The D7’s front shield is totally gone, of course, but I was too busy recording internal damage to remember to mark that…..
This friend of my son’s comes over to the house every now and then. First time he visited, he went nuts when he saw my game collection. I wasn’t home, but he took down every space game on the shelf to look at them. I’ve gotten him to play The Last Starfighter and Ogre a few times, but this past time when I asked him what he wanted to do, he said, “Star Fleet Battles.” There was just no question.
Now… I play Illuminati and Ogre and Commands & Colors: Ancients and even G.E.V. with my son all the time. But Star Fleet Battles really is one of the greatest of the great games of all time. It is a masterpiece. I admit, I was tempted to try to muddle through some Federation Commander instead. But I know the old game so well I could teach it blind folded. The kid got his wish, though… and we played the real thing.
I got out the SSD’s and set up the map. I looked up the starting positions from the duel scenario while he asked me about the shuttle and drone counters. I filled out my energy allocation and explained as I went. Then I explained what his options were and helped him fill out his. I was going speed 27 and he was at speed 24. He hadn’t opted to come in with overloads, so he could move at a fair clip.
I started flipping impulse cards– the ones from Module A+. (They’re so much easier than the speed chart!) At range 15 I fired disruptors and did a minimal amount of shield damage. The next impulse he fired most of his phasers and did very little damage. We started closing in on each other in the traditional new player head-on overrun. On impulse 32 I fired five phaser twos and scored very little damage. He fired his remaining off side phasers at me.
We went through the second round of energy allocation. I recharged my phasers and overloaded disruptors. I was surprised when he could move faster than me. I explained the command cards because the idea of whether or not to hold your fire until you can set up the perfect shot is critical to the game. Both of us chose “no fire” for several impulses… but then at range 3, he let loose with everything he had. I took 28 internals, losing all of my hull, one disruptor, and a couple of phasers. The next impulse, he threw three boarding parties at me and they all died… but I could have lost a couple more disruptors out of that!
He turned away and it dawned on me that not only would I not get to shoot at his damaged #1 shield, but I also would not be able to get that range one shot that I was angling for. Hmm…. You know, overloading that fourth disruptor and totally refilling my phaser capacitors was kind of a waste! I should have invested that energy in raw speed if I was serious about what I was trying to do! I turned to follow him and did some ineffectual damage on his #3 shield. He couldn’t stay long, so I conceded the game and congratulated his combat mettle.
That’s when I got down the Federation Commander ship cards, the deluxe map sections, and the handful of miniatures I have– to give him an idea of what all else there is. He said he liked this game about as much as Ogre… but he requested that the next game be played with several ships on each side. (Those deluxe sized counters were just too nice to only use a couple at a time.) Just based on how he interacted with the game, I’m guessing that Federation Commander played at the fleet scale is going to be closer to what he’d really want to do. It’d be about the same thing, but with no energy forms clogging up the table space. Damage allocation is a lot faster in Federation Commander, too. (We rolled 2d6 28 times in this demo.)
If you want to explode some starships, ADB should have at least one game that will suit your tastes….
Still, one thing that’s great about Star Fleet Battles… if you can imagine it, there’s rules for it. Stupid shuttle tricks. Tractor beams. Electronic warfare. He didn’t have to understand all of that to fight, but I could handle any ship-related question he had. It really is as close to captaining a starship as you can get– you feel like Captain Kirk whenever you outmaneuver somebody, too. I kind of like how I could explain any conceivable ship function that he could ask about.
The rules learning curve is not the thing that makes the game so challenging and daunting. It’s the tactics. Most people can’t handle getting whooped game after game. There’s so much there to master and it plays like all of the best battles from the Honor Harrington series. But you have to know what you’re doing or you’ll die. There is no mysterious “force” here that you can lean on or trust in!
But this kid does know something about maneuver already. I’ve seem him dance around my son’s conventional forces in Ogre, flanking them and picking off the intercepting tanks. I think he could get the hang of it if he could settle down and focus for several games. Of course, he just wants to see space ships explode right now, and that’s okay, too…! We’ve got time to work on this, though. There’s a few more years here while he’s a captive audience and doesn’t have the keys to his dad’s car….