Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Nine Kzinti Ships Take on the Death Probe…!

I dunno why my son was so keen on this one. He’d had his Kzinti fleet picked out for weeks in advance: five frigates, one FFK, and three war destroyers. He was convinced that his waves of thirty-six drones per turn could easily annihilate me. What he didn’t count on was the fact that the Death Probe could move at speed 32. And more… it can make two high energy turns per turn. This means that not only can the Death Probe pick the range that fire will be exchanged practically every turn. It also means that drones are all but useless against it.

Now, we did have a chance to work some more kinks out of the game. We finally had a need to mark the white boxes on some of these counters with a distinguishing color. Looking up the finer points on damage allocation, we discovered that when targeting weapons or engines, “skipped” hits don’t do any damage at all! It finally dawned on me why it was that it didn’t make sense for drones to do side slips. My son realized that being in a long line was actually a horrible fleet formation. We agreed that the rules really didn’t indicate that ships or drones would lose a hex of movement when executing a high energy turn. And finally, we figured out how these frame hits are really supposed to work so we could finally blow up some starships by the book for once.

But I have to say… this Death Probe scenario is just stupid. Everything that was interesting about that session where I fought against the gigantic B10 with a ragtag fleet of smaller ships was missing here. All of the excitement of that big plasma duel we played the other day was gone. A speed-32 ship with a couple of phase-4’s might sound awesome on paper, but in real life… it’s just lame. This is a ship that makes maneuver completely irrelevant. (Was I playing something wrong…?)

On the other hand, we discovered that handling a fleet of nine ships all at once in Federation Commander isn’t that difficult. Compared to Star Fleet Battles, you need only a quarter of the usual amount of real estate to track a ship. The cards stack nicely and the energy track combined with the weapons fired boxes make it easy to stay on top of what’s going on. As a result of this, I’m about ready to try a big fleet battle. A dreadnought with cruisers, destroyers, and frigates… all at fleet scale. I don’t care what they are as long as something gets crippled or blown up every turn.

But that speed-32 Death Probe with two HET’s a turn…? Never again!

2 responses to “Nine Kzinti Ships Take on the Death Probe…!

  1. Traumador Tyrannosaur January 10, 2016 at 3:57 am

    Just discovered your blog, and been enjoying your gaming experiences.

    I used to play (honestly mostly just collect) Star Fleet Battles back in the 90’s…

    Is Commander friendly for non serious gamers?

    I’d love to get back into the General War and Andromeda Invasion, but there is no way my wife or modern friends would try true SFB. If Commander was a nice streamlined version, I might have a chance.

    • jeffro January 10, 2016 at 8:21 am

      The game’s biggest fans in my area are my twelve year old son and his fourteen year old friend. By playing duels, small ships, and/or fleet scale we have gotten decisive games completed consistently in 1.5 to 3 hours. Some scenarios work better than others, but if you try a lot of different things, you find what works at your table. We want to play the monster 4 to 8 hour games, but when we do, we want to know the rules inside and out.

      Just my opinion, I don’t think this game should have unseated Ogre:Designers Edition, Car Wars, and Illuminati. With the boys, though, being captain of your ship and outmaneuvering a superior vessel is utterly captivating. The depth, breadth, and nuance of the game is part of what allows them to get into it so much.

      If you want to entertain “non serious gamers”, I can recommend Incan Gold, Ingenious, Revolution!, Slapshot, Saboteur, and Splendor. That last game especially appeals to a surprising range of people. People on the fence about gaming are drawn into it and hard core role-players and wargamers are not put off by it like they are with some of the other mega-popular stuff.

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