Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

On the Table: Tholian Attack!

So Thanksgiving Day means games around here… and this year, Federation Commander established itself as game supreme, displacing Ogre: Designer Edition from this coveted position. I had actually planned to get the boys going with the G.E.V. Ceasefire Collapse scenario, but they overruled me by setting up their own game… and leaving me out!

Our host only had copies of Klingon Attack and Tholian Attack, so we had to make do with what ship cards and map panels he could scrounge up from his two supplements. Here’s a look at the resulting action:

Yes, that’s a base station and a Neo-Tholian cruiser there. (The wedding cake is not actually in play, by the way.) You can see how the webcaster successfully broke up the incoming Kzinti fleet. You can also see that the boys will play absolutely crazy scenarios. Stuff I never got around to playing in Star Fleet Battles because the rules were just a bit too complicated– even core stuff like web and cloaks, really– these guys even go beyond it and put it into play without even thinking. (Man, I’m jealous. At this rate they’ll be pitting Andromedans against Hydrans in no time.)

I did end up sitting in a little to look up rules questions and moderate things a little. I noticed our 14-year-old Neo-Tholian player just could not seem to grasp that each ship’s volley was resolved all at once before moving on to the next one. He also wanted to change his targeting based on the outcome of the hits as they were resolved. Getting him to declare everything up front and stick to it and also to record his shield reinforcement from each incoming volley was not easy.

(Not that I haven’t made my share of mistakes this past while. I was letting people phaser down plasma torpedoes on a one-for-one basis a few weeks ago. And my son showed me that I’ve been playing the leaky shields totally wrong for several games now!)

In spite of these nit picky questions of procedure, the game was more or less played within the spirit of the rules and the Neo-Tholians earned a very decisive victory here. The Kzinti just could not seem to score any kind of significant damage on the enemy cruiser. If the drones even posed a threat, the Neo-Tholian webcaster seemed to blunt it altogether. And finally, the phaser-4’s on the base were absolutely devastating:

We only had time to play a couple of turns, but it was plenty to settle this dispute.

Occasionally people claim that SFB doesn’t have terrain, but wow… the Neo-tholians can create terrain and put it wherever they want to. It’s awesome. I had no idea they were this cool.

7 responses to “On the Table: Tholian Attack!

  1. Robert Eaglestone December 1, 2015 at 10:00 am

    “Getting him to declare everything up front and stick to it and also to record his shield reinforcement from each incoming volley was not easy.”

    In my simpleminded way of thinking, this indicates a Bad Rule. Of course, the rule is important to the design of the game. But if it puts an obstacle in the way of pacing, my reaction is that the game would be better if it were (somehow) designed to not have this requirement.

    HOW that could be done without changing the game fundamentally is a different question. However, if people don’t naturally play it that way, and the game is not going to be played as intended, then is that an academic point?

    In summary: are rules like this more like “object lessons” to future war game designers?

    • jeffro December 1, 2015 at 10:32 am

      There are plenty of crappy space games that they don’t want to play. This is the one they want.

      There are no command cards for this because they aren’t needed. There is no hassle with whether or not there’s “me too” fire because the system uses an “are we clear” type system instead.

      It’s solid.

      The fleet tactics won’t work right without this running this way. The “magic” of the energy baked into this– with shield reinforcement limited to battery count and available power. This is where the differences between frigates and battleships and number of units in the fleet become huge. It’s the heart of the game.

      Yeah, the largely self-taught fourteen-year-old glossed over this and is not in the habit of playing this correctly. But half of the game’s tactics are centered around what you get when you do this according to the actual rules. This game’s competition barely even have tactics half the time. FedCom has (in my opinion) nailed the “little counters shooting at each other” genre.

      • dgarsys December 1, 2015 at 1:55 pm

        I look at this, glance at my SFB set, look back at this, drool, look at my SFB set, cry, look back at this….

    • Cirsova December 1, 2015 at 10:34 am

      It makes sense to me in terms of regulating a simulation of ‘simultaneous fire’; the attack represents a single volley being fired from multiple guns, the bullets can’t suddenly change trajectory because the original target was already hit/destroyed. Choosing targets ahead of time requires a level of strategic thinking where you have to weigh the benefits of concentrating or splitting fire. It’s generally considered good form to call all of your artillery targets before you start rolling.

    • jeffro December 1, 2015 at 10:50 am

      Also… even axis and allies makes you declare all your attacks before resolving them. It’s not that out there. (Though G.E.V. does let you adjust your targeting based on previous results– probably because Steve grokked what you’re saying.)

  2. Trimegistus December 3, 2015 at 4:05 pm

    I’m thinking of getting this game based on your glowing reviews. What’s the “core set” I should look for as a starter?

    • jeffro December 3, 2015 at 4:25 pm

      Federation Commander: Klingon Border is (in my opinion) the way to go. (ADB’s web store is here.) It’s a little steep given that there are plenty of board games in the $40 ballpark… but sometimes you have to get one expansion to get the most out of that $40 game anyway. Just watching how people react to this and Ogre: Designer’s Edition, the extra money you spend on game components here is made up for by the fact that it’s much easier to get people to play.

      (And note that this game is similar to ACKS with me– that’s the rpg my *players* went nuts over, not the one that I necessarily would have picked! And I write about this game because my son and his best friend want to play it all the time.)

      My recommendation for supplements is to try to play the game about ten times before buying any… and only buy one that addresses something that’s actually going on at the table. And don’t buy anything if you have unplayed supplements! (I’m thrifty that way. But the guys with rooms full of unplayed games scare me.) Another reader just ignored that advice and just got Klingon border, Romulan space, Klingon attack, Romulan attack. He’s someone that has to have pretty complete fleets for several factions right out of the gate. Not everyone is that way, though. If you get the game and are happy just playing duels because you don’t have eight hours to spend on a fleet battle, then you don’t even have to go there.

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