I don’t think I’ve ever played a real “Plasma Ballet” type scenario with Star Fleet Battles. Between having much simpler rules and also a twelve-year-old around that will ask to play all of the crazy stuff, times have changed for me. And given that the point values for the ISC Star Cruiser and the Romulan KR Command Cruiser were so close, this duel was practically inevitable.
See, we have just the one ISC ship from Booster #0, so my son naturally gravitated to it. Not only does it look cool, but it has six plasma-F launchers facing to the rear which he thought he could unload on me all at once. (They’re actually intended to be defensive weapons; you can only fire one from each bank each turn if you’re targeting an enemy ship. This was a major letdown when the ship finally hit the table.)
Anyway, one of the problems with this game is that novices are liable to simply pull up to range one or so and just hammer away at each other until one person dies. And if people are maneuvering around, it’s possible to have a battle pass where not much really happens. But having two factions fight which both depend primarily on plasma torpedoes solves this problem.
Here’s what I mean:
My KRC is getting pummeled with sixty points of damage there. My son’s CS has ninety points of damage threatening to smash his ship on the next impulse. This is the sort of situation where emergency deceleration would be the end of you. Closing to point blank range when plasma torpedoes are heading your way would take a supreme amount of self control. (Sometimes it really is a good idea, though.) Every hex of movement counts. Every point of power counts. Everything about the precise steps of the sequence of play is suddenly matters immensely. And whatever happens, people are going to take internals. This is just stupidly fun.
I’ve always been more of a direct fire person with this family of games simply because it’s easier to learn and play those sorts of rules. But after this game, it’s pretty clear that I’ve been missing out on some great battles.
One thing with this matchup here is that you have to put your advantages up against your opponent’s weaknesses. For instance, the KRC can (if he centerlines his target) launch 110 points of plasma at one time. This is way more than the ISC can manage. The ISC has a second problem in that his plasma is coming in two waves which means that his opponent can see that it hits different shields. What to do?!
In the first pass of this game, I came out with nine more internals scored against my son than he got on me. In the second pass, I managed to come just short of destroying him. And granted, the ISC ship is designed to be a part of a fleet formation. Can it give the KRC a run for its money?
Well, the ISC cruiser not without its advantages. The PPD is a pretty good weapon even though it’s liable to get shot off fairly often. Combined with its grand total of eight phaser-1’s, I think it can dole out some serious damage even when it’s waiting on its plasma to be reloaded. The ISC really needs to hound the Romulan every single turn in order to make up for its less impressive torpedo array. (If it can put that firepower on a shield that’s about to take plasma damage, that’s even better. Better check the sequence of play to see if that’s even possible!)
Another thing the ISC can do is look at exchanging plasma at a longer range. The utility of the Romulan’s plasma-F’s are blunted at the longer ranges. Also, it ISC still has six plasma-F’s. Sure, it can only fire two at the Romulan each turn… but if it can figure out how to use them for something besides padding, so much the better. At the same time, the Romulan can fire its plasma-D’s every single turn as well… and if the ISC turns up the heat too much, it can even cloak!
So yeah, I’d play this match again. I’d even switch sides to what looks like the lesser ship just to see if I could turn things around. You know, I’d read about people thinking this way with tournament battles at Origins over the years. But with Federation Commander– and my son being old enough to get into this– I can finally experience what I only daydreamed about doing with Star Fleet Battles. I was always concerned about leaving behind the way that things “really” worked in this more simplified implementation of the game, but the fact is… we’ve been too busy playing it to run into the things that I thought were going to be a problem here…!