present obstacles. If a photon torpedo hits a star, you will cause the star to explode (go nova). The @ symbol is a planet which you can land on if required (after abandoning ship, for example). You’re also expected to defend them from Klingon (K) attacks, and if they are invaded or destroyed, you lose points, so take it seriously.

Finally, the Starbases, usually 3 per game, are represented by a # (hash). Here, you can dock if you are next to a starbase, and get fully repaired, refueled and so on. Don’t forget to undock though when done. You are expected to defend these just as you defend planets.


This was the hardest part for me to figure out, and where the directions diverged most from other ports, I believe. The BSD port uses a 360-degree angle system:

  • 0 degrees is up (north).
  • 90 degrees is right (east).
  • 180 degrees is down (south).
  • 270 degrees is left (west).

Also, Federation Space is divided into sectors (a 7×7 grid) which are divided further into quadrants. One screen, like the one shown above, is a single sector, and contains a 10 rows and 10 columns of quadrants. Thus, if you want to move, everything has to be done in decimal units. If you go 0.1, that means you move one “dot” on the screen (one-tenth of a sector), while moving “1” means you’re moving one sector over. Keep that in mind as you navigate within a single sector.

Thus if you want to move 3 “dots” over, you move 0.3 sectors.

You can either move (i.e. use warp drive) or use impulse. Warp is faster but drains your ship’s energy faster. You can also specify which warp factor using the warp command. Higher warp is yet more faster, but uses that much more energy.

Here’s an example:

Navigating in BSD trek

I decided to do a long-range scan, or lrscan which shows 1 Klingon vessel in the sector to the right, and one below. I decide to attack the one on the right. I had already set warp factor to 5 earlier, so I just issue a move command, go 90 degrees (right) and .4 sectors which will put me just over into the next sector.


Combat in Trek isn’t easy, but very fun. Like the original Enterprise, you have two options:

  • Phasers (phasers) – use lots of energy, and shields must be down, but very accurate.
  • Photon torpedoes (torpedo) – use less energy, and shields can stay up, but less accurate, limited supply.

Speaking from limited experience, phasers are easier because you can use automatic targetting. Unfortunately, even with that, Klingons still manage to slip away into the next sector. If you do hit a Klingon vessel, it seems that 250-energy or so will usually work. However, if they slip away, some of that will be wasted.

BSD Trek phasers

Torpedoes are great because you can fire a “spread”, with a maximum of 10°, which likely hit your target, but waste torpedoes because only 1 is required to kill a Klingon vessel. If you’re at a right-angle to a Klingon ship, there’s a good chance you can hit it, but at odd angles, it gets more difficult. You can either move to a better angle, or try your luck with a torpedo spread. However, don’t hit stars! Spock gets annoyed.

BSD Trek photon torpedos

Lastly, there is a cloak option which lets you hide from Klingons vessels. This is a great way to sneak up on them too, but it burns through energy pretty quick, so you may want to use it to slip into a sector, maneuver to the right spot, and de-cloak. Federation regulations prevent you from firing weapons while cloaked. But surprising your enemies by de-cloaking close by and firing torpedoes at them is pretty satisfying. 🙂

Final Bits of Advice

Like many classic games (think nethack), it has a pretty steep learning curve. No tutorials, just what you see is what you get. So, expect to fail many times until you get the hang of it. Once you do, you can then move onto tougher and tougher scenarios until you’re the next Capt. James T. Kirk.

Good luck! Qap’la!


Author: Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.

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