Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Teaching Star Fleet Battles

A friend of mine let me know about a guy in the area that was interested in learning the game, so I quickly made room in the schedule for the fellow. We had to baby-sit a six-month old for the first part of the session, but things picked up a bit when baby took a nap and his wife stepped out to go shopping.

I explained, movement, HET’s, phasers & phaser capacitors, Photons, Disruptors, Overloads, and shield reinforcement. I must have talked for an hour or so. After a single turn walk through, the guy was asking about how to do mid-turn speed changes– except for a few details he had a basic intuitive grasp of the intent of the rule already! After our first big volley of damage, he was asking about the “energy balance due to damage” rule. (As far as I knew he’d never seen a rulebook.) He asked about a lot of the unexplained boxes on the SSD, but as with the above advanced rules I just mentioned, I said not to worry about them for this game.

I played the Tournament Klingon against his Tournament Fed. I’ve had the hardest time grasping Klingon tactics, but things finally fell in place for me in this game.

On the first turn, I took a shot at range 13. On turn two, I charged overloads and tried to evade. I couldn’t prevent an overrun and we blew each other up pretty good. We dropped each other’s #1 shield and when I passed over him, I let him have it with all my phasers on his rear shield. (Need to double check that same hex combat rule again.) I then turned to follow him to pound him on the next turn.

On turn three I got to range 3 and dropped another rear shield and scored a couple more internals. On turn 4 I continued to follow him. My opponent was faster than me because I had lost a lot more power and he managed to prevent me from taking any shots through his downed shields. Not having a #1 shield made it very difficult for me to follow him!

My opponent turned as I held my fire… then HET’d such that we were a few hexes away off of each other’s #1 shields. (Thinking about it later, I think he could have nailed me through my down shield without giving me the same option if he hadn’t turn duirectly towards me, but I didn’t realize it at the time so I could tell him he’d ‘really’ won.)

He missed with two of his three photons… and I hit with all three of my disruptors. When the dust settled, he had no phasers left and only 2 photons… while I had three disruptors and a few phasers left. He conceded the game– but I had obviously won due to my insanely lucky die rolls, so he didn’t seem to feel too bad about the loss….

(I’d arrived at 12:30 or so and was leaving before 4PM, so it took the usual 3 hours that I allocate for the usual SFB duel even though I had to do a lot of explaining….)


I’ve struggled to learn SFB for years, but now it all is beginning to come together. The rules that we played with this time were fairly easy. Adding shuttles, tractors, boarding parties, scatter packs, and mid turn speed changes wouldn’t be that hard to do. It’s just detail from here on out. If we played several games and added a rule or two each time, I’m sure we’d get the hang of it.

One thing that made it hard to pick up the game before now was never having the right scenario. I thought pirate scenarios or police actions would be the way to go… but these scenarios just fizzled for me when I tried to play them with my friends. I played the Tholian in the classic Juggernaut scenario with an SFB group back when I was in highschool. I played the “Surprise Reversed” scenario more recently and just got blown up before I could do anything. In neither of these situations did I really learn anything.

I played the D7-CA game with a friend waaaay back and we just went to range one and blew each other up. I couldn’t figure out how the Klingons could possibly win. Last year I tried again and got creamed– I was trying to keep my opponent at range 15 for several turns and found out it could not be done. (Sabre Dancing just doesn’t last for several turns like I had thought it should!)

Anyways, in this game… I could see how the different aspects of the ships really were balanced against each other. It was neat to finally see that in action and have it be something more to me than just an idea in a “Victory At…” article.

I like the tournament ships because you know they are balanced and you know that the game is a fair test of skill. As I continue to learn the game, I intend to focuse on the tourney ships and ignore the weirder rules/ships/scenarios until I’ve mastered the game that’s been “playtested” at hundreds of tournaments.

As others have noted, the game that’s underneath the rules is really dynamic. I think I’ve finally caught my first glimpse of it… and I’m looking forward to seeing more!


One response to “Teaching Star Fleet Battles

  1. Daniel McGillis July 4, 2007 at 5:22 pm

    I live in Sacrmanto Ca. I have been playing SFB since I was in the 6th grade. (TOO many years ago to count) I have recently got a few of my game buddys hooked on the SFB. Always on the look out for new players. ONe of the funnist games I have ver played.

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